2020-11-01

The Acts of Solomon as a Neo-Assyrian Composition — part 2

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by Neil Godfrey

In the previous post we saw that the biblical account assigned the same boundaries as the later Assyrian empire (150 years after Solomon’s near-namesake Shalmaneser III) to the kingdom of Israel in the time of Solomon.

And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These countries brought tribute and were Solomon’s subjects all his life. (1 Kings 4:21)

From Wikimedia Commons

Obviously, Assyria itself is east of the Euphrates river but with a bit of checking I found that the Euphrates regularly features in Assyrian imperial inscriptions as the boundary beyond which their conquests extended westward:

In the Annals of Tiglath-Pileser I (1115-1076 BC):

(Thus) I crossed the Euphrates. The king of the land Tumme, the king of Tunube, the king of Tuali, the king of . . . altogether 23 kings of the lands of Nairi, combined their chariotry and army in their lands; and they advanced to wage war and combat.

Altogether 42 lands and their kings from the other side of the Lower Zab in distant mountainous regions to the other side of the Euphrates—the Hatti-land and the Upper Sea in the west—from my accession year to my fifth regnal year—I conquered. I subdued them to one authority. . . .

And the Annals of Assur-nasirpal II (883-859 BC):

I moved on from the land of Bit-Adini; (and) I crossed the Euphrates, which was in flood, in rafts (made of inflated) goatskins.

Thus one reads in Shalmaneser III’s monuments (859–824 BC):

In my 17th regnal year: I crossed the Euphrates. I received the tribute of the kings of the land of Hatti. . . .

In my 19th year: I crossed the Euphrates River for the 17th time. I received tribute of the kings . . . .

In my fourth regnal year: I crossed the Euphrates at its flood stage. I pursued after Ahum of Bit-Adini. . . .

In my tenth regnal year: I crossed the Euphrates River for the eighth time. I conquered the cities of Sangara of Karkamis.

In my eleventh regnal year: I crossed the Euphrates for the ninth time. I conquered 97 cities of Sangara (and) 100 cities of Arame.

In my 20th regnal year: I crossed the Euphrates River for the 20th time. I summoned the kings of the land of Hatti (for corvee work), all of them. I passed over Mt. Hamanu (Amanus).

In my 18th regnal year: I crossed the Euphrates for the 16th time. Hazael of Damascus trusted in his numerous troops; and mustered his army in great numbers. . . .  (this reference appears in four monuments)

An inscription of Adad-nirari III (811-783 BC):

I ordered to march to the land of Hatti. I crossed the Euphrates in its flood.

The Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III (1479–1425 BC) likewise boasted of reaching (even crossing) the Euphrates in the famous Battle of Carchemish.

Carchemish in map of eighteenth dynasty Egypt. Map from Crystalinks.

All that’s enough to satisfy me that the Euphrates river was considered to be a natural imperial boundary in Assyrian times.

The Second Stratum

I Kings 4:21 with its statement of Solomon’s empire extending from Egypt to the Euphrates belongs to Russell Gmirkin’s second stratum in 1 Kings 3-11. (See the earlier post for context.)

This second stratum of the biblical Acts of Solomon portrays Shalmaneser III/Solomon “as a great builder of monumental works of architecture in the southern Levant”. I have copied it at the end of this post.

There is one passage (I Kings 4:7-19) that is missing from the passages first listed as comprising this layer of text but that appears a few sentences later as if it should belong with the others. Its significance lies in its

correspondence of Solomon’s territorial holdings with Assyrian provinces in the southern Levant (1 Kgs 4:7-19, in which Assyrian provincial centers such as Megiddo, Gezer and Gilead figure prominently; but no sites from Judah appear; the prominence of trade with Arabia; and the affinities of the Solomon building account with Sennacherib’s Palace Without Rival. . . 

(Gmirkin, pp 84 f)

I Kings 4:7-9

Solomon had twelve district governors over all Israel, who supplied provisions for the king and the royal household. Each one had to provide supplies for one month in the year. 8 These are their names:
Ben-Hur—in the hill country of Ephraim;
9 Ben-Deker—in Makaz, Shaalbim, Beth Shemesh and Elon Bethhanan;
10 Ben-Hesed—in Arubboth (Sokoh and all the land of Hepher were his);
11 Ben-Abinadab—in Naphoth Dor (he was married to Taphath daughter of Solomon);
12 Baana son of Ahilud—in Taanach and Megiddo, and in all of Beth Shan next to Zarethan below Jezreel, from Beth Shan to Abel Meholah across to Jokmeam;
13 Ben-Geber—in Ramoth Gilead (the settlements of Jair son of Manasseh in Gilead were his, as well as the region of Argob in Bashan and its sixty large walled cities with bronze gate bars);
14 Ahinadab son of Iddo—in Mahanaim;
15 Ahimaaz—in Naphtali (he had married Basemath daughter of Solomon);
16 Baana son of Hushai—in Asher and in Aloth;
17 Jehoshaphat son of Paruah—in Issachar;
18 Shimei son of Ela—in Benjamin;
19 Geber son of Uri—in Gilead (the country of Sihon king of the Amorites and the country of Og king of Bashan). He was the only governor over the district.

Gezer is not included there but see the Second Stratum passages at the end of this post for those references. I would also be interested in finding more indications of Arabia — they are not obvious from the names as listed in 1 Kings apart from 10:15, though the Queen of Sheba sounds significant.

Gmirkin refers readers to Finkelstein and  Silberman’s David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible’s Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition is to the full text available at archive.org. It is freely available on archive.org so you can read the pages cited. They examine the evidence for the sites belonging to a good century after the supposed time of Solomon.

The monumental architecture attributed to Solomon in this later literary strata appears to reflect actual constructions under King Ahab of Bit Omri, building projects which included the monumental gates and fortifications at the chariot cities of Megiddo, Gezer and Hazor (Finkelstein and Silberman 2006: 163-7, 275-81; cf. 1 Kgs 9:15-19), and the temple of Yahweh and other impressive buildings at Jerusalem, which was arguably ruled from Samaria in earlier times.

(Gmirkin, 85)

Finkelstein and Silberman, p. 152

Such is further evidence Gmirkin advances for the Solomon narrative of 1 Kings being drafted from a memory (recorded in the “annals of Solomon/Shalmaneser”) of neo-Assyrian power over the region.

The Acts of Solomon is best understood as a Neo-Assyrian composition that incorporated translations of the cuneiform inscription at Ba’li-Ra’si into Aramaic and contained amplifications that included legendary accounts of international relations and his regional achievements as builder. This Neo-Assyrian text, authored and locally preserved by the educated ruling class of Neo- Assyrian Samerina [Samaria], celebrated Shalmaneser III as the first great Assyrian king whose rule extended to this region

(Gmirkin, 85)

That inscription at Ba’li-Ra’si is known from another public inscription, the “Black Obelisk“, produced in the time of Shalmaneser III. As we saw in the previous post, 

I (also) marched as far as the mountains of Ba’li-ra’si [near Mount Carmel] which is a promontory (lit.: at the side of the sea) and erected there a stela with my image as king.

(ANET, 280)

Next post we’ll look at Gmirkin’s discussion of Solomon’s building program.

The Second Stratum text: 

1 Kings 4:20-28 The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy. And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These countries brought tribute and were Solomon’s subjects all his life.

Solomon’s daily provisions were thirty cors of the finest flour and sixty cors of meal, ten head of stall-fed cattle, twenty of pasture-fed cattle and a hundred sheep and goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roebucks and choice fowl. For he ruled over all the kingdoms west of the Euphrates River, from Tiphsah to Gaza, and had peace on all sides. During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, everyone under their own vine and under their own fig tree.

Solomon had four thousand stalls for chariot horses, and twelve thousand horses.

The district governors, each in his month, supplied provisions for King Solomon and all who came to the king’s table. They saw to it that nothing was lacking. They also brought to the proper place their quotas of barley and straw for the chariot horses and the other horses.

1 Kings 6:1-10 In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the Lord.

The temple that King Solomon built for the Lord was sixty cubits long, twenty wide and thirty high. The portico at the front of the main hall of the temple extended the width of the temple, that is twenty cubits, and projected ten cubits from the front of the temple. He made narrow windows high up in the temple walls. Against the walls of the main hall and inner sanctuary he built a structure around the building, in which there were side rooms. The lowest floor was five cubits wide, the middle floor six cubits and the third floor seven. He made offset ledges around the outside of the temple so that nothing would be inserted into the temple walls.

In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.

The entrance to the lowest floor was on the south side of the temple; a stairway led up to the middle level and from there to the third. So he built the temple and completed it, roofing it with beams and cedar planks. And he built the side rooms all along the temple. The height of each was five cubits, and they were attached to the temple by beams of cedar.

1 Kings 6:14-38 So Solomon built the temple and completed it. He lined its interior walls with cedar boards, paneling them from the floor of the temple to the ceiling, and covered the floor of the temple with planks of juniper. He partitioned off twenty cubits at the rear of the temple with cedar boards from floor to ceiling to form within the temple an inner sanctuary, the Most Holy Place. The main hall in front of this room was forty cubits long. The inside of the temple was cedar, carved with gourds and open flowers. Everything was cedar; no stone was to be seen.

He prepared the inner sanctuary within the temple to set the ark of the covenant of the Lord there. The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty wide and twenty high. He overlaid the inside with pure gold, and he also overlaid the altar of cedar. Solomon covered the inside of the temple with pure gold, and he extended gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary, which was overlaid with gold. So he overlaid the whole interior with gold. He also overlaid with gold the altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary.

For the inner sanctuary he made a pair of cherubim out of olive wood, each ten cubits high. One wing of the first cherub was five cubits long, and the other wing five cubits—ten cubits from wing tip to wing tip. The second cherub also measured ten cubits, for the two cherubim were identical in size and shape. The height of each cherub was ten cubits. He placed the cherubim inside the innermost room of the temple, with their wings spread out. The wing of one cherub touched one wall, while the wing of the other touched the other wall, and their wings touched each other in the middle of the room. He overlaid the cherubim with gold.

On the walls all around the temple, in both the inner and outer rooms, he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers. He also covered the floors of both the inner and outer rooms of the temple with gold.

For the entrance to the inner sanctuary he made doors out of olive wood that were one fifth of the width of the sanctuary. And on the two olive-wood doors he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers, and overlaid the cherubim and palm trees with hammered gold. In the same way, for the entrance to the main hall he made doorframes out of olive wood that were one fourth of the width of the hall. He also made two doors out of juniper wood, each having two leaves that turned in sockets. He carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers on them and overlaid them with gold hammered evenly over the carvings.

And he built the inner courtyard of three courses of dressed stone and one course of trimmed cedar beams.

The foundation of the temple of the Lord was laid in the fourth year, in the month of Ziv. In the eleventh year in the month of Bul, the eighth month, the temple was finished in all its details according to its specifications. He had spent seven years building it.

1 Kings 7:1-51 It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace. He built the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon a hundred cubits long, fifty wide and thirty high, with four rows of cedar columns supporting trimmed cedar beams. It was roofed with cedar above the beams that rested on the columns—forty-five beams, fifteen to a row. Its windows were placed high in sets of three, facing each other. All the doorways had rectangular frames; they were in the front part in sets of three, facing each other.

He made a colonnade fifty cubits long and thirty wide. In front of it was a portico, and in front of that were pillars and an overhanging roof.

He built the throne hall, the Hall of Justice, where he was to judge, and he covered it with cedar from floor to ceiling. And the palace in which he was to live, set farther back, was similar in design. Solomon also made a palace like this hall for Pharaoh’s daughter, whom he had married.

All these structures, from the outside to the great courtyard and from foundation to eaves, were made of blocks of high-grade stone cut to size and smoothed on their inner and outer faces. The foundations were laid with large stones of good quality, some measuring ten cubits and some eight. Above were high-grade stones, cut to size, and cedar beams. The great courtyard was surrounded by a wall of three courses of dressed stone and one course of trimmed cedar beams, as was the inner courtyard of the temple of the Lord with its portico.

King Solomon sent to Tyre and brought Huram, whose mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali and whose father was from Tyre and a skilled craftsman in bronze. Huram was filled with wisdom, with understanding and with knowledge to do all kinds of bronze work. He came to King Solomon and did all the work assigned to him.

He cast two bronze pillars, each eighteen cubits high and twelve cubits in circumference. He also made two capitals of cast bronze to set on the tops of the pillars; each capital was five cubits high. A network of interwoven chains adorned the capitals on top of the pillars, seven for each capital. He made pomegranates in two rows encircling each network to decorate the capitals on top of the pillars. He did the same for each capital. The capitals on top of the pillars in the portico were in the shape of lilies, four cubits high. On the capitals of both pillars, above the bowl-shaped part next to the network, were the two hundred pomegranates in rows all around. He erected the pillars at the portico of the temple. The pillar to the south he named Jakin and the one to the north Boaz. The capitals on top were in the shape of lilies. And so the work on the pillars was completed.

He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it. Below the rim, gourds encircled it—ten to a cubit. The gourds were cast in two rows in one piece with the Sea.

The Sea stood on twelve bulls, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south and three facing east. The Sea rested on top of them, and their hindquarters were toward the center. It was a handbreadth in thickness, and its rim was like the rim of a cup, like a lily blossom. It held two thousand baths.

He also made ten movable stands of bronze; each was four cubits long, four wide and three high. This is how the stands were made: They had side panels attached to uprights. On the panels between the uprights were lions, bulls and cherubim—and on the uprights as well. Above and below the lions and bulls were wreaths of hammered work. Each stand had four bronze wheels with bronze axles, and each had a basin resting on four supports, cast with wreaths on each side. On the inside of the stand there was an opening that had a circular frame one cubit deep. This opening was round, and with its basework it measured a cubit and a half. Around its opening there was engraving. The panels of the stands were square, not round. The four wheels were under the panels, and the axles of the wheels were attached to the stand. The diameter of each wheel was a cubit and a half. The wheels were made like chariot wheels; the axles, rims, spokes and hubs were all of cast metal.

Each stand had four handles, one on each corner, projecting from the stand. At the top of the stand there was a circular band half a cubit deep. The supports and panels were attached to the top of the stand. He engraved cherubim, lions and palm trees on the surfaces of the supports and on the panels, in every available space, with wreaths all around. This is the way he made the ten stands. They were all cast in the same molds and were identical in size and shape.

He then made ten bronze basins, each holding forty baths and measuring four cubits across, one basin to go on each of the ten stands. He placed five of the stands on the south side of the temple and five on the north. He placed the Sea on the south side, at the southeast corner of the temple. He also made the pots and shovels and sprinkling bowls.

So Huram finished all the work he had undertaken for King Solomon in the temple of the Lord:

the two pillars; the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars; the two sets of network decorating the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars; the four hundred pomegranates for the two sets of network (two rows of pomegranates for each network decorating the bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars); the ten stands with their ten basins; the Sea and the twelve bulls under it; the pots, shovels and sprinkling bowls.

All these objects that Huram made for King Solomon for the temple of the Lord were of burnished bronze. The king had them cast in clay molds in the plain of the Jordan between Sukkoth and Zarethan. Solomon left all these things unweighed, because there were so many; the weight of the bronze was not determined.

Solomon also made all the furnishings that were in the Lord’s temple:

the golden altar; the golden table on which was the bread of the Presence; the lampstands of pure gold (five on the right and five on the left, in front of the inner sanctuary); the gold floral work and lamps and tongs; the pure gold basins, wick trimmers, sprinkling bowls, dishes and centres; and the gold sockets for the doors of the innermost room, the Most Holy Place, and also for the doors of the main hall of the temple.

When all the work King Solomon had done for the temple of the Lord was finished, he brought in the things his father David had dedicated—the silver and gold and the furnishings—and he placed them in the treasuries of the Lord’s temple.

1 Kings 9:15-24 Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the Lord’s temple, his own palace, the terraces, the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer. (Pharaoh king of Egypt had attacked and captured Gezer. He had set it on fire. He killed its Canaanite inhabitants and then gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter, Solomon’s wife. And Solomon rebuilt Gezer.) He built up Lower Beth Horon, Baalath, and Tadmor in the desert, within his land, as well as all his store cities and the towns for his chariots and for his horses—whatever he desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon and throughout all the territory he ruled.

There were still people left from the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites (these peoples were not Israelites). Solomon conscripted the descendants of all these peoples remaining in the land—whom the Israelites could not exterminate—to serve as slave labor, as it is to this day. But Solomon did not make slaves of any of the Israelites; they were his fighting men, his government officials, his officers, his captains, and the commanders of his chariots and charioteers. They were also the chief officials in charge of Solomon’s projects—550 officials supervising those who did the work.

After Pharaoh’s daughter had come up from the City of David to the palace Solomon had built for her, he constructed the terraces.

1 Kings 9:26-28 King Solomon also built ships at Ezion Geber, which is near Elath in Edom, on the shore of the Red Sea. And Hiram sent his men—sailors who knew the sea—to serve in the fleet with Solomon’s men. They sailed to Ophir and brought back 420 talents of gold, which they delivered to King Solomon.
1 Kings 10:1-27 When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord, she came to test Solomon with hard questions. Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the Lord, she was overwhelmed.

She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness.”

And she gave the king 120 talents of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones. Never again were so many spices brought in as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.

(Hiram’s ships brought gold from Ophir; and from there they brought great cargoes of almugwood and precious stones.  The king used the almugwood to make supports for the temple of the Lord and for the royal palace, and to make harps and lyres for the musicians. So much almugwood has never been imported or seen since that day.)

King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for, besides what he had given her out of his royal bounty. Then she left and returned with her retinue to her own country.

The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents, not including the revenues from merchants and traders and from all the Arabian kings and the governors of the territories.

King Solomon made two hundred large shields of hammered gold; six hundred shekels of gold went into each shield. He also made three hundred small shields of hammered gold, with three minas of gold in each shield. The king put them in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon.

Then the king made a great throne covered with ivory and overlaid with fine gold. The throne had six steps, and its back had a rounded top. On both sides of the seat were armrests, with a lion standing beside each of them. Twelve lions stood on the six steps, one at either end of each step. Nothing like it had ever been made for any other kingdom. All King Solomon’s goblets were gold, and all the household articles in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold. Nothing was made of silver, because silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s days. The king had a fleet of trading ships at sea along with the ships of Hiram. Once every three years it returned, carrying gold, silver and ivory, and apes and baboons.

King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart. Year after year, everyone who came brought a gift—articles of silver and gold, robes, weapons and spices, and horses and mules.

Solomon accumulated chariots and horses; he had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses, which he kept in the chariot cities and also with him in Jerusalem. The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills.

1 Kings 11:14-25 Then the Lord raised up against Solomon an adversary, Hadad the Edomite, from the royal line of Edom. Earlier when David was fighting with Edom, Joab the commander of the army, who had gone up to bury the dead, had struck down all the men in Edom. Joab and all the Israelites stayed there for six months, until they had destroyed all the men in Edom. But Hadad, still only a boy, fled to Egypt with some Edomite officials who had served his father. They set out from Midian and went to Paran. Then taking people from Paran with them, they went to Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, who gave Hadad a house and land and provided him with food.

Pharaoh was so pleased with Hadad that he gave him a sister of his own wife, Queen Tahpenes, in marriage. The sister of Tahpenes bore him a son named Genubath, whom Tahpenes brought up in the royal palace. There Genubath lived with Pharaoh’s own children.

While he was in Egypt, Hadad heard that David rested with his ancestors and that Joab the commander of the army was also dead. Then Hadad said to Pharaoh, “Let me go, that I may return to my own country.”

“What have you lacked here that you want to go back to your own country?” Pharaoh asked.

“Nothing,” Hadad replied, “but do let me go!”

And God raised up against Solomon another adversary, Rezon son of Eliada, who had fled from his master, Hadadezer king of Zobah. When David destroyed Zobah’s army, Rezon gathered a band of men around him and became their leader; they went to Damascus, where they settled and took control. Rezon was Israel’s adversary as long as Solomon lived, adding to the trouble caused by Hadad. So Rezon ruled in Aram and was hostile toward Israel.

 


Gmirkin, Russell. 2020. “‘Solomon’ (Shalmaneser III) and the Emergence of Judah as an Independent Kingdom.” In Biblical Narratives, Archaeology and Historicity: Essays In Honour of Thomas L. Thompson, edited by Lukasz Niesiolowski-Spanò and Emanuel Pfoh, 76–90. Library of Hebrew Bible / Old Testament Studies. New York: T&T Clark.

Pritchard, James B., ed. 1969. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. Third Edition with Supplement. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. https://archive.org/details/AncientNearEasternTextsRelatingToTheOldTestament.

Younger, K. Lawson. 1990. Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical History Writing. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 98. Sheffield: JSOT Press.


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2 thoughts on “The Acts of Solomon as a Neo-Assyrian Composition — part 2”

  1. Russell Gmirkin says: “The Acts of Solomon is best understood as a Neo-Assyrian composition … that included legendary accounts of international relations and his regional achievements as builder. This Neo-Assyrian text, authored and locally preserved by the educated ruling class of Neo-Assyrian Samerina [Samaria], celebrated Shalmaneser III as the first great Assyrian king whose rule extended to this region.”

    My problem with that scenario is this:

    Why, in c.700 BCE, would the educated ruling class of Neo-Assyrian Samerina (who had presumably been transferred to the province fairly recently), celebrate the earlier Assyrian emperor Shalmaneser III (859-824 BCE) by including, as the apogee of his building achievements in the region, the construction of a monumental temple/palace complex, positively dripping with gold … in Jerusalem of all places, which in their own time was the centre of the independent neighbouring kingdom of Judah, which had nothing much to do with them, and at that time was not even ruled by Assyria? I can’t see how this adds up.

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