In the Bible,(1) King Solomon is said to have:
- Inherited a vast empire conquered by his father David that extended from the Nile in Egypt to the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia (1 Kings 4:21; Gen. 15:18; Deut. 1:7,11:24; Joshua 1:4; 2 Sam. 8:3; 1 Chron. 18:3).
- Accumulated great wealth and wisdom (1 Kings 10:23).
- Administered his kingdom through a system of 12 districts (1 Kings 4:7).
- Possessed a large harem, which included "the daughter of Pharaoh" (1 Kings 3:1; 1 Kings 11:1,3; 1 Kings 9:16).
- Honored other gods in his old age (1 Kings 11:1-2,4-5).
- Devoted his reign to great building projects (1 Kings 9:15,17-19), including:
- the Temple (1 Kings 6).
- the Royal Palace (1 Kings 7:2-12).
- the walls of Jerusalem,
- the Millo (an earthen fill made to enlarge Jerusalem) (1 Kings 11:27)
- the royal cities of Megiddo, Hazor, and Gezer
- the store cities, the cities for his horsemen and the cities for his chariots throughout his empire.
To be consistent with the pattern of other great Bronze and Iron Age cultures in the ancient Near East (Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, and Hittite), it would be expected that numerous documents, art, and inscriptions on buildings or public monuments would have been left by such a great king or by his descendants later in honor of him.(2) Yet no article of any kind bearing his name has ever been found.(3)
The cities of Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer have now been extensively excavated. A stratum containing large palaces, temples and strong fortifications was found in each of these cities. The name of Solomon was not found, but the cartouche of the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh Amenhotep III instead.(4) In Jerusalem, it has not been possible to excavate the temple mount, however, extensive excavations in the city, including the areas adjacent to the temple mount have not revealed the existence of a Solomaic palace complex.(5) Moreover, excavation of the Millo has revealed (due to pottery found in the Millo) that its original construction was also contemporary with the Egyptian 18th Dynasty of Amenhotep III.(6)
Amenhotep III, known in ancient times as the "King of Kings" and "Ruler of Ruler's,"(7) was a Pharaoh of Egypt's glorious 18th Dynasty. He, like Solomon, inherited a vast empire whose influence extended quite literally from the Nile to the Euphrates.(8) In contrast to the empire of Solomon, the empire of Amenhotep is indisputable.(9) The buildings, monuments, documents, art, and numerous other vestiges of his reign are ubiquitous and unparalleled (with the possible exception being those left by the 19th Dynasty Pharaoh, Ramses II).
The entire reign of Amenhotep III was devoted to monumental construction throughout Egypt, Canaan, and Syria.(10) In addition to the ancient world's most glorious temple at Luxor,(11) he built many other temples of similar design throughout Egypt and in the rest of his empire,(12) including the Canaanite garrison cities of Hazor, Megiddo, Gezer,(13) Lachish and Beth-shean.(14)
According to Egyptian records, Amenhotep's father Thutmose IV and grandfather Amenhotep II deported over 80,000 Canaanites. The Canaanite inhabitants of Gezer were specifically included in this deportation.(15) It was during Amenhotep III's reign that Gezer and other major Palestine cities were refortified as royal Egyptian garrisons, and endowed with fine temples and palaces.
The Bible states that in Solomon's day, the Pharaoh of Egypt captured the Canaanite city of Gezer and presented it to his daughter as a dowry upon her marriage to Solomon (1 Kings 9:16-17).(16)
It was customary and obligatory for Amenhotep III to marry "the daughter of Pharaoh" in order to secure the throne.(17) This is precisely what was done when he was married to Sitamun, the daughter of his father, Pharaoh Thutmose IV.
The network of Egyptian 18th Dynasty garrison cities also included Jerusalem. If construction by Amenhotep III at Gezer, Hazor, Megiddo and other garrison cities is any indication, then a magnificent temple undoubtedly was also built by Amenhotep on Jerusalem's venerated Temple Mount.(18) The structure adjacent to Jerusalem's Temple Mount, known traditionally as "Solomon's stables," is consistent with the architecture of Amenhotep's garrison cities.(19) Archaeology has also confirmed that chariots were kept in these cities during his reign in groups of between thirty to one hundred and fifty each.(20)
The ancient mining operations at Timna in the Negev desert, known as "Solomon's mines," "are earlier than Solomon by some three hundred years [in the conventional chronology],"(21) dating once again to the time of Amenhotep III. Copper from Timna, gold from the Sudan,(22) other precious metals, jewels and high quality stone were used in great abundance in Amenhotep's temples, just as they were in Solomon's.(23) A stela from Amenhotep's mortuary temple boasts that the temple was "embellished with gold throughout, its floor shining with silver ... with royal statues of granite, of quartzite and precious stones."(24) The list of materials used in another temple built by Amenhotep is also "staggering: 3.25 tons of electrum [an alloy of silver and gold], 2.5 tons of gold, 944 tons of copper..."(25)
The Biblical Solomon's greatest satisfaction is said to have been the challenge of completing grand projects (Ecclesiastes 2:4-11). The same was said of Amenhotep III. A royal Egyptian text of the period reads, "Lo, His Majesty's heart was satisfied with making very great monuments, the like of which had never come into being since the primeval age of the Two Lands."(26) Only an enormously wealthy king of a long established empire could have built so splendidly and in so many widely distributed locations in the ancient world. Amenhotep III was arguably the ancient world's wealthiest king. The completion of such magnificent projects required management of a considerable and constant source of labor and revenue extending over a period of many decades.
The administration and taxation system of Amenhotep with its 12 districts(27) is identical to that of Solomon as described in the Bible (1 Kings 4:2-7,27; 5:13; 9:23). Amenhotep also dedicated himself to rediscovering the wisdom, mysteries and traditions of earlier Egyptian Dynasties.(28) A strong relationship has been established between the "Proverbs of Solomon" in the Bible and the "Maxims of Amenhotep III" found in Egypt.(29)
In addition to the projects already mentioned, Amenhotep also built a completely new palace complex in Thebes. The new royal residence included all of the elements contained in the palace complex of Solomon which are described in the Bible (1 Kings 7:2-12),(30) namely:
- a house made almost entirely out of cedars of Lebanon (built for Amenhotep's Jubilee festival);(31)
- a colonnade (hall of columns) fronted by a portico (porch) and surrounded by a column-lined courtyard;(32)
- a throne room built with many wooden columns and whose floor was a painted lake scene (identical to the one crossed in wonder by the Queen of Sheba when she approached the throne of Solomon, as described in the Koran);(33)
- a separate palace built for Sitamun, "the daughter of Pharaoh;"(34)
- a royal palace (consisting of his own residence, the residence of his Great Wife, Tiye, and a residence for the royal harem).(35)
Amenhotep, like Solomon, was relentless in his pursuit of women for his harem, especially beautiful foreign women of both royal and common backgrounds alike.(36) Amenhotep's harem included two princesses from Babylon,(37) two princesses from Syria, two princesses from Mitanni, and like Solomon's harem, it included a princess from each of the seven nations listed in 1 Kings 11:1.(38) As the mightiest king of the Middle East, Amenhotep did not send any of his own daughters to other kings in exchange, nor did any other Pharaoh of this dynasty (or likely any other throughout Egypt's history).(39) He specifically denied a request by the king of Babylon for an Egyptian wife.(40) Importantly, the Bible emphasizes Solomon's Egyptian bride, but does not mention that Solomon had any Hebrew wives.(41) Rehoboam, who is said to have succeeded Solomon, was the son of an Ammonite princess.(42)
The court of Amenhotep III was an extremely liberal one, and reflected every possible excess of an affluent and secure kingdom.(43) Eroticism in art and court life reached its height during the reign of Amenhotep.(44) The famous "nude dancing girls" mural dates to Amenhotep's reign.(45) As with Solomon, Amenhotep denied himself nothing "his eyes desired" and "refused his heart no pleasure" (Ecclesiastes 2:10). However, the last years of Amenhotep's thirty-eight year reign were not pleasant ones. The long years of indulgence had taken their toll and he had many ailments. As a compassionate gesture, his Mitanni brother-in-law(46) sent him an idol of the goddess Ishtar (i.e., Asherah)(1 Kings 11:5).
The "inescapable conclusion"(47) is that the story of Solomon was patterned specifically after the life of Amenhotep III. The name Solomon itself, which literally means "peace" or "safety" points to Amenhotep III whose long and pervasive reign in the 14th Century B.C. did not include any major military campaigns, but was characterized by unprecedented stability throughout the Near East.(48) After the Egyptian 18th Dynasty, the region between the two great rivers was not controlled by a single power again until the Assyrian empire of Ashurbanipal (the grandson of Sennacherib) who invaded Egypt and pillaged Thebes in the 7th Century B.C.,(49) and the 6th Century B.C. empire of Cyrus, who also conquered Egypt and made it a Persian province.(50) There is no evidence of any empire at any time controlling this region whose capital was Jerusalem.(51)
Solomon is said to have had "a thousand and four hundred" chariots (1 Kings 1:26). This represents a prodigious army by ancient standards, and one which could only have been amassed over a long period of time by an established civilization.(52) Yet we are told that only five years after the great King Solomon's death, the Egyptian Pharaoh Shishak and his allies invaded Judah and captured its fortified cities with little or no military resistance (2 Chron. 12). The Bible adds that Jerusalem itself was spared only after delivering up the entirety of King Solomon's accumulated wealth to Shishak.
The rapidness with which Solomon's empire was established, as described by the Bible, and the ease with which it shortly thereafter submitted to a foreign power is also not consistent with the pattern set by other great ancient civilizations.