The Antiquities of the Jews, 8.150–8.175

Flavius Josephus  translated by William Whiston

« J. AJ 8.130–8.149 | J. AJ 8.150–8.175 | J. AJ 8.176–8.211 | About This Work »

1501. Now when the king saw that the walls of Jerusalem stood in need of being better secured, and made stronger, (for he thought the walls that encompassed Jerusalem ought to correspond to the dignity of the city,) he both repaired them, and made them higher, with great towers upon them; 151he also built cities which might be counted among the strongest, Hazor and Megiddo, and the third Gezer, which had indeed belonged to the Philistines; but Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, had made an expedition against it, and besieged it, and taken it by force; and when he had slain all its inhabitants, he utterly overthrew it, and gave it as a present to his daughter, who had been married to Solomon; 152for which reason the king rebuilt it, as a city that was naturally strong, and might be useful in wars, and the mutations of affairs that sometimes happen. Moreover, he built two other cities not far from it, Beth-horon was the name of one of them, and Baalath of the other. 153He also built other cities that lay conveniently for these, in order to the enjoyment of pleasures and delicacies in them, such as were naturally of a good temperature of the air, and agreeable for fruits ripe in their proper seasons, and well watered with springs. Nay, Solomon went as far as the desert above Syria, and possessed himself of it, and built there a very great city, which was distant two days’ journey from Upper Syria, and one day’s journey from Euphrates, and six long days’ journey from Babylon the Great. 154Now the reason why this city lay so remote from the parts of Syria that are inhabited is this, that below there is no water to be had, and that it is in that place only that there are springs and pits of water. When he had therefore built this city, and encompassed it with very strong walls, he gave it the name of Tadmor, and that is the name it is still called by at this day among the Syrians, but the Greeks name it Palmyra.

1552. Now Solomon the king was at this time engaged in building these cities. But if any inquire why all the kings of Egypt from Menes, who built Memphis, and was many years earlier than our forefather Abraham, until Solomon, where the interval was more than one thousand three hundred years, were called Pharaohs, and took it from one Pharaoh that lived after the kings of that interval, I think it necessary to inform them of it, and this in order to cure their ignorance, and to make the occasion of that name manifest. Pharaoh, in the Egyptian tongue, signifies a king, 156but I suppose they made use of other names from their childhood; but when they were made kings, they changed them into the name which in their own tongue denoted their authority; for thus it was also that the kings of Alexandria, who were called formerly by other names, when they took the kingdom, were named Ptolemies, from their first king. 157The Roman emperors also were from their nativity called by other names, but are styled Caesars, their empire and their dignity imposing that name upon them, and not suffering them to continue in those names which their fathers gave them. I suppose also that Herodotus of Halicarnassus, when he said there were three hundred and thirty kings of Egypt after Menes, who built Memphis, did therefore not tell us their names, because they were in common called Pharaohs; 158for when after their death there was a queen reigned, he calls her by her name Nicaule, as thereby declaring, that while the kings were of the male line, and so admitted of the same nature, while a woman did not admit the same, he did therefore set down that her name, which she could not naturally have. 159As for myself, I have discovered from our own books, that after Pharaoh, the father-in-law of Solomon, no other king of Egypt did any longer use that name; and that it was after that time when the forenamed queen of Egypt and Ethiopia came to Solomon, concerning whom we shall inform the reader presently; but I have now made mention of these things, that I may prove that our books and those of the Egyptians agree together in many things.

1603. But king Solomon subdued to himself the remnant of the Canaanites that had not before submitted to him; those I mean that dwelt in Mount Lebanon, and as far as the city Hamath; and ordered them to pay tribute. He also chose out of them every year such as were to serve him in the meanest offices, and to do his domestic works, and to follow husbandry; 161for none of the Hebrews were servants [in such low employments]: nor was it reasonable, that when God had brought so many nations under their power, they should depress their own people to such mean offices of life, rather than those nations; while all the Israelites were concerned in warlike affairs, and were in armor; and were set over the chariots and the horses, rather than leading the life of slaves. 162He appointed also five hundred and fifty rulers over those Canaanites who were reduced to such domestic slavery, who received the entire care of them from the king, and instructed them in those labors and operations wherein he wanted their assistance.

1634. Moreover, the king built many ships in the Egyptian Bay of the Red Sea, in a certain place called Ezion-geber: it is now called Berenice, and is not far from the city Eloth. This country belonged formerly to the Jews, and became useful for shipping from the donations of Hiram king of Tyre; 164for he sent a sufficient number of men thither for pilots, and such as were skillful in navigation, to whom Solomon gave this command: That they should go along with his own stewards to the land that was of old called Ophir, but now the Aurea Chersonesus, which belongs to India, to fetch him gold. And when they had gathered four hundred talents together, they returned to the king again.

1655. There was then a woman queen of Egypt and Ethiopia; she was inquisitive into philosophy, and one that on other accounts also was to be admired. When this queen heard of the virtue and prudence of Solomon, she had a great mind to see him; and the reports that went every day abroad induced her to come to him, 166she being desirous to be satisfied by her own experience, and not by a bare hearing; (for reports thus heard are likely enough to comply with a false opinion, while they wholly depend on the credit of the relators;) so she resolved to come to him, and that especially in order to have a trial of his wisdom, while she proposed questions of very great difficulty, and entreated that he would solve their hidden meaning. Accordingly she came to Jerusalem with great splendor and rich furniture; 167for she brought with her camels laden with gold, with several sorts of sweet spices, and with precious stones. Now, upon the king’s kind reception of her, he both showed a great desire to please her, and easily comprehending in his mind the meaning of the curious questions she propounded to him, he resolved them sooner than any body could have expected. 168So she was amazed at the wisdom of Solomon, and discovered that it was more excellent upon trial than what she had heard by report beforehand; and especially she was surprised at the fineness and largeness of his royal palace, and not less so at the good order of the apartments, for she observed that the king had therein shown great wisdom; 169but she was beyond measure astonished at the house which was called the Forest of Lebanon, as also at the magnificence of his daily table, and the circumstances of its preparation and ministration, with the apparel of his servants that waited, and the skillful and decent management of their attendance: nor was she less affected with those daily sacrifices which were offered to God, and the careful management which the priests and Levites used about them. 170When she saw this done every day, she was in the greatest admiration imaginable, insomuch that she was not able to contain the surprise she was in, but openly confessed how wonderfully she was affected; for she proceeded to discourse with the king, and thereby owned that she was overcome with admiration at the things before related; and said, 171“All things indeed, O king, that came to our knowledge by report, came with uncertainty as to our belief of them; but as to those good things that to thee appertain, both such as thou thyself possessest, I mean wisdom and prudence, and the happiness thou hast from thy kingdom, certainly the same that came to us was no falsity; it was not only a true report, but it related thy happiness after a much lower manner than I now see it to be before my eyes. 172For as for the report, it only attempted to persuade our hearing, but did not so make known the dignity of the things themselves as does the sight of them, and being present among them. I indeed, who did not believe what was reported, by reason of the multitude and grandeur of the things I inquired about, do see them to be much more numerous than they were reported to be. 173Accordingly I esteem the Hebrew people, as well as thy servants and friends, to be happy, who enjoy thy presence and hear thy wisdom every day continually. One would therefore bless God, who hath so loved this country, and those that inhabit therein, as to make thee king over them.”

1746. Now when the queen had thus demonstrated in words how deeply the king had affected her, her disposition was known by certain presents, for she gave him twenty talents of gold, and an immense quantity of spices and precious stones. (They say also that we possess the root of that balsam which our country still bears by this woman’s gift.) 175Solomon also repaid her with many good things, and principally by bestowing upon her what she chose of her own inclination, for there was nothing that she desired which he denied her; and as he was very generous and liberal in his own temper, so did he show the greatness of his soul in bestowing on her what she herself desired of him. So when this queen of Ethiopia had obtained what we have already given an account of, and had again communicated to the king what she brought with her, she returned to her own kingdom.

« J. AJ 8.130–8.149 | J. AJ 8.150–8.175 | J. AJ 8.176–8.211 | About This Work »

Table of contents