1. I was looking a little at a book called "A History of the Jews" by Abram Leon Sachar. He seems to suggest that the Bible’s account of Solomon is incorrect, exaggerated, and biased. He says his genius was never of a moral or spiritual quality, but the Bible says otherwise. He also says the constructions of his palace, the Temple, and other buildings bankrupted the kingdom. The people were poor and their loyalty to him was strained at this time. He enforced high taxes on his people and went into business and became partners with King Hiram of Tyre in trade, possibly even stealing or pirating. But this was not enough to overcome Solomon’s debts. Yet the Bible says that his kingdom was the wealthiest ever and never says anything about this debt. He also says that Solomon’s daily requirements as described in 1 Kings 4:22-23 are greatly exaggerated. And the people eventually became bitter with him for living in such luxury while they were poor. But the Bible says nothing about this. Please explain this. If what Sachar says is right, then how can divinely inspired Scripture be biased or inaccurate in painting a better picture of Solomon than he deserves? 2. I checked the Wikipedia article about Solomon, and it says there is very little evidence about the Solomon of history beyond the Bible. It says archealogical evidence indicates that Solomon’s kingdom may have been only a small city-state and that the Temple may not have been as big as the Bible describes it since no archealogical evidence supports its size. Is this correct? If so, then again this seems to conflict with the Bible. 3. Wikipedia led me to articles about Biblical criticism and prophecies in the Bible. One article lists several prophecies that are not fulfilled or are interpreted incorrectly. Matthew in Mt. 1:23 quotes Is. 7:13-14 to show Jesus’ virgin birth is fulfilled. But it says the Hebrew in Isaiah says, "Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? Therefore Yahweh Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel." In other words, they argue that a woman is already pregenant. And they say the overall context of these verses from Isaiah suggests that he could not have been predicting Jesus’ birth in the future. These come from the article "Bible prophecy" on Wikipedia: God promises Abraham and his Jewish descendants the land of Canaan from the Nile to the Euphrates. Genesis 17:3-8 states,"The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God." They never owned all that land. According to Acts 7:5 and Hebrews 11:13, God’s promises to Abraham were not realized during his lifetime. Another article (I don’t remember this one) says neither Abraham nor his descendants ever owned all that land. "David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel", but the Davidic line’s rule seems to have ended with Zedekiah. God also says that Solomon’s kingdom will last forever, but the kingdom was destroyed about 400 years after Solomon’s death. The placement of Jehoiachin, however, in a position of authority during Babylonian exile at the end of 2 Kings seems to indicate the survival of the Davidic kingship on some level. He was even called king under exile in several Babylonian food-rationing lists. Jeremiah prophesies that Jehoiakim will have no successor to the throne. His son Jehoiachin succeeded him at the age of eighteen reigned three months before being taken captive along with his mother, wives, servants, princes, and officers. God tells Zedekiah that he will die in peace and be buried with his fathers. His eyes were put out before he was taken to Babylon and remained a prisoner there until death. God promises Josiah that he would be "buried in peace" and then goes on to describe him not seeing all the disaster to come on Judah. Josiah was later killed in battle with the Egyptians. There is a long list of others, which you can check if you want. I will quit listing them so that this message is not too long. Please explain these problems. Sorry that this message is long.
First of all, I am very sorry for my extremely slow reply. I have been traveling for almost four weeks in the UK and Eastern Europe and have been unavailable to answer questions.
Second, you are asking a few too many questions here. I will take on the first three or four and ask you to narrow down your questions if you have more.
I have read some material by Sachar. If I remember correctly, he is a well-informed scholar, but he is quite biased. It seems that he never notices when the Bible is accurate history and only pays attention to the biblical history which is not yet confirmed by discovery of archaeologists. It is a good idea to remember that asbence of evidence is not evidence of absence. In other words, of course it is true that not all the biblical description of history has been confirmed by outside source, but that in itself does not mean that the biblical account is not true.
For example, how does Sachar know what Solomon’s genius was? The fact is that archaeologists know very little about Solomon. Here, Sachar is speculating when he has an excellent historical source available, which is the Bible. His claim is that the building of the palace, the Temple and the other buildings bankrupted the kingdom. Here, I think he is right, but how does he know this? Did he read it an another history? No, I think he knows this because he read it in 1 Kings. It is true that he enforced high taxes and became partners with Hiram. Again, I assume Sachar’s source for this information is the Bible. The Bible says that Solomon had a very large income from Israel’s extensive territory. It also shows him spending money lavishly. There is no contradiciton at all with the claim that his treasury became bankrupt, given the extremely lavish building projects he embarked on. Where is the historical error? I just do not see one. He says that Solomon’s daily requirements are greatly exaggerated. What is his evidence for this? I assume he gives none. In fact, he says that the people eventually became bitter with him for living in such luxury. This is good evidence that Solomon did indeed have large daily requirements. In fact, it was the high taxation of Solomon and the plan of his son Rehoboam to continue this policy which led to a rebellion by Jeroboam. Bottom line, I see no reason to doubt the biblical description of Solomon. Sachar likes to question the biblical description, but I am guessing that he does not have hard physical evidence that the Bible is wrong. You should look at his claims carefully. From what you say, it seems that his description of Solomon is pretty much in line with that of the Bible, although he questions some of the numbers.
Your source in Wikipedia is correct in saying that we know relatively little from archaeological evidence about Solomon. Then it goes on to speculate that perhaps Solomon’s kingdom may have been only a small city-state. Do you not see the contradition here in Wikipedia? What evidence do they mention to support their claim? I say the best source we have, BY FAR on Solomon is the Bible. Does the Wikipedia author offer evidence from an outside source that Sololmon’s kingdom was small? I will bet the answer is no. Then the Wikipedia author guesses (that’s right, it is a sheer guess!) that the temple may have been smaller than the biblical description. Again, where is the evidence to make such a claim?
About Isaiah 7:13-14. Unless I see the actual argument in Wikipedia, it is hard to respond. Some say that Isaiah 7:13-14 does not actually say a virgin will be with child. This is true. It says a young woman will be with child, but it also calls it a sign from God. It is logical to think that this is a sign because the young maiden is in fact a virgin. In point of fact, the Septuagint translation (made some time before 200 BC) translates the Hebrew word in Isaiah 7:13 as virgin for this obvious reason. If you read Isaiah 7:14 it says that the child will be called Immanuel, which means God with us. This is pretty good evidence that this is a messianic prophecy. In any case, I believe this is a messianic prophecy, but my belief in the Bible does not depend on this having to be a prophecy of the Messiah.
About Abraham, the Bible is accurate in saying that he never posessed the Promised Land. In fact, when Joshua and the Jews came an conquered Palestine they only took over a fairly small portion of the region from the "River of Egypt" to the Euphrates. By the way, the "River of Egypt" is almost certainly not the Nile. It is a small river south of Philistia which does not even flow all year. It was not until the time of Solomon that Israel actually occupied all the territory which God had allotted to Israel. As far as God was concerned, the entire Promised Land was for his people, but because of their lack of faith, as the Bible describes, they only took over part of that land except for a brief time. God also prophesied in Deuteronomy 28:58-68 that if his people became unfaithful and worshiped idols they would be conquered and taken into captivity. This is exactly what happened. Again, where is the contradiction? I do not see one.
Josiah was "buried in peace" His nation was still free and at peace, relatively, when he was buried. If you read 2 Kings 22:15-20 carefully, what prophet is saying is that the disaster which fell on Israel in 597 BC would not happen while Josiah was reigning. This turned out to be true.
The claim that the Bible says Zedekiah would die in peace and be buried with his fathers is simply not true. The Bible never says that. Your source must be confused.
I have read many of the works of authors like Sachar. To date, I have not seen any evidence that convinces me that the biblical account is not accurate. As a rule, people criticize the Bible, not because of physical evidence which contradicts the biblical accounts, but because there is at this time not sufficient evidence to prove all the things described in the Bible. Like I said, lack of evidence is not evidence of lack of the Bible being correct. People said that David was a myth, then they found the Tel Dan inscription. People said that the Hittites were a myth, then they found Hattusha, the capital of the HIttite Empire. I say it is a bad idea to bet against the historical accuracy of the Bible.
John Oakes, PhD