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tection. And then, rising from his knees, with hands outstretched to heaven, he blessed the congregation, saying with a loud voice, “Let the Lord our God be with us as he was with our fathers, so that all the earth may know that Jehovah is God and that there is none else!”
Then followed the sacrifices for this grand occasion, — twenty thousand oxen and one hundred and twenty thousand sheep and goats were offered up on successive days. Only a portion of these animals was actually consumed on the altar by the officiating priests: the greater part furnished meat for the assembled multitude. The Festival of the Dedication lasted a week, and this was succeeded by the Feast of the Tabernacles; and from that time the Temple became the pride and glory of the nation. To see it periodically and worship in its courts became the intensest desire of every Hebrew. Three times a year some great festival was held, attended by a vast concourse of the people The command was that every male Israelite should “ appear before the Lord” and make his offering; but this of course had its necessary exceptions, as multitudes of women and children could not go, and had to be cared for at home. We cannot easily understand how on any other supposition they were all accommodated, spacious as were the various courts of the Temple; and we con
clude that only a large representation of the tribes and families took place, for how could four or five millions of people assemble together at any festival ?
Contemporaneous with the building of the Temple, or immediately after it was dedicated, were other gigantic works, including the royal palace, which it took thirteen years to complete, and upon which, as upon the Sacred House, Syrian artists and workmen were employed. The principal building was only one hundred and fifty feet long, seventy-five broad, and fortyfive feet high, in three stories, with a grand porch supported on lofty pillars; but connected with the palace were other edifices to support the magnificence in which the king lived with his court and his harem. Around the tower of the House of David were hung the famous golden shields, one thousand in number, which had been made for the body-guard, with other glittering ornaments, which were likened by the poets to the neck of a bride decked with rays of golden coins. In the great Judgment Hall, built of cedar and squared stone, was the throne of the monarch, made of ivory, inlaid with gold. A special mansion was erected for Solomon's Egyptian queen, of squared stones twelve to fifteen feet in length. Connected with these various palaces were extensive gardens constructed at great expense, filled with all the triumphs of horticultural art, and watered by streams from vast reservoirs. In
these the luxurious king and court could wander among beds of spices and flowers and fruits. But these did not content the royal family. A summer palace was erected on the heights of Mount Lebanon, having gardens filled with everything which could delight the eye or captivate the senses. Here, surrounded with learned men, women, and courtiers, with bands of music, costly litters, horses and chariots, and every luxury which unbounded means could command, the magnificent monarch beguiled his leisure hours, abandoned equally to pleasure and study, — for his inquiring mind sought to master all the knowledge that was known, especially in the realm of natural history, since “ he was wiser than all men, and spake of trees, from the cedar-tree that is on Lebanon even unto the hys. sop that springeth out of the wall.” We can get some idea of the expenses of his household, in the fact that it daily consumed sixty measures of flour and meal and thirty oxen and one hundred sheep, besides venison, game, and fatted fowls. The king never appeared in public except with crown and sceptre, in royal robes redolent of the richest perfumes of India and Arabia, and sparkling with gold and gems. He lived in a constant blaze of splendor, whether travelling in his gorgeous litter, surrounded with his guards, or seated on his throne to dispense justice and equity, or feasting with his nobles to the sound of joyous music.
To keep up this regal splendor, to support seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines on the fattest of the land, and deck them all in robes of purple and gold; to build magnificent palaces, to dig canals, and construct gigantic reservoirs for parks and gardens; to maintain a large standing army in time of peace; to erect strong fortresses wherever caravans were in danger of pillage; to found cities in the wilderness; to level mountains and fill up valleys, – to accomplish all this even the resources of Solomon were insufficient. What were six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold, yearly received (thirty-five million dollars), besides the taxes on all merchants and travellers, and the vast gifts which flowed from kings and princes, when that constant drain on the royal treasury is considered! Even a Louis XIV. was impoverished by his court and palace building, though he controlled the fortunes of twentyfive millions of people. King Solomon, in all his glory, became embarrassed, and was obliged to make forced contributions, - to levy a heavy tribute on his own subjects from Dar to Beersheba, and make bondmen of all the people that were left of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizites, Hivitas, and Jebusites. The people were virtually enslaved to aggrandize a single person. The burdens laid on all classes and the excessive taxation at last alienated the nation. “The division of the whole country into twelve revenue districts was a
serious grievance, -- especially as the high official over each could make large profits from the excess of con. tributions demanded.” A poll-tax, from which the nation in the olden times was freed, was levied on Israelite and Canaanite alike. The virtual slave-labor by which the great public improvements were made, sapped the loyalty of the people and produced discontent. This forced labor was as fatal as war to the real property of the nation, for wealth is ever based on private industry, on farms and vineyards, rather than on the palaces of kings. Moreover, the friendly relations which Solomon established with the neighboring heathen nations disgusted the old religious leaders, while the tendency to Oriental luxury which outward prosperity favored alarmed the more thoughtful. It was not a pleasant sight for the princes of Israel to see the whole land overrun with Phænicians, Arabs, Babylonians, Egyptians, caravan drivers, strangers and travellers, camels and dromedaries from Midian and Sheba, traders to the fairs, pedlers with their foreign cloths and trinkets, all spreading immorality and heresy, and filling the cities with strange customs and degrading dances.
Nor was there, in that absolute monarchy which Solomon centralized around his throne, any remedy for all this, save assassination or revolution. The king had become debauched and effeminate. The love of