Today we read about Solomon, David's son and successor to the throne. Solomon is remembered for his request for divine wisdom and as the one who oversaw the construction of the first Temple in Jerusalem. The Lord offered Solomon anything he wanted, such as long life or great wealth, but his request was for an "understanding mind to govern God's people." The Lord was pleased with this request and granted Solomon not only wisdom, but riches and honor as well. Solomon's reputation spread throughout the land and soon "the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind" (1 Kings 10:24).
However, most significantly, Solomon is remembered as the one built the great Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. During the journey through the wilderness and throughout the initial period in the land of Canaan, the worship of the Lord took place in a Tabernacle, a temporary structure that could be moved from place to place. However, under Solomon's leadership, the first permanent Temple was constructed. The Temple was the place of prayer and worship as well as the location where sacrifices were offered to the Lord. The inner sanctuary of the Temple was known as the Holy of Holies, which housed the Ark of Covenant (essentially a gold vessel that contained the ten commandments). The presence and glory of the Lord dwelled permenantly in the Holy of Holies. It is difficult to understimate the importance of the Temple in the corporate life of the people of Israel.
In the year 597 BC, the city of Jerusalem was seiged by the Babylonians. The Temple was destroyed and God's people were led into exile. As will see later this week, after the Israelites returned from exile in Babylon, their first priority was the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and the Lord's Temple.
After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam assumed the throne. However, conflict arose among the people of Israel and soon the kingdom became divided. Solomon was the last king to rule over a united Kingdom of Israel. During the reign of Rehoboam, the ten tribes in the northern part of the kingdom rebelled and enthroned their own king, Jeroboam, while the tribes in the south were ruled by Rehoboam. Thus, God's people were divided: the Kingdom of Israel in the north and the Kingdom of Judah in the south.