15 December 1997
David, now an old man, is still king of Israel. Among his sons, the ambitious Adonijah and the clever Solomon. The two young men are fierce rivals, since both are prospective heirs to the throne and only one can be successful. During a hunting expedition, Adonijah challenges his younger brother Solomon to a chariot race. While Solomon, though brave, still retains a modicum of caution, the daredevil Adonijah is eager to win at all costs -- and loses control of his chariot. Solomon takes the seriously injured Adonijah back to Jerusalem. On the way there they meet the attractive Abishag, who despite her youth is versed in the use of healing herbs. She actually succeeds in helping the prince. Adonijah falls in love with Abishag -- but Bathsheba arranges things so that she works for David, hoping that her youth, her beauty and her healing powers will soothe the old king's suffering. Several members of the influential priesthood and also the respected army general Joab, who served David loyally for many years, support Adonijah's claim to the throne-- even though David has still not made any decision with regard to a potential successor. The battle-experienced Joab regards Solomon as an indecisive weakling, under whose leadership the kingdom would soon fall apart. When the prophet Nathan finds out about Adonijah's conspiracy he informs Bathsheba and Solomon, who urge David to take immediate action. And so it comes to pass that preparations to anoint the future king of Israel are made both at the Spring of Enrogel, where Adonijah and his men are encamped, as well as in Jerusalem. The festive procession for Adonijah has already been assembled and the people enticed with delicious delicacies to cheer him on, when the news of Solomon's coronation reaches Enrogel. The people promptly acknowledge the will of King David and stream off to Jerusalem in their hordes to greet Solomon, their future ruler. Adonijah remains behind with a handful of loyal followers. He realizes that he has lost -- for the time being. Humbly he places his life in his brother's hands. Adonijah is forgiven on one condition: that he always remains loyal to his brother Solomon. The great King David is dead, and his son Solomon has succeeded him as the rightful ruler of Israel. Adonijah now has a request to make of Bathsheba: he wants to marry Abishag. Solomon hears about this seemingly innocent wish, and recognizes it as a renewed ploy on behalf of his brother to reclaim the throne -- Adonijah's marriage to the last woman to share King David's bed would strengthen his political position considerably. Solomon knows that he has to act quickly and decisively if he is to secure his own power. He has his brother Adonijah and the latter's closest associate Joab executed. After this radical decision, Solomon withdraws to present sacrifices. In a dream the Lord appears to him and grants him the fulfillment of a wish, whatever it may be. Solomon merely asks for wisdom -- in order to become a good ruler and judge. War with Egypt is looming. To arm his kingdom against the territorial ambitions of its powerful neighbors, Solomon not only introduces several reforms but also decides to marry the daughter of the pharaoh. The Egyptian princess does not remain Solomon's only wife, however: as time goes by the king marries numerous noble women from many different countries for political and economic reasons. In this way he preserves peace for his people, and creates great prosperity. By allowing the women to continue practicing their domestic customs and religious rituals in Jerusalem as well, he comes into regular conflict with the priesthood, who see the foreign religions as endangering Israel's sole covenant with the Lord. The wisdom granted to Solomon by God becomes fully evident when the king sits in judgment. One day two harlots each claim to be mother of the same baby. Solomon's decision seems utterly cruel: he says that the child should be cut in two so that each woman receives half. Solomon can now determine who the real mother is from her reaction: she will not allow her child to be harmed. Solomon hands the child back to its true mother amid cheers of approval. One of the most important tasks handed down to Solomon by his father David is building the great Temple to house the Ark of the Covenant. It has to be larger and more magnificent than all other temples in the world, and Solomon now sets about fulfilling his father's wish. He places Jeroboam in charge of the Israelite workers as chief overseer. Seven years later, the work is completed. The expensive construction materials have been brought from far-off lands, and the people of Israel have paid exceedingly high taxes without complaint in order to finance the construction work. The Ark of the Covenant can now finally be taken to the Temple in a triumphant procession. After so many years of wandering, the Israelites' most sacred possession now has a fixed home of its own. People stream to Jerusalem from across the entire country to celebrate the great day. Abishag, now married, comes too and brings her family. Solomon has decided to mingle among the people in disguise, and he and Abishag are overjoyed when they accidentally meet again after so many years. The Temple makes Jerusalem and its king famous throughout the world. Even the dark-skinned Queen of Sheba sets off with a large retinue to visit the wise and cultivated Solomon and admire his magnificent city. The admiration turns out to be mutual: Solomon, captivated by her beauty, falls deeply in love with her. The two of them have a child, Menelik, but one day the Queen of Sheba decides to leave. She does not want Menelik to be deprived of the regal dignity awaiting him in his home country. Solomon stays behind, with a heavy heart. The king has now achieved everything he set his heart on, but with the passing of the years the wise Solomon gradually becomes a melancholy, skeptical old man who regularly questions his very existence. Material things seem to represent the only reality for him. He also refuses to adopt any kind of steady policy, especially in religious matters. With his foreign wives, Solomon sacrifices to foreign gods, and this incurs the wrath of the priesthood. The loyal Jeroboam appeals to his king's conscience, but to no avail. During one of Solomon's sorties in disguise among his people, a simple farmer reminds him of the first of the Ten Commandments revealed by the Lord to Moses: "You shall have no other gods before me." At another decisive moment, God Himself speaks to Solomon and announces the punishment for his sinfulness: the kingdom will collapse after Solomon's death. The king has grown old and weary. He has lost touch with the people of Israel, who are suffering from heavy taxation and forced labor. Solomon has treated his long-standing companion Jeroboam, to whom he entrusted the administration of the northern tribes, with murderous anger ever since a prophet predicted the division of the kingdom to him. The king no longer has the strength to change things -- he just leaves them as they are. The consequences of this become clear shortly after his death. Solomon's son and successor Rehoboam treats the country's leaders with arrogance, and provokes the division of the kingdom into two parts: the only tribe still loyal to him is that of Judah, while all the others unite under Jeroboam. The prophecy has been fulfilled. The kingdom that Solomon received from his father David, and invested with such might and magnificence, is now divided.
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