This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.The Koran teaches us three previously unknown facts about King Solomon. First, that he could control the wind.
"And to Solomon [we subjected] the wind, strongly blowing, that ran at his command [bidding] unto the land that We had blessed" (Koran 21:81)
"So We subjected to him the wind, that ran at his commandment, softly, wherever he might light on [wheresoever he directed it]" (Koran 38:35)
It seems that, perhaps, Muhammad confused Solomon with Jesus who, among all the people of the scriptures, was the only one ever recorded as being able to control the wind. The story was that Jesus and His disciples were crossing a lake when a huge storm arouse and was endangering the boat. The disciples were greatly worried while Jesus slept on a pillow in the front of the boat.
"They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, 'Master, Master, we are perishing!' And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm. And He said to them, 'Where is your faith?' They were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, 'Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?'" (Luke 8:24-25)
Their astonishment seems to belie the fact that they were unaware of anyone previously ever being able to command the wind, even Solomon. Furthermore, their statement "Who then is this..." seems to indicate that they understood that Jesus was not just another man, like Solomon, but was special for they understood no mere mortal could control the wind.
The second interesting fact of Solomon is that he could speak bird and ant.
"And Solomon was David's heir, and he said, 'Men, we have been taught the speech of the birds, and we have been given of everything; surely this is indeed the manifest bounty.' And his hosts were mustered to Solomon, jinn, men and birds, duly disposed [and they marched on in bands]; till, when they came on the Valley of Ants, an ant said, 'Ants, enter your dwelling-places, lest Solomon and his hosts [army] crush you, being unaware!' But he smiled, laughing at its words" (Koran 27:16-19)
Interestingly, the Jewish Scriptures contain only one story of the communications between humans and animals and it is the story of Balaam and his donkey. Balaam was disobeying God and on his way God came to kill him. However, the donkey saw what was happening, though the prophet did not, and tried to prevent it. For this service to his master, the domkey was ruthlessly beaten. Finally,
"Balaam said to the donkey, 'Because you have made a mockery of me! If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now. The donkey said to Balaam, 'Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?' And he said, 'No.' Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground." (Numbers 22:29-32)
The third fact about Solomon that the Koran teaches us is that God gave him a fountain flowing with molten brass.
"And to Solomon [did we subject] the wind; its morning course was a month's journey, and its evening course was a month's journey. And We made the Fount of Molten Brass to flow for him. And of the jinn, some worked before him by the leave of his Lord." (Koran 34:11)
No just record exists in the Jewish scriptures, nor is there any scientific evidence that such a fountain ever existed.
Solomon's ability to speak with birds features prominently in the Koranic story of the Queen of Sheba. First, however, here is the Jewish account of that story.
"Now when the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with difficult questions. So she came to Jerusalem with a very large retinue... When she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was hidden from the king which he did not explain to her. When the queen of Sheba perceived all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built... there was no more spirit in her. Then she said to the king, 'It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. Nevertheless I did not believe the reports, until I came and my eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. You exceed in wisdom and prosperity the report which I heard.'" (1 Kings 10:1-7)
As we will see, the Koranic story is quite different. The story starts out with Solomon realizing that one of the birds was missing from his company.
"And he reviewed the birds; then he said, 'How is it with me, that I do not see the hoopoe [lapwing]? Or is he among the absent? Assuredly I will chastise him with a terrible chastisement, or I will slaughter him, or he bring me a clear authority [excuse].'" (Koran 27:20-21)
Solomon appears to have been quite a harsh task master for the birds. The bird explained that he had been flying around a distant land that was being ruled by a woman, not a man.
"and said [the bird], 'I have comprehended [gained the knowledge] that which thou hast not comprehended [knowest not], and I have come from Sheba [Saba] to thee with a sure tiding. I found a woman ruling over them, and she has been given of everything, and she possesses a mighty [splendid] throne. I found her and her people prostrating to [worshiping] the sun, apart from God; Satan has decked out fair their deeds to them and he has barred [turned] them from the way, and therefore they are not guided, so that they prostrate not themselves to [worship] God, who brings forth what is hidden [the secret things] in the heavens and earth" (Koran 27:22-25)
Solomon's first instinct was to fight with them. I believe that this inclination reveals something of the nature and inclination of Muhammad more than it does Solomon. To convey his intentions, Solomon wrote a note to the queen and sends it via the bird and commanded it to wait for the queen's response.
"Said he [Solomon to the bird], 'Now We will see whether thou hast spoken truly, or whether thou art amongst those that lie. Take this letter of mine, and cast it unto them, then turn back from them and see what they shall return [wait for their answer]'" (Koran 27:27-28)Upon receiving Solomon's note, the queen of Sheba decides not to fight Solomon but to send him presents to try and assuage his anger.
"She said, 'O Council [my nobles], see, a letter honourable has been cast [thrown down] unto me. It is from Solomon, and it is "In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Rise not up against me, but come to me in surrender [submitting (Muslims)]." '... She said, 'Kings, when they enter a city, disorder [spoil] it and make the mighty ones of its inhabitants abased. Even so they too will do. Now I will send them a present, and see what the envoys bring back.'" (Koran 27:29-31, 34-35)However, when the envoys returned to Solomon with their gifts, he was not impressed and was more determined then ever to go to war against them.
"But when he [the messengers] came to Solomon he said, 'What, would you succour me with wealth, and what God gave me is better than what He has given you? Nay, but instead you rejoice in your gift! Return thou to them; we shall assuredly come against them with hosts [forces] they have not power to resist, and we shall expel them from there, abased and utterly humbled.'" (Koran 27:36-37)
Solomon then asked those who were with him, who would lead the charge to defeat the queen.
"He [Solomon] said, 'O Council [nobles], which one of you will bring me her throne, before they come to me in surrender?' An efreet of the jinns said, 'I will bring it to thee, before thou risest from thy place; I have strength [power] for it and I am trusty.' Said he who possessed knowledge of the Book [Scriptures], 'I will bring it to thee, before ever thy glance returns to thee [in a twinkling of an eye].'" (Koran 27:38-40)Lane notes that "the efreets are generally believed to differ from the other djinn in being very powerful and always malicious; but to be in other respects of similar nature." (Lane’s Modern Egyptians, i.285) It is interesting that the Koran teaches that Moses was served by the Jinn and could communicate with them at will. This would be akin to saying that we had command over the angles and were in constant communications with them in our daily lives.
Solomon then had a change of heart and decided to test the queen of Sheba to see if she would surrender to God before he set out to destroy her. So Solomon devised this test.
"He said, 'Disguise her throne for her, and we shall behold whether she is guided or if she is of those that are not guided.'… but [the gods] that she served, apart from God, barred her [lead her astray], for she was of a people of unbelievers.' It was said to her, 'Enter the pavilion [Palace].' But when she saw it, she supposed it was a spreading water [lake of water], and she bared her legs. He said, 'It is a pavilion smoothed of crystal [palace paved with glass]. She said, 'My Lord, indeed I have wronged myself [sinned against my own soul], and I surrender [resign myself] with Solomon to God, the Lord of all Being [of the Worlds].'" (Koran 27:41,43-56)Quite a fanciful story that stands in total contradiction the the story as recorded in the Jewish scriptures.
The last story in the Koran pertaining to Solomon is in reference to his death.
"And when We decreed that he should die, naught indicated [nothing showed] to them that he was dead but the Beast of the Earth [reptile] devouring [gnawed] his staff [which supported his corpse];" (Koran 34:13)The Koran tells us that Solomon died standing up and no one who saw him perceived that he was dead for his staff supported him and he did not fall over. However, all we have recorded in the Jewish scriptures pertaining to his dead is this simple statement, "And Solomon slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of his father David." (1 Kings 11:43)
More to come...