When King David died, the throne of Israel passed on to his son Solomon. In the years that followed, the nation emerged as the region’s most dominant kingdom. The biblical account, found in1 Kings 3-10, describes Israel’s unparalleled prosperity, peace and international influence. “Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry” (1 Kings 4:20).
The Bible says Solomon’s rule extended all the way to the Euphrates in the northeast, to the Mediterranean Sea in the west and to the border of Egypt in the south (verse 21). And King Solomon was known throughout the inhabited world—not just for his power and wealth, but also for his God-given wisdom and understanding (verse 30).
Like David, Solomon expanded, fortified and beautified Jerusalem. He spent 13 years constructing his own magnificent palace. He also built the outstanding “house of the forest of Lebanon,” a facility laden with gold, silver and other precious materials. In addition, Solomon fortified the city by building a wall around it (1 Kings 9:15).
In 1968, Prof. Benjamin Mazar pioneered the excavations just north of the City of David on what is known as the area of the biblical Ophel. Following history backward, Professor Mazar and his crew dug every summer for a decade before they reached a wall dating to the First Temple period. The ruins were well preserved, and some parts of the wall stood impressively nearly 20 feet high.
Picking up where her grandfather left off, Eilat Mazar began a small excavation in 1986 that concentrated primarily on the First Temple area of the dig. Her excavation fully revealed a large stone gateway complex, 45 by 54 feet, constructed sometime before the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem in the sixth century b.c. Also attached to the gate was a short section of the city wall of Jerusalem built by Solomon.
Announcing the news at a press conference in 1986, Dr. Mazar said the gateway complex was probably one of 12 gates mentioned in the biblical record. Benjamin Mazar, who attended the briefing with his granddaughter, said, “Now we have more or less the feeling that this is really a gate of Jerusalem from the period of the kings of Judah” (Associated Press, April 21, 1986).
In 2009, Eilat Mazar reopened the Ophel excavation. During that season, more fascinating details emerged about the First Temple period. Inside the royal structure, Dr. Mazar discovered two floors, one layered on top of the other. Using pottery and other finds, she was able to determine the upper surface was a renovated floor that had been installed during the eighth century. The bottom floor and the walls of the structure had been constructed during the 10th century b.c.
All evidence indicates that this structure was built by King Solomon and is the one mentioned in 1 Kings 3:1. This scripture speaks of Solomon building his own palace, “and the house of the Lord, and the wall of Jerusalem round about.”
How wonderful that visitors to the Ophel can now reach out and touch a wall that King Solomon himself strolled by daily three millennia ago.
This gigantic wall not only confirms the presence of Solomon in Jerusalem, it also corroborates the biblical narrative of ancient Israel as a large and advanced kingdom. “The city wall that has been uncovered testifies to a ruling presence,” Dr. Mazar told the Trumpet soon after its discovery in 2010. “Its strength and form of construction indicate a high level of engineering.”
Speaking at the official unveiling ceremony, Dr. Mazar stated the “reality was that a very highly skilled fortification and sophisticated fortification was built by King Solomon.” The wall contains the largest hewn stones from the First Temple period ever found in Israel. Larger building blocks would not appear until the time of Herod the Great—1,000 years later.