Northern Israel, 950 BC
“They come, oh great King.”
Solomon, weary and weak from going so long without rest, leaned heavily on the shoulder of his son as he emerged from inside his goat- hair tent. Already he and his private guard had fought off two ambushes. Bandits appeared to be to blame, but Solomon sus-
pected otherwise given their weaponry, skill, and the fact that they hadn’t fl ed when confronted.
Now his heart pounded with anticipation, but also with fear, in the night’s heat. He was so close now, so close to fulfilling the destiny shaped by his father, the great King David. And that reality filled him with the awesome scope of the responsibility before him, along with the price of failure.
He could not fail. The fate of his kingdom was at stake.
Solomon cast his gaze down the road to see a single wagon kicking up a dust cloud in its wake. Traveling under cover of darkness greatly lessened the threat of a raid by bandits and, in any event, at first sight the wagon seemed to be carrying nothing more than a farmer’s crops being taken to the open market in Jerusalem.
Solomon peeled back his beggar’s hood to reveal long locks of shiny brown hair and finely etched features that looked chiseled onto his face. He’d just nodded off, dreaming of Jerusalem, imagining the lanterns lighting the city twinkling in the night, when the captain of his private guard alerted him to the wagon’s coming.
Solomon eased his hand from the shoulder of his fifteen-year-old son Rehoboam as the wagon drew closer, so the boy wouldn’t feel him stiffen. “Keep a keen eye, my son, for our enemies are everywhere.”
“Father?” the boy said, sliding a hand to the knife Solomon had presented him on the occasion of his bar mitzvah. He was small for his age and a bit frail. But, as heir to the kingdom of Israel, he needed to be part of such a vital mission, no matter how perilous.
“They would seek to destroy this symbol of our people and the foundation of our future. With our temple complete, we have safe refuge for it at last.”
The Temple of Solomon had taken nearly eight years to build, requiring men and materials the likes of which had never been seen before in the known world. A staggering two hundred thousand workers had ultimately played a part in its construction, milled from vast quantities of local stone and imported cedar wood. It was a sprawling, palatial structure, perhaps the greatest ever erected— and with good reason, since it would be housing the vast stores of priceless treasures amassed by the Jewish people through time. What Solomon had kept secret from all but his most trusted cadre was the construction of a special chamber within the temple called Kodesh Hakodashim, or Holy of Holies. This would house the ark of the covenant, containing the remains of the stone tablets that held the actual Ten Commandments, along with the contents carried in the rear of the simple farmer’s wagon approaching now.
It drew close enough to reveal the snorting of the horses and pounding of their hooves atop the roadbed that was dry and cracking from the long drought Solomon took for God’s impatience. And, as if to reinforce that belief, he felt the first trickle of raindrops and took this as a good omen, until thunder rumbled in the distance and it became something much different.