When nearly 70 years old, David had been reflecting upon his successor. He had discounted the suitability of his elder sons, Amnon and Adonijah, on account of their 'misdemeanours and treachery' (Chileab and Absalom were already dead). Instead, he decided to enthrone his youngest son, Solomon (Shlomó), just before he died (14). Whilst on his deathbed, David extracted an undertaking from Solomon that he would preserve the former's vision of a new Jerusalem and that it would be completed unaltered (15). It was around this time that Solomon married the daughter of King Haremheb, the reigning pharaoh of Egypt who also presented Solomon with a dowry of the city-state of Gezer which the former had recently subjugated.

The choice of Solomon was a wise one. Besides being aesthetically gifted, he was without doubt a most able administrator and adroit diplomat. Having inherited his father's vast wealth, he cleverly exploited the trade routes which passed through his country between India, Persia, Arabia and Babylonia (Iraq) on the one hand, and Egypt, Athens, Rome and Carthage (Tunisia) on the other. It seems to be generally agreed that his annual personal income was about 23 tons (23.4 tonnes) of pure gold, i.e. worth about £225M (US$375M) at 1997 values (16).

He wasted little time initiating work on his father's grand design. He organised the labour force with attendant accommodation; opened up stone quarries; constructed special port facilities at Joppa (Jaffa/Tel Aviv) to handle the timber imports from Tyre; laid 50 miles (80 km) of new road from Joppa up to Jerusalem and excavated extensive water systems within Mount Moriah.

Originally the top of the Mount had been nearly 2500 feet (760 m)above sea level, although it stood only about 400 feet (125 m) above Jerusalem itself. Its sides sloped by as much as 45 degrees. During the course of site preparation, however, the hilltop was sliced off to provide a level platform on which to build the Temple. As a result the final height was reduced to 2420 feet (745 m) above sea level. When this was done, very large foundation stones are reported to have been sunk into the platform to a considerable depth. The whole of this preliminary work took four years before any start could be made on the Temple itself. Another three years and four months were needed to complete the project (17).

It might now perhaps be easier if one follows chronologically the sequence of events that led to the construction and fate of the First and Second Temples.