Oh, My Pop Culture Judaism: King Solomon the Superhero

Inspired by Pan’s take on Satan, I felt it was time to look on the other side of the ledger at the Bible’s first superhero: King Solomon. He’s not the first Biblical figure to appear larger than life—his own father slew Goliath, after all, and some other guys had already parted the sea, wrestled angels, lived 900 years, and dreamed the future. But while his predecessors stayed within their own narrative arcs, Solomon built his own canon. He has an origin story, he has adventures, he fights monsters, and he even comes with his own set of accessories. As a bonus, there’s an alternate Solomon universe presented in the Qu’ran, and three thousand years of one-offs, apocrypha, and other non-canon-but-beloved stories.

Oh, and there’s smutty fanfic he might have written himself.

18th Century Russian Icon of King Solomon

18th Century Russian Icon of King Solomon

Any good superhero needs an origin story, and Solomon won’t let you down. In fact, he’s got two—first he takes the throne, then he acquires his powers.

Earlier, we talked about how fantasy protagonists don’t usually get to have moms. Solomon’s an exception—his mother is Bathsheba. And, like women in the superhero stories we know, she’s sexualized to an absurd degree.

“Bathsheba” by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1895

“Bathsheba” by Cornelis Van Haarlem, 1594

You get the idea. Bathsheba married her voyeur, King David, after he had her husband killed. So despite growing up with a living mother and father, Solomon’s parental history is… dicey. Solomon was never David’s clear heir, though Bathsheba eventually persuaded him to name Solomon his successor—he was behind Ammon, who was killed by Absalom after raping their sister Tamar, (Absalom himself was killed while leading a rebellion) and then Adonaijah, who claimed the throne as David’s eldest son against the king’s wishes. Solomon’s first story is overcoming his brother’s treachery—and assuming his rightful place as King of Israel. Like good guys everywhere, Solomon forgives and pardons Adonaijah, only to be promptly betrayed again.

Only after rising to power does Solomon accede to his powers. He makes an enormous burnt offering to God, who grants him an audience in a dream, offering a boon. Solomon asks for wisdom. God replies, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked.” (1 Kings 3:11). Like Steve Rogers, Solomon is chosen for superpowers because he is moral and righteous—not by the circumstances of his birth or a freak accident.

Anyway, we’ve seen Peter Parker get bitten by that spider at least forty times by now, so enough with the origin stories and on with the adventures!


Asmodeus in “The Dictionnaire Infernal”, 1818

As a superhero, Solomon is beyond ordinary human threats. Instead, his famed nemesis is Asmodeus, a king among demons. When he threatened the kingdom, Solomon not only defeated him but captured him, binding him with a magical ring known in legend as the Seal of Solomon, given to him by the Archangel Michael. Solomon, now in command of an entire race of demons, puts them to work building the Temple that bears his name.

Asmodeus lives on in Solomon’s court, which means that he will occasionally take back the upper hand. Conning Solomon into giving up the ring, Asmodeus casts the ring into the sea and sends Solomon 400 miles away, requiring a reboot as the poor, anonymous wanderer must reclaim his throne. In superhero fashion, Solomon ingratiates himself in a distant kingdom, wins the heart of a princess, recovers his ring, and kicks the bad guy back to the curb.

Solomon is from the Tony Stark/James Bond school of heroism, which means that he’s not exactly noted for his fidelity. Naamah, the princess won in exile, is the only one named in the Bible, which notes that he has 700 wives and 300 additional concubines. The rest are mostly foreign princesses as well, daughters of Israel’s enemies won over by the protagonist’s potency. Like modern superheroes, Solomon’s sexual conquests are mostly set dressing to prove his virility.

But while Bruce Wayne’s various dates come and go, Batman will always have Catwoman. Solomon has the Queen of Sheba.


“The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon” by Sir Edward John Poynter, ca. 1900.

Never mind the whitewashing of the painting above—the Queen of Sheba arrived from Ethiopia or Yemen to evaluate King Solomon (not that the Israelites were white, anyway). And what was I just saying about all women in superhero stories?


“Queen of Sheba” by Mark Gertler, 1922

The Biblical account of Solomon and the Queen is brief—“she came to Jerusalem to test him with riddles” but “nothing was too hard for him to explain to her”. She “talked with him about all she had on her mind”, and upon her departure, presented him with gold, gems, and “there had never been such spices as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon”. He gave her “all she desired and asked for; he gave her more than she had brought to him”. And then she goes home.

This is far too brief and far too tantalizing, and there’s an extensive Expanded Universe about Solomon and the Queen. They usually end up as both rivals and lovers, but rarely actual enemies. In Kabbalah, the Queen of Sheba is linked to Lilith, and stars as a queen among demons, an account picked up by Neil Gaiman in American Gods (trigger warning: body horror). As the consort of Asmodeus, she proves a better match for the king than her husband.

Islamic traditions often describe the Queen of Sheba as a jinn, who joins with Solomon to defy the demons in his court. In Ethiopia, the Queen and her son by King Solomon conspire to steal the Ark of the Covenant. Ethiopian emperors into the 20th century claimed descent from Solomon and the Queen, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church still claims to possess the Ark.

Needless to say, the incredibly dirty Song of Songs is often identified as the romance between Solomon and the Queen—the unnamed female lead notably describes herself as “black and beautiful”. Authorship of the Song of Songs is traditionally attributed to Solomon himself, but scholarly consensus finds it to be considerably more modern. I promised dirty fanfiction, and here it is:

Your breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle/that browse among the lilies.” (Song of Songs 4:5)

Your stature is like that of the palm, and your breasts like clusters of fruit. I said, I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit.’” (Song of Songs 7:7)

“Blow on my garden, that its fragrance may spread everywhere. Let my beloved come into his garden and taste its choice fruits.” (Song of Songs 4:16)


Solomon crosses over from the Tanakh to the Qur’an, where he is known as Suleiman, an AU equivalent. Suleiman is recognized as a prophet, of a kind with Muhammad, Moses, Jesus, and Adam. Famous again for his wisdom, Suleiman also could command the wind, speak to the language of the birds, and control the jinn. The last of these makes it into the The Thousand and One Nights, where a fisherman discovers a jinn sealed into a jar by King Suleiman for hundreds of years, and the legend of the flying carpet go back to Suleiman.


Bird powers, eh? (from All-New Captain America, Special #1)

By the Middle Ages, Solomon was rebooted again, now as a master of the occult. The Key of Solomon, a medieval book of spells, is attributed to him, and alchemists sought his ring to perform even greater magic. The Freemasons saw him as their spiritual forefather, and the Knights Templar took up his temple as their home base.

Heroic abilities, magical powers, and a wealthy playboy: the guy was Captain America, Tony Stark, and Doctor Strange rolled into one. He had a clever, sexy female rival with whom he alternated between love and war, and a demonic archnemesis who could never quite get the upper hand. His tales were taken up by countless authors with equally many continuities, and he spun off as many toys and accessories as the market could bear. His fans wrote erotic poetry about him and got it into the Bible. And all people want to talk about that one baby/two mothers thing.

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2 thoughts on “Oh, My Pop Culture Judaism: King Solomon the Superhero

  1. Damn, this is such an interesting post. I’ve read about Solomon before and he was a total boss. A boss who could have one hell of a TV miniseries. This post puts his powers and badassery into perspective in comparing him to modern heroes (and fan following). Solomon Rulez!

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