Inspired by this post, I recently read the Testament of Solomon, a short book written in Greek sometime around the third century (although there’s debate on this point). It’s a story about King Solomon capturing demons and forcing them to do his bidding, with the help of a ring given to him by the Archangel Michael. Most of it is basically a demonic roll call, with each demon showing up and telling the king their name, function, home (most of them seem to moonlight as stars), method by which they can be defeated, and greatest enemy among the heavenly host. Solomon then gets each one in turn to help in building the temple. The description of Asmodeus comes directly from the deuterocanonical book of Tobit, but I’m not sure how many of the other demons were already established by the time of the Testament.
I’ve written before about Solomon’s reputation as a sorcerer and his power over demons, and this is one of the most concrete examples of that tradition. It seems to have caught on particularly well in Arabian lore, with the wise king’s power over jinn being mentioned in the Quran, and the tales of the Arabian Nights include several jinn who were imprisoned in bottles and such by Solomon.
The ifrit in “The Fisherman and the Jinni” is said to have been imprisoned for about 1800 years before being found by the titular fisherman. For what it’s worth, the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin gives his time of imprisonment as 10,000 years, which I suppose means Solomon was not his old master. Not that Disney is known for being especially careful about such things.
An interesting fact about the Testament is that, while it is steeped in Jewish tradition, a few passages make it pretty overtly Christian. A few demons mention that they can be bound by the number 644, which is the numerical value of the name Emmanuel. This is obviously Jesus, even though the idea of the founder of Christianity also being called Emmanuel is based entirely on a passage in Matthew quoting another verse in Isaiah. Since the child in Isaiah’s prophecy to King Ahaz is named Emmanuel, Christians who took this as a prediction of Jesus had to take this as an alternate name for their savior, even though nobody in Matthew’s Gospel or anywhere else in the Bible calls him that. I think the general belief is that Emmanuel is his spiritual name, but I say that when you have to jump through that many hoops to make the prophecy fit, you’re better off looking for a different prophecy.
The demon Ephippas actually says that the Son of God will be crucified by “the Jews,” an odd statement not only in that I don’t think the term “Jews” was in common usage until several centuries after Solomon’s lifetime, but in that Solomon WAS a Jew. The Testament is believed to have either been written by a Jew who converted to Christianity, or to be a Jewish work that was later modified by Christians. It’s odd how, in Christian apocryphal writings, so many people knew about Jesus centuries before he was even born. Why, then, do the Gospels show pretty much everybody regarding Jesus as a loose cannon, with even his closest friends and relatives having no idea what he’s going to do next?
The Testament ends with the demons unionizing and demanding a health plan from Solomon. No, that would have been cool, but it actually ends with the legendary ruler being pressured by a non-Jewish woman into worshipping other gods, on the condition that she have sex with him. Apparently the libido will bring down even the supposed wisest man in history. I guess this could be seen as revenge on the part of his hellish slaves, as foreign gods were often regarded as demons. Mind you, I’ve always questioned whether Solomon’s shrines to other gods were totally the result of his being horny, and not an attempt to please different factions within his kingdom. Maybe he paved the way for multi-faith community centers.