Solomon was the first king of Israel born to a reigning king. He turned out to be the third (after David and Saul) and last king of the united kingdom of Israel - the ruler of all 12 tribes (see Kings of Israel and Judah and Israelite Dynasties).
David chose Solomon as his successor over all of his older sons, a situation that caused difficulty before the new king became firmly established. His coronation took place before his father's death, primarily through the efforts of Nathan and Bathsheba, in response to Adonijah's imminent takeover (1 Kings 1:5-40).
Solomon's 40 year reign became a high point in Bible History, as recorded fully in 1 Kings chapters 1-11 and 2 Chronicles chapters 1-9. The first two decades were certainly the brighter - in his later years Solomon, despite all of his now-famous great wisdom, drifted into idolatry (1 Kings 11:1-13) (see Solomon's Compromise).
On his deathbed, David gave parting instructions and encouragements to his son (1 Kings 2:1-9, 1 Chronicles 22:7-16). It certainly seemed to help - Solomon, with God's help, lost no time in making the former slave nation, wanderers of the desert (see Wilderness Journey), into the most powerful nation in the region (see Solomon's Kingdom).
Ironically, Solomon even made an alliance with Egypt and married the daughter of Pharaoh (1 Kings 3:1) - one of many political marriages that eventually contributed greatly to his downfall. He also entered into an alliance with Hiram, king of Tyre, who proved to be a powerful ally of Israel.
Solomon is perhaps most famous for building the original Temple of God (see Temples) in Jerusalem to serve as a permanent place for the Levites to house The Ark Of The Covenant, containing The Ten Commandments, as well as all of their other duties. David had made extensive preparations for the building (1 Chronicles 29:6-9, 2 Chronicles 2:3-7), but God declared that Solomon would be the builder (1 Chronicles 22:8).
After The Temple was completed, Solomon engaged in numerous other great projects throughout Jerusalem and Israel. The magnificence and splendor of the kingdom was unrivaled anywhere. Trade was carried on overland with Tyre, Egypt and Arabia, and by sea with Spain, India and the coasts of Africa. Solomon accumulated vast wealth from many nations (1 Kings 9:26-28, 10:11-12, 2 Chronicles 8:17-18, 9:21). It was the Israel's "golden age."
Solomon's end was far different than his beginning however. In his later years he became corrupt and perverted, which resulted in the fall of his kingdom - the same reasons that, many years later, his Temple also fell (see Why Babylon?)
Fact Finder: What did Solomon's son Rehoboam, who succeeded him as king, do that caused Israel to permanently split into 2 kingdoms?