"The Ant" is basically a retelling of stories previously mentioned in the Quran. There is Moses and his encounter with God in the fiery bush, a reminder of Saleh and Lot. There is, however, a story of Solomon among the people of Naml which I'd never heard in the Quran or the Bible. I was at the point of wishing the Quran could come up with something new from the Bible to share -- something like the exciting stories of the Judges (e.g. Samuel, Samson, Deborah, Gideon) or the Prophets such an Daniel or even the three Hebrew boys who were thrown into the fiery furnace because they refused to bow to the Babylonian king. About the time I was wishing for this, I read this peculiar story of Solomon. I say peculiar partly because Sol's army was made up of both men and jinn! Solomon lead an army? Also it's a bit strange because in the end of the section about Solomon, the queen lifts her skirt to show her legs! And somehow this convinces her to worship Solomon's God. Didn't quite follow all that, but apparently Solomon came up with something convincing!
In the Bible King Solomon was allowed to build the Jewish Temple. His father, David, wanted to, but since he was a man of war, God told him the honor of building the Temple would belong to his son who would reign in a time of peace. Here is the account from I Chronicles 22. By the way, Solomon is "from the Hebrew name שְׁלֹמֹה (Shelomoh) which was derived from Hebrew שָׁלוֹם (shalom) "peace". "
7 David said to Solomon: "My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the LORD my God. 8 But this word of the LORD came to me: 'You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. 9 But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. 10 He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.'
11 "Now, my son, the LORD be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the LORD your God, as he said you would. 12 May the LORD give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the LORD your God. 13 Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the LORD gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged.
So according to Jewish and Christian beliefs, Solomon was a man of peace, not off leading an army of men and jinn.
But since we are talking about the Quran, I should mention that Solomon heard from a messenger named Hud-dud about a woman ruler who worshiped the sun god. Some cool plot happened that convinced her to worship the one true God. Good thing since Solomon had plans to drive them out of the land and humble them (vs. 37) if she didn't. At least that's how I understood it. Please correct me if I'm mistaken!
Now to some verses in the Quran.
10. Throw down your staff." When he saw it wriggling like a serpent he turned his back and fled without turning (to look). "O Moses," (said the voice), "be not fearful. Surely those sent as messengers do not fear in My presence, 11. Except those who do some wrong but afterwards do good to make up for the wrong. And I am forgiving and merciful.
For some reason this verse made me think that prophets DO do wrong and when they do, they are fearful in God's presence until they repent and get the sin forgiven. This makes sense because when we know we've wronged someone, we feel fearful or shy or nervous around them until we confess what we did and get their forgiveness. I've still not seen evidence in the Quran that the prophets are nearly perfect. In fact I think Muslims are supposed to look back at the Torah and Gospel for examples of people and see good things to do and also sins to avoid. I think Muslims have wrongly exalted their prophets to near perfection when God never presented them this way. Only God is perfect and we - all - fall short of His glorious standard.
44. She was invited to enter the court. When she saw it, she took it for a sheet of water, and (pulling up her skirts) uncovered her legs. (Solomon) told her: "This is paved with tiles of glass." "O Lord," she said, "I have wronged myself, and I submit to the Lord of all the worlds with Solomon."
I didn't follow the story well enough to understand this verse and why pulling up her skirts and seeing some tiles of glass convinced the Queen to submit to the Lord. Ah, I just reread it. I suppose it was a miracle because the glass looked enough like water that she was lifting her skirt as if to step into it. Is that right?
57. So We saved him and his family except his wife who was destined to stay behind.
About Lot's wife -- it seems she was truly predestined to be damned with the other sinners.
86. Do they not see that We made the night for them to rest, the day to make things clear? Indeed there are signs in this for people who believe.
And I thought this was cute because I know many Arabs love to stay up super-late for parties and visiting friends. Don't they know that God created the night for them to rest? ;-)