THE GLORY OF SOLOMON’S KINGDOM AS BLESSED BY GOD IS
– WITNESSED BY THE QUEEN OF SHEBA
– AND EXHIBITED IN IMPRESSIVE FASHION
The greatness of Solomon’s kingdom far exceeds any comparison in ancient times. Here we see the wealth and wisdom of Solomon checked out by the Queen of Sheba who goes to great lengths in her investigation. Wherever you look as you tour Solomon’s kingdom you are impressed by the excessive display of gold and precious stones as well as his wealth accumulated via international trade. All of this opulence must be attributed to the blessing of the God of Israel. Unfortunately, Solomon’s heart is already being diverted to boast in his chariots and horsemen rather than in faithfulness to the God of the covenant.
Paul House: If any doubts about Solomon’s greatness remain after chap. 9, surely 1 Kgs 10:1–29 removes them. So far the text has presented the monarch’s exploits from an Israelite’s point of view. In 10:1–13, however, an outsider’s opinion is included. The queen of Sheba travels some 1,500 miles to examine his wisdom. Perhaps she also wanted to explore future trading ventures as well (cf. 1 Kgs 10:11–12), but her primary purpose was to verify Solomon’s reputation for wisdom and devotion to Yahweh (v. 1). She is not disappointed. Solomon exceeds her expectations. The author follows up this story with more data intended to convince readers of Solomon’s political, financial, and military splendor (1 Kgs 10:14–29).
Dale Ralph Davis: All of chapter 10 can be divided into two major sections, verses 1–13, where the Queen of Sheba says, ‘This is unreal!,’ and verses 14–29, where the narrator exclaims, ‘And get a load of this!’ Does that sound like too much hype? Then let me simply point out that within each of these two primary divisions the writer places a testimony section: verses 6–9 contain the testimony of the Queen of Sheba and verses 23–25 the testimony of the narrator himself. These testimonies are important for communicating the writer’s intended perspective. . .
we can say that 1 Kings 10 speaks a word of testimony, namely, that the prosperity of the people of God is always a gift of Yahweh’s goodness, which (I would think) demands of us both gratitude (lest we idolize the gifts in place of God) and joy (lest we despise God’s gifts as though they were sinful).
August Konkel: But the greatness of Solomon’s kingdom is not a tribute to Solomon and his military exploits. Unlike Assyrian annals, the memory of Solomon is not to immortalize a great king. The narrative will go on to make Solomon responsible for the failure of his kingdom. The greatness of Solomon is integrated with his building of the temple, particularly by the repeated reference to Hiram. Hiram was involved in providing materials, a skilled labor force, and a trade alliance that gives the empire international status. The temple is confirmation that God has fulfilled his promise to David in establishing his throne. The objective of the account is to show the kingdom established by God is not inferior to the greatest empires of its time.
Peter Pett: We might set what we have seen about Solomon in this chapter in contrast with Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18. “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen, for the things which are seen are temporal, the things which are unseen are eternal.” It was that lesson of which Elisha was aware (2 Kings 6:17).
Warren Wiersbe: A Roman proverb says, “Riches are like salt water—the more you drink, the more you thirst.”
Alan Carr: Have you ever met someone who just left you in awe? I mean, they were so great and so wonderful that you were left shaking your head and saying, “There’s nobody else like that!”. Well, those kinds of meetings are rare, but they do happen occasionally. The Bible records for us the account of one such meeting. In this passage, the Queen of Sheba was left in amazement when she met King Solomon. She went away saying, “There’s nobody like him!”.
Many years later, when Jesus was ministering here on earth, He mentioned this very event. She spoke of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba and He reminded His listeners that He was even greater than Solomon, Matt. 12:42. If an earthly king left that queen astounded at his glory and greatness, how much more will King Jesus amaze those who meet Him?
I. (:1-13) SOLOMON’S WISDOM AND WEALTH CERTIFIED BY THE QUEEN OF SHEBA AND ATTRIBUTED TO DIVINE BLESSING
A. (:1-5) The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba to Check Out Solomon’s Wealth and Wisdom Connected with Divine Blessing
1. (:1-2) Her Mission
a. (:1) Challenging Solomon’s Reputation for Wisdom
“Now when the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to test him with difficult questions.”
MacArthur: Sheba was located in southwestern Arabia, about 1,200 mi. from Jerusalem. The primary motive for the queen’s visit was to verify Solomon’s reputation for wisdom and devotion to the Lord.
Wiseman: The hard (‘enigmatic’, REB) questions (hidot) were not just ‘riddles’, as in Judges 14:12, but included difficult diplomatic and ethical questions. According to Josephus, Hiram had made similar approaches. The test was not an academic exercise but to see if he would be a trustworthy business partner and a reliable ally capable of giving help.
Don Anderson: There are three things that will characterize this woman:
1) She is beautiful according to historical records.
2) She is very wealthy, and very successful.
3) She has a kingdom of similar magnificence although it is not as great as Solomon.
b. (:2a) Carrying Valuable Gifts to Solomon
“So she came to Jerusalem with a very large retinue, with camels carrying spices and very much gold and precious stones.”
c. (:2b) Communicating Her Heart to Solomon
“When she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart.”
Ron Daniel: people will open up their hearts to you if they perceive that you are wise.
2. (:3) Her Investigation
“And Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was hidden from the king which he did not explain to her.”
Tom Ascol: In all these ways the queen of Sheba is an example to us. She investigates what she has been told in order to determine if it is true. Once she sees that it is, she rejoices in it. This is the kind of nobility that marked the Jews in Berea who eagerly received the word that Paul and Silas preached, “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). It is the attitude that every honest hearer of the Gospel should possess.
But the queen of the South is not only an example worth emulating, she also is an indictment on many who have spiritual privileges and opportunities that exceed what she possessed. In her we see a great response to very little opportunity whereas too often today we see very little response to great opportunities.
3. (:4-5) Her Evaluation
“When the queen of Sheba perceived all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, 5 the food of his table, the seating of his servants, the attendance of his waiters and their attire, his cupbearers, and his stairway by which he went up to the house of the LORD, there was no more spirit in her.”
MacArthur: “left her breathless”
Wiseman: Solomon’s display of his own wealth and trust in riches will be condemned, as it can lead to trust in things other than God alone (cf. Prov. 11:28). The historian includes it as a by-product of wisdom, but later rejects it when vanity is involved (as in Hezekiah’s display to Babylonian visitors, 2 Kgs 20:13).
B. (:6-9) The Testimony of the Queen of Sheba Regarding Solomon’s Wealth and Wisdom Connected to Divine Blessing
1. (:6-7) Verifying Solomon’s Wealth and Wisdom
a. (:6) Extraordinary Reputation
“Then she said to the king, ‘It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom.’”
b. (:7) Eye-Witness Verification
“Nevertheless I did not believe the reports, until I came and my eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. You exceed in wisdom and prosperity the report which I heard.”
2. (:8-9) Attributing it All to Divine Blessing
a. (:8) The Impact of Divine Blessing
“How blessed are your men, how blessed are these your servants who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom.”
Peter Pett: She declared that his wisdom was such that all who served him should count themselves fortunate. How this fulsome praise must have delighted Solomon’s heart. And how dangerous it was for him. It is little wonder that he began to believe that he could do anything that he liked with impunity. He saw himself as the centre of his world, and as being beyond requiring advice or rebuke.
b. (:9a) The Source of Divine Blessing
“Blessed be the LORD your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel; because the LORD loved Israel forever,”
c. (:9b) The Motivation of Divine Blessing
“therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.”
William Barnes: it is nothing less than Yahweh’s reputation that underlies all these Solomonic blessings. (Solomon’s role, as it were, is clearly to rule “with justice and righteousness” (cf. Ps 72, not coincidentally entitled “a psalm of Solomon”).
C. (:10-12) The Gifts from the Queen of Sheba – Added to Riches from Hiram
1. (:10) Gifts from the Queen of Sheba
a. Specified: Gold, Spices, Precious Stones
“And she gave the king a hundred and twenty talents of gold, and a very great amount of spices and precious stones.”
About 4.5 tons of gold
Constable: I do not believe we should criticize Solomon simply for being wealthy, since God promised to make him rich (3:13). Neither should we blame a person who receives a fortune as an outright gift, for having money. It was the accumulation of riches and ornaments to become materially secure and independent that God forbade. To the extent that Solomon did this—and he evidently did it extensively—he was guilty of violating God’s Law (Deut. 17:17).
b. Uniqueness of Her Gift of Spices
“Never again did such abundance of spices come in as that which the queen of Sheba gave King Solomon.”
2. (:11-12) Riches from Hiram
a. (:11) Specified: Gold, Almug Trees, Precious Stones
“And also the ships of Hiram, which brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir a very great number of almug trees and precious stones.”
b. (:12) Uniqueness of His Provision of Almug Trees
“And the king made of the almug trees supports for the house of the LORD and for the king’s house, also lyres and harps for the singers; such almug trees have not come in again, nor have they been seen to this day.”
D. (:13) The Departure of the Queen of Sheba
1. Granted Abundant Gifts
“And King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all her desire which she requested, besides what he gave her according to his royal bounty.”
2. Headed Back Home
“Then she turned and went to her own land together with her servants.”
II. (:14-29) SOLOMON’S WISDOM AND WEALTH EXHIBITED IN IMPRESSIVE FASHION
A. (:14-17) Impressive Gold Shields
1. (:14-15) Accumulation of Gold
a. (:14) Yearly Accumulation from Taxation
“Now the weight of gold which came in to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold,”
About 25 tons of gold
b. (:15) Yearly Accumulation from Trade and Political Gifts
“besides that from the traders and the wares of the merchants and all the kings of the Arabs and the governors of the country.”
Constable: Solomon served as an international broker. He capitalized on Israel’s strategic geographic location as the land bridge that connected three continents: Europe, Asia, and Africa. He made Israel a clearinghouse through which merchandise passed and charged custom taxes as goods entered and left his country. “Traders” probably refers to business people who passed through Israel and “merchants” to those who did business in Israel. Solomon was probably history’s most successful Jewish businessman.
Peter Pett: Gold poured into Solomon’s coffers from every quarter. Some was brought by his agents, some was in respect of trading activity by the merchants, some came in tribute from the petty kings round about, including parts of Arabia, and some from the governors of the country. These may have been the officers appointed by Solomon in 1 Kings 4:1-19.
2. (:16-17) Application to Shields
“And King Solomon made 200 large shields of beaten gold, using 600 shekels of gold on each large shield. 17 And he made 300 shields of beaten gold, using three minas of gold on each shield, and the king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon.”
Constable: The gold shields he hung in the palace armory were evidently for parade use. Gold is a very soft metal and would have been inappropriate for shields that soldiers used for defense in battle (v. 17).
Peter Pett: The prophet might well have had a wry smile on his face when he wrote these words, for he would know that in the not too distant future he would be deliberately pointing out that these shields would be appropriated by the Pharaoh, and would be carried off to Egypt (1 Kings 14:26). Solomon’s glory would thus not be long lasting. It was a fading glory because of his arrogance and disobedience. What YHWH supplied, YHWH could take away.
B. (:18-20) Impressive Gold Throne
1. (:18) Composition of the Throne — Ivory Overlaid with Gold
“Moreover, the king made a great throne of ivory
and overlaid it with refined gold.”
2. (:19-20a) Design of the Throne
“There were six steps to the throne and a round top to the throne at its rear, and arms on each side of the seat, and two lions standing beside the arms. 20 And twelve lions were standing there on the six steps on the one side and on the other;”
Constable: Perhaps the 12 lions surrounding Solomon’s throne represented Israel’s 12 tribes (v. 20). John Gray believed that they may have been sphinxes or possibly representations of the emblem of Judah.
3. (:20b) Uniqueness of the Throne
“nothing like it was made for any other kingdom.”
C. (:21-22) Impressive Gold Drinking Vessels
1. (:21) Gold More Valuable than Silver
“And all King Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold,
and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon
were of pure gold. None was of silver;
it was not considered valuable in the days of Solomon.”
2. (:22) Gold and Other Commodities Acquired via Maritime Trade
“For the king had at sea the ships of Tarshish with the ships of Hiram; once every three years the ships of Tarshish came bringing gold and silver, ivory and apes and peacocks.”
Peter Pett: These large ships regularly set off on their voyages, and would be away ‘three years’ (one full year and two part years). This does not necessarily signify long voyages. Ships in those days did not just sail away into the sunset and return. They would visit different ports to trade and gather water and provisions, they would often hug the coast, they would be laid up at times because of unseasonal weather, they might remain in some ports for a long time until they had disposed of their produce and filled up with the goods they received in return. Thus it is difficult to know how much actual sailing time was included in the ‘calculation’.
They then returned with exotic goods such as gold, silver, ivory, and possibly apes and peacocks (the meaning of the nouns is uncertain, especially the latter, but they are presumably exotic creatures), which were a wonder to all who beheld them. These may not all, of course, have been obtained from their original home-lands. They may have been traded on by other vessels which had come from those places. Thus we have no real idea how far Solomon’s fleet was able to penetrate. But to Israelites, unused to the sea, it would all have seemed wonderful, and added greatly to Solomon’s glory.
D. (:23-25) Testimony of the Prophetic Narrator Regarding the Greatness of Solomon
1. (:23) Greatness Reflected in International Reputation Regarding Wealth and Wisdom
“So King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth
in riches and in wisdom.”
2. (:24) Greatness Reflected in Superior Wisdom from the Lord
“And all the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon,
to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart.”
3. (:25) Greatness Reflected in Gift-Giving
“And they brought every man his gift, articles of silver and gold, garments, weapons, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year.”
MacArthur: The wisdom God had given to Solomon (v. 24) caused many rulers, like the queen of Sheba (vv 1-13), to bring presents to Solomon as they sought to buy his wisdom to be applied in their own nations. These gifts led Solomon to multiply for himself horses, as well as silver and gold; precisely that which God’s king was warned against in Dt 17:16, 17. Solomon became ensnared by the blessings of his own wisdom and disobeyed God’s commands.
E. (:26-29) Impressive Additional Resources
1. (:26) Military Resources
“Now Solomon gathered chariots and horsemen;
and he had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen,
and he stationed them in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem.”
Wiseman: As did the Assyrians, Solomon dispersed his mobile forces between the capital and outlying, strategically placed, military bases (e.g. Megiddo, Gezer, Hazor).
Peter Pett: Central to this passage is the fact that Solomon trust was now firmly in chariots and horsemen (contrast Psalms 20:7). This was what his greatness and wisdom had led him to, armed might and global arms-dealing. The chariot is, in fact, rarely looked on with favour in the Biblical narratives, being usually in the hands of Israel’s enemies, and in Kings such chariots are seen as in direct contrast with the heavenly chariots of YHWH which protect His people (2 Kings 2:11-12; 2 Kings 6:17; 2 Kings 7:6; 2 Kings 13:14; compare Psalms 68:17). The prophetic attitude was that men were to trust in YHWH rather than in chariots (Deuteronomy 20:1; Psalms 20:7; Psalms 46:9; Psalms 76:6; and see especially Isaiah 2:6-7; Isaiah 31:1; Isaiah 31:3; Micah 5:10), and there are no grounds for thinking that the prophetic writer here saw it any differently (he would be familiar with Isaiah and Micah, and with the Psalms). Thus what appeared to be Solomon’s high point was really in the writer’s view also his low point. He no longer trusted in YHWH, he trusted in chariots.
2. (:27) Valuable Commodities
“And the king made silver as common as stones in Jerusalem,”
b. Cedar Trees
“and he made cedars as plentiful as sycamore trees that are in the lowland.”
3. (:28-29) Import-Export Commerce – Particularly Horses and Chariots
a. (:28-29a) Import
“Also Solomon’s import of horses was from Egypt and Kue, and the king’s merchants procured them from Kue for a price. 29 And a chariot was imported from Egypt for 600 shekels of silver, and a horse for 150;”
b. (:29b) Export
“and by the same means they exported them to all the kings of the Hittites and to the kings of the Arameans.”
William Barnes: The curious conclusion of the present set of texts in chapter 10 is also to be noted. Why such comments on horses and their prices? Again, they indicate Solomon’s wealthy status both as a horse trader and a worthy king among his peers; but they also rest uneasily for the readers of the larger Deuteronomic texts (see the commentary on 4:20–34, especially concerning the “law of the king” in Deut 17:14–20). There are three things that the godly king is not to do: multiply horses (and especially go back to Egypt to get them), multiply wives, and amass large amounts of silver and gold! As Sweeney (2007:152) has recently pointed out, placement of the notice here about the horse trade with Egypt deliberately raises questions about the godliness of King Solomon, immediately prior to the infamous account of his love of many foreign women (11:1–13), and his support of their gods.