THE UNIQUENESS AND SUPREMACY OF SOLOMON’S BLESSED RULE WERE MARKED BY ABUNDANT WEALTH, WISDOM AND FAME
August Konkel: Two of Solomon’s international contacts are described in great detail: Hiram to the north and the queen of Sheba to the south. Hiram had a treaty with Solomon that provided for long-term economic and political security. The Chronicler shows the extent of Solomon’s empire by discussing his activities in the most northern and southern borders.
Andrew Hill: This entire chapter (ch. 9) balances the opening chapter (ch. 1) in that God has honored Solomon’s obedience in giving the wealth accumulated by David to the building of the temple by restoring wealth to the monarchy through trade and gifts from other nations.
The story also illustrates the key themes of the larger literary unit (chs. 1–9), namely, Solomon’s wisdom, wealth, and fame—all gifts from God. For example, Solomon petitioned God for wisdom and was blessed with promises of wealth and fame as well (1:11–12). As a result of her visit with King Solomon, the Queen of Sheba testifies of Solomon’s unsurpassed wisdom (9:5) and contributes to Solomon’s wealth with lavish gifts of gold, spices, and gemstones (9:9). Beyond this, the queen bears witness to the fact that Solomon’s wisdom and wealth are the result of God’s blessing on the king and his love for the nation of Israel (9:8).
Martin Selman: This section concludes the record of Solomon’s achievements (chs 8-9) by concentrating on Solomon’s international relationships, in contrast to the Israelite setting of the previous one. Two striking examples of Solomon’s dealings with foreign rulers, one from the north and the other form the south, introduce a more general account of Solomon’s reputation among the kings of the earth (cf. v. 23).
Iain Duguid: The Chronicler’s narrating of the reigns of David and Solomon has highlighted the importance of the temple and its worship as the foundation for God’s people to enjoy security and prosperity. While the Kings account portrays some of the ambiguities of Solomon’s reign, including his material prosperity (in keeping with an overall narrative that addresses reasons for the exile and the way forward), Chronicles provides a vision of what God intends for his people when they follow him wholeheartedly. It illustrates God’s desire to bless, with lasting blessing inseparable from loyal worship. It foreshadows the words of Christ, who, after summarizing what “the Gentiles [“nations”] seek”—matters of food, drink, and clothing (and all that is required to provide these)—proclaims, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:31–33; cf. Luke 12:29–31). Some believers may experience foretaste of material blessings in this present life (although NT passages more often warn of opposition and persecution), but the vision of the new creation is one of luxurious plenty, a place “in which righteousness dwells” (Revelation 21–22; 2 Pet. 3:13).
I. (8:17-18) WEALTH OF SOLOMON FROM MARITIME TRADING
“Then Solomon went to Ezion-geber and to Eloth on the seashore in the land of Edom. 18 And Huram by his servants sent him ships and servants who knew the sea; and they went with Solomon’s servants to Ophir, and took from there four hundred and fifty talents of gold, and brought them to King Solomon.”
Albert Barnes: Skillful sailors. Solomon probably bore the expenses and his friend, the Tyrian king, furnished him with expert sailors; for the Jews, at no period of their history, had any skill in maritime affairs, their navigation being confined to the lakes of their own country, from which they could never acquire any nautical skill. The Tyrians, on the contrary, lived on and in the sea.
Andrew Hill: The Phoenicians were well known in the ancient world for their shipbuilding technology and seamanship, so Solomon’s alliance with Hiram of Tyre for the purpose of maritime trade is a natural one (cf. Isa. 23:1–4; Ezek. 27:4, 8–9). These joint Israelite-Phoenician maritime expeditions are three-year trading junkets; in addition to the gold, algumwood (ebony?), gemstones, silver, ivory, and exotic animals are among the goods returned to port at Ezion Geber (cf. 2 Chron. 9:10, 21). It is unclear what Solomon’s merchants trade for the gold and other products, but cedar timber from Phoenicia was always in demand for royal building projects, and the Israelites probably traded surplus grain, olive oil, and other foodstuffs (since famine and crop failure has always been a part of the lifecycle on the fringes of the Mediterranean basin).
J.A. Thompson: Solomon and Hiram engaged in a joint maritime venture. Hiram provided ships and personnel although Solomon was the initiator of the venture. Even though Solomon had mastery over the land routes to the north, he apparently was able also to tap into the trade with Africa. The ships referred to in v. 18 sailed to Ophir and brought back four hundred and fifty talents of gold for Solomon’s use. The location of Ophir is a subject of debate. It has been identified variously with India (Josephus, Ant. 8.164), Punt (Somaliland on the coast of Africa), and West or South Arabia. According to 9:21 and 1 Kgs 10:22, the voyages took three years.
II. (9:1-12) RECOGNITION OF SOLOMON’S WISDOM BY THE VISITING QUEEN OF SHEBA
Raymond Dillard: The visit of the queen of Sheba is described as a wisdom encounter and emphasizes the admiration of a gentile ruler for the wealth and wisdom of Solomon. While a firsthand observation of Solomon’s wisdom might have been worth the arduous and hazardous journey across 1,400 miles of desert from ancient Saba (roughly modern Yemen), commercial interests were probably the more basic motivation. The economy of ancient Saba was built on trade in frankincense and myrrh. Access to sea trade through Tyre (Ezek 27:22–23) to the Mediterranean world required passage through Solomon’s monopoly on the overland routes; negotiations with him concerning the trade in these aromatic resins would have been worthy of the queen’s attention. Solomon’s own naval operations to the south, references to which bracket the narrative of the queen’s visit (8:17–18; 9:10–11), may have prompted her trip; the joint maritime ventures of Solomon and Hiram may have been cutting into the queen’s overland routes.
J.A. Thompson: The Chronicler probably wished to make the general point that as Solomon readily gave his resources to build the temple, so now he was rewarded abundantly with God’s gifts to him as well as the esteem of the nations. Also just as David prospered because he established correct religious priorities, causing the nation Israel to prosper, so under Solomon with his building of the temple the whole nation prospered. By contrast Saul brought disaster on Israel because of his own carelessness in religious matters.
A. (:1-4) Checking Solomon Out
1. (:1) Purpose of Her Visit
a. Responding to Solomon’s International Fame
“Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, she came to Jerusalem to test Solomon with difficult questions.”
Frederick Mabie: The visit and subsequent declarations of the Queen of Sheba showcase God’s blessing on David’s son, most notably in the areas of wisdom and wealth. The location of Sheba is identified with ancient Saba, a trading depot located in the vicinity of modern Yemen in the south of the Arabian peninsula, some 1,400 to 1,500 miles from Jerusalem. Sheba was famous for its wares, spice caravans, and trading skill. In addition, Sheba was noted in extrabiblical sources as having female rulers, as reflected here. The southern provinces of Arabia were noted for species of trees and shrubs whose aromatic resin was used to produce a number of spices, gums, and balms.
b. Initiating Commercial Relationship
“She had a very large retinue, with camels carrying spices,
and a large amount of gold and precious stones;”
Andrew Hill: These aromatic resins (whether in the form of powder, solid sticks, or oil) were prized possessions and enjoyed wide use in the biblical world in cosmetics, embalming, religious offerings, and pharmacopeia. Frankincense was an ingredient in the mixture of spices burned on the altar of incense in worship (Ex. 30:34); it accompanied the grain offerings (Lev. 2:1–2, 15–16) and was placed with the loaves on the table of the Presence as well (Lev. 24:7). Myrrh was an essential ingredient in the sacred anointing oil used to sanctify objects and persons in Hebrew worship (Ex. 30:23). The pleasant odor, high demand, and restricted sources of these perfumes made them expensive commodities in the ancient times. Myrrh was also used in burial (cf. Mark 16:1; John 19:39). The value of these ointments, often classified with gemstones and gold, made them appropriate gifts for royalty—including the infant Jesus (Matt. 2:11).
c. Examining Solomon’s Wisdom
“and when she came to Solomon,
she spoke with him about all that was on her heart.”
2. (:2) Pressing Solomon for Wise Answers
“And Solomon answered all her questions;
nothing was hidden from Solomon which he did not explain to her.”
3. (:3-4) Perceiving Uniqueness and Supremacy of Solomon’s Rule
“And when the queen of Sheba had seen
the wisdom of Solomon,
the house which he had built,
4 the food at his table,
the seating of his servants,
the attendance of his ministers and their attire,
his cupbearers and their attire,
and his stairway by which he went up to the house of the LORD,
she was breathless.”
B. (:5-9) Certifying Solomon’s Divine Blessing (cf. Deut. 4:6)
1. (:5-6) Seeing is Believing
“Then she said to the king, ‘It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. 6 Nevertheless I did not believe their reports until I came and my eyes had seen it. And behold, the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me. You surpass the report that I heard.’”
2. (:7-8) Blessing is Evident
“How blessed are your men, how blessed are these your servants who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom.
Blessed be the LORD your God who delighted in you, setting you on His throne as king for the LORD your God; because your God loved Israel establishing them forever, therefore He made you king over them, to do justice and righteousness.”
Martin Selman: God had promised on that occasion to give Solomon not only the wisdom he asked for (1:11-12a) but wealth and fame for which he had not asked (1:12b). 2 Chronicles 9 shows that that promise was kept most faithfully. God himself is twice acknowledged as the source of Solomon’s gifts, on both occasions through the impartial testimony of foreigners (vv. 8, 23). Though Solomon was obedient to God over the building of the temple praise is really due to God for his faithfulness and love (v. 8).
All three of God’s gifts are dealt with in some detail, and an emphasis on God’s generosity is repeatedly evident. Solomon’s wisdom is recognized and tested by the Queen of Sheba (vv. 2, 3, 6, 7, 8) and sought by many rulers (vv. 22, 23). The king was also far more generously endowed with this gift than the queen anticipated: you have far exceeded the report I heard (v. 6). The gift of wealth is not only acknowledged, but increased by Hiram of Tyre (8:18; 9:10-11), the Queen of Sheba (vv. 3-4, 9, 12), and by many merchants and kings (vv. 13-28). The third gift of “honour” (v. 12), though not so frequently recognized, is equally prominent. The report of Solomon’s fame (vv. 1, 5) is international in scope (especially vv. 22-24), and leads to expressions of Solomon’s supremacy and uniqueness. He shows his supremacy in answering all the queen’s questions (vv. 1-2), in giving her more than she had brought to him (v. 12), and in exercising sovereignty over many rulers (v. 26). His uniqueness is underlined in a series of phrases such as, Nothing like it had ever been made for any other kingdom (v. 19; cf. vv. 9, 11). This incomparability had also been promised by God (2 Chr. 1:12; cf. 1 Chr. 29:25), and confirms that even Solomon’s glory (cf. Matt. 6:29) was dependent on and far out-weighed by God’s own glory (cf. 2 Chr. 7:1-3).
3. (:9) Gifts are Exceptional
“Then she gave the king one hundred and twenty talents of gold, and a very great amount of spices and precious stones; there had never been spice like that which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.”
C. (:10-11) Crafting Special Accessories to Enhance the Temple and Equip the Singers
“And the servants of Huram and the servants of Solomon who brought gold from Ophir, also brought algum trees and precious stones. 11 And from the algum the king made steps for the house of the LORD and for the king’s palace, and lyres and harps for the singers; and none like that was seen before in the land of Judah.”
D. (:12) Completing the Queen’s Visit with Generous Reciprocal Gifts
“And King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all her desire which she requested besides a return for what she had brought to the king.
Then she turned and went to her own land with her servants.”
Iain Duguid: Solomon’s reciprocal giving of gifts (as would be expected in international relationships) concludes the account of the queen’s visit. The wording gives no details beyond the fact that he “gave [her] all that she desired” (cf. the earlier similarly general “answered all her questions”; 2 Chron. 9:2). It is a much later tradition that speaks of a union resulting in the birth of Menelik I, the founder of the Ethiopian dynasty that persisted with some gaps into the twentieth century as the “house of Solomon.”
III. (9:13-28) SUMMARY OF SOLOMON’S EXCELLENCIES – HIS WEALTH, WISDOM AND INTERNATIONAL FAME
Iain Duguid: Solomon’s wealth is prodigious. “Gold” is mentioned 18 times (cf. 17 times in chapters 2–5 for the temple), and other language is superlative: “nothing like it [the throne] was ever made for any kingdom” (9:19); “silver was not considered as anything” (vv. 20, 27); and “King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom” (v. 22; cf. vv. 9b, 11b). Hezekiah is the only other king for whom wealth details are given (32:27–30); again the temple is associated with wealth, as in Chronicles Hezekiah plays a major role in temple worship after the fall of the northern kingdom. The Chronicler likewise specifies David’s successful acquisitions that he contributed to temple construction and vessels (1 Chron. 22:3–4, 14–16; 29:2–5). The Chronicler associates prosperity with obedience concerning the ark and temple.
A. (:13-21) Solomon’s Splendor
1. (:13-16) Gold Ceremonial Weapons
“Now the weight of gold which came to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold, 14 besides that which the traders and merchants brought; and all the kings of Arabia and the governors of the country brought gold and silver to Solomon. 15 And King Solomon made 200 large shields of beaten gold, using 600 shekels of beaten gold on each large shield. 16 And he made 300 shields of beaten gold, using three hundred shekels of gold on each shield, and the king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon.”
Frederick Mabie: These opulent ceremonial weapons were not intended for battle but instead provided tangible proof of a kingdom’s wealth and prestige. Numerous gold ceremonial weapons have been uncovered in archaeological digs, particularly in the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh King Tutankhamun.
2. (:17-21) Gaudy Display of Riches
a. (:17-19) Fancy Throne and Footstool
“Moreover, the king made a great throne of ivory and overlaid it with pure gold. 18 And there were six steps to the throne and a footstool in gold attached to the throne, and arms on each side of the seat, and two lions standing beside the arms. 19 And twelve lions were standing there on the six steps on the one side and on the other; nothing like it was made for any other kingdom.”
Andrew Hill: The royal throne is made of wood, inset with ivory plaques and overlaid with gold (9:17). Perhaps the twelve tribes of Israel are represented in the twelve lions that flank the six steps on either side leading up to the throne platform (9:19). The lion is a universal symbol of kingship in the ancient world and may have been the symbol for the Davidic line of Israelite kingship, given David’s reputation as a shepherd who rescued his sheep from the paws of the lion (cf. 1 Sam. 17:34–37).
b. (:20) Gold Drinking Vessels
“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; silver was not considered valuable in the days of Solomon.”
c. (:21) Expensive Imported Goods via Maritime Commerce
“For the king had ships which went to Tarshish with the servants of Huram; once every three years the ships of Tarshish came bringing gold and silver, ivory and apes and peacocks.”
B. (:22-28) Solomon’s Wisdom and Wealth
Andrew Hill: By way of literary structure, 9:22–28 completes the envelope construction introduced in 1:14–17. The two texts recite the symbols of Solomon’s great wealth (silver and gold, cedar lumber, and horses and chariots), and in so doing frame the entire literary unit (chs. 1–9). The Chronicler reminds us, however, that these dividends of Solomon’s riches result from the investment of his wisdom and wealth with building Yahweh’s temple.
1. (:22-24) International Fame
a. (:22) Reputation of Solomon Regarding Wisdom and Wealth
“So King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom.”
b. (:23) Influence of Solomon
“And all the kings of the earth were seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart.”
Frederick Mabie: The description of Solomon’s wisdom noted in 1 Kings 4:32-33 is similar to the areas of knowledge and expertise gained by those in the intelligentsia of ancient biblical cultures, such as scribes, merchants, and royalty. As with that of his Egyptian and Mesopotamian counterparts, Solomon’s wisdom involved understanding the world in areas such as botany, zoology, music, law, diplomacy, flora, fauna, literature, and other elements of the cultured life. In addition to such areas of knowledge, wisdom for a king had particular functionality in the important areas of temple building and governing. With respect to governing, note that Solomon’s request for wisdom is connected with his ability to judge (govern) God’s people and facilitate an ordered society.
c. (:24) Tribute Gifted to Solomon
“And they brought every man his gift, articles of silver and gold,
garments, weapons, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year.”
2. (:25-28) Summary of Solomon’s Expansive Kingdom
a. (:25) Multitude of Horse Stables and Horsemen
“Now Solomon had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots
and 12,000 horsemen, and he stationed them in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem.”
b. (:26) Widespread Geographic Dominion
“And he was the ruler over all the kings
from the Euphrates River even to the land of the Philistines,
and as far as the border of Egypt.”
Frederick Mabie: This summary of Solomon’s royal revenue (excluding profits made from trade and other income per v.14) is impressive and reflects the economic clout ancient Israel was able to develop by exerting hegemony over neighboring countries and regions. This regional hegemony enabled Israel to control numerous trade routes and leverage Israel’s geographical position as a “land bridge” linking the continents of Africa, Asia, and Europe. These trade routes include those in the northern reaches of Syria (gateway to Mesopotamia), the Negev (gateway to trade with the Arabian states and access to maritime trade from Ezion Geber), the region of Transjordan (King’s Highway; gateway to Damascus) and the Coastal Highway (also known as the Great Trunk Route and the Via Maris; gateway to Egypt in the south and Phoenicia to the north).
Thomas Constable: Verse 26 has led some Bible students to conclude that God’s promise of land for Abrahams descendants was completely fulfilled in Solomon’s day (cf. Gen. 15:18). However, this verse, and 1 Kings 4:21, only say that Solomon ruled over all the kings who inhabited the territory between the Euphrates River and the border of Egypt. The Israelites did not occupy all of this territory. The complete fulfillment of God’s promise of land for the Israelites has not yet been fulfilled.
c. (:27) Unprecedented Prosperity
“And the king made silver as common as stones in Jerusalem, and he made cedars as plentiful as sycamore trees that are in the lowland.”
d. (:28) Importing of Horses
“And they were bringing horses for Solomon
from Egypt and from all countries.”
(:29-31) EPILOGUE – CONCLUSION OF SOLOMON’S IDEALIZED REIGN
Frederick Mabie: This is the common literary formula for summarizing royal reigns in Kings and Chronicles (see that of David in 1Ch 29:26-30). These royal summaries provide basic regnal information, including the length of reign, name of successor, place of burial, and a reference to the source of the information and/or a reference to a source where more information about this king’s reign can be gleaned. Oftentimes, the source is attributed to a specific prophet as here (“the records of Nathan the prophet”), thus implying a close link between the prophetic office and regnal annotations in ancient Israel. Moreover, these summaries set up the narrative(s) to follow by providing royal succession information.
A. (:29) Recorded Deeds
“Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, from first to last, are they not written in the records of Nathan the prophet, and in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and in the visions of Iddo the seer concerning Jeroboam the son of Nebat?”
B. (:30) Generational Reign over United Kingdom
“And Solomon reigned forty years in Jerusalem over all Israel.”
J.A. Thompson: Solomon reigned over “all Israel” for forty years. That was the ideal for the nation. After Solomon’s death the ideal was shattered. For the Chronicler the past ideal was a vision for the future.
David Guzik: Many commentators believe that Solomon began his reign when he was about 20 years old. This means that Solomon did not live a particularly long life and the promise made in 1 Kings 3:14 was not fulfilled for Solomon, because of his disobedience.
C. (:31) Death, Burial and Succession
“And Solomon slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of his father David; and his son Rehoboam reigned in his place.”