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the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 10

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

Verses 1-29

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Trade, fame and wealth (9:26-10:29)

Always alert in business dealings, Solomon saw the opportunity for further profits by cooperating with Hiram in trade transport. Goods from the Mediterranean were received at Hiram’s port of Tyre, taken overland to the Israelite port of Ezion-geber at the northern tip of the Red Sea, then shipped east, possibly as far as India. Since the Israelites were not a seafaring people, Solomon hired seamen from Hiram to teach and guide his men. Goods that these ships brought back from the east further enriched the two kings (26-28; cf. 10:11-12,22). (‘Ship of Tarshish’ was a technical name for a certain kind of ocean-going merchant ship. It was not an indication of the port to which or from which a ship was sailing.)

Archaeology indicates that Solomon mined and smelted iron and copper in the region of Ezion-geber, from where he shipped the materials east (cf. Deuteronomy 8:9). The strategic and economic importance of Ezion-geber (or Elath) was a cause of frequent conflicts between Jerusalem and Edom, the original owners of the port (cf. 2 Kings 14:22; 2 Kings 16:6).

People of other nations heard of Solomon’s reputation for wisdom, and on one occasion the queen of an Arabian country visited Jerusalem to test him with hard questions. She was amazed not only at Solomon’s wisdom but also at the splendour of his court (10:1-9). At the same time both she and Solomon took the opportunity to have some useful trade exchanges (10-13).
Solomon gained further wealth by taxing all goods that passed through Israel along the international trade routes. He spent much of this wealth extravagantly, to give his city and palace a splendour unequalled among the nations of the region (14-22). Nations that sought his favour also brought him expensive gifts (23-25). Besides building a large horse and chariot force for himself, he became the middleman in an international horse and chariot trade that further enriched him (26-29).
The reign of Solomon saw the beginnings of a strong merchant class in Israel. Previously Israel’s economy was largely agricultural and pastoral, but gradually the merchants gained control over the farmers. Over the next two centuries conditions for the farmers worsened and social injustice increased, causing prophets such as Amos, Hosea, Isaiah and Micah to condemn the corrupt society and announce its coming judgment.

Bibliographical Information
Fleming, Donald C. "Commentary on 1 Kings 10". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/1-kings-10.html. 2005.
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