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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 10

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-13

The Queen of Sheba’s visit 10:1-13

The writer seems to have included this event here to support his claim that Solomon’s reign was so glorious that rulers came from all over the world to meet him (1 Kings 4:34; cf. 1 Kings 3:16-18). It also shows that some of Solomon’s wealth came to him as voluntary gifts from admirers. Jesus used this queen’s example to challenge His hearers to listen to God’s wisdom through someone greater than Solomon, namely, Himself (Matthew 12:42).

The site of Sheba was about 1,200 miles southeast of Israel (present Yemen and or Oman). A traditional site of the Queen of Sheba’s castle is Salalah, in southern Oman. This country had come to dominate the spice and incense trade that had made that region of Arabia famous. [Note: G. W. Van Beek, "Frankincense and Myrrh," Biblical Archaeologist 23:3 (September 1960):70-95.] The queen’s primary purpose in visiting Solomon seems to have been to make a treaty with him. Before she did so she wanted to make sure that he really was as wise and rich as she had heard. Testing with questions was a challenging activity among ancient Near Eastern monarchs. [Note: See Harry Torcszyner, "The Riddle in the Bible," Hebrew Union College Annual 1 (1924):125-49; Gray, p. 241; Gates, p. 321.]

"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." [Note: Wiseman, p. 129.]

She noted that God had made Solomon a blessing to those around him (1 Kings 10:8), as God had promised He would do for those who obeyed His covenant. She also blessed Yahweh (1 Kings 10:9), the God under whom Solomon reigned. Her gifts, which included four and one-half tons of gold, appear to have been part of a covenant treaty she negotiated with Solomon for her country (cf. 1 Kings 10:13). In her visit we see Israel fulfilling its God-given purpose of bringing the Gentiles to Yahweh. The name of this queen in Arabian history is Balkir.

"The royal family of Ethiopia claimed descent from Solomon and the queen of Sheba. It was asserted that the queen gave birth, as a result of her visit, to Menelik I, the traditional founder of the Ethiopian royal line. This is difficult to prove, but it is also difficult to disprove. Though the queen of Sheba did not come from Ethiopia, it is quite clear that Ethiopia was colonized by Sabeans from South Arabia, crossing the Red Sea. Her descendants could have gone to Ethiopia, and Arabic legends give details regarding the queen who married Solomon. It may be added that Josephus speaks of a relationship which the queen of Sheba had with Ethiopia (Antiq. II. 10. 2; VI. 5. 6)." [Note: Wood, p. 328.]

Other scholars are less sure of this connection. [Note: E.g., Patterson and Austel, p. 102; and Rice, p. 81.] Josephus called her "the queen of Egypt and Ethiopia," but that identification is probably incorrect. [Note: Antiquities of the Jews 8:6:2, 5-6. For a survey of the traditions connected with the Queen of Sheba, see Edward Ullendorff, "The Queen of Sheba," Bulletin of John Rylands Library 45:2 (1963):486-504.]

Verses 1-29

3. Solomon’s greatness ch. 10

This chapter summarizes with illustrations and statistics the wisdom, acceptance, and riches with which God blessed Solomon.

Verses 14-29

Solomon’s wealth 10:14-29

This pericope summarizes Solomon’s wealth as the previous one summarized his wisdom. God brought much wealth to Solomon, almost 25 tons of gold a year (1 Kings 10:14), plus many other riches.

"Those who would consider his income of 666 talents (ca. 21.6 tons) of gold exaggeration should compare this with amounts registered in ancient Egypt about this time, ’where gold is like dust in the land’ and Osorkon I in his first four years (ca. 924-920 BC) accumulated eighteen tons of gold, to which some of the loot taken by his father Shishak from Jerusalem should be added (cf. 1 Kings 14:25-27). Similar large-scale acquisition and use of gold in temple building is attested from Mesopotamia." [Note: Wiseman, pp. 131-32.]

I do not believe we should criticize Solomon simply for being wealthy, since God promised to make him rich (1 Kings 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 somewhat-he was guilty of violating God’s Law.

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. [Note: See Carl Rasmussen, "The Economic Importance of Caravan Trade for Solomon’s Empire," in A Tribute to Gleason Archer, pp. 153-66.] "Traders" probably refers to business people who passed through Israel and "merchants" to those who did business in Israel. [Note: Rice, p. 82.] Solomon was probably history’s most successful Jewish businessman.

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 (1 Kings 10:17). Perhaps the 12 lions surrounding Solomon’s throne represented Israel’s 12 tribes (1 Kings 10:20). Tarshish (lit. refinery, 1 Kings 10:22; cf. Jonah 1:3) was probably in Spain or Sardinia. Kue (1 Kings 10:28) was Cilicia (the Apostle Paul’s home province) in modern Turkey.

God forbade Israel’s kings from multiplying chariots (1 Kings 10:26), the most effective and dreaded military machines of their day (Deuteronomy 17:16). God wanted His people to depend on Him primarily for their protection. Material prosperity and security often lead people to conclude that they have no needs when really our need for God never diminishes. Solomon fell into this trap. Wealth is not sinful in itself, but it does bring temptations with it (cf. James 5:1-6).

Though Solomon experienced great blessings from his faithful God, he fell prey to the sins these blessings make easier, as the writer explained in the next chapter.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Kings 10". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/1-kings-10.html. 2012.
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