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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 10

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-13

First Kings - Chapter 10 AND Second Chronicles - Chapter 9

A Royal Visitor, Commentary on 1 Kings 10:1-13 AND 2 Chronicles 9:1-12

This time the parallel accounts are very similar, in places exact. The Lord’s promise to make Solomon’s wisdom and his fame known widely had come to pass. In faraway Sheba the queen heard of the unparalleled wisdom of the king of Israel. So glowing were the reports and beyond belief the queen decided to prove it for herself by making the long journey by camel caravan to Jerusalem. She had prepared her queries to test his knowledge before she came. In honor of Solomon’s greatness she also brought very rich presents of gold and spices borne by her camels.

Solomon received the queen of Sheba and submitted to her test of his wisdom. He passed her test admirably, not one of her questions was he unable to answer. So thoroughly convinced was the queen that Solomon was the man of great wisdom of whom she had been told, it is said that the spirit went out of her. In other words, her desire to disprove the report was abandoned. The queen observed the abundance of the food prepared daily for Solomon’s servants and courtiers, the ceremony by which he went about his governance of the kingdom, the uniforms and mannerly conduct of ministers and cupbearers, and the pageantry with which he went up to worship in the temple.

So the queen of Sheba admitted to Solomon that the report of him which had reached her ears in her own country was indeed true. In fact, though she had not then believed it, she now acknowledged that the half had not been related to her. His wisdom and prosperity were of far greater fame than it was told. She assessed it a blessed privilege for his servants and his men to be in his presence daily and to hear his great words of wisdom. She blessed the Lord who loved Israel so well as to give them such a magnificent king as Solomon. Truly Israel was for once living up to the Lord’s expectation that the surrounding nations should see His blessings on Israel and magnify Him also (Genesis 18:18).

The gold the queen of Sheba presented to Solomon amounted to a hundred and twenty talents (more than $120 million in modern value). The spices were so great that so much never came to Israel again. Besides all this she also brought precious stones. This great wealth was in addition to what the navy brought from Ophir in the ships of Hiram. These ships also brought the exotic wood of the almug (or algum) tree, which was used to make beautiful pillars and terraces in the palace and temple. Some of it was also used to construct musical instruments, as the harp and psaltery. It was Israel’s age of glory, for she never attained such heights of greatness again.

Solomon was not to be outdone in the matter of gifts. Not only did he make present to the queen of Sheba from the royal bounty, but also allowed her to take whatever she saw which suited her fancy. At last she returned, with her servants, to her own country. Her name is not revealed (she is usually called Sheba, which was actually the name of her country), but she has continued through the centuries well known to Bible readers and to those who do not read it. Jesus used her journey to rebuke those in Israel in His day for not believing in Him, saying, "The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold a greater than Solomon is here" (Lu 12:42). When the queen saw she believed; sinners see the power of Christ but refuse to believe, and are therefore condemned.

Verses 14-29

Solomon’s Wealth, Commentary on 1 Kings 10:14-29 AND 2 Chronicles 9:13-28 AND 2 Chronicles 1:14-17

These passages describe the vast wealth of Solomon, accumulated by his extensive commercial enterprises, and the lavish use of it in his court and kingdom. Each year he received gold in amount of six hundred sixty-six talents (over $700 million in present -day values) besides small amounts brought in by the merchant traffic and by the kings of Arabia and governors of tributary nations. Much of this Solomon preserved in targets (small shields) and shields (large which he kept in the house of the forest of Lebanon. Here they may have been on public display and were taken up by the soldiers at times of ceremony as a kind of dress uniform. There were two hundred golden targets and three hundred shields. The gold was beaten and formed by the goldsmith.

Still more of the precious metal was used in the construction of the king’s throne. Basically the throne was of ivory, a very expensive item brought from Africa, or India, by the navy. It was then overlaid with the best gold available. Six steps led up to the throne, which had a rounded back and stays (or arms), with a golden footstool attached to it. A golden lion stood at each arm of the throne (the lion was the symbol of the tribe of Judah, David’s tribe), and twelve more lions were constructed to stand on the six steps leading up to the throne. These stood one on either end of the steps It was the most elaborate throne in the earth at the time of its construction.

Solomon made all his drinking cups of gold, for silver was too common for his use. The ships came home once in three years from their far off destinations, bringing such exotic items in addition to the gold and silver as ivory, apes, and peacocks. The disposition of the apes and peacocks is not mentioned, but they must have been a symbol of wealth. So Solomon rose to the acme of wealth and wisdom which the Lord promised, and thus acquired also the fame and prestige which was promised with it. Kings from all around came to pay him homage, none so notable, however as the queen of Sheba. Every one of these brought Solomon more rich presents, as vessels of silver and gold. fine garments, armor, spices, horses, and mules. That this was a part of the tribute from subject kings is indicated in the note that it came at a certain rate yearly.

Solomon violated one of the stipulations for the Israelite king in major proportions, the acquisition of horses (see De 17:16). Horses in those times were used primarily for military purposes and in time of war. The Lord did not want His people to rely on material things for their defense, but to look to Him to take care of all their enemies. Yet Solomon bought and sold both horses and chariots, one of the chief items of trade being horses and chariots. Israel acted as the middleman in the horse trade, purchasing them from Egypt and an indefinite place called Kue (or Keveh). (This word is translated "linen yarn" in the Authorized King James Version, but later versions take the word as a proper noun, the name of a place.) The horses were then sold to the Hittites and Syrians to the north.

Solomon himself acquired four thousand stalls of horses and had twelve thousand men to see after them and train them to pull the chariots. He built special cities in which to distribute them. Solomon was surely the most powerful ruler of his time. All the kings from the Euphrates to Egypt were subject to him. Gold was said to have been as plenteous as stones in Jerusalem, and silver so common as to be little value. Cedar was also so abundantly used as to be compared in quantity to the sycamores of the vales. It seems not to have been his wealth which caused Solomon’s apostasy, however. He says, "I gathered also silver and gold," along with many other things of material satisfaction, which in the end he concluded to be "all vanity and vexation of spirit" (Ecclesiastes 2:8; Ecclesiastes 2:11). God’s children should never forget the admonition of Christ (Matthew 6:24).

Some lessons from chapters 10 and 9: 1) Christians should attract the world in a godly manner and cause them to ask questions, and which also the Christian should be prepared to answer; 2) the world is to be justly rebuked for failure to believe the obvious truth of salvation in Christ alone; 3) the Lord blesses abundantly, as He promises, and would bless continually if people would continue in obedience to His will.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Kings 10". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-kings-10.html. 1985.
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