Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

1 Kings 10

Verse 1

And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions.

The queen of Sheba. As to where her country was, some think it was the Sabean kingdom of Yemen, of which the capital was Saba (Mariaba, according to Eratosthenes; Sabatha according to Ptolemy; Mareb and Saba, or Azab, according to the natives), in Arabia Felix; others, that it was in African Ethiopia - i:e. Abyssinia-toward the south of the Red Sea. The opinions preponderate in favour of the former. This view harmonies with the language of our Lord, as Yemen means 'south;' and this country, extending to the shores of the Indian, Ocean, might in ancient times - i:e., in our Lord's age, when the boundaries of the known land southward were Raptam, or Prassum-be considered "the uttermost parts of the earth. [The principal reasons for concluding that the queen came from this district of Arabia may be summarized as follows:-First, the presents she brought to Solomon were products of that country, as stated by Strabo, Pliny, and others; secondly, the expression, basilissa (Greek #938) notou (Greek #3558), "queen of the south" (Matthew 12:42) corresponds with the Hebrew Teman, the Arabic Yemen; thirdly, the phrase, ek toon peratoon tees gees, in the same passage of Matthew, corroborates this view; fourth, the traditions of the Jewish as well as Christian Church, together with the opinions of Arabian writers, tend unitedly in the same direction. (See, the subject discussed at large in Forster's 'Arabia' and in Bruce's 'Travels in Abyssinia.')]

Heard of the fame of Solomon - doubtless by the Ophir fleet.

Concerning the name of the Lord - meaning either his great knowledge of God, or the extraordinary things which God had done for him.

Hard questions - enigmas, or riddles. The Orientals delight in this species of intellectual exercise, and test wisdom by the power and readiness to solve them.

Verse 2

And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart.

A very great train, with camels. These animals could not have come from the shores of the Indian Ocean, both on account of the immense deserts that intervened and the hostile opposition of countless tribes. A long train of those beasts of burden forms the common way of traveling in Arabia; and the presents specified consist of the native produce of that country. Of course, a royal entourage would be larger and more imposing than an ordinary caravan.

Spices. Arabia surpassed every other country in the world for the richness of its spices. Milton, in alluding to these fragrant products, speaks of the breezes which waft far out to sea

`Sabaean odours from the spicy shore Of Araby the blest.'

Among these spices would be myrrh, a product of Arabia Felix, no less than of Abyssinia, being the resinous gum of an odoriferous shrub, valued as a favourite perfume, and frequently given in ancient times as a present on account of its rarity and usefulness; spikenard, an unguent extracted from a species of valerian, which grows on the high and arid pastures of India; the sweet cane, the aromatic calamus of India; cinnamon, procured from Ceylon; and cassia, another species of cinnamon, from the Malabar coast. All these highly-prized spices, which were either the native produce of Arabia, or, being brought to the ports of that country by the Ophir merchantmen, were carried into every part of the land by the trading caravans, were brought to Solomon by the Queen of Sheba, as presents, which she knew would be acceptable to that prince.

Verse 3

And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not any thing hid from the king, which he told her not.

And Solomon told her all her questions, [ d

Verse 4

And when the queen of Sheba had seen all Solomon's wisdom, and the house that he had built,

And when the queen of Sheba had seen all Solomon's wisdom [ chaak

Verse 5

And the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up unto the house of the LORD there was no more spirit in her.

And the meat of his table - including the immense amount, variety, and luxuriousness of the daily provisions (cf. 1 Kings 4:22-23), as well as the sumptuous splendour of the equipage at the royal table (1 Kings 10:21).

And the sitting of his servants, [ uwmowshab (Hebrew #4186) `

Verse 6

And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom.

It was a true report ... The proofs she obtained of Solomon's wisdom, not from his conversation only, but also his works; the splendour of his palace, the economy of his kitchen and table, the order of his court, the gradations and gorgeous costume of his servants-above all, the arched viaduct that led from his palace to the temple (2 Kings 16:18), and the remains of which have been recently discovered-overwhelmed her with astonishment.

Verse 7-8

Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 9

Blessed be the LORD thy God, which delighted in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because the LORD loved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king, to do judgment and justice. Blessed be the Lord thy God - (see the notes at 1 Kings 5:7.) It is quite possible, as Jewish writers say, that this queen was converted, through Solomon's influence, to the worship of the true God. But there is no record of her making any gift offering in the temple.

Verse 10

And she gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store, and precious stones: there came no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon.

She gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of gold - 720,000 pounds sterling. These and other presents she brought were not as tribute, but tokens of amity (cf. 2 Chronicles 9:23-24).

Verse 11

And the navy also of Hiram, that brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug trees, and precious stones.

Almug trees - or algum. Parenthetically, along with the valuable presents of the queen of Sheba, is mentioned a foreign wood, which was brought in the Ophir ships. It is thought by some to be the sandal-wood, the produce of a low shrub, resembling the privet, remarkable for the fragrance of the central parts of the stem near the root, and brought from some district of India, where it is still very abundant; by others, supposed to be the Deodar (Cedrus deodara), a species of fragrant fir, much used in India for sacred and important works. Solomon used it as well-fitted by its red colour to be ornamental for stairs in his temple and palace (2 Chronicles 9:11), but chiefly for musical instruments, 'Sandal-wood is found indigenous on the coast of Malabar only; and one of its numerous names there and in Sanskrit is Valgulka-clearly the name which Jewish and Phoenician merchants corrupted into algum, and which in Hebrew was still further changed in almug' (Max Muller, 'Lectures on the Science of Language,' pp. 189-191).

Verse 12

And the king made of the almug trees pillars for the house of the LORD, and for the king's house, harps also and psalteries for singers: there came no such almug trees, nor were seen unto this day.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 13

And king Solomon gave unto the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatsoever she asked, beside that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty. So she turned and went to her own country, she and her servants.

All her desire, whatsoever she asked, besides - i:e., Solomon not only gave his illustrious guest all the insight and information she wanted, but, according to the Oriental fashion, which is to ask or specify certain objects which it would be agreeable to obtain, gave her ample remuneration for the presents she had brought -

i.e., besides his presents in return for hers, made a free donation of whatever she liked.

Verse 14

Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold,

Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year - 666 talents, equal to 3,996,000 pounds sterling. The sources whence this was derived are not mentioned; nor was it the full amount of his revenue; because this was "besides that he had of the merchant-men, and of the traffic of the spice-merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia, and of the governors of the country. The great encouragement he gave to commerce was the means of enriching his royal exchequer. By the fortifications which he erected in various parts of his kingdom, and particularly at such places as Thapsacus, one of the passages of the Euphrates, and at Tadmor, in the Syrian desert, he gave complete security to the caravan trade from the depredations of the Arab marauders; and it was reasonable that, in return for this protection, he should exact a certain toll or duty for the importation of foreign goods. A considerable revenue, too, would arise from the use of the store cities and khans he built; and it is not improbable that those cities were emporia where the caravan merchants unloaded their bales of spices and other commodities, and sold them to the king's factors, who, according to the modern practice in the East, retailed them in the Western markets at a profit. 'The revenue derived from the tributary kings, and from the governors of the country,' must have consisted in the tribute which all inferior magistrates periodically bring to their sovereigns in the East, in the shape of presents of the produce of their respective provinces.

Verse 15

Beside that he had of the merchantmen, and of the traffick of the spice merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia, and of the governors of the country. Governors - [ pachowt (Hebrew #6346). The Septuagint renders it by: satrapoon]. 'Is this a foreign word, having a Semitic status constructus, and the plural pachoth? The word pechah is remarkable from its early reception into Hebrew, having become a title of some "governors" in Solomon's outlying dominions. For in that they are mentioned both here and 2 Chronicles 9:14, in union with the kings of "Arabia," as persons who supplied a yearly quantity of gold in addition to his regular revenue, and this in connection with that derived from the merchants, it is in itself probable that "the pachoth of the land" were governors set over the outlying country beyond Judea proper, (cf. 1 Kings 20:4; 2 Kings 18:24-34; Esther 8:9; Esther 9:3; Ezra 5:3; Ezra 6:6; Ezra 8:36; Nehemiah 11:7; Nehemiah 11:9; etc.) It seems to me most probable that Solomon adopted the title as it already existed in the Syrian territories; because it is not said that he placed pechahs, but that they paid him gold. Thus, the name "rajah," is continued in our Indian dominions. If pechah is connected with pashah, the history of the word would be curious' (Note by Max Muller-Pusey, 'On Daniel,' p. 566, 567).

Verse 16

And king Solomon made two hundred targets of beaten gold: six hundred shekels of gold went to one target.

Two hundred targets ... six hundred shekels. These defensive arms were anciently made of wood, and covered with leather: Solomon's were covered with fine gold. 600 shekels were used in the gilding of each target; 200 targets had 300 shields, having three pounds of gold in one shield. The targets were circular, perhaps with an umbo or convex protuberance in the center, designed to be fastened on the person for the protection of the breast. The shields, which were only half the weight of the targets, were made probably in the form of upright bucklers borne by an armour-bearer (cf. 'Nineveh and Babylon,' p. 194). They were intended for the state armoury of the palace (see the notes at 1 Kings 14:26). They were ranged on the walls of the armoury (Song of Solomon 4:4), upon pins fixed in the walls for the purpose (cf. Isaiah 22:24), as in the Assyrian temples.

Verse 17

And he made three hundred shields of beaten gold; three pound of gold went to one shield: and the king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 18

Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the best gold.

A great throne of ivory. It seems to have been made, not of solid ivory, but veneered. It was in the form of an arm-chair with a carved back. The ascent to it was by six steps, on each of which stood lions, in place of a railing; while a lion, probably of gilt metal, stood at each side, which, we may suppose from the analogy of other Oriental thrones, supported a canopy (Sir Thomas Roe's 'Voyages,' p. 456, where he gives an account of the throne of the, great Mogul, bearing a resemblance to Solomon's magnificent seat of majesty, but much inferior: see also Rawlinson's Herodotus,' 2:, p. 178, note, p. 179). A golden footstool is mentioned (2 Chronicles 11:18) as attached to this throne, whose magnificence is described as unrivaled.

Verse 19-20

The throne had six steps, and the top of the throne was round behind: and there were stays on either side on the place of the seat, and two lions stood beside the stays.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 21

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 were of silver: it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon.

All king Solomon's drinking vessels were of gold ... The magnificence of Eastern monarchs was generally indicated by a profuse display of gold and silver vessels in their palaces. All these products may still be procured in great abundance in Ceylon, which Bochart considered to be Ophir, to which Solomon's fleet traded.

Verse 22

For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish with the navy of Hiram: once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.

At sea - on the Mediterranean. A navy of Tharshish - Tartessus, between the mouths of the Boetis, now Guadalquiver, in the south of Spain [Septuagint, Vatican: Tharsis; Alexandrine: Tharseis], where gold, and especially silver, was obtained anciently in so great abundance that it "was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon." But Tharshish came to be a general term for the west of Europe, (Psalms 72:10; Jonah 1:1.) Solomon's fleet, "with the navy of Hiram - i:e., manned with Phoenician mariners, sailed from the port of Ezion-geber; but whether, doubling the Cape, they steered by the western coast of Africa. northward to Tartessus, in Spain, or there might be a place of that name in India, is unknown. 'There may have been,' as Henderson remarks, 'both a Spanish and an Indian Tharshish, just as the name India Came to be transferred from the east to the distant west.'

Once in three years - i:e., third year. Without the mariner's compass, they had to coast along the shore, and make their voyage by monsoons. The ivory, apes, and peacocks might have been purchased, on the outward or homeward voyage, on the coast of Safola, in South Africa, and some portion of the Indian peninsula, where those animals were to be found.

Ivory, [ shenhabiym (Hebrew #8143) plural] (cf. 2 Chronicles 9:21) - known to the ancients as an Indian product. Thus, Virgil, 'India mittit ebur; molles sua thura Sabaei.' [This word, according to Gesenius, is compounded of sheen (Hebrew #8127), tooth-generally used in the Old Testament for ivory-and haa'ibiym, contracted for habiym, from the Sanskrit ibha-s, elephant. Keil derives the Hebrew word from the Coptic eboy, elephant, with the article he (h). Other derivations have been suggested. The Septuagint and Vatican has: lithoon toreutoon kai pelekeetoon, turned and polished stones (1 Kings 10:11). The Alexandrine renders it by: odontoon elefantinoon, elephants' teeth.]

And apes, [ w

Verse 23

So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 24

And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart.

All the earth sought to Solomon ... - i:e., in a loose sense, the sovereigns of the neighbouring kingdoms, or the countries of Western Asia.

Verse 25

And they brought every man his present, vessels of silver, and vessels of gold, and garments, and armour, and spices, horses, and mules, a rate year by year.

They brought every man his present - i:e., to him as their feudal superior. No doubt, the making of presents is in the East an established custom of social life. Not only when going into the presence of a superior is it usual to pay such a compliment, but even in familiar visits among inferior people the presentation of some gift-even a flower or fruit-some token of regard, is expected; and the visitor who should omit or neglect the observance of this mark of civility would incur the suspicion of intending to affront or defraud the person on whom he waited. But the presents described in this verse as brought to Solomon by foreign prince, were of a totally different character from the conventional tokens of civil contact. They were made as an acknowledgment of dependence and subjection-in fact, a kind of homage or tribute to Solomon; and that we are to understand the presents spoken of in this verse as brought with such a view, is evident from the fact that they were contributed "a rate year by year," as in Assyria ('Nineveh and Babylon,' p. 635). 26. (See the notes at 2 Chronicles 1:14-17.)

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Kings 10". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.