Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

1 Kings 10

Verses 1-13

Visit of the Queen of Saba (cf. 2 Chronicles 9:1-12). - When the fame of Solomon's great wisdom came to the ears of the queen of Saba, probably through the Ophir voyages, she undertook a journey to Jerusalem, to convince herself of the truth of the report which had reached her, by putting it to the test by means of enigmas. שׁבא, Σαβά, is not Ethiopia or Meroë, as Josephus ( Ant . viii. 6, 5), who confounds שׁבא with סבא, and the Abyssinian Christians suppose (vid., Ludolfi hist. Aeth . ii. 3), but the kingdom of the Sabaeans, who were celebrated for their trade in incense, gold, and precious stones, and who dwelt in Arabia Felix, with the capital Saba, or the Μαριάβα of the Greeks. This queen, who is called Balkis in the Arabian legend (cf. Koran, Sur . 27, and Pococke, Specim. hist. Arab . p. 60), heard the fame of Solomon יהוה לשׁם ; i.e., not “at the naming of the name of Jehovah” (Böttcher), nor “in respect of the glory of the Lord, with regard to that which Solomon had instituted for the glory of the Lord” (Thenius); nor even “serving to the glorification of God” (de Wette and Maurer); but literally, “belonging to the name of the Lord:” in other words, the fame which Solomon had acquired through the name of the Lord, or through the fact that the Lord had so glorified Himself in him (Ewald and Dietrich in Ges. Lex. s.v . ל ). “She came to try him with riddles,” i.e., to put his wisdom to the test by carrying on a conversation with him in riddles. The love of the Arabs for riddles, and their superiority in this jeu d'esprit, is sufficiently well known from the immense extent to which the Arabic literature abounds in Mashals . We have only to think of the large collections of proverbs made by Ali ben Abi Taleb and Meidani, or the Makamen of Hariri, which have been made accessible to all by F. Rückert's masterly translation into German, and which are distinguished by an amazing fulness of word-play and riddles. חידה, a riddle, is a pointed saying which merely hints at the deeper truth and leaves it to be guessed.

1 Kings 10:2-3

As the queen of a wealthy country, she came with a very large retinue. חיל does not mean a military force or an armed escort (Thenius), but riches, property; namely, her numerous retinue of men ( עבדים, 1 Kings 10:13), and camels laden with valuable treasures. The words יקרה ... גּמלּים are an explanatory circumstantial clause, both here and also in the Chronicles, where the cop. Vav stands before גּמלּים (cf. Ewald, §341, a ., b .). “And spake to Solomon all that she had upon her heart,” i.e., in this connection, whatever riddles she had it in her mind to lay before him; “and Solomon told her all her sayings,” i.e., was able to solve all her riddles. There is no ground for thinking of sayings of a religious nature, as the earlier commentators supposed, but simply of sayings the meaning of which was concealed, and the understanding of which indicated very deep wisdom.

1 Kings 10:4-5

She saw הבּית, i.e., Solomon's palace, not the temple, and “the food of his table,” i.e., both the great variety of food that was placed upon the king's table (1 Kings 5:2-3), and also the costly furniture of the table (1 Kings 10:21), and “the seat of his retainers and the standing of his servants,” i.e., the places in the palace assigned to the ministers and servants of the king, which were contrived with wisdom and arranged in a splendid manner. עבדים are the chief officers of the king, viz., ministers, counsellors, and aides de camp ; משׁרתים, the court servants; מושׁב, the rooms of the courtiers in attendance; מעמד, the standing-place, i.e., the rooms of the inferior servants, “and their clothing,” which they received from the king; and משׁקיו, not his cup-bearers (lxx, Vulg.), but as in Genesis 40:21, the drink, i.e., probably the whole of the drinking arrangements; ועלתו, and his ascent, by which he was accustomed to go into the house of Jehovah. עלה does not mean burnt-offering here, as the older translators have rendered it, but ascent, as in Ezekiel 40:26, and as the Chronicles have correctly explained it by עליּתו . For burnt-offering is not to be thought of in this connection, because the queen had nothing to see or to be astonished at in the presentation of such an offering. עלתו is most likely “the king's outer entrance” into the temple, mentioned in 2 Kings 16:18; and the passage before us would lead us to suppose that this was a work of art, or an artistic arrangement. וגו היה ולא, “and there was no more spirit in her:” she was beside herself with amazement, as in Joshua 5:1; Joshua 2:11.

1 Kings 10:6-9

She then said with astonishment to Solomon, that of what her eyes now saw she had not heard the half, through the report which had reached her of his affairs and of his wisdom, and which had hitherto appeared incredible to her; and not only congratulated his servants, who stood continually near him and could hear his wisdom, but also praised Jehovah his God, that out of His eternal love to His people Israel He had given them a king to do justice and righteousness. The earlier theologians inferred from this praising of Jehovah, which involved faith in the true God, when taken in connection with Matthew 12:42, that this queen had been converted to the true God, and conversed with Solomon on religious matters. But, as we have already observed at 1 Kings 5:7, an acknowledgment of Jehovah as the God of Israel was reconcilable with polytheism. And the fact that nothing is said about her offering sacrifice in the temple, shows that the conversion of the queen is not to be thought of here.

1 Kings 10:10

She thereupon presented to Solomon a hundred and twenty talents of gold (more than three million thalers nearly half a million sterling - Tr.]), and a very large quantity of spices and precious stones. The בּשׂמים probably included the genuine balsam of Arabia, even if בּשׂם was not the specific name of the genuine balsam. “There never more came so much of such spices of Jerusalem.” Instead of לרב עוד ... בּא לא we find in the Chronicles, 1 Kings 10:9, simply היה לא, “there was nothing like this balsam,” which conveys the same meaning though expressed more indefinitely, since ההוּא ecni כּבּשׂם points back to the preceding words, “balsam (spices) in great quantity.”

(Note: It was this which gave rise to the legend in Josephus ( Ant . viii. 6, 6), that it was through this queen that the root of the true balsam ( Opobalsamum ), which was afterwards cultivated in gardens at Jericho and Engedi, was first of all brought to Palestine (cf. Movers, Phönizier, ii. 3, p. 226ff.).

1 Kings 10:11-12

The allusion to these costly presents leads the historian to introduce the remark here, that the Ophir fleet also brought, in addition to gold, a large quantity of Algummim wood (see at 1 Kings 9:28) and precious stones. Of this wood Solomon had מסעד or מסלּות made for the temple and palace. מסעד, from סעד, signifies a support, and מסלּה may be a later form for סלּם, a flight of steps or a staircase, so that we should have to think of steps with bannisters. This explanation is at any rate a safer one than that of “divans” (Thenius), which would have been quite out of place in the temple, or “narrow pannelled stripes on the floor” (Bertheau), which cannot in the smallest degree be deduced from מסעד, or “support = moveables, viz., tables, benches, footstools, boxes, and drawers” (Böttcher), which neither harmonizes with the temple, where there was no such furniture, nor with the מסלּות of the Chronicles. “And guitars and harps for the singers,” probably for the temple singers. כּנּור and נבל are string instruments; the former resembling our guitar rather than the harp, the strings being carried over the sounding-board upon a bridge, the latter being of a pitcher shape without any sounding bridge, as in the case of the harps.

1 Kings 10:13

Solomon gave the queen of Saba all that she wished and asked for, beside what he gave her “according to the hand,” i.e., the might, of the king; that is to say, in addition to the presents answering to his might and his wealth, which he was obliged to give as a king, according to the Oriental custom. In the Chronicles (1 Kings 10:12) we find “beside that which she had brought ( הביאה ) to the king,” which is an abbreviated expression for “beside that which he gave her in return for what she had brought to him,” or beside the return presents corresponding to her gifts to him, as it has been already correctly paraphrased by the Targum.

Verse 14-15

Solomon's Wealth and the Use He Made of It (cf. 2 Chronicles 9:13-21). - 1 Kings 10:14. The gold which Solomon received in one year amounted to 666 talents, - more than seventeen million thalers (two million and a half sterling - Tr.). 666 is evidently a round number founded upon an approximative valuation. אחת בּשׁנה is rendered in the Vulg. per annos singulos ; but this is hardly correct, as the Ophir fleet, the produce of which is at any rate included, did not arrive every year, but once in three years. Thenius is wrong in supposing that this revenue merely applies to the direct taxes levied upon the Israelites. It includes all the branches of Solomon's revenue, whether derived from his commerce by sea and land (cf. 1 Kings 10:28, 1 Kings 10:29) or from the royal domains (1 Chronicles 27:26-31), or received in the form of presents from foreign princes, who either visited him like the queen of Saba or sent ambassadors to him (1 Kings 10:23, 1 Kings 10:24), excepting the duties and tribute from conquered kings, which are specially mentioned in 1 Kings 10:15. הת מאנשׁי לבד, beside what came in ( לשׁלמה בּא ) from the travelling traders and the commerce of the merchants, and from all the kings, etc. התּרים אנשׁי (a combination resembling our merchantmen; cf. Ewald, §287, e., p. 721) are probably the tradesmen or smaller dealers who travelled about in the country, and רכלים the wholesale dealers. This explanation of תּרים cannot be rendered doubtful by the objection that תּוּר only occurs elsewhere in connection with the wandering about of spies; for רכל signified originally to go about, spy out, or retail scandal, and after that to trade, and go about as a tradesman. הערב מלכי are not kings of the auxiliary and allied nations (Chald., Ges.), but kings of the mixed population, and according to Jeremiah 25:24, more especially of the population of Arabia Deserta ( בּמּדבּר השּׁכנים ), which bordered upon Palestine; for ערב rof is a mixed crowd of all kinds of men, who either attach themselves to a nation (Exodus 12:38), or live in the midst of it as foreigners (Nehemiah 13:3), hence a number of mercenaries (Jeremiah 50:37). In 2 Chronicles 9:14, הערב is therefore correctly explained by the term ערב, which does not mean the whole of Arabia, but “only a tract of country not very extensive on the east and south of Palestine” (Gesenius), as these tribes were tributary of Solomon. הארץ פּחות, the governors of the land, are probably the officers named in 1 Kings 4:7-19. As they collected the duties in the form of natural productions and delivered them in that form, so also did the tradesmen and merchants pay their duties, and the subjugated pastoral tribes of Arabia their tribute, in natura . This explains in a very simple manner why these revenues are separated from the revenue of Solomon which came in the form of money. פּחה is a foreign word, which first found its way into the Hebrew language after the times of the Assyrians, and sprang from the Sanscrit paksha , a companion or friend, which took the form of pakkha in Prakrit, and probably of pakha in the early Persian (vid., Benfey and Stern, die Monatsnamen, p. 195).

Verse 16-17

Solomon had 500 ornamental shields made, 200 larger ones ( צנּים, scuta, targets), and 300 smaller ( מגנּים, clypei ). These shields, like all the shields of the ancients, were made of wood or basket-work, and covered with gold plate instead of leather (see my bibl. Archäol . ii. pp. 296ff.). שׁחוּט זהב does not mean aurum jugulatum , i.e., gold mixed with metal of a different kind, but, as Kimchi has shown, aurum diductum , beaten gold, from שׁחט, to stretch; since Solomon would certainly use pure gold for these ornamental shields. “Six hundred shekels of gold he spread upon one target,” that is to say, he used for gilding one target. Six hundred shekels would weigh about 17 1/2 lbs., so that the value of the gold upon a target would be more than 5000 thalers (£750 ), supposing that the Mosaic shekel is meant. But this is rendered doubtful by the fact that the gold upon the small shields is estimated at three minae. If, for example, the three minae are equal to three hundred shekels, according to 2 Chronicles 9:16, as is generally assumed, a hundred shekels are reckoned as one mina; and as the mina only contained fifty Mosaic shekels, according to Ezekiel 45:12, the reference must be to shekels after the king's weight (2 Samuel 14:26), which were only half the sacred shekels (see my bibl. Archäol . ii. p. 135). Consequently the gold plate upon one target was not quite 9 lbs., and that upon a shield not quite 4 1/2 lbs. These shields were intended for the body-guard to carry on state occasions (1 Kings 14:27-28; 2 Chronicles 12:10), and were kept in the house of the forest of Lebanon (1 Kings 7:2).

Verses 18-20

Solomon had a great throne of ivory made, and had it overlaid with fine gold. כּסּא־שׁן is not a throne made of ivory, but one merely ornamented with ivory; and we are to imagine the gilding as effected by laying the gold simply upon the wood, and inserting the ivory within the gold plate. מוּפז, a hophal participle of פּזז : aurum depuratum , hence = טהור in 2 Chronicles 9:17. The throne had six steps, and a “rounded head on the hinder part thereof,” i.e., a back which was arched above or rounded off,

(Note: Instead of מאחריו לכּסּה עגול וראשׁ we have in the Chronicles מאחזים לכּסּא בּזּהב וכבשׁ, “ and a footstool in gold fastened to the throne ” (the plural מאחזים refers to the footstool and the steps). Now, however easily מאחזים may have been written by mistake for מאחריו, זהב כבשׁ cannot have grown out of עגול ראשׁ by any such mistake. The quid-pro-quo of the lxx for עגול rof xxl ראשׁ, προτομαὶ μόσχων, in which עגול is certainly confounded with עגל, does not warrant the conjecture of Thenius, that the Chronicler found עגל in his original and substituted כּבשׂ (lamb), whereupon כּבשׂ (lamb) was changed by another hand into כּבשׁ footstep, and ראשׁ was dropped altogether.)

and ירת, arms, i.e., arms on both sides of the seat ( השּׁבת מקום ), and two lions standing by the side of the arms. Beside this there were twelve lions upon the six steps, namely two upon each step, one on this side and one on that. Instead of אריים (1 Kings 10:20) we find ארירת in 1 Kings 10:19, just as we do in both verses of the Chronicles, not because the reference is to artificial, inanimate figures and not to natural lions, as Thenius supposes, but because the plural ending ים - is an unusual one with this word; and even where natural lions are spoken of, we always find ארירת in other passages (cf. Judges 14:5; 2 Samuel 1:23; 2 Kings 17:25; Song of Solomon 4:8, etc.). The lions were symbols of the ruler's authority; and the twelve lions upon the steps may possibly have pointed to the rule over the twelve tribes of Israel, which was concentrated in the throne; not “watchers of the throne,” as Thenius thinks. This throne was so splendid a work, that the historian observes that nothing of the kind had ever been made for any other kingdom. Upon the early Assyrian monuments we do indeed find high seats depicted, which are very artistically worked, and provided with backs and arms, and some with the arms supported by figures of animals (see Layard's Nineveh and its Remains, vol. ii. p. 301), but none resembling Solomon's throne. It is not till a later age that the more splendid thrones appear (vid., Rosenmüller, A. u. N. Morgenland, iii. pp. 176ff.).

Verse 21-22

The drinking vessels of Solomon also were all of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon of costly gold ( סגוּר : see at 1 Kings 6:20). Silver was counted as nothing, because the Tarshish fleet arrived once in three years, bringing gold, silver, etc. (see at 1 Kings 9:28).

Verses 23-29

In 1 Kings 10:23-29 everything that had to be stated concerning the wealth, wisdom, and revenue of Solomon is summed up as conclusion (cf. 2 Chronicles 9:22-28 and 2 Chronicles 1:14-17).

1 Kings 10:23-25

1 Kings 10:23, 1 Kings 10:24 point back to 1 Kings 5:9-14. ויּגדּל : Solomon became greater, not was greater, on account of the Vâv consec . כּל־הארץ, all the world, corresponds to כּל־העמּים in 1 Kings 5:14. The foreigners out of all lands, who came on account of his wisdom, brought Solomon presents: gold and silver vessels, clothes ( שׂלמות, court dresses, which are still customary presents in the East), נשׁק, armour, spices, horses and mules.

1 Kings 10:26-27

1 Kings 10:26 is simply a repetition of 1 Kings 5:6 (compare also 1 Kings 9:19); and 1 Kings 10:27 is merely a further extension of 1 Kings 10:21. The words of 1 Kings 10:27, “Solomon made silver like stones in Jerusalem, and cedars like the sycamores in the lowland for abundance,” are a hyperbolical description of his collection of enormous quantities of precious metals and costly wood. שׁקמים, sycomori, mulberry fig-trees, are very rare in Palestine in its present desolate state (see Rob. Pal . iii. 27), and are only met in any abundance in Egypt; but in ancient times they abounded in the lowlands of Palestine to such an extent, that they were used as common building wood (vid., Isaiah 9:9, on which Theodoret observes, τούτων ( συκαμίνων ) ἡ Παλαιστίνη πεπλήρωται ). According to 1 Chronicles 27:28, the sycamore forests in the lowland of Judah were royal domains.

1 Kings 10:28-29

(cf. 2 Chronicles 1:16-17). “And (as for) the going out of horses from Egypt for Solomon, a company of king's merchants fetched (horses) for a definite price.” This is the only possible explanation of the verse according to the Masoretic punctuation; but to obtain it, the first מקוה must be connected with סחרי in opposition to the accents, and the second must be pointed מקוה . This is the rendering adopted by Gesenius in his Thesaurus and Lexicon (ed. Dietr. s. v . מקוה ). The meaning company or troop may certainly be justified from Genesis 1:10; Exodus 7:19, and Leviticus 11:36, where the word signifies an accumulation of water. Still there is something very strange not only in the application of the word both to a company of traders and also to a troop of horses, but also in the omission of סוּסים (horses) after the second מקוה . Hence the rendering of the lxx and Vulgate deserves attention, and may possibly be the one to be preferred (as Michaelis, Bertheau on Chron ., and Movers assume). The translators of these versions have taken מקוה as the name of a place, ἐξ Ἐκουέ, or rather ἐκ Κουέ, de Coa .

(Note: That Κουέ or Κωέ is the earliest reading of the lxx, and not the ἐκ Θεκουέ of the Cod. Vat. and Alex., is very evident from the statement which we find in the Onomast . of Eusebius ( ed. Larsow et Parth . p. 260), Κώδ, πλησίον Αἰγύπτου ; for which Jerome has Coa, quae est juxta Aegyptum, after the Vulgate.)

According to this, the rendering would be: “And as for the going out of horses from Egypt and Koa (or Kawe) for Solomon, the king's traders fetched them from Joa (Kawe) for a fixed price.” It is true that the situation of Koa cannot be more precisely defined; but there seems to be very little doubt that it was a place for the collection of customs upon the frontier of Egypt.

1 Kings 10:29

“And there came up and went out a chariot from Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse for a hundred and fifty shekels; and so (in the same manner as for Solomon) they led them out for all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Aram through their hand.” מרכּבה, like רכב in 2 Samuel 8:4; 2 Samuel 10:18, and Ezekiel 39:20, denotes a chariot with the team of horses belonging to it, possibly three horses (see at 1 Kings 5:6), not quadriga (Clericus and others), or two draught horses and two as a reserve (Thenius). For the inference, that if a horse cost 150 shekels, a team of four would be obtained for 600, is not quite a certain one, since the chariot itself would certainly not be given in. A hundred and fifty shekels are a little more than 130 thalers ( § 19, 10s. - Tr.), and 600 would be 525 thalers ( § 78, 15s.). These amounts are sufficient to show how untenable the opinion of Movers is, that the sums mentioned are not the prices paid for horses and chariots, but the payment made for their exit, or the customs duty. And his other opinion is quite equally erroneous, namely that the chariots and horses were state carriages and horses of luxury intended for the king. - The merchants are called the king's traders, not because a portion of their profits went into the royal treasury as the tax upon trade (Bertheau), nor as the brokers who bought for the king (Thenius), but because they carried on their trade for the king's account. בּידם cannot be adduced as evidence to the contrary; for linguists require no proof that this cannot mean “ auf ihre Hand ,” as Thenius assumes. Böttcher's explanation is the right one, namely, “through their hand,” inasmuch as they brought the horses and chariots themselves even to those kings who lived at a greater distance, without employing intermediate agents. The kings of the חתּים, the Hittites in the wider sense (= Canaanites, as in Joshua 1:4; 2 Kings 7:6; Ezekiel 16:3), and of Aram, were in part Solomon's vassals, since his rule extended over all the Canaanites with the exception of the Phoenicians, and over several kingdoms of Aram.

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The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on 1 Kings 10". 1854-1889.