THE QUEEN OF SHEBA AND SOLOMON
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
1Ki . Queen of Sheba—The Arabs and Abyssinians both claim this queen, and surround this historic visit with rival legends (comp. Stanley's Jewish Church, pp. 259-262). The former name her Balkis; the latter, Maqueda. But the country here denoted is שְׁבָא in Arabia Felix, Saba, the capital of the Sabean kingdom of Yemen, and not סְבָא (with which Josephus confounds it)—i.e., Meroë in African Ethiopia, viz., Abyssinia. Fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord—Words לְשֵׁם יְהֹוָה difficult of interpretation: De Wette, to Jehovah's honour; Ewald, through the glory of Jehovah; Weil, by Jehovah so glorifying Himself in him; Gesenius, by Jehovah's favour; Keil, in regard to the name of the Lord. Hard questions—Riddles or enigmas.
1Ki . Spices, very much gold, and precious stones—Saba, or ΄αριάβα, in Arabia Felix, was abundant in these valuables, and its inhabitants were celebrated among Hebrews and Greeks for extensive trade in these products.
1Ki . House—i.e., his own palace, for things mentioned in 1Ki 10:5 belonged to the palace.
1Ki . His ascent by which he went up, &c.—All the versions (Sept., Chald., Syr., and Vulg.) read burnt offerings which he offered up in, &c.; but Keil, Winer, Ewald, and others, retain the reading in A. V. Probably it was an arched viaduct leading from the palace to the temple (2Ki 16:18), the remains of which have recently been discovered.
1Ki . An hundred and twenty talents of gold = £720,000: and spices— בְשָׂמִים, from בשׂם probably balsam.
1Ki . Almug trees—2Ch 9:10-11, has "algum wood." most probably red sandal wood.
1Ki . Pillars— מִסְעָד. This word occurs here only, and its meaning is doubtful, though its root, מָעַד, means to support, make sure. Keil and Ewald think balustrades; Jarchi and Lange, tessellated pavements.
1Ki . Solomon's revenue—666 talents=£3,996,000.
HOMILETICS OF 1Ki
THE LOVE OF WISDOM
I. Exceeds the love of wealth and station. Here was a woman occupying the most illustrious position, the queen of a country so highly favoured that it was called "The Happy Land," and possessing unlimited resources, as the splendour of her retinue and the richness of her presents indicated, smitten with a love of that which was to her more precious than crown or sceptre. There are wants in man which neither riches nor honours can satisfy. The deep questionings and eager longings of the heart can be met only by the solutions of a higher wisdom. "It is a good thing to doubt, better to be resolved. The mind that never doubts, shall learn nothing: the mind that ever doubts, shall never profit by learning. Our doubts only serve to stir us up to seek truth: our resolutions settle us in the truth we have found. There were no pleasure in resolutions if we had not been formerly troubled with doubts. There were nothing but discomfort and disquietness in doubts, if it were not for the hope of resolution. It is not safe to suffer doubts to dwell too long upon the heart; there may be good use of them as passengers, dangerous as inmates. Happy are we if we can find a Solomon to remove them."—Bp. Hall. Many sacrifice wealth, comfort, position, and even health itself, in a life-long pursuit after truth.
II. Inspires the soul with courage and enterprize in its search. Undismayed by distance or the difficulties of travel, this rich and powerful queen journeyed from the remotest South to Jerusalem, not for the purpose of merchandise or political alliance, but purely in search of wisdom. "We know merchants who venture to either Indies for wealth; others we know daily to cross the seas for wanton curiosity. Some few philosophers we have known to have gone far for learning; and amongst princes it is no unusual thing to send their ambassadors to far distant kingdoms for transaction of business, either of state or commerce. But that a royal lady should in person undertake and overcome so tedious a journey, only to observe and inquire into the mysteries of nature, art, and religion, is a thing unparalleled. Why do we think any labour great, or any way long, to hear a greater than Solomon? How justly shall the Queen of the South rise up in judgment and condemn us who may hear wisdom crying in our streets, and neglect her!" Man will venture everything for that which he loves. Love is the soul and strength of bravery. The love of wisdom is ennobling.
III. Gives an aptitude in acquiring its rarest treasures (1Ki ). The queen came as an enquirer, to prove Solomon with hard questions. Great art is required in asking questions; and it is only a passionate love for the science in which we are specially interested that guides the mind to the most important points on which light is needed. In most things "love sees not with the eye, but with the mind;" and its divinings are subtle and wonderfully verified. "The spirit of this asking of questions and solving of dark riddles is of the very nature of the Socratic wisdom itself. ‘To ask questions rightly,' said Lord Bacon, ‘is the half of knowledge.' ‘Life without cross-examination is no life at all,' said Socrates. And of this stimulating process, of this eager enquiry, of this cross-examining of our thoughts, bringing new meanings out of old words, Solomon is the first example. When we enquire, when we question, when we are restless in our search after truth, when we seek it from unexpected quarters, we are but following in the steps of the Wise King of Judah and the Wise Queen of Sheba."—Stanley. The enquiries of the royal student were fully and satisfactorily answered (1Ki 10:3). Happy are they whose doubts are resolved, and whose hearts are set at rest.
IV. Reverently acknowledges its Divine origin (1Ki ). And if this great personage admire the wisdom, the buildings, the domestic order of Solomon, and chiefly his stately ascent into the House of the Lord, how should our souls be taken up with wonder at thee, O thou true Son of David, and Prince of Everlasting Peace, who receivedst the Spirit not by measure, who has built this glorious house not made with hands, even the heaven of heavens, whose infinite Providence hath sweetly disposed of all the family of thy creatures, both in heaven and earth; and who didst ascend on high and leddest captivity captive, and gavest gifts to men.—Bishop Hall. True wisdom is from above, and bears the indelible impress of its heavenly origin (Jas 3:17). A generous spirit will acknowledge and admire the genius which he finds in another: a devout spirit will trace all gifts to their Divine source, and adore the affluence and wisdom of the Giver.
1. Wisdom is worthy of diligent self-denying search. 2. A saving knowledge of Christ, who is the wisdom of God, is the highest and only satisfying wisdom.
This passage may be also homiletically treated as follows:—
THE QUEEN OF SHEBA, A TYPE OF THE HEATHEN SEEKING AFTER TRUTH
It was no uncommon thing in ancient times for men to travel far in search of wisdom. They would traverse seas, and deserts, and mountains to visit the spots famous for learning, and to converse with men celebrated in philosophy. The increased facilities with which the most distant countries are now reached, and the vast number of people who now travel with such variety of objects, do not admit of the career of a seeker of knowledge being so noticeable as of yore. And yet the search for increased light is not less earnest, and it is certainly more general. The cry of the dying Goethe is the cry of millions to-day, "Light, more light!" The Queen of Sheba is a type of the intense desire with which thousands outside the circle of Christian teaching are seeking after truth.
I. There is the admission of conscious need. The Queen of Sheba possessed everything that could minister to her temporal enjoyment. She had wealth, prosperity, rank, power; but these did not satisfy the cravings of her soul. There was a sense of something still needed in order to attain happiness. That something was the wisdom described and extolled in Pro . The sense of need is the spur which goads the soul onward in its weary, painful search for rest. The sinner never seeks forgiveness till he is first conscious of his sin; he never flees for safety till he is roused to a sense of danger. Our fitness to receive the blessings of the gospel is the humble confession of our need. God delights to fill the empty, to feed the hungry, to cheer the disconsolate.
II. There is the eagerness with which the intelligence of clearer light is welcomed. The Sheban Queen "heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord" (1Ki ). God hath no use of the dark lanterns of secret and reserved perfections: we ourselves do not light up candles to put them under bushels. The great lights, whether of heaven or earth, are not intended to obscurity; but as to give light unto others, so to be seen themselves. Dan and Beersheba were too strait bounds for the fame of Solomon, which now had flown over lands and seas, and raised the world to an admiration of his more than human wisdom. Even so, O thou Everlasting King of Peace! Thy name is great among the Gentiles. There is no speech nor language where the report of Thee is not heard. Fame, as it is always a blab, so ofttimes a liar. The wise princess found cause to distrust so uncertain an informer, whose reports are either doubtful or fabulous, and, like winds or streams, increase in passing. This great queen would not suffer herself to be led by ears, but comes in person to examine the truth. How much more unsafe is it, in the most important businesses of our souls, to trust the opinions and reports of others! Those eyes and ears are ill bestowed that do not serve to choose and judge for their owners.—Bp. Hall. The anxious enquirer hails with joy the faintest glimmer of light which will conduct him out of the dark labyrinth in which he has been so long wandering; as the inhabitant of the Polar Regions, shut up in darkness for the greater part of the year, rejoices to descry the first rosy rays of dawn kindling on the snow-clad mountain tops, which announce to him the approach of the summer, during which the sun never sets.
III. There is the willingness to seek truth wherever it may be found. "And she came to Jerusalem," &c. (1Ki ). She spared neither expense nor trouble; the toils and dangers of travel did not intimidate, the scorn and contempt of the world did not trouble. The soul-hunger for the word of life, the desire to know something about the name of Jehovah, enabled her to overcome all difficulties, and brave all perils. "How superior is this heathen woman to many Christians who hunger and thirst after all possible things, but never after a knowledge of truth and wisdom." The sincere seeker after truth will press through fire and water, will sunder the dearest ties of relationship, will sacrifice the most brilliant prospects in life, to attain the goal where light and rest and peace are to be found (e.g., the history of Sakya-Muni, founder of Buddhism).
IV. There is the joyous acknowledgment of the truth (1Ki ).
1. This acknowledgment was the result of overwhelming conviction. "When the queen had seen all Solomon's wisdom, &c., there was no more spirit in her" (1Ki ). She saw, examined, and judged for herself; the evidence was ample, and the conviction irresistible. The reality of Solomon's ability and greatness exceeded all she had heard. The profession of truth that is not based on clear and profound conviction will not be permanent. The true order is laid down by the apostle: "We believe, and therefore speak" (2Co 4:13).
2. This acknowledgment was freely and generously rendered (1Ki ). An unprejudiced mind will readily and cheerfully admit the force of truth. It is weak, it is dishonest, not to act up to the deepest convictions of the soul. The martyrs and confessors bore nobly their testimony in the presence of cruelty and death.
3. This acknowledgment recognized the Divine source of truth (1Ki ). Perhaps the heathen queen was turned from her dumb idols, henceforth to worship the living and true God. This was a general belief among Jewish writers. God is the fountain of all truth; and He should be praised continually for the abundant revelations with which He has favoured the race.
V. There is the practical manifestation of a grateful heart (1Ki ). The queen brought presents of gold, of precious stones, and fragrant spices. The test of our gratitude to God is seen in what we give to him. Few give according to their ability, none in proportion to the blessings received. "How should we bring unto Thee, O Thou King of Heaven, the purest gold of Thine own graces, the sweet odour of our obedience. Was not this withal a type of that homage which should be done unto Thee, O Saviour, by the heads of the nations? The kings of Tarshish and the isles bring presents; the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts, yea, all kings shall worship Thee, all nations shall serve Thee (Isaiah 60). They cannot enrich themselves, but by giving unto Thee." True wisdom cannot be bought with gold, but too much gold cannot be spent in its attainment and propagation. It cannot be too dearly bought, not too far fetched.
1. Great is the responsibility of that nation which possesses the light of Divine Truth.
2. A sincere seeker after Truth shall not seek in vain.
3. The eagerness with which the heathen embraces the Truth is a rebuke to the cold indifference of more highly favoured nations.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
1Ki . The Queen of Sheba comes to Solomon.
1. She comes in order to hear the wisdom of Solomon.
2. She finds more than she expected.
3. She worships and praises the Lord for what she has seen and heard.
4. She returns home in peace, with rich gifts. Solomon receiving the Queen of Sheba a type of Christ (Mat ).
1. He did not reject her who sought Him, but raised her up (JJohn ).
2. He solved her questions, and showed her His glory (Joh ; Joh 1:14; Joh 6:68). 3. He accepted her gifts, and gave her much more in return, even all that she desired and requested (Joh 10:11; Joh 10:28; Joh 16:24; Joh 4:13).
1Ki . The dissolving of doubts (compared with Dan 5:16). Doubts and questions arc the common lot and heritage of humanity. They vary in their subjects and times, but we have them always on hand. We live just now in a specially doubting age, where almost every matter of feeling is openly doubted, or, it may be, openly denied. Science puts everything in question, and literature distils the questions, making an atmosphere of them. We doubt both creation and Creator. We doubt free agency and responsibility, immortality and salvation, the utility of prayer and worship, and even of repentance for sin. And these sweeping, desolating doubts run through all grades of minds, all modes and spheres of life, as it were telegraphically, present as powers of the air to unchristen the new born thoughts of religion as fast as they arrive. The cultivated and mature have the doubts ingrown they know not how, and the younger minds encounter their subtle visitations when they do not seek them. And the more active-minded they are, and the more thoughts they have on the subject of religion, the more likely they are (unless anchored by true faith in God) to be drifted away from all the most solid and serious convictions even before they are aware of it.
Note the three principal sources and causes whence our doubts arise, and from which they get force to make their assault. They never come of truth or high discovery, but always of the want of it.
1. All the truths of religion are inherently dubitable. They are only what are called probable, never necessary truths like the truths of geometry or of numbers. In these we have the premises in our very minds themselves. In all other matters we have the premises to find. Now this field of probable truth is the whole field of religion, and of course it is competent for doubt to cover it in every part and item.
2. We begin life as unknowing creatures that have everything to learn. We grope, and groping is doubt; we handle, we question, we guess, we experiment, beginning in darkness and stumbling on towards intelligence. We are in a doom of activity, and cannot stop thinking—thinking of everything—knocking against the walls on every side; trying thus to master the problems, and about as often getting mastered by them. Yeast works in bread scarcely more blindly.
3. It is a fact that our faculty is itself in disorder. A broken or bent telescope will not see anything rightly. A filthy window will not bring in even the day as it is. So a mind wrenched from its true lines of action, or straight perception, discoloured and smirched by evil, will not see truly, but will put a blurred, misshapen look on everything. To show not how doubts may be stopped, for that is impossible, but only how they may be dissolved, or cleared away, observe:—
I. Doubters never can dissolve or extirpate their doubts by inquiry, search, investigation, or any kind of speculative endeavour. They must never go after the truth to merely find it, but to practise it, and live by it. It is not enough to rally their inventiveness, doing nothing to polarize their aim. They imagine, it may be, that they are going first to settle their questions, and then, at their leisure, to act. As if they were going to get the perfect system, and complete knowledge of truth, before they move an inch in doing what they know! No, there is no fit search after truth which does not, first of all, begin to live the truth it knows.
II. There is a way for dissolving any and all doubts—a way that opens at a very small gate, but widens wonderfully after you pass. Every human soul, at a certain first point of its religious outfit, has a key given it, which is to be the open sesame of all right discovery. Using this key as it may be used, any lock is opened, any doubt dissolved. Thus every man acknowledges the distinction of right and wrong, feels the reality of that distinction, knows it by immediate consciousness even as he knows himself. Here is the key that opens everything. The true way of dissolving doubts is to begin at the beginning, and do the first thing first. Say nothing of investigation, till you have made sure of being grounded everlastingly, and with a completely whole intent, in the principle of right doing as a principle. And here it is that all unreligious men are at fault, and often without knowing, or even suspecting it. They do right things enough in the out-door, market sense of the term, and count that being right. But let them ask the question, "Have I ever consented to be, and am I really now, in the right, as in principle and supreme law; to live for it, to make any sacrifice it will cost me, to believe everything it will bring me to see, to be a confessor of Christ as soon as it appears to be enjoined upon me, to go on a mission to the world's end if due conviction sends me, to change my occupation for good conscience' sake, to repair whatever wrong I have done to another, to be humbled, if I should, before my worst enemy, to do complete justice to God, and, if I could, to all worlds—in a word, to be in wholly right intent, and have no mind but this for ever?" Ah! how soon do they discover possibly, in this manner, that they are right only so far as they can be, and not be at all right as in principle—right as doing some right things, nothing more. As certainly as the new right mind begins, it will be as if the whole heaven were bursting out in day. This is what Christ calls the single eye, and the whole body is inevitably full of light. This is the menstruum by which all doubts may be dissolved. How surely and how fast they fly away, even as fogs are burned away by the sun!
1. Be never afraid of doubt.
2. Be afraid of all sophistries and tricks and strifes of disingenuous argument.
3. Have it as a fixed principle that getting into any scornful way is fatal.
4. Never settle upon anything as true because it is safer to hold it than not.
5. Have it as a law never to put force on the mind, or try to make it believe, because it spoils the mind's integrity; and when that is gone, what power of advance in the truth is left?
6. Never be in a hurry to believe, never try to conquer doubts against time.—Condensed from Bushnell.
1Ki . Words must be followed by works: the beholding with her own eyes, and her very own experience, must be added to the rumours she has heard. Nathaniel, when he heard of Jesus the Messiah, spoke doubtingly at first—Can any good come out of Nazareth? But when he came and saw, he joyfully exclaimed, "Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel" (Joh 1:45-49). As in order to form a just conception of visible things we must see them with our own eyes, so also with invisible and Divine things: rightly to recognize them as such, we must feel and taste their strength in our own heart, and not merely hear of them from others (1Pe 2:3; Psa 34:9).
1Ki . Great palaces, brilliant arrangements, &c., are objects worthy of real admiration if they are not evidently mere works to gratify the lust of the eye and the pride of life, but rather proofs of wisdom, of spiritual elevation, and of love of art. The scene here described receives very aptillustration from the Assyrian banquet scenes, where we have numerous guests sitting, dressed handsomely in fringed robes, with armlets upon their arms, and bracelets round their wrists, attendants standing behind them, and magnificent drinking cups, evidently of a costly metal, in the hands of the guests, which are filled from a great winebowl at one end of the chamber.—Ancient Monarchies.
1Ki . Not because of their fine clothes, of their high position, of their splendid possessions, did the queen regard the people and the servants of Solomon as blessed and happy; but because they could always listen to his wisdom. How much the more are those to be esteemed blessed who, sitting at His feet who Himself contains all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge, can hear the word of everlasting life from His mouth (Luk 10:23).—Lange.
1Ki . Christ the Head and King of the church. When the Queen of Sheba came from the South to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and saw his buildings, provisions, ministers, and servants, she acknowledged and praised Jehovah, as the Author of Solomon's advancement. She observes that it was an evidence of God's special regard to him that he was set on the throne of Israel, God's peculiar people; and she further observes that it was a token of God's great and everlasting love to Israel that so wise and pious a prince was set over them. With much more justice may these words be applied to our Lord Jesus Christ, whom God hath "set as King on His holy hill Zion;" and we may say, with humble and devout praise, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which delighteth in Him to make Him Head and King of the church. Because the Lord loved mankind, and was desirous to save them for ever, therefore He made His Son King, to do judgment and justice." Let us see how the words are applicable to Christ, and what reason we have to bless God for so wise and gracious an appointment.
I. The designation or appointment of Christ to be Head and King of the church was an evident instance of God's delight in Him. Thus a great honour was conferred upon the Son of God. It is an honour to be any way employed for God. In this view the work of Christian ministers is honourable, and it becomes them to "magnify their office." It is an honour to the angels to be the "ministers of God, and do his pleasure." But signal honour was conferred upon Christ, in being invested with so great authority, exalted to so extensive a dominion, and having all things put under His feet. This was an evidence that He loved righteousness and hated iniquity that God thus exalted Him. For nothing but such a disposition can give one rational being a real excellency and superiority above another. A very great trust was reposed in the Son of God; and that shows God's approbation of Him and delight in Him, no less than recovering God's fallen, sinful creatures to their duty and allegiance, promoting the glory of the great Lord of all, and making so considerable a part of the intelligent creation holy and happy. The Father loved His Son, and hath given all things into His hands. Again, by this appointment the glory and joy of the Redeemer were advanced. Every soul brought into subjection to Him adds to His revenue of praise and honour. He sees of the travail of his soul, and is satisfied. This was the "the joy set before Him." What superior honour can God confer on any being, than to render him an instrument of communicating great, extensive, and lasting happiness to many others? This is making such a being, in an eminent degree, like Himself. Christ hath a large sphere of service for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. There is joy in heaven whenever it prospers; and whenever the whole redeemed are presented faultless before the presence of the Divine glory, it will be to the exceeding joy of Christ Himself, and the highest evidence of God's delight in Him.
II. The appointment of Christ to be King of the church is a remarkable instance of God's love to man. Because He loved the world, He made Jesus Christ King to do justice and judgment. It was an evidence of God's love to man that He appointed prophets and teachers to instruct and reclaim an ignorant, idolatrous, sinful world. But in proportion to the excellency of the persons commissioned to this work, will the Divine love and grace be apparent. It is a merciful scheme to rescue the world from ignorance, superstition, and vice, to erect a spiritual kingdom in it, to destroy the works of the devil, and to deliver men from the worst slavery. But to manifest His Son for this purpose was an astonishing instance of mercy. The perfections of His nature, and especially His moral excellencies, qualify Him for this work. His example illustrates and recommends His precepts, and He is able to bestow every blessing which we can want; to deliver us from everything that would hinder or lessen our happiness, and confer and continue everything that will promote and secure it. How pertinent and useful are such reflections as these in this connection! Did the Queen of Sheba bless the God of Israel for appointing Solomon to be king over it? And shall not I ardently praise Him for exalting a Son to be a Prince and a Saviour? I would consider from what a slavery He redeems us; from ignorance, error, and a thousand irregular lusts and passions. He redeems us to God, brings us into a state of likeness to Him and friendship with Him. He has made effectual provision that we shall not again be enslaved if we will stand fast in our liberty. I would further consider how wisely and graciously He governs us. His laws are all plain, reasonable, wholesome, excellent, enforced by the most powerful sanctions; and gracious allowances are made for our weakness and imperfection. I would consider also to what a state of glory and happiness he will raise all his faithful subjects. He will bring them to His heavenly courts, fix them beyond the reach of enemies, sorrows, and dangers, in a state of perfect holiness and never-ending joy. How affectionately and gratefully should my soul magnify the Lord for this unspeakable gift!
Reflections.—When the queen of Sheba had complimented Solomon on his wisdom, prosperity, and the happiness of his servants, and praised God for making him king, she "gave him much gold, spices, and precious stones." This was a token of her high veneration for him, and gratitude for the favours she had received from him. Thus, when we have been commemorating the goodness of God in exalting His Son to be the Ruler and Saviour of His people, it becomes us to offer our presents to Him. He requireth not, he needeth not gold, and silver, and precious stones. He requireth that we yield ourselves to Him; that we give Him our hearts, and testify our allegiance and subjection, not by this service only, but the obedience of our whole lives; that we submit to His government, and study to promote the interests of His kingdom. This is what we can give, what we ought to give, what alone he will accept.—J. Orton.
1Ki . The interchange of gifts between the queen and Solomon.
1. The queen is not content with words of praise and thanks; she testifies her gratitude by means of great and royal gifts. Of what avail are mere verbal thanks and praise, if the life be devoid of lovely deeds and of cheerful gifts, for the acknowledgment of God's kingdom?
2. Solomon needed not the gifts; he had more than she could give him (1Ki ); he gave her all that heart could desire. What are all our gifts in comparison with those which we receive from the Lord—those which are immeasurably beyond what we ask and seek (Eph 3:20), and where it is more blessed to give than to receive (Act 20:35)!—Lange.
1Ki . The anxious enquirer. I. Perplexed. II. Aroused. III. Seeking. IV. Convinced. V. Satisfied.
1Ki . With a treasure incomparable in value to gold and jewels, the queen joyfully went her way, like the eunuch of Ethiopia. How many are there who return from far journeys into distant lands, rich in gold and substance, but poor in faith and knowledge of the truth! They have lost more than they have won: the queen gained more than she lost.
—The generation of the present day in comparison with the queen of Sheba. I. Its satiety and indifference. II. Its unbelief and its guilt (Mat ).—Lange.
—The exalted mission of a true philosophy.
1. Is to become acquainted with the highest truth.
2. To freely communicate truth to others.
3. To promote the happiness of nations by the active dissemination of truth.
4. To insist upon the imperative claims of truth.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
1Ki . Beside … of the merchantmen, and … merchants—the words rendered "merchantmen," אַנְשֵׁי הַתָּרִים have been conjectured to mean "fines of the subject" (provinces); but, literally, they signify "men of the travellers" i.e., travelling traders dealing in the larger merchandise; then the word "merchants" רֹכְלִים—will mean "pedlers" dealing in inferior wares. Yet הַתָּרִים is used in Num 14:6 of the men Moses sent to view and report upon the land; hence some critics would here render the word by "ambassadors" instead of "merchantmen." All the kings of Arabia— מַלְכֵי הָעֶרֶב, not "of Arabia," the points will not allow of that rendering; צֶרֶב is a mixed multitude; and these "kings" were kings over mixed races—the bordering tribes, Bedouins. These "tributary kings and governors of the country" would bring from their respective provinces, periodically, presents of the produce of their territories (see note on chap. 1Ki 4:7-19).
1Ki . Targets—" צִנָּה is a large square shield, rounded down upon its length, covering the whole body" (Lange).
1Ki . The best gold—Gold of Uphaz. The "throne of ivory" is not to be understood as of solid massive ivory, but inlaid.
1Ki . A navy of Tharshish—Tartessus in Spain, the ancient Phœnician emporium, where silver was so freely obtained; but the better interpretation of the word is Tharshish navy, a common phrase, equivalent to a strongly built fleet. "Silver" could have been gained from Spain, but not the gold, apes, peacocks, or ivory; these were obtainable in Africa.
1Ki . Horses brought out of Egypt, and linen yarn—A decided error here in the translation: מִקְוֶה cannot be "linen yarn," it means a "troop;" hence the verse reads, "As for the export of the horses which Solomon got from Egypt, a troop of royal merchants used to fetch a troop (of horses) at a price." The chapter thus indicates the vast wealth, splendour, and luxury of Solomon's court.—W. H. J.
HOMILETICS OF 1Ki
THE FLOOD-TIDE OF NATIONAL PROSPERITY
I. Seen in the super-abundance of wealth (1Ki ; 1Ki 10:21-23). Gold was so plentiful that silver was "nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon; he exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches." He was the ideal of an Eastern monarch, all the attributes of greatness were united in him—riches, dignity, ability, fame, splendour. The Old Testament kingdom reached its culminating point in David's Son; all the promises of temporal prosperity were fulfilled in it. Such is the nature of worldly wealth, the more abundant it is, the less valuable it is. Great fears are expressed that recent discoveries in the diamond fields of South Africa will depreciate the value of the precious stone. Oh! how ought the possession of mental and spiritual riches to lessen our love for the perishable things of earth! If we are citizens of the New Jerusalem, the very streets will be pure gold, and the walls the richest jewels; so much will our eternal blessedness exceed all earthly joy and felicity.
II. Seen in the external grandeur of the throne (1Ki ). In the ruder stages of national life the king would dispense justice and promulgate law by the side of some favourite stream, under the shadow of a well-known tree, on an elevated mound of earth, at the entrance of the city, or by the side of a spear thrust into the ground; but as the monarch and people increased in wealth, these simple, primitive methods gave place to more ceremonious and ornate displays of regal greatness. Solomon's throne was made of ivory inlaid with the best gold. It was erected in the Porch of Judgment, leading out of the Porch of Pillars (chap. 1Ki 7:7). Here Solomon sat to receive his officers of state, and foreign ambassadors and princes on important occasions, and especially to hear and decide the cases that were submitted to his judgment. The dazzling splendour of the throne was well calculated to inspire awe, and was a striking evidence of the wealth and luxury of the time.
III. Seen in the consummate wisdom of the ruler (1Ki ). The wisdom of Solomon was eminently practical. It suppressed the malcontents, and ensured the peace of the kingdom. It organised a complicated and flourishing system of commerce. It raised the nation to affluence and fame, so that "king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom." This was in accordance with the Divine promise (1Ki 3:13). In the depressed condition at that time both of Egypt and Assyria, it would seem to have been literally true that Solomon's kingdom was, for wealth and splendour, the first in all the world. Grandees from afar flocked to the court of the Israelitish king to listen to the profound wisdom that fell from his lips, and to learn the secret of his brilliant rule. In an age when so much depended on the character and policy of the sovereign, to be gifted with almost superhuman wisdom was a sure way of securing increased prosperity and power. Happy is the nation that, with an expanding and profitable commerce, possesses a wise and considerate king.
IV. Seen in the prevalence of expensive luxuries (1Ki ; 1Ki 10:26-29). The drinking cups were of gold: there was no silver in them. And yet a draught of water is as sweet and refreshing from the moss-covered cistern among the hills as from the most richly-chased goblet of gold. The fleets of Solomon supplied Jerusalem with the rarities and dainties of foreign lands—gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks. Wordsworth sees a sort of irony and sarcasm in the mention of apes and peacocks as "the climax of the produce of the commerce of Solomon. Apes and peacocks to Solomon, the wise king at Jerusalem! To gratify curiosity, to amuse the people, and, perhaps, to while away the time of the strange women to whom Solomon clave in love, instead of cleaving to the Lord." He indulged in the costly extravagance of chariots and horses, with which he established a new species of military force, strongly discouraged by the law of Moses, and from which all previous rulers of this people had abstained. The country was mountainous, and wholly unsuited for cavalry. It was also a time of peace; and all the great victories of his father and other conquerors had been won in reliance upon the strength of the Lord's arm, without using any such force, and in opposition to the enemy who employed it (Psa 20:7). Besides, such a number of chariots and horses was out of all proportion to so small a country; and perhaps no act of royal indulgence was more unpopular among the people. This was doubtless a strong element in the spirit of discontent which afterwards shattered the empire. Prosperity has its accompanying perils, and not the least of these is the tendency to indulge in costly and emasculating luxuries.
V. Marks the beginning of national decline. As the flood-tide of the ocean begins to ebb soon after it has registered its highest water-mark, and as the earth sinks towards the darkness and cold of winter the moment after it has risen to its highest point in the summer solstice, so the period in which a nation bursts forth into its grandest display of material splendour presents indications of inevitable decay. Wealth, fame, and the most massive works of man are perishable, while wisdom, righteousness, and moral goodness bloom with immortal beauty.
LESSONS:—1 There is the wisdom of gold, and the gold of Wisdom
2. National prosperity is ever attended with serious perils.
3. The religious character of a nation survives the decay of its external glory.
THE IVORY THRONE A SYMBOL OF REGAL GOVERNMENT
One of the most attractive objects in the Palace of Solomon was the great ivory throne. It was a massive and imposing structure, and exceeded in splendour anything of the kind in any other kingdom. It was in the form of an ancient round-topped, two-armed chair, with the figure of a lion on either side, probably of cast metal gilt; and fixed on an elevated platform, the ascent to which consisted of six steps, each step being adorned with the life-sized figure of a lion, facing another at the opposite end of the step. The chair of state, and the steps up to it, were covered with ivory and gold. Representations of thrones are frequent in the Egyptian and Assyrian sculptures. They have no steps up to them, but frequently stand upon square bases. The back appears to be flat at the top, not rounded. Assyrian thrones have "stays" or arms on either side, and they stand generally on lions' feet. Ivory was a material used in them; but they were chiefly of wood and metal. We read in after years of the Parthian kings, whose throne was of gold, encompassed with four golden pillars adorned with precious stones; and of the Persian kings who sat in judgment under a golden vine and other trees of gold, the bunches of grapes and other fruits being formed of different kinds of precious stones. We may regard the throne of Solomon as a symbol of regal government.
I. That regal government should be righteous in its principles.
1. In order to maintain the dignity of the throne. Ivory and gold were emblems of purity, and point out the incorruption that should belong to kings, whose duty it is to administer justice with the utmost strictness and purity. The dignity of the judge consists, not in the richness of his robe or in the splendour of his surroundings, but in the justness and integrity of his decisions. Where partiality and injustice predominate, the dignity is transferred to the innocent prisoner, who is unrighteously accused and condemned.
2. In order to enforce the authority of the law. A selfish, corrupt, time-serving government has endless difficulty, and has to resort to the most brutal methods in enforcing its authority. Its laws are an insult, and their maintainance an intolerable cruelty. The throne is secure in itself, and in the willing obedience of the people, only as it is based in righteousness. That king is truly glorious who makes his subjects affluent and happy under his wise and righteous administration. Solomon on his ivory throne is typical of Him who is greater than Solomon, seated on the great white throne of Judgment, pronouncing sentence on the eternal state of men and angels (Rev ). Justice and judgment are the habitation of the Divine throne (Psa 89:14).
II. That regal government should be imposing in its administration.
1. In outward ceremony. The glittering throne, the stately figure of the king, the numerous attendants, and the solemnity of the order of proceeding could not fail to impress the spectators with the awful majesty and power of law. The magistrate is to be a terror to evil-doers (Rom ). All legitimate external means should be adopted that will tend to beget a wholesome reverence of law, not simply to create a slavish dread. It is said that Attila, king of the Huns, had a custom of fiercely rolling his small, deep-set eyes, as if he wished to enjoy the terror he inspired. Law has nothing terrifying in it to the innocent.
2. In moral significance. The lions which supported and adorned the throne not only signified its stability, but also the vigilance with which the prince watched over the interests of the kingdom, and the courage and power with which he defended his people. The arms of Assyrian thrones are occasionally supported by figures of animals. The throne of Rameses II., at Medinet Abou, has a sphinx at the side, and a lion below the sphinx. As the lion is the natural king of beasts, so the figure of the lion is naturally adopted by any imaginative race as an emblem of sovereignty. The object of all true government should be, not simply to indulge in outward display, but to teach, in every possible way, the lessons of truth, righteousness, and virtue. The throne should be more conspicuous for moral excellencies than for ivory and gold.
III. That regal government should be beneficent in its aims. The twelve lions represented the twelve tribes of Israel united under one sovereign. The ruler should aim at uniting the people under his care into a law-abiding, industrious, and virtuous nation. Government is instituted, not to gratify the ambition and lust of the few, but to promote the best welfare of the many. No government can be permanent that does not aim at this. Thrones may fall, dynasties pass away, but righteousness abides for ever.
1. Justice is the weapon and defence of all true government.
2. Great is the responsibility and glorious the reward of the righteous ruler.
3. The throne of Jesus is impregnable, and will survive all the thrones of earth.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
1Ki . The glory of Solomon. I. Wherein it lay. Power, dominion, pomp, splendour, glory, and honour, everything that men wish or desire in this world, all these we see before us in the life of this one man. But the glory of man is as the grass of the field, which fades and withers; truly, the lilies of the field exceed it in glory, and Solomon himself confessed, "All is vanity" (Ecc 1:2; Ecc 2:11; Psa 49:17-18).
II. Its significance for us. That we should seek after that other and imperishable glory, prepared for us by Him who is greater than Solomon (Joh ). Scarcely one of many thousands can attain to the glory of Solomon, but to the glory of God we are all called (1Th 2:12). If our life be hidden with Christ in God, then, &c. (Col 3:3-4). Therefore shall we rejoice in the hope of future glory, and not only so, but in tribulations also (Rom 5:2-3; 2Co 4:17-18).
Power and dominion. I. The responsibility involved therein. To whom much is given, of him shall much be required (Luk ). Singular endowments bring with them singular requirements. Authority is power given for the use and benefit of inferiors; wealth is bestowed upon the rich that they may relieve necessity according to their means.
II. The perils connected with it. Pride and haughtiness, forgetfulness of God, and unbelief (Psa ; Psa 52:9; 1Ti 6:9; Mat 16:26). Therefore envy not the rich and powerful, for they are exposed to many temptations (1Ti 6:6). Devout Christians may have and hold gold and silver, lands and possessions, cattle, in short everything, and with a good conscience, it only they do not misuse them by idle pomp or for the oppression of their fellow-creatures, for they are gifts and favours of God, which He lends them (Hag 2:8; Psa 50:10). The throne of Solomon, stately and magnificent as it was, is long since crumbled to dust; but His throne before whose judgment seat we must all appear, endures to all eternity. The man to whom God has given great wealth and high position in the world may indeed dwell in splendour; but every man sins whose expenses exceed his income, or are greater than his position requires. Golden vessels are not necessaries of life, nor do they conduce to greater happiness or content than do earthen and wooden ones. It is the duty and right of a prince to bring an armed force to the defence of the country against her enemies; but prince and people must ever remember what the mighty Solomon himself says: "The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the Lord" (Pro 21:31; Psa 33:16-19; Isa 31:1).—Lange.
1Ki . One lion at each end of each of the six steps by which the king ascended the throne. They were symbolic figures, and in that position might teach that resolute and determined courage and firmness should characterize all the actions of the king.
1Ki . It is said by some authorities that these Hebrew words for ivory, apes, and peacocks, are identical with the Tamil names by which they are known in Ceylon at the present day. It has long since been decided, says Cuvier, that India was the cradle of the peacock. It is in the countries of Southern Asia, and the vast archipelago of the Eastern Ocean, that this bird appears to have fixed its dwelling, and to live in a state of freedom. All travellers who have visited these countries make mention of these birds.
—Like unto these ships thus laden are the books of some sectaries, wherein, as in the Jewish Talmud, sunt mala mista bonis, sunt bona mista malis. In some parts of their writings are wholesome and good passages; as in a wood or forest full of briers and brambles there may be some violets and primroses; and as here, with apes and peacocks, were gold, silver, and ivory.—Trapp.
1Ki . Wealth and wisdom compared and contrasted. I. Compared.
1. Both are the gifts of God.
2. Both involve much care and toil.
3. Both are scources of great power.
4. Both are liable to great abuse. II. Contrasted.
1. Wealth and wisdom not necessarily possessed by the same person.
2. Wealth may adorn the body; wisdom adorns the mind.
3. Wealth may buy influence, wisdom commands it.
4. Wealth is material and perishable, wisdom is immortal.
—When King Demetrius had sacked and razed the city of Megaera to the very foundation, he demanded of Stilpo, the philosopher, what losses he had sustained. "None at all," said Stilpo, "for war can make no spoil of virtue." And it is said of Bias, that his motto was, omnia mea mecum porto—I carry all my goods with me; viz, his goodness.
—Perfect freedom hath four parts: wisdom, the principle of doing things aright; justice, the principle of doing things equally in public and private; fortitude, the principle of not flying danger, but meeting it; and temperance, the principle of subduing desires and living moderately.—Plato.
1Ki . Every other quality besides is subordinate and inferior to wisdom, in the same sense as the mason who lays the bricks and stones in a building is inferior to the architect who drew the plan and superintends the work. The former executes only what the latter contrives and directs. Now, it is the prerogative of wisdom to preside over every inferior principle, to regulate the exercise of every power, and limit the indulgence of every appetite, as shall best conduce to one great end. It being the province of wisdom to preside, it sits as umpire on every difficulty, and so gives the final direction and control to all the powers of our nature. Hence it is entitled to be considered as the top and summit of perfection. It belongs to wisdom to determine when to act, and when to cease; when to reveal, and when to conceal a matter; when to speak, and when to keep silence; when to give, and when to receive; in short, to regulate the measure of all things, as well as to determine the end, and provide the means of obtaining the end pursued in every deliberate course of action. Every particular faculty, or skill, besides, needs to derive direction from this: they are all quite incapable of directing themselves.
The art of navigation, for instance, will teach us to steer a ship across the ocean, but it will never teach us on what occasions it is proper to take a voyage. The art of war will instruct us how to marshal an army, or to fight a battle to the greatest advantage, but you must learn from a higher school when it is fitting, just, and proper to wage war, or to make peace. The art of the husbandman is to sow and bring to maturity the precious fruits of the earth; it belongs to another skill to regulate their consumption by a regard to our health, fortune, and other circumstances. In short, there is no faculty we can exert, no species of skill we can apply, but requires a superintending hand, but looks up, as it were, to some higher principle, as a maid to her mistress for directions; and this universal superintendent is wisdom.—Robert Hall.
1Ki . A notable type of Christ, so generally frequented and yet still so cheerfully resorted to in His ordinances by His people, flying thereto as so many "clouds, and as doves to their windows" (Isa 60:8).—Trapp.
—There is no true wisdom that does not rest calmly on a basis of truthfulness of heart, and is not guarded and nurtured by righteousness and purity of life. Man is one—one and indissoluble. The intellect and the conscience are but two names for diverse parts of the one human being—or, rather, they are but two names for diverse workings of the one immortal soul. And though it be possible that a man may be enriched with all earthly knowledge, whilst his heart is the dwelling-place of all corruption, and that, on the other hand, a man may be pure and upright in heart, whilst his head is very poorly furnished, and his understanding very weak, yet these exceptional cases do not touch the great central truth: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding." Here, then, is the outline of the fair form that rises before you—a wisdom satisfying and entire for all the understanding, and not a dry, hard, abstract wisdom either, but one which is all glowing with light and purity, and is guidance for the will, and cleansing for the conscience, and strength for the practical life: wisdom which is morality and righteousness; morality and righteousness which is the highest wisdom. Go out into the world, I pray you, and strip everything that appeals to you of its disguises, and you will find it true that, where Christ is not, there—let it woo ever so sweetly, and sing ever so melodiously—there is only a siren that tempts you down beneath the sunny surface of pleasure to the black depths below, where she lives on dead mens' bones! There is your choice. On the one side there calls you the god-descended, beautiful, and serene Wisdom, with diadem on her brow, and blessing in her hands, and peace upon her lips—a Wisdom behind which Christ stands with face fairer, yet lips fuller still of grace, a heart gentler than the woman-wisdom that Solomon knew of, and hands full of better blessing than any that dawned upon him; and, on the other side, a loud-voiced, clamorous, painted, deceiving harlot, who calls you to herself to stifle you with her poisonous breath.—A. Maclaren.
1Ki . The charms of philosophy. I. Are found in the very nature of the science.
1. It promises so much. 2. It gratifies the pride of intellect.
3. It affords ample scope for speculation. II. Allure inquirers from the most distant places. "All the earth sought to Solomon to hear his wisdom."
1. The love of knowledge braves all difficulties.
2. Influences all classes.
3. Is shown by disseminating knowledge, as by seeking it. III. Evoke the most costly offerings. "And they brought every man his present."
1. Wisdom is better than gold.
2. Talent deserves suitable acknowledgment.
3. The learner should be grateful.
4. More money is wasted in useless luxuries than is spent in seeking knowledge. IV. Inspire unremitting devotion in its votaries. "Year by year."
1. It demands constant attention.
2. Its unsolved problems sustain the interest of the student.
3. It has charms to many as a purely intellectual exercise.
—We are raised by science to an understanding of the infinite wisdom and goodness which the Creator has displayed in all His works. Not a step can we take in any direction without perceiving the most extraordinary traces of design; and the skill everywhere conspicuous is calculated in so vast a proportion of instances to promote the happiness of living creatures, and especially of ourselves, that we feel no hesitation in concluding that, if we knew the whole scheme of Providence, every part would appear in harmony with a plan of absolute benevolence. Independently, however, of this most consoling inference, the delight is inexpressible of being able to follow the works of the great Author of nature, and to trace the unbounded power and exquisite skill which are exhibited by the most minute as well as the mightiest parts of His system.—Brougham.
1Ki . We have here expressed in words what the Egyptian and Assyrian monarchs recorded by means of elaborate sculptures on slabs and obelisks—the frequent coming to the court of tribute-bearers from the subject kings, who brought not only the fixed rate of bullion whereto each of them was liable, but a tribute in kind besides, consisting of the most precious products of their respective countries. Among these vessels, probably of silver and gold, garments and horses are very conspicuous on the monuments.—Speaker's Comm.
1Ki . The true defence of a nation.
1. Not in chariots and horses—weapons of war.
2. But in the devotion and valour of the people.
3. In the overshadowing presence of God.
4. In the prevalence of righteousness.
1Ki . Trading.
1. An honourable calling.
2. Is a source of wealth to individuals and nations.
3. Encourages industry and enterprize.
4. Expands the knowledge of human nature.
5. Offers many temptations to roguery,
6. Is legitimate only when it is honest.
—How to be a Christian in trade (compared with Mat ) I. The fair possibility of being a Christian in trade.
1. There is the very certain fact that there have been good Christians in trade; and if that be so, then it follows, by a very short argument, that what has been can be—that is, can be again and often.
2. All apprehensions of a specially harmful exposure in trade are mistaken. What it calls profits are just as truly earnings as any of the fruits of hand-labour.
3. Little room is there, under anything properly called trade, for what many seem to regard as the necessary skill, in raising colour by glosses of false recommendation, or by small lies sprinkled in for the due stimulation of the customer. That is not an accomplishment belonging to the genuine operation of trade, but only to the lowlived, inbred habit of the man. II. How to be a Christian in trade.
1. No man of course expects to be a Christian in trade without being a religious man in it. And just here, alas! is the difficulty most commonly encountered—the difficulty of continuing to be a Christian without beginning to be one; the difficulty of being kept safe in religion, or religious character, by a business carried on without such character, and wholly outside of religion.
2. It. is another important consideration that you are permitted, if at all, to go into this occupation by a really Divine call. God has a place for every man, in what is to be his particular employment, as He has a place for every rock, and tree, and river, and star.
3. Being thus installed in trade, as by the call of God, how surely may you have God's help in the prosecution of it. How surely, that is, if you ask it, and train your ways of practice so that you can fitly receive it. All right employments are callings in which God puts His servants for their good, and what will He more surely do than help them to find their good!
4. The merchant in his calling of trade is put in a relation to God so inherently religious, if he will undertake it in that manner, that he is justified in passing his vow not to be in trade, or even for a day to stay in it, if he cannot have the enjoyment of God in it.
5. There are even special advantages in trade as regards the development of a Christian life, which do not occur as largely in any other employment. The transactions are many, crowding thick upon the shelves and counters all the day. The temptations, of course, are just as much more numerous as the transactions; and it must not be forgotten that the more tempted a man is, the more opportunities are given him to grow. Scarcely could he grow at all if none at all were put in his way.
6. There is also a considerable Christian advantage in the relation that subsists between the merchant and his customer. To be a customer signifies more or less of favour and confidence. The customer, in being such, commits himself in a large degree to the honour of the merchant, and then the merchant in turn accepts him naturally as a man who comes in expression of trust, and is fairly entitled to generosity.
7. Trade also furnishes occasions of beneficence to the poor, which are all the better to both parties, that they make no parade of charity, but may pass for a buying and selling between them It is trade on the one side, and trade on the other; only that on one side it is so near to the confines of beneficence that it consciously passes over. A more gentle, genial, and genuine influence on the man could hardly be devised.
8. It is yet another and very great moral advantage of trade, that it is just the calling in which a Christian man will best learn the uses of money. Hence it is going to be discovered, that the great problem we have now on hand, viz., the Christianizing of the money power of the world, depends for its principal hope on the trading class in society. Talent has been Christianized already on a large scale. The political power of states and kingdoms has been long assumed to be, and now at last really is, as far as it becomes their accepted office to maintain personal security and liberty. Architecture, arts, constitutions, schools, and learning have been largely Christianized. But the money power, which is one of the most operative and grandest of all, is only beginning to be; though with promising tokens of a finally complete reduction to Christ and the uses of His kingdom. Trade expanding into commerce, and commerce rising into communion, are to be the outline of the story. When the merchant seeking goodly pearls—all the merchant race—find the precious one they seek, and sell their all to buy it, they will make it theirs.—Bushnell.
—Luxury and extravagance.
1. Always go together.
2. Depreciate the true value of things.
3. Flourish on the oppression and distress of others.
4. Excite popular discontent.
5. End in disgrace and ruin.
1Ki . This strong hyperbole marks in the most striking way the great wealth and prosperity of the capital during Solomon's reign. The lavish expenditure which impoverished the provinces, and produced, or helped to produce, the general discontent that led to the outbreak under Jeroboam, enriched the metropolis, which must have profited greatly by the residence of the court, the constant influx of opulent strangers, and the periodical visits of all Israelites, not hindered by some urgent reason, at the great festivals.—Speaker's Comm.
1Ki . It is thought that the first people who used horses in war were the Egyptians; and it is well known that the nations who knew the use of this creature in battle had greatly the advantage of those who did not. God had absolutely prohibited horses to be imported or used; but, in many things, Solomon paid little attention to the Divine command.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Kings 10". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Lent