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CRITICAL NOTES.] 2 Chronicles 9:1-12. This narrative is parallel with 1 Kings 10:1-18, from which it varies little; Solomon’s glory (2 Chronicles 9:13-28); and the close of his reign (2 Chronicles 9:29-31) corresponding with 1 Kings 11:41-43.
2 Chronicles 9:1-12.—The Queen of Sheba’s visit. Two Shebas, Ethiopian and Arabian. Both countries have traditions on the visit; in both government by queens was common. Sheba, in Arabia, was the great spice country and an important kingdom. Sheba in Ethiopia a mere town and furnished no spices. The expression “Queen of the South” (Matthew 12:42) corresponds with Hebrew Teman (Arabic Yemen), and Jewish and Christian traditions in favour of Arabian Sheba. Fame, by the Ophir fleet. Name, Solomon’s great knowledge of God, or great things which God had done for him. Questions, lit. riddles (enigmas, Judges 14:12; Psalms 49:4; Proverbs 1:6; Ezekiel 17:2). In East natural acuteness, united with idle life, still make these exercises of understanding a favourite amusement. 2 Chronicles 9:1. Camels, &c., a common method of travelling by these beasts of burden in Arabia, a country most famous also for spices. In her heart, in her mind. 2 Chronicles 9:3. Told, i.e., answered all her questions without any exception. She could not puzzle him. 2 Chronicles 9:4-5. Seen, wisdom, natural endowments. House, the palace; the variety and luxury of table. Sitting, i.e., the seats, the place assigned to each according to gradation, or collective body and orderly manner of domestic arrangements. Standing posts of ministers; apparel of (cup-bearers) butlers; ascent (Heb.), burnt offerings which he offered, by Luther, LXX, and others. Generally thought to be a superb way for the king’s use alone, as Emperors of China ascend the throne by steps consecrated to their use alone. “A stair by which he went up to the house of God,” “a private way from the palace on the western, across the ravine up the eastern hill to the temple area” [Kesi]. Spirit in her, an expression for highest degree of admiration and astonishment 2 Chronicles 9:5. True report, word of acts, sayings. 2 Chronicles 9:6. Exceedest, thou hast added to report. 2 Chronicles 9:8. Blessed, a frank acknowledgment of Solomon’s God, but no reason to think she adopted Him as her God. 2 Chronicles 9:9. Gave, not as tribute, but in token of friendship (about £720,000, Jamieson). 2 Chronicles 9:10-11. Mercantile transactions. Algum trees, sandal wood. Terraces, high ways (margin), stairs, steps. Psalteries (1 Samuel 10:5). 2 Chronicles 9:12. Desire, in the way of bounty. Asked, Oriental custom to ask, specify what is agreeable. Solomon gave ample remuneration for presents in exchange with him, i.e., besides his presents for hers, he made a free donation of whatever she liked.
2 Chronicles 9:13-28.—Solomon’s wealth. Weight (cf. 1 Kings 10:14-29). Chapmen, who buy and sell, probably smaller retail merchants. Governors in outlying dominions. Heb. pechah. “If connected with pashah, the history of the word would be curious” [Max Müller]. 2 Chronicles 9:15. Targets, large shields, covering the whole man, made usually of wood or wicker-work covered with leather. These made for ornamentation and plated with gold. 2 Chronicles 9:16. House, a part of the royal palace (1 Kings 7:2-5), resembling a forest in structure; used for state purposes and an armoury for targets and shields. 2 Chronicles 9:17-19. The throne of ivory, not all solid, but parts venecred with it. Footstool, the throne raised. Stays, arms on each side of seat. Lions, symbols of royal power. 2 Chronicles 9:19. Number alludes to twelve tribes of Israel. 2 Chronicles 9:20. Accounted, because of abundance; scarcity a value. 2 Chronicles 9:21. Tarshish, prob. Tartessus in Spain. Peacocks, thought to have come from India. Some give “parrots.” 2 Chronicles 9:22. Passed, outrivalled (1 Kings 3:13). Kings of neighbouring nations. Sought (1 Kings 4:34). Present tribute of respect year by year. 2 Chronicles 9:25. Four thousand, not forty thousand, considered an error in copyist (1 Kings 4:26). 2 Chronicles 9:26. River Euphrates. 2 Chronicles 9:27. Stones, fig. for abundance and comparative worthlessness. 2 Chronicles 9:28. Horses from lands famous for good breeds.
2 Chronicles 9:29-31.—Solomon’s death. Book, words. Three sources given, only in 1 Kings 11:29. Nathan (2 Samuel 7:1-17). Abijah (1 Kings 11:11-13; 1 Kings 11:29-39), in earlier part of Solomon’s life. Iddo (2 Chronicles 12:15; 2 Chronicles 13:22), in later years of reigns of Saul and David. “The Chronist omits the blemishes that marked the character and administration of Solomon, and leaves the impression that notwithstanding these he continued to be a follower of the Lord unto the end of his career. This is in harmony with his design to note the progress of the kingdom of God in its religious aspect” [Murphy].
THE QUEEN OF SHEBA’S VISIT TO SOLOMON—2 Chronicles 9:1-12
Solomon’s influence upon surrounding nations very great. Legends abound in Jewish and Arabic traditions, like those concerning Nimrod and Alexander. Visit of the queen conspicuous instance and given as a sign to us (Matthew 12:42).
I. The spirit which prompted the visit. Its method, long train of camels, in striking harmony with Eastern imagination. What its spirit?
1. A spirit of curiosity. She heard of Solomon’s wisdom and glory, co-extensive and manifold in forms. “The countries marvelled at thee, for thy interpretations, songs, and proverbs and parables” (Sir. 47:14-17). Solomon’s fame like Christ’s, could not be hid. Curiosity excited and she desired to know, to ascertain truth.
2. A spirit of inquiry. She came to hear his wisdom and enlarge her own; to ask as well as answer questions. “The spirit of this asking of questions and solving of dark riddles is of the very nature of true philosophy. ‘To ask questions rightly,’ says Lord Bacon, ‘is the half of knowledge.’ ‘Life without cross examination is no life at all,’ said Socrates. When we inquire, when we restlessly question 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].
3. A spirit of restlessness. Rank, wealth, and position could not satisfy. Something beyond herself and her wise men, to know and feel. No trifling questions, questions merely to puzzle. Hard questions concerning “the name of the Lord” whom Solomon worshipped. Problems ever new and ever old, found in the book of Job and stirring the hearts of men to-day. “How shall man be just with God?” “Where shall wisdom be found?” &c. Only “an interpreter, one among a thousand,” can answer these questions.
4. A spirit of self-sacrifice. Curiosity prompted to action, anxiety led her to start on a long and risky journey. A reproof, says Christ, to indifference and stupidity concerning himself. True wisdom is of great price. Those who know and seek its worth will not begrudge the cost.
II. The mutual intercourse during the visit. Solomon did not blame her for her trouble and weakness; gave her every encouragement and permitted her “to commune with him of all that was in her heart,” freely and fully.
1. He answered her questions. “Solomon told her all her questions” (2 Chronicles 9:3). Natural, political, intellectual, or religious. He was equal to the test and could not be puzzled (see traditions). Taught of God, he could teach others. “A divine sentence in the lips” of this king satisfied every inquiry. Jesus can remove doubt and perplexity, ease the mind, and teach all we desire to know.
2. He received her gifts. Not content with words, she gave, practical expression to gratitude. Useless are verbal thanks if life be void of lovely deeds. These rich presents show the extent of her commerce, and the appreciation of her intercourse with the Hebrew monarch. Solomon accepted her gifts, and gave, in addition to customary exchanges, “of his royal bounty.” Neither cared for gold. Both valued wisdom, cultivated and confirmed their friendship by mutual kindness and conversation. “She communed with him.”
III. The impressions received from the visit. Welcomed sincerely, valuing her privileges, she was intent on learning and observant of all she could.
1. She was astonished at the magnificence of Solomon. High culture and magnificence exceeded anything she had ever seen. Meals served with great state. Tables at which king, guests, and ministers sat down displayed variety, luxury, and splendour. The order of domestic arrangements, varied costumes and attire of ministers, choice vessels of cup-bearers, all impressed her acute mind. The houses, streets, and buildings of Jerusalem, the temple and the king’s private entrance into it, like a scene of enchantment to her. She was overwhelmed. “There was no more spirit in her,” almost fainted with astonishment.
2. She was surprised at the wisdom of Solomon. This chiefly impressed her mind. “When she had seen the wisdom of Solomon” (2 Chronicles 9:3). A word which, in Hebrew, comprehends not only natural endowments and useful qualities, but practical knowledge. The economy of his government, the schemes of industry and the works of art displayed familiarity with natural science and deep insight into the principles of human nature. This wisdom was superhuman. She acknowledged it to be from Solomon’s God, “by whom kings reign and princes decree justice” (2 Chronicles 9:8, cf. Proverbs 8:15).
3. She was confirmed in her belief concerning Solomon. “It was a true report which I heard, &c.” (2 Chronicles 9:5). Faith exercised will be strengthened, really tested will give greater certainty. “The one-half of the greatness of thy wisdom was not told me.” This just the result of honest search after truth, of personal intercourse with Christ and of engagement in God’s service. This is the way “to verify your beliefs.” Hear, see, and feel. Wonders of grace, depths of experience to be discovered beyond all comprehension! “That ye may know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.”
HEART COMMUNING.—2 Chronicles 9:1
Not generally wise to tell all our heart. Samson reached the climax of folly when he did this to Delilah. Yet if we could meet with a Solomon who could solve all our difficulties we might wisely do so, A greater than Solomon in Jesus, who is incarnate wisdom. With him too silent, with worldly friends too communicative.
I. We ought to communicate with him of all that is in our heart.
1. Neglect of intercourse with Jesus is very unkind. “Let me see thy countenance, &c.” (Song of Solomon 2:14.)
2. To conceal anything from so true a friend betrays the sad fact of something wrong.
3. Shows a want of confidence in his love, sympathy, and wisdom, if we cannot tell Jesus all in our hearts.
4. Will be the cause of uneasiness in ourselves if we withhold anything from him. Responsibility will rest and weigh heavily with us.
5. Will involve the loss of counsel and help. He meets our case when we unbosom ourselves.
6. Reticence towards Jesus is greatly aggravated by eagerness to tell our troubles to others. Will you make a confidant of man and hide the matter from God?
II. We need not cease communing for want of topics.
1. Our sorrows. He knows what they are, will comfort us under them, help to profit by them, &c.
2. Our joys. He will sober and salt them. Joy without Jesus, sun without light, the essence gone.
3. Our service. He a servant knows our heart, can sympathise with our difficulties.
4. Our plans. He has zeal, ardour, quick of understanding, and will gladly commune with us concerning all in our hearts to do for God.
5. Our success and failures should be reported at head-quarters. The disciples of the martyred John (Matthew 14:12), the evangelists of our Lord, returned to him (Luke 9:10).
6. Our desires. Holiness, usefulness, heaven, awaken the sympathy of Jesus, who prays for us about these things.
7. Our fears. Fears of falling, needing, failing, dying.
8. Our loves. Of earth and heaven, towards others and himself.
9. Our mysteries. Incomprehensible feelings, uneasiness, emotions, will be better for ventilation in presence of Jesus.
III. Nor shall we cease communing for want of reasons.
1. How ennobling and elevating is intercourse with Him!
2. How consoling and encouraging with Him who has overcome the world!
3. How sanctifying and refining union with the Perfect One!
4. How safe and healthy is a daily walk with ever-blessed Son of Man! How proper and natural for disciples to talk with their Teacher, and saints with their Saviour!
6. How delightful and heavenly is rapturous converse with the Beloved! Warning to those who never speak with Jesus—“I never knew you.” Complaint of those who seldom commune—“Is this thy kindness to thy friend?” Hint to those usually in communion with him—Keep up the holy intercourse; to this end be thorough; unlock every room in the house and let Jesus enter Congratulation to those who have long enjoyed his fellowship [Spurgeon].
SOLOMON’S HOUSEHOLD AND CHRIST’S HOUSEHOLD
I. In the splendour of appearance. Solomon himself, inferior to Christ in person, wisdom, and dominion. The glory of court artificial, product of labour, and liable to decay; Christ’s inward, spiritual, and lasting.
II. In the servants engaged.
1. Their position: Near the king, standing, sitting, waiting and watching attitude.
2. Their attire: Beautiful, costly, fit, and free.
3. Their felicity: “Happy are thy servants.” Apply the eulogy to Christians, happy now and hereafter.
III. In the provision made for members. Costly, abundant, satisfactory, and free. Wisdom hath prepared a feast; come in and partake. “Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
2 Chronicles 9:1-2. The Queen a Type of Truth-seekers.
1. In her spirit. Reverence for God, sincerity of desire for light and knowledge.
2. In her self-sacrifice. Allured from groves of palm to hear and know wisdom, she undertook a journey not much less than a thousand miles from “uttermost parts of the earth,” i.e., from the extremities of the world then known.
3. In her reception by Solomon. Illustrates welcome to inquirers by God “that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not,” with past ingratitude or future abuse (as Solomon abused his wisdom at length). Man “giveth little and upbraideth much” (cf. Sir. 20:15; Sir. 41:22). Or—
1. She sought in the right disposition.
2. She sought from the right source.
3. She sought in belief of its reality.
4. She sought to possess it and render homage to it. The rule “he who seeks shall find.”
2 Chronicles 9:3 to 2 Chronicles 8:1. Experimental evidence. “I came, and mine eyes had seen it” (2 Chronicles 9:6). Many hear and admit, but gospel for trial its power must be felt; arguments, evidence insufficient without experience. To sceptics and doubting our appeal is, “Come and see.” To all who come the surprise will be great. “Now, we believe not for thy saying, for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.”
2. Express testimony. Open confession follows experimental evidence. Christ tolls all in our hearts and discloses secrets of life and conscience, reveals himself to earnest inquiry, excites wonder, admiration, and love. Grateful acknowledgments.
2 Chronicles 9:8.
1. The source of Solomon’s greatness. Queen reminds him that God must be praised for the greatness of the nation, and for the wisdom of its ruler.
2. The design for which the greatness bestowed. Not for his own, but for the sake of his people, God chose him to occupy the throne. He permits and appoints. Government in all ministrations. Kings, princes, nobles, judges, a Divinely constituted power, to be held in subordination to “King of kings” and administered for the good of people, “to do judgment and justice.”
WISDOM SOUGHT.—2 Chronicles 9:1; 2 Chronicles 9:23-24
“All the earth sought to Solomon to hear his wisdom” (1 Kings 10:24). Sought the face of Solomon, who had unveiled wisdom and given to the world its beauty and use.
I. The indigence of human greatness. A queen and kings seeking! Rank and wealth of no avail. Monarchs in their palaces, and peers in their mansions, happy only in loyal obedience, under the dominion of truth (wise-dom). “Where shall wisdom be found?” Facts in matter and mind require a solution, problems in moral life press heavily and fearfully upon the heart. The richest, most learned cry for an interpreting principle. We may get pearls from the ocean, treasures from the earth, but “where is the place of understanding?” “God understandeth the way thereof, &c.”
II. The Divine source of supply. God “the only wise God.” “The wisdom of Egypt” proverbial in geometry, astronomy, and medicine, but “Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country and all the wisdom of Egypt.” God gives sufficiency to the most indigent and most exalted.
1. It cannot be bought with money. “Man knoweth not the price thereof.”
2. It cannot be found by investigation. Search in realms of nature useless. “The depth saith it is not in me, and the sea saith it is not in me.” The domains of life and of departed spirits reveal it not. “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.”
III. The need of personal effort to secure this supply. They heard and came to see. The attainment depends upon the spirit and effort of the seeker. A scorner is proud, irreverent, “seeketh wisdom and findeth it not.” The slothful excuse—the distance is great, the price is too much, “there is a lion in the way.” Diligence and activity the conditions of getting and enjoying the blessing. True and earnest inquirers, like Queen of Sheba, Nicodemus, Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, and the Ethiopian eunuch travelling hundreds of miles, seek and secure knowledge, the highest knowledge, the knowledge of God, the centre and soul of all science. “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.”
“Truths on which depend our main concern,
That ’tis our shame and misery not to learn,
Shine by the side of every path we tread
With such a lustre, he that runs may read” [Cowper].
SOLOMON’S GLORY AND DEATH.—2 Chronicles 9:13-31
Solomon pre-eminent, surpassed all kings of the earth, &c.
I. Solomon’s glory. Of two kinds, material and moral.
1. Material glory. None with greater splendour, which glittered in the eyes of his people like the sun. Gold and silver, large treasures untold. Empire and power unique. Tributary princes and presents from all parts of the known world. Household extensive, exchequer unlimited, and fame universal.
2. Moral glory. Moral and mental qualities equal to his surroundings, and preserved harmony between himself and kingly state. Scripture specially dwells on wisdom. Men of noted intelligence in his own country: Ethan in charge of temple music, Heman “the king’s seer in the words of God,” Chalcol and Darda; but Solomon “wiser than all men” (1 Kings 4:29-31). Sage, poet, and naturalist—an intellect stored with vast information; active, shrewd, and penetrating; a heart kind, sympathies wide, rising to high and noble thoughts of God. These more becoming and better than material grandeur. Wisdom better than wealth. “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.”
II. Solomon’s death. Reign not long, though glorious. End certain. Glory and death strange association! A common end to great and small. “Solomon slept (lit., lay down) with his fathers.” The crown, the robes of office, and the sceptre of power must be laid down. “To leave these things,” said a nobleman crowned with honours, “makes one miserable.” Kings extraordinary and brilliant level with the meanest in the grave. They come, reign, and sleep, and so history rolls on. “Where will you leave your glory?”—in fragrant names, righteous deeds, and holy life? or in grief, disgrace, and oblivion? “A man shall be commended according to his wisdom.” “The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
2 Chronicles 9:17-19. Solomon’s throne. The symbol of a throne of grace. The seat of judgment and dominion; of public audience to nobles, strangers, and all who resorted to him. For beauty and strength, workmanship and design, “there was not the like made in any kingdom.”
2 Chronicles 9:23. Wisdom. Knowledge of God’s works, skill in physic and state-policy, rules of prudence for human life and principles of true religion. God put in his heart. Supernatural gifts in answer to prayer.
1. The lesson.
2. The learners.
3. The method of teaching.
4. The warning to us. Application made in eagerness, to hear Solomon aggravates, shames and condemns general contempt for Christ, in whom are “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
5. A prophecy that “all they from Sheba shall come, they shall bring gold and incense, and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 9
2 Chronicles 9:1-2. Philosophy was born a Pagan; but she may become a Christian, and should be christened “Mary.” She may be proud to sit at Jesus, feet. Hellas coming to Judea’s Messiah is a rarely beautiful sight [Dr. Duncan].
Questions. Do not suppose that wisdom is so much flattered at having you for a pupil that she will set you easy lessons, and yet give you the gold medal [T. T. Lynch]. Questioners must be teachable. When Haydn was in London, a nobleman came to him for lessons in music, but found fault with all that Haydn said. At last, out of patience, the musician exclaimed, “I see, my lord, that it is you who is so good as to give lessons to me, and I am obliged to confess that I do not merit the honour of having such a master” [Spurgeon]. Communed. Do you want anything of which you cannot tell your Lord? It argues either no real need or else little faith. Strong faith hath free communion with heaven, and conceals nothing, but tells all. Ephesians 3:12. “In whom we have boldness.” The word boldness is “telling all” [Thos. Boston].
2 Chronicles 9:9; 2 Chronicles 9:24. Presents. There is no grace in a benefit that sticks to the fingers [Seneca]. We like the gift when we the giver prize [Ovid].
2 Chronicles 9:20-23. Gold. Greatness stands upon a precipice, and if prosperity carries a man ever so little beyond his poise, it overbears and dashes him to pieces [Seneca]. Prosperity seems to be scarcely safe unless it be mixed with a little adversity [Hosea Ballow].
2 Chronicles 9:29. First and last. His first were best; of his last this historian saith nothing, but layeth his finger on the scar [Trapp]. Solomon did not live to a very great age, since he was not more than twenty years old when he ascended the throne. Whether Solomon turned to the Lord again with all his heart, a question widely discussed by the older commentators, cannot be ascertained from Scripture. If the Preacher (Koheleth) is traceable to Solomon, so far as the leading thoughts are concerned, we should find in this fact an evidence of his conversion, or at least a proof that at the close of his life he discovered the vanity of all earthly possessions and aims and declared the fear of God to be the only abiding good, with which a man can stand before the judgment of God [Keil].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 9". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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