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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 10

The Expositor's Bible CommentaryThe Expositor's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-20


1 Kings 10:1-20.

"O Luxury! thou curs’d by Heaven’s decree!

How do thy potions with insidious joy

Diffuse their pleasures only to destroy!

Kingdoms by thee to sickly greatness-grown

Boast of a florid vigor not their own."

GOLDSMITH, Deserted Village.

"The Queen of the South shall rise up in judgment against this generation, and shall condemn it: For she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon."

- Matthew 12:42.

THE history of the Temple is the event which gives supreme religious importance to the reign of one who became in other respects a worldly and irreligious king. It is for this reason that I have dwelt upon its significance, and on the many interesting questions which its worship naturally suggests. Solomon gave an impulse to outward service, not to spiritual life. His religion was mainly that form of externalism which rose but little above the

"Gay religions full of pomp and gold"

of the surrounding heathens. The other fragments of his story which have been preserved for us are mainly of a political character. They point us to Solomon in his wealth and ostentation, and contain nothing specially edifying. Our Lord thought less of all this splendor than of the flower of the field. "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."

Princes who have once begun to build find a certain fascination in the task. After the seven years devoted to the Temple, Solomon occupied thirteen more in building "halls of Lebanoniac cedar" for himself, for his audience-chamber, and for Pharaoh’s daughter.

Chief of these were:-

1. The house of the forest of Lebanon, a sort of arsenal so called from its triple rows of cedar pillars, on which hung the golden shields for the king’s guards when they attended his great visits to the Temple.

2. The justice hall, the "Sublime Porte" of Jerusalem, built of gold and cedar. It contained the famous Lion Throne of gold and ivory, with two lions on each of its six steps. It is not known whether these buildings formed part of the palace and harem of Solomon, nor is it worthwhile to waste time on the impossible attempt to reconstruct them.

Solomon also built the fortification of Jerusalem known as the "Mille," and the wall of Jerusalem, and repaired the breaches of the city of David, as well as the fortresses and treasure cities to which we have already alluded, and the summer palaces in the region of Lebanon known as "the delights of Solomon." {1 Kings 9:19} Amid these records of palatial architecture we hear next to nothing of the religious life.

He further dazzled his people by an extensive system of foreign commerce. His land-traffic with Arabia familiarized them with spicery (necoth), gum tragacanth, frankincense, myrrh, aloes, and cassia, and with precious stones of all kinds. From Egypt he obtained horses and chariots: They were brought from Tekoa, by his merchants, and kept by Solomon, or sold at a profit.

He found a ready market for them among the Hittite and Aramaean kings. Emulating the Phoenicians, and apparently invading the monopoly of Tyre, he had-if we may take the chronicler literally-a fleet of "ships of Tarshish" which sailed along the coasts of Spain. {2 Chronicles 9:21} Above all, he made the daring attempt to establish a fleet of Tarshish-ships at Ezion-Geber, the port of Elath, at the north of the Gulf of Akaba. This fleet sailed down the Red Sea to Ophir-perhaps Abhira, at the mouth of the Indus-and amazed the simple Hebrews with the sight of gorgeous iridescent peacocks, wrinkled chattering apes, the red and richly scented sandal wood of India, and the large tusks of elephants from which cunning artificers carved the smooth ivory to inlay furniture, thrones, and ultimately even houses, with lustrous ornamentation. Cinnamon came to him from Ceylon, and "sapphires" (lapis lazuli) from Babylon. Other services which he rendered to his capital and kingdom were more real and permanent.

1. Jerusalem may have been in part indebted to Solomon for its supply of water. The magnificent springs of pure gushing water at Etam are still called "Solomon’s fountains," and it is believed that he used their rocky basins as reservoir: from which to irrigate his garden in the Wady Urtas (Lat. Hortus). Etam is two hours distant from Jerusalem, and if Solomon built the aqueduct which once conveyed its water supply to the city he proved himself a genuine benefactor. There was immense need of the "fons perennis aquae" of which Tacitus speaks for the purifications of the Temple, soiled by the reek and offal of so many holocausts.

2. Maritime allusions now began to appear it Hebrew literature; {2 Chronicles 9:21} and maritime enterprise produced the marvelous effect it always produces on the character and progress of the nation. Along the black basalt roads-the king’s highways-of which the construction was necessitated by the outburst of commercial activity flocked hundreds of foreign visitors, not only merchantmen and itinerant traffickers, but governors of provinces, and vassal or allied princes. The isolated and stationary tribes of Palestine suddenly found themselves face to face with a new and splendid civilization. Admiring visitors flocked to see the great king’s magnificence and to admire his foreign curiosities, bringing with them presents of gold and silver, armor, and spicery, horses and mules, the broidered garments of Babylon, and robes rich with the crimson, purple, and scarlet dyes of Tyre. {; 1 Kings 10:25} Instead of riding like his predecessors on a humble mule, the king made his royal progress to his watered garden at Etam drawn by steeds magnificently caparisoned. He reclined in "Pharaoh’s chariot" richly chased and brilliantly colored. He was followed by a train of archers riding on war-horses and clothed in purple, and was escorted by a bodyguard of youths tall and beautiful, whose dark and flowing locks glittered with gold dust. In the heat of summer, if we may accept the poetic picture of the Song of Songs, he would be luxuriously carried to some delicious retreat amid the hills of myrrh and leopard-haunted woods of Lebanon, in a palanquin of cedar wood with silver pillars, purple cushions, and richly embroidered curtains, wearing the jeweled crown which his mother placed on his head on the day of his espousals. Or he would sit to do justice on his throne of ivory and gold, with its steps guarded by golden lions leaning upon the golden bull of Ephraim which formed its back, in all his princely beauty, anointed with the oil of gladness, "his lips" full of grace, his garments breathing of perfume. On great occasions of state his Queen, and the virgins that bore her company, would stand among the crowd of inferior princesses, in garments of the wrought gold of Ophir, in which she had been carried from the inner palace upon tapestries of needlework. In the pomp of such ceremonials, amid bursts of rejoicing melody, the people began to believe that not even the Pharaohs of Egypt, or the Tyrian kings with "every precious stone as their covering," could show a more glorious pageant of royal state. {Ezekiel 27:1-36; Ezekiel 28:1-26; Zechariah 9:3}

This career of magnificence culminated in the visit of Balkis, the Queen of Sheba, who came to him across the desert with "a very great train of her camels, bearing spices and very much gold and precious stones." She saw his abounding prosperity, his peaceful people, his houses, his vineyards at Beth-Haccerem, his parks and gardens, his pools and fruit trees, his herds of cattle, his horses, chariots, and palanquins, and all the delight of the sons of men. She saw his men singers and women singers with their harps of red sandal wood and gold. She saw him at the banquet at his golden table covered in boundless profusion with delicacies brought from every land She saw his hosts of beautiful and richly dressed slaves with layers, dishes, and goblets all made of the gold of Uphaz. She saw him dispensing justice in his pillared hall of cedar, seated on his lion-throne. She saw the golden shields and targets carried before him as he went in state to the Temple over the Mount, across the valley, and mounted from the palace to the sacred courts by the gilded staircase with its balustrades of aromatic sandal wood. Perhaps she was present as a spectator at some great Temple festival. And when she had tested his wisdom by communing with him of all that was in her heart, "there was no more spirit in her." She confessed that the half of his wisdom and glory had not been reported to her. Happy were his servants, happy the courtiers who stood by him and heard his words! Blessed was the Lord his God who delighted in him, and who, out of love for Israel, had given them such a king to do justice and judgment among them. The visit ended with an interchange of royal presents. Solomon, we are vaguely told, "gave unto her all her desire, whatsoever she asked," and sent her away glad-hearted to her native land, leaving behind her a trail of legends. Before her departure she opened her treasures, and gave him vast stores of spicery and gold.

And to sum up the accounts, which read like a page of the story of Haroun al Raschid, the king made silver to be as stones in Jerusalem, so that it was nothing accounted of in the day of Solomon, and the cedars made he to be as the sycamores which are in the "Shefelah" for multitude.

It is around this epoch of Solomon’s career that the legends of the East mainly cluster. They have received a larger development from the allusions to Mohammed in the Qur’an. They take the place of the personal incidents of which so few are recorded, although Solomon occupies so large a space in sacred history.

"That stately and melancholy figure-in some respects the grandest and the saddest in the Sacred Volume-is in detail little more than a mighty ‘shadow.’ Yet in later Jewish records he is scarcely mentioned. Of all the characters in the sacred history he is the most purely secular; and merely secular magnificence was an excrescence, not a native growth of the chosen people."

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 1 Kings 10". "The Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/teb/1-kings-10.html.
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