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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 10

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-13


THE VISIT OF THE QUEEN OF SHEBA.—The last words of the preceding chapter spoke of Solomon's fleet, of its voyages, and the treasures it brought home. The historian now proceeds to tell of one result to which these voyages led. The fame of the king and his great undertakings was so widely diffused, and excited so much wonder and curiosity, that a queen of Arabia came, among others, to see the temple and the palaces and the many marvels of Solomon's city and court. The prediction of Solomon's prayer (1 Kings 8:42) has soon had a fulfilment.

1 Kings 10:1

And when the queen of Sheba [There is no good ground for doubting that by שְׁבָא we are to understand the kingdom of Southern Arabia (Yemen). It is true that while Genesis 25:3 (cf. 1 Chronicles 1:32) speaks of Sheba, the son of Joktan, one of the colonists of southern Arabia, Genesis 10:7 and 1 Chronicles 1:9 mention another Sheba, the son of Cush, and a doubt has arisen whether this was an Arabian or an Ethiopian princess, and it is alleged that she was the latter by Josephus, who calls her "queen of Egypt and Ethopia," and by some Rabbinical writers, and in the traditions of the Abyssinian church. But the kingdoms of Sheba (שְׁבָא) and Saba (סְבָא) are entirely distinct (Psalms 72:10), the latter being the name both of the capital and country of Meroe, a province of Ethopia (Joshua, Ant. 2.10. 2); while the former in like manner designates both the chief city and also the kingdom of the Sabeans (Job 1:15). This tribe would seem to have grown richer and stronger than all the other Arabian peoples by means of its commercial enterprise, and it was especially famed for its gold, gems, and spices (Ezekiel 27:22; Jeremiah 6:20; Isaiah 60:6; Joel 3:8; Job 6:19; Psalms 72:10). It is noticeable that in both kingdoms government by female sovereigns was not uncommon (cf. Acts 8:27); but it is very remarkable to find any country under the rule of a queen at this early date. (The idea that either of these lands was always governed by queens has no real basis.) The name of this princess, according to the Koran, was Balkis, according to Abyssinian belief, Maqueda. Whether she was a widow or virgin is unknown] heard [Heb. hearing. Doubtless through the Arab traders. The record of this visit, following immediately upon the mention of the voyages (1 Kings 9:26), is a grain of evidence in favour of locating Ophir in Arabia] of the fame (Heb. hearing; cf. ἀκοή, which also means the thing heard, report. Compare ἀποκάλυψις καύχησις, etc.] of Solomon concerning the name [Heb. לְשְׁם, i.e; "in relation to, in connexion with, the name," etc. No doubt it was the house he had built לְשֵׁם יְיָ (cf. 1 Kings 3:2; 1 Kings 5:17, 1Ki 5:18; 1 Kings 8:17, 1 Kings 8:18, 1Ki 8:19, 1 Kings 8:20, etc.) had made him famous. But the expression is somewhat unusual, and these words are omitted by the chronicler. Gesenius and Ewald, however, regard the לas instrumental, "the fame given him by the name," etc; as Judges 7:18; Ezekiel 12:12, etc; and Wordsworth compares the use of ἐν in Greek. The LXX. and other versions read "the name of Solomon and the name of the Lord." But the text is on every ground to be retained. The alliteration in this verse (probably accidental) is to be noticed. There is also a slight paronomasia] of the Lord, she came to prove (LXX. πειράσαι, to test)] him with hard questions [Heb. in riddles; LXX. ἐν αἰνίγμασι. The Arabian mind has ever delighted in dark sayings, enigmas, etc; and extensive collections of these have been made by Burckhardt and others (see Keil in loc.) According to Dius Solomon also had dialectical encounters with Hiram and with Abdemon, or, according to Menander, a younger son of Abdemon, a man of Tyre.]

1 Kings 10:2

And she came to Jerusalem [a great undertaking in those days. Our Lord lays stress on this long journey, ἐκ τῶν περάτων τῆς γῆς, Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31] with a very great train [Heb. with a very heavy force or host (חַיִל). Thenius understands the words of an armed escort, which may well have been necessary considering the countries through which she passed, and the treasures she carried. It would also be quite in the spirit of the age that the queen should be escorted by a band of her soldiers. But it is not so certain that this idea was in the historian's mind], with [not in Hebrews] camels [2 Chronicles 9:1 has "and camels." But the word is here explicative of the חַיִל preceding (Keil). It does not, however, decide against an armed force, as camels would be in any ease required. The camel was a familiar object to the Jews (Exodus 9:3; Le Exodus 11:4; Deuteronomy 14:7, etc.); but such a procession as this would create great astonishment in Jerusalem, and we may imagine how the people would line the bazaars as she passed, and the acclamations with which they would greet the queen (cf. 1:40; Matthew 21:9) and her swart attendants] that bare spices [Heb. balsams; hence spices generally; LXX. ἡδύσματα. Exodus 25:6; Exodus 35:28; Ezekiel 27:22. The perfumes of Arabia are proverbial (see Herod. 3:107-113), and Yemen is the chief spice country. It is quite possible, however, that much of the "gold of Arabia" came to its emporiums from other lands. This particular present was doubtless brought by the queen because she had heard of the extensive use made of it by Solomon, and of the enormous quantities he required. "Strabo relates that the Sabeans were enormously wealthy, and used gold and silver in a most lavish manner in their furniture, their utensils, and even on the walls, doors, and roofs of their houses" (Rawlinson)] and precious stones [the onyx, emerald, and turquoise are still found in Arabia, and in former times the variety was apparently much greater (Plin; Nat. Hist. 37.)]; and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of [Heb. spake to him] all that was in her heart. [The words are not to be restricted, as by Keil, to riddles. There may well have been, as the earlier interpreters supposed, religious discourse—gravissimas et sacras quaestiones.

1 Kings 10:3

And Solomon told her [הַגִּיד is used of solving riddles in Judges 14:13 (Bähr), and interpreting dreams Genesis 41:24; Daniel 5:12] all her questions [Heb. words]; there was not anything hid from the king, which he told her not.

1 Kings 10:4

And when the queen of Sheba had seen all Solomon's wisdom, and the house he had built [1 Kings 10:5 compels us to understand this of the palace, not of the temple. Josephus says she was especially astonished at the house of the forest of Lebanon],

1 Kings 10:5

And the meat of his table [1 Kings 4:22, 1 Kings 4:23], and the sitting ["The rooms of the courtiers in attendance" (Keil). But מוֹשָב may mean an assembly (Psalms 1:1), and possibly the queen saw them when gathered together for a meal] of his servants, and the attendance [Heb. standing. According to Keil, "the rooms of the inferior servants." But verse 8 appears to be decisive against this view] of his ministers [i.e; those who ministered to him. The word "servants" is, perhaps, to be understood of state officers; the word "ministers" of personal attendants (as in Acts 13:5, etc.) That the latter were an inferior class, the "standing" shows], and their apparel [cf. Matthew 6:29. The rich and costly dress of Eastern courtiers and attendants is sometimes furnished by the king (Gen 45:22; 1 Samuel 18:4; 2 Kings 5:5; Daniel 5:7; Esther 5:8; Esther 1:0 Macc. 10:20. Cf. Chardin, "Voyage en Perse," 3:230], and his cupbearers [By this word Keil would understand "drinking arrangements." But see 2 Chronicles 9:4, "cupbearers (same word) and their apparel"], and his ascent [עֹלָתוֹ. It is somewhat doubtful whether we are to interpret this word, ascent, or burnt offering. 2 Kings 16:18, 1 Chronicles 26:16, Ezekiel 40:26 make for the former, and the chronicler has עֲלִיָּתוֹ. which undoubtedly means "ascent." But all the translations understand the word of burnt offerings—the LXX. has καὶ τὴν ὀλοκαύτωσινand the word, "which occurs at least 300 times in the Bible," always (with one exception) signifies burnt offering. It is objected against this interpretation

(1) that we should require the plural, i.e; "burnt offerings;" but this is by no means certain, as the historian may refer to one particular holocaust (see 1 Kings 9:25) which the queen witnessed; and

(2) that the sight of burnt offerings could not have caused her any astonishment (Keil). But their prodigious number may surely have done so; and we are certainly to understand that Solomon was remarkable for the scale of his sacrifices. Considering, however, that the word undoubtedly means "ascent" in Ezekiel 40:26, and that it is so paraphrased by the chronicler, it is perhaps safer to retain this rendering here]; there was no more spirit in her [same expression Joshua 5:1, and cf. Joshua 2:11. For various legends as to this queen, see Stanley, "Jewish Ch." 2. pp. 234-236].

1 Kings 10:6

And she said to the king, It was a true report [Heb. Truth was the word] that I heard in mine own land of thy act [or words. Same word as above and in the next verse] and of thy wisdom.

1 Kings 10:7

Howbeit, I believed not the words ["Fame, as it is always a blab, so ofttimes a liar" (Bp. Hall)] until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and behold, the half was not told me; thy wisdom and prosperity exceeded the fame [Heb. thou hast added wisdom and good to the report] which I heard.

1 Kings 10:8

Happy [Heb. O the happiness, as in Psalms 1:1; Psalms 2:12; Psalms 33:12, etc.] are thy men [LXX. wives, γυνᾶικες]; happy are thy servants, which stand continually before thee [see on 1 Kings 1:2], and that hear thy wisdom.

1 Kings 10:9

Blessed be the Lord thy God [From this mention of the name of Jehovah, taken in connexion with Matthew 12:42, it has been concluded that the queen became a convert to the faith of Israel. But this inference is unwarranted. Polytheism permitted, and, indeed, encouraged, a full recognition of the gods many of the different races and regions. See on 1 Kings 5:7, and cf. 2 Chronicles 2:12 and Ezra 1:3. Observe, too, it is "Jehovah, thy God." And it is very significant that all her gifts and treasures were for the king; none were offerings to the temple] which delighted in thee [cf. 1 Kings 5:7], to set thee on the throne of Israel; because the Lord loved Israel forever [a graceful and thoroughly Oriental compliment. This visit was as flattering to the pride of the chosen people as to their king], therefore made he thee king, to do judgment and justice.

1 Kings 10:10

And she gave the king an hundred and twenty [Josephus says twenty] talents of gold [Psalms 72:15. "The rivers still run into the sea; to him that hath shall be given" (Bp. Hall). As to the talent, see on 1 Kings 9:14], and of spices very great store [Heb. much exceedingly "The immense abundance of spices in Arabia.. is noted by many writers. Herodotus says that the whole tract exhaled an odour marvellously sweet (3:113). Diodorus relates that the odour was carried out to sea to a considerable distance from the shore (3:46). According to Strabo the spice trade of Arabia was in the hands of two nations, the Sabeans and Gerrhaeans, whose profits from it were so enormous that in his time they were the two wealthiest nations on the face of the earth (16:4, 19)," Rawlinson], and precious stones; there came no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon. [Josephus states (Ant. 8. 6. 6) that the cultivation of the balsam in Palestine dates from this visit; the plant having been one of the queen's gifts.

The two following verses form a sort of parenthesis. In speaking of the gold and gems brought by the Arabian queen, it occurs to the historian to state that both of these commodities were also brought in by the fleet. Possibly, too, the mention of the spices reminded him of the fragrant almug trees brought from Ophir (Bähr). But it would rather seem that they are included as one of the chief products of the voyage.

1 Kings 10:11

And the navy of Hiram also [i.e; built and equipped by him, 1 Kings 9:26-28], that brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug trees [In 2 Chronicles 2:8; 2 Chronicles 9:10, called "algum trees." The origin and meaning of the word are alike uncertain. By some the Al is supposed to be the Arabic article, as found in Al-coran, Al-cohol, Ad-miral, etc; but later authorities lend no support to this view. "Celsius enumerates fifteen different trees, each of which has been supposed to have a claim to represent the almug tree of Scripture" Dict. Bib. 3. Appendix, p. 6.) It is now, however pretty generally agreed that the red sandalwood (pterocarpus sandaliorus, Linn.; or, according to others, santalum album, the white species) is intended—a tree which grows in India and on the coast of Malabar. It is said that in India sandalwood is called valguha (same root); and Stanley sees in almug the "Hebraized form of the Deccan word for sandal." Dr. Hooker, however, (Dict. Bib. l.c.) regards the question as still undecided], and precious stones. [Stanley remarks on the frequent references to gold and silver and precious stones in the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 1:9.; Proverbs 3:14, Proverbs 3:15; Proverbs 8:10, Proverbs 8:11; Proverbs 10:20; Proverbs 16:16, etc.), as one indication that it belongs to the age of Solomon.]

1 Kings 10:12

And the king made of the almug trees pillars [lit; props. In 2 Chronicles 9:11 we have a different word, מְסִלוֹת (cf. Judges 20:31, Judges 20:32; 1 Samuel 6:12, etc.), there translated stairs. The word in the text מִסְעָד is ἅπαξ λεγ. Keil understands "steps with bannisters;" Bähr (after Jarchi) "tesselated pavements;" Gesenius, "balusters;" Thenius, "divans;" Bottcher, "benches and similar moveables." But was not the pavement already laid, and of cedar; and would the sanctuary have divans, etc.?] for the house of the Lord, and for the king's house, harps also and psalteries [also mentioned together (Psalms 71:22; Psalms 108:2; cf. Psalms 3:0). They were stringed instruments, but their precise shape and character is quite uncertain. One species of sandalwood, or of wood closely allied to it, is said to have been much sought after for musical instruments] for the singers: there came no such almug trees, nor were seen unto this day.

1 Kings 10:13

And king Solomon gave unto the queen of Sheba an her desire, whatsoever she asked, beside that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty. [Heb. according to the hand of king Solomon. The chronicler has, "beside that which she had brought unto the king." That is to say, in addition to the fitting presents which he made in return for her gifts, he freely gave her whatsoever she asked for. To ask for a coveted thing is no breach of Oriental propriety. The Ethiopian Christians find in these words (and considering the character of Solomon and the license of that age, perhaps not altogether without reason) a basis for their belief that she bore Solomon a son, Melimelek by name, from whom, indeed, the present sovereigns of Abyssinia claim to derive their descent.] So she turned and went to her own country, she and her servants.

Bishop Wordsworth has remarked that the record of this visit disappoints us. He says, "He (Solomon) answered her hard questions. He showed her his palace … but we do not hear that he invited her to go up with him into the house of the Lord," etc. Again: "The visit of the queen of Sheba seem to have been without any spiritual result." "In like manner," he adds, "we hear nothing of any attempt on Solomon's part to improve his friendship and commercial relations with Hiram into an occasion for communicating the better merchandise of Divine truth to the Sidonians." But surely this criticism overlooks the fact that Judaism was not a missionary religion, and that the chosen people had no sort of commission to convert the heathen, It is, no doubt, a mystery; but it is a fact, that for 2,000 years the light of God's truth was, by the counsel and purpose of God, restricted within the extremely narrow confines of Israel, and that the "fulness of the time," when the Gentiles should be "fellow heirs," was distant from Solomon's day by a whole millennium.,


1 Kings 10:1-13

The Queen of Sheba.

Well may the journey of this Eastern queen have a triple mention in the sacred page (1 Kings 10:1-29.; 2 Chronicles 9:1-31.; St. Matthew 12:1-50.; St. Luke 11:1-54.), for it is almost, if not altogether, sui generis. We are so familiar with the story from our infancy that we often fail to realize its true character and proportions. A woman, a princess, an Arab queen, travels some three thousand miles in search of wisdom. We have read of long voyages undertaken and of great hardships endured by men who were in search of gold. Fable tells of the search for a golden fleece; history tells of many voyages to a fancied El Dorado, but here only, and in the case of the Magi, do we read of a traveller who brought gold and sought wisdom.

And our Lord has honoured this history—this almost romantic story—by drawing one of its lessons with His own hand (Matthew 12:42). But though He has there furnished the outline, He has left it for us to fill in the colouring. And the rest of the story He has left untouched; the other lessons we have to gather for ourselves. We have, therefore, to consider,

I. The journey of the queen.

II. Her rich offerings to Solomon.

III. Solomon's royal presents to her.

I. As to the JOURNEY—the one point noticed by our blessed Lord. He has reminded us

(1) of its character. She came "from the ends of the earth."

(2) Of its purpose. It was to "hear the wisdom of Solomon." Let us collect our thoughts round these two centres, the nature and object of this enterprise.

I. THE NATURE OF THIS JOURNEY. Four particulars must be borne in mind.

(1) The length of the way. Presuming that Sheba was Yemen (see note on 1 Kings 10:1), her capital would be at no great distance from Mocha or Aden, i.e; it would be some fifteen hundred miles distant from Jerusalem. But ancient journeys are not to be measured by miles, but by hours. Now both the queen and her company travelled by camels, and the camel can only go, with any degree of comfort, at a walking pace, and, like other beasts of burden, must have occasional rests. Even if they had some "swift dromedaries" for the queen, the pace must have been regulated by the sumpter camels. We may be pretty sure, therefore that the party would not travel, on the average, more than twenty miles a day, which would give something like seventy-five days for the journey to Jerusalem, and the same for the return.

(2) Its fatigues and hardships. Eastern queens, even of the Sabeans, were not unacquainted with luxury (note on 1 Kings 10:2), and the journey through the "great and terrible wilderness" would subject this lady to many discomforts. Camel riding is very tiring; desert travel profoundly wearisome. Whatever comforts her "very great train" might be able to procure her, nothing could alter the blazing sun overhead, the burning sands beneath, or the utter desolation and monotony of the desert. Those who have made the journey to Sinai will have some idea what the dally life of this party was like.

(3) Its perils. "Perils of the wilderness" (cf. Psalms 91:1-16.; Deuteronomy 8:15), and "perils of robbers" alike. Her course lay through the land of Ishmael, whose "hand was against every man," and she carried with her large treasure—a tempting bait to the rapacious Bedouin. True, she had an armed escort, but that would not exempt her from dangers. Nor were these "perils by the way" all. She had left her kingdom without its head. An insurrection might be fomented against her (Luke 19:14), or a usurper might snatch her crown. And all this was

(4) undertaken by a woman. True, she was an Arabian, and therefore presumably hardy and patient, but all the same the sex of the traveller increases our admiration, especially when we consider the estimation in which women have generally been held in the East. And she was a queen, and left a court, left her fragrant country, "Araby the blest," to plod painfully and slowly over the desert reaches, till she came to the "city of the vision of peace."

II. THE PURPOSE OF THIS UNDERTAKING. Many sovereigns have left their homes at the head of "a very great train" both before and since her day, but with what different objects in view. They have swept across continents—the Rameses, the Shishaks, the Alexanders, the Tamerlanes of history, but not for wisdom. Theirs was no peaceful or kindly mission. Some, like Peter the Great, have visited foreign courts for the sake of advancing the commerce, etc; of their country. Some, like the Persian Shah recently, have travelled far to see the wonders of the world, and to taste of its pleasures; but she came to "prove Solomon with hard questions," to "commune with him of all that was in her heart," to

"reason high

Of providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate,
Fixed fate, freewill, foreknowledge absolute."

It is clear that to her "wisdom" was "the principal thing," and she brought gold and rubies (Job 28:18; Proverbs 3:15; Proverbs 8:11) to obtain it. She is like the "merchantman seeking goodly pearls." She has found one pearl of great price, and she will give all that she has to possess it. True, she saw the wonders of Solomon's court, but she came to hear his wisdom. She envied his courtiers, not because of their places, palaces, etc; but because they stood before him (1 Kings 10:8) and heard his words.

And our Saviour has said that this conduct will condemn the men of His generation. It were easy to show how. But it will be more to the point if we consider how it may condemn the men of our own time.

1. Christ is "more (πλεῖον) than Solomon." Solomon was the wisest of men; Christ was "the wisdom of God." Solomon, a great king; Christ," King of kings and Lord of lords" (Revelation 17:4). Compare the Song of Solomon with the Beatitudes; the Proverbs with the Sermon on the Mount; Solomon's end and Christ's death. We should not dare to compare them had not He done it before.

2. Christ is here. No need to cross deserts or continents to find Him. "Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above)," etc. (Romans 10:6, Romans 10:7). And say not, "True, He was present in those Galilean synagogues, in those streets of Jerusalem, but He is not here." His own words affirm the contrary (Matthew 28:20; Matthew 18:20, etc.) He is present everywhere.

"One Spirit, His

Who wore the platted crown with bleeding brows,
Fills universal nature."

But more especially is he present in His Church, His word, His sacraments.

3. Christ has come from the uttermost parts of the world to us. It is not we who have to leave a kingdom. He has left His that he may "appoint unto us a kingdom."

"Thy Father's home of light;
Thy rainbow-circled throne,
Were left for earthly night,
For wanderings sad and lone."

And yet men will not listen to Him, will not learn of Him. It is said that ninety-five per cent of our labouring classes do not statedly attend any place of Christian worship. And of those who do, how many do His bidding? In the great assize all these will meet the Queen of the South. She will witness of the journey she took, of the sacrifices she made, of the risks she incurred, to sit at the feet of Solomon. She will tell of Solomon's "ascent," etc; and she will put to shame and everlasting contempt those to whom the words and wisdom, the sacrifice and ascension of the Lord were unholy or indifferent things (Hebrews 10:29).

And not the Queen of the South alone. The kings of the East, Melchior, Jasper, Balthasar—so tradition calls them they too came a long journey to see the child Christ. And how many pagans in Africa, in India, in the islands of the sea, have gone long miles just to hear one sermon from the passing missionary? Will not all these condemn the men of this generation?

III. HER OFFERINGS TO SOLOMON. It was the custom of those days to approach king, seer, etc; with a present (verse 25; Psa 72:10; 1 Samuel 9:7; Judges 6:18). And she did not come empty. We read of "camels bearing spices," of 120 talents of gold, etc. (verse 10). Now observe:

(1) She gave of what she had. Her country produced or imported gold; it produced spices and precious stones (note on verse 2). Other visitors to Solomon gave garments, horses, etc. (verse 25). These she had not, but she gave what she could (2 Corinthians 8:12).

(2) She gave what Solomon needed. We know how much gold he required; not for the temple only—that was apparently completed—but for his great and varied undertakings. She brought 120 talents of the "gold of Arabia"—literally the ransom of a province (1 Kings 9:14). She brought spices—in verse 15, we read of "the traffick of the spice merchants"—and precious stones—in 2 Chronicles 3:6 we find that Solomon garnished the house with these. So that, like Hiram, she helped to prepare a shrine for the Holy One of Israel.

(3) She gave generously. Her munificence was unexampled—"very much gold" (2 Chronicles 3:2). "There came no more such abundance of spices," etc. (2 Chronicles 3:10).

And shall not her gifts, too, condemn our parsimony? For Christ, the Divine Solomon, has need of our spices and silver and gold. He too is building a temple (1 Peter 2:5). He too plants store cities and treasures in His realm. He would have the whole round world girdled with Christian temples. He would make it one vast "Paradise" (Ecclesiastes 2:4, Ecclesiastes 2:5). And He needs our agency and our offerings. He wants the perfume of sacrifice on our part (Philippians 4:18; Ephesians 5:2; 2 Corinthians 2:15). The Queen of the South did not offer to Solomon of that which cost her nothing. But how seldom is the widow's mite offered to our king. "All these of their abundance have cast in," etc. (Luke 21:8). Compared with her gift how miserable are our subscriptions and offertories. Note: There is a striking similarity between her gifts and those of the Magi. Both too were offered to a king.

IV. SOLOMON'S GIFTS TO HER. She was not the loser either by her long journey or her costly presents. A prince like Solomon could not permit her to make sacrifices, Noblesse oblige. His generosity must exceed hers. So he gave her "all her desire," "whatsoever she asked" "according to the hand of the king" (2 Chronicles 3:13, Heb.) We see here a picture of the recompenses of our God. "According to his riches in glory" (Philippians 4:19). "Exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20). "Ask and it shall be given you" (Matthew 7:7). His gifts too are "according to the hand of a king," and what a king! He cannot remain in any man's debt. "A cup of cold water only" He will abundantly recompense.


1 Kings 10:1-3

The Queen of the South.

This incident is remarkable as the only one in the reign of Solomon to which reference is made in the New Testament. Solomon is twice spoken of by our Lord in His recorded discourses. In one case his royal magnificence is declared inferior to the beauty with which God has clothed the "lilies of the field." "Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these" (Matthew 6:29). Art can never vie with nature. What loveliness of form or hue that human skill can produce is comparable with that of the petals of a flower? What is all the glory with which man may robe himself to that which is the product of the creative finger of God? In the other case, it is the wisdom of Solomon that our Lord refers to, as having its widespread fame illustrated by the visit of the Queen of Sheba, and as being surpassed by the higher revelation of truth in Himself. "The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment," etc. (Matthew 12:42). The interest and importance of this incident is greatly heightened by its thus finding a place in the discourses of Christ. In itself there is no very deep meaning in it. It supplies few materials for high moral or spiritual teaching. The interchange of civilities between two Oriental monarchs is related by the historian with innocent pride, as setting forth the surpassing grandeur of the king whose reign was to him the golden age of his own nation's life. There is something of a romantic charm in it, too, that naturally gave rise to fanciful traditions being added to the biblical story. But beyond this it is an event of no great moment. This use of it, however, by our Lord lifts it out of the region of the commonplace, gives it other than a mere secular meaning, makes it an important channel of Divine instruction. Every name is honoured by association with His. Every incident becomes clothed with sacred interest when made to illustrate the relation of human souls to Him. Let us look at these two persons, then, in the light of the New Testament reference to their interview.

I. SOLOMON, IN HIS WISDOM, A TYPE OF THE "GREATER" CHRIST. The distinctive personal characteristic of Solomon was his "wisdom." The fame of it is regarded by some as marking the uprising of a new and hitherto unknown power in Israel. Whence came this new phenomenon? We trace it to a Divine source. "The Lord gave unto David this wise son" (1 Kings 5:7). "God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much" (1 Kings 4:29). No doubt the extended intercourse with surrounding nations that he established was the beginning of a new life to Israel, bringing in a flood of new ideas and interests. This supplied materials for his wisdom but did not create it. It was not learnt from Egypt, or the "children of the East." It was a Divine gift, that came in response to his own prayer (1 Kings 3:9).

1. One broad feature that strikes us in Solomon's wisdom is its remarkable versatility, the variety of its phases, the way in which its light played freely on all sorts of subjects. It dealt with the objects and processes of nature. It was a kind of natural science. He has been called "the founder of Hebrew science," the "first of the world's great naturalists." "He spake of trees, from the cedar tree," etc. (1 Kings 4:33). One would like to know what the range and quality of his science really was; but the Bible, existing as it does for far other than scientific purposes, does not satisfy our curiosity in this respect. It dealt with moral facts and problems—a true practical philosophy of life; its proper ends and aims, its governing principles, the meaning of its experiences, its besetting dangers and possible rewards. It dealt with the administration of national affairs. This is seen in his assertion of the principle of eternal righteousness as the law by which the ruler of men must himself be ruled. His wisdom lay in the gift of "an understanding heart to judge the people and discern between good and evil," and the people "feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment" (1 Kings 4:29). We are thus reminded of the unity of nature and of human life. Truth is one, whether in thought, feeling, or conduct, in things private or public, secular or spiritual. Wisdom is the power that discerns and utilizes the innermost truth of all things, finds out and practically applies whatever is essentially Divine.

2. Solomon's wisdom assumed various forms of expression: the Proverbial form, as in the "Book of Proverbs;" the Poetic form, as in his "Songs" and "Psalms;" the Socratic form, by question and answer, riddles—"dark sayings"—and the interpretation thereof. It is in this latter form that his wisdom here appears. Tradition says that Hiram engaged with him in this "cross questioning," and was worsted in the encounter; so here the queen of Sheba came "to prove him with hard questions," and "communing with him of all that was in her heart she found that he could tell her all her questions," etc. By all this we are led to think of "One greater than Solomon."

(1) "Greater," inasmuch as He leads men to wisdom of a higher order. Solomon is the most secular of the inspired writers of the Old Testament. Divine things are approached by him, as it were, on the lower, earthly side. A prudential tone is given to the counsels of religion, and vice is set forth not so much as wickedness but as "folly." Think of the marked difference between the utterances of Solomon's wisdom and the sublime spiritual elevation of David's psalms. And when we come to Christ's teaching, what immeasurably loftier heights and deeper depths of Divine truth are here! Redemption, holiness, immortality, are His themes—the deeper "mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; .... in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:8).

(2) "Greater," inasmuch as the Divine fount of wisdom must needs be infinitely superior to any mere human channel through which it flows. Solomon was after all but a learner, not a master. His were but guesses at truth. Christ's were the authoritative utterances of the incarnate "Word." Solomon spoke according to the limited measure of the spirit of truth in him. Christ spoke out of His own infinite fulness. "God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him" (John 3:34). Whence, indeed, did Solomon's wisdom come but from Him, the true fontal "Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world"? The words that the wise in every age have spoken were but dim, dawning rays of the light that broke in a glorious day upon the world when He, the Sun of Righteousness, arose.

II. THE QUEEN OF SHEBA, IN HER SEARCH AFTER WISDOM, AS AN EXAMPLE FOR OURSELVES. All the motives that actuated herin this long pilgrimage from the far off corner of Arabia we know not. Mere curiosity, commercial interest, personal vanity may have had something to do with it. But the words of the narrative suggest that it was mainly an honest thirst for knowledge, and specially for clearer light on highest matters of human interest. Learn

(1) The nobility of a simple, earnest, restless search after truth.

(2) The grateful respect which a teachable spirit will feel towards one who can unveil the truth to it.

(3) The joyous satisfaction of soul that springs from the discovery of the highest truth. How much does such an example as this in the realms of heathen darkness rebuke the spiritual dulness and indifference of those who with the Light of Life shining gloriously upon them in the person of Christ refuse to welcome it, and walk in it! "Many shall come from the east and the west," etc. (Matthew 8:11, Matthew 8:12).—W.


1 Kings 10:1-18

The Queen of Sheba.

The suggestiveness of Solomon's intercourse with surrounding nations. His magnanimity was as remarkable as his magnificence. His broad policy stood out in striking contrast with the narrowness of some of his contemporaries and successors. It was one evidence of his divinely inspired wisdom. In some respects his enlightenment puts to shame modern diplomacy. Trace his relations with the king of Tyre and the queen of Sheba. These were not exceptionally treated by the wise-hearted ruler. His country was open to the commerce of surrounding peoples, and his court free to all who would live in amity with him. Indicate the typical nature of his kingdom—the golden age of God's people. Apply to the reign of Him who said, "A greater than Solomon is here!" Remarks on the position and the commerce of the land from which this great queen came. Her conduct is full of suggestions for us—

I. HER COMING SHOWS THE PAINS THOSE SHOULD TAKE WHO ARE SEARCHING FOR TRUE WISDOM. The journey was long, arduous, costly. It may have raised opposition amongst the people she ruled. In spite of all she came. Give examples of men who in old time travelled far in search of wisdom, visiting schools of philosophy, astrologers, and sages, consulting oracles like that at Delphi. Not less is demanded of men in our days who investigate natural phenomena. Instances abound of travellers who have laid down life, as did Franklin and Livingstone, in journeys of discovery; of surgeons and physicians who have run personal risk to learn by crucial experiment a means of cure; of scientific discoverers who have sacrificed time and effort to make sure of one fact, or establish one law, etc. In contrast with all this how small the effort to win true riches, to know essential truth. Many are content with hearsay evidence. The queen of Sheba was not. At any cost she would see and know for herself. Perhaps it was with some remembrance of her visit that Solomon wrote Proverbs 2:3-5 : "If thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then thou shalt understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God." Compare this with the parable of the merchant seeking goodly pearls (Matthew 13:45, Matthew 13:46). See also Colossians 2:8.

II. HER CONFESSION EXPRESSES THE FEELING OF THOSE WHO HAVE COME TO ONE GREATER THAN SOLOMON. "The half was not told me" (Colossians 2:6, Colossians 2:7). St. Paul speaks of "the unsearchable riches of Christ;" of "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ," etc. In proportion as men really know Him, and live near Him, does He appear more winsome and worthy. Cite the utterances of such men as Bernard, Wesley, etc. Their words fall from our lips in song, yet they seem extravagant to us on our low level of religious life, and at our sad distance from Christ. Such bursts of praise we may use as tests of our devotion. Christ has not changed, but too often His people see Him from afar. Any one who is living near the Lord can say, "The half was not told me" of Thy love and glory.

III. HER OFFERING SUGGESTS THE PRESENTATION WE SHOULD MAKE TO OUR KING Read Colossians 2:10. Draw out the parallel between this and the coming of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-23.), when they fell down and worshipped the child Jesus, and opened their treasures and presented to Him gifts—gold and frankincense and myrrh.

"Say, shall we yield Him, in costly devotion,
Odours of Edom and offerings Divine;
Gems of the mountain, and pearls of the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest, or gold from the mine?
"Vainly we offer each ample oblation;
Vainly with gifts would his favour secure;
Richer, by far, is the heart's adoration;
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor."

See Isaiah 1:12; Psalms 40:6, etc.


1. Like Solomon (Psalms 40:3) Christ answers our questions. He knew His disciples "were desirous to ask Him," so they needed not even to frame their questions. Unspoken prayers are heard.

2. Like Solomon (Psalms 40:5) Christ reveals His glory. The transfiguration, the last talk with the apostles, the apocalypse, etc.

3. Like Solomon (Psalms 40:13) Christ loads us with benefits. Pardon, peace, strength, joy, etc.—of greater worth than gold and precious stones. These material, those imperishable.

Let the earnestness of this queen rebuke own sloth and unbelief. "The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, a greater than Solomon is here" (Matthew 12:42).—A.R.

Verses 14-29


SOLOMON'S WEALTH, POMP, AND POWER. The visit of the Queen of Sheba, in itself a striking proof of the fame and greatness of Solomon, is followed by a description of his revenues, his throne, and various other particulars of his wealth and magnificence, some of which are related here because they were the products of the voyages of that same fleet which had been the means of acquainting the queen with Solomon and his glory.

1 Kings 10:14

Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year [probably one particular and exceptional year, probably also the year of the queen's visit, not year by year (Wordsworth, al.), as the Vulgate (per singulos annos). One fleet only came home from its voyage after three years, and the gold would hardly weigh precisely 666 talents year by year] was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold. [The correspondence with the number of the Beast (Revelation 13:18; cf. Ezra 2:13) is in all probability not altogether accidental. It is possible, i.e; that the number of the beast is a reminiscence of this number of talents. For we may surely see in this statement of Solomon's prodigious wealth an indication of his worldliness, the turning point, perhaps, in his estrangement from God. "The love of money" may have been the root of all his evil. It is certainly remarkable that from this time forward his career is one of steady declension. It is also remarkable that while he is here represented to us as a "royal merchant," the mark of the beast is on the buyers and sellers (Revelation 13:17). But see "Expositor," May, 1881. It is, of course, possible that the number has been corrupted, but, on the other hand, it may have been recorded, partly because of the singularity of the sum total. The 666 talents include the receipts from all sources—taxes, tribute, and voyages—with the exception made presently (1 Kings 10:15). Rawlinson quotes Keil (in his earlier edition) as estimating this amount at £3,646,350. But in his later work, Keil puts it in round numbers at two and a half millions, while Mr. Peele calculates it at about £8,000,000. These widely varying figures are instructive, as showing that both estimates are little more than guesswork. We do not know the value of the Hebrew talent, nor, indeed, can it ever be rightly appraised until we know its purchasing power. The denarius, e.g; is generally valued at 8½ d. (or 7½ d.) because it contained some 58 grains of pure silver but its real value was nearer three shillings, inasmuch as it was a fair wage for a day's work on the land (Matthew 20:2). In any case, it is clear that this sum should hardly be compared with the annual revenue of other Oriental empires, as by Rawlinson (see above).

1 Kings 10:15

Beside that he had of the marchantmen [The root תּוּר signifies to wander or travel about. In Numbers 13:16, Numbers 13:17, it is used of spies. It may here be applied to persons who travelled for purposes of trade; but the versions differ very materially in their rendering of the word; the LXX. understanding it of tribute (τῶν φόρων τῶν ὑποτεταγμένων); the Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic of artizans; the Vulgate of ambassadors. And the word is nowhere else used of traders. For the construction, see Ewald 287e], and of the traffick [it is noteworthy that no such word is used before הַתָּרִים above] of the spice [not in Hebrews] merchants רָכַל is akin to רָגַל Like the preceding word, the primary meaning is to go about (רֶגֶל foot); hence, to trade. It is probable that Solomon's great commercial enterprises were conducted for his own benefit, i.e; that the merchants were little more than agents, who bought and sold for the king. Such is the custom of Eastern kings (Kitto)], and of all the kings of Arabia [הָעֶרֶב is very variously interpreted. According to Gesenius it means foreigners, and he would understand "foreign kings who made an alliance with the Israelites," and so the Chaldee. Keil: "the kings of the mixed population" (mentioned Exodus 12:38. Cf. Jeremiah 50:37; Nehemiah 13:3). Perhaps the words are best explained by Jeremiah 25:24 : "The kings of Arabia (עֲרָב) and … of the mingled people (עֶרֶב) that dwell in the desert," i.e; the desert of Arabia deserta, bordering on Palestine. The chronicler here gives us עֲרָב, i.e; not the Arabia of the geographers, but the tract of country south and east of Palestine, as far as the Red Sea (Gesenius). No doubt these kings, who were great sheepmasters, paid their tribute in flocks of sheep and goats (2 Chronicles 17:11; 2 Kings 3:4], and of the governors of the country. [The word פַחוֹת (cf. 2 Kings 20:1-24) is a foreign word, perhaps Sanskrit, apparently borrowed by the Jews from the Persians. It is used of Tatnai (Ezra 5:6), of Zerubbabel (Haggai 1:1), and of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5:14). Probably our author, in whose day it was a familiar and well understood word, substituted it for some older Hebrew designation. But the office and character of these "governors" is more difficult to define than the name. Rawlinson thinks that, in some parts of the empire, the kings—the "empire of Solomon," he observes, "was in the main a congeries of small kingdoms"—"had been superseded by governors." But it seems as natural to understand the term of the twelve prefects mentioned in Nehemiah 4:1-23; who were "the governors of the land," or of similar officers in the different outposts of the kingdom. We know that the contributions which passed through their hands were furnished in kind; hence, perhaps, it is that this income is distinguished from the gold of Nehemiah 4:14.

1 Kings 10:16

And king Solomon made two hundred targets [צִנָּה, from a root which signifies protect, a large oblong shield, which covered the entire person (Psalms 5:12), θυρεός, scutum. See 1 Samuel 17:7, 1 Samuel 17:41. The LXX. here reads δόρατα, i.e; spears] of beaten gold [The authorities are divided as to the meaning of שָׁחוּט, here translated beaten. This rendering is supported by Bähr and Keil (after Kimchi), but Gesenius understands mixed gold. Rawlinson infers from the weight that the shields were only plated (shields were commonly made of wood, covered with leather). But whether they were solid or not does not decide the question whether the gold was pure or alloyed. "Shields of gold" are mentioned 2 Samuel 8:7; 2 Samuel 1:0 Macc. 6:39]: six hundred shekels [Heb. omits shekels, as elsewhere, Genesis 24:22; Genesis 37:28; Judges 8:26, etc. There were apparently two kinds of shekel, the Mosaic and the royal (for the latter see 2 Samuel 14:26). The former was twice as much as the latter, but there is no agreement amongst commentators as to the weight or value of either. Nor can we be certain which is indicated here. Thenius decides for the former, and estimates the weight of the gold on each target to be 17 ½ lbs; and the value to be 6000 thalers (£900), or, according to Keil, 5000 thalers (£750). Keil, however, inclines to the belief that the royal shekel is meant, in which case the weight would be 9 lbs; and the value about £400. Bähr, however, estimates the gold at no more than £78] of gold went to one target.

1 Kings 10:17

And he made three hundred shields [portable shields (peltas, Vulgate) adapted for use in hand to hand encounters (2 Chronicles 12:9, 2 Chronicles 12:10; cf. 2 Samuel 1:21). That these were much smaller shields is clear from the text. These shields were borne by the royal bodyguard on great occasions (1 Kings 14:27). They were taken away by Shishak (ib. 1 Kings 10:26)] of beaten gold; three pound [מָגֶה μνᾶ, mina. As 2 Chronicles 9:16 has here 300 shekels, it follows that the maneh = 100 shekels. From Ezekiel 45:12, however, it would seem that there were manehs of different value] of gold went to one shield [i.e; half as much as to the target]; and the king put them in [Heb. gave them to] the house of the forest of Lebanon [1 Kings 7:2. They would certainly be suspended on the walls, but whether on the inside or the outside is not quite certain, and the text affords us no means of deciding. We know that elsewhere shields were suspended outside the walls of armouries, etc. "At Tyre the beauty of the place was thought to consist in the splendour and variety of the shields of all nations hung on its walls (Ezekiel 27:10, Ezekiel 27:11). In Rome the temple of Bellona was studded with them. In Athens, the round marks where they hung can still be traced on the walls of the Parthenon. There were also arms hung round the wails of the second temple (Joshua, Ant. 15.11. 3)," Stanley. It is supposed that along with those made by Solomon were hung the shields taken by David from the Syrians, as according to 2 Samuel 8:7, LXX; these latter also were carried off by Shishak. It has been inferred from Song of Solomon 4:4 that these also were 500 in number, and that the entire thousand were suspended on a part of the house of the forest of Lebanon known as the Tower of David; cf. Isaiah 22:8; Psalms 47:9].

The historian now proceeds to describe the great feature of another of Solomon's palaces. As the house of the forest of Lebanon was distinguished by the golden shields which emblazoned and glorified its walls, so was "the porch of judgment" (1 Kings 7:7) by the chryselephantine throne.

1 Kings 10:18

Moreover the ling made a great throne [Heb. seat. The use of a chair where the custom of the country is to squat on the ground, or to recline on a divan, is always a mark of dignity. See 2 Kings 4:10; Proverbs 9:14] of ivory [Heb. tooth. Below in verse 22 we have elephant's tooth. It is generally thought that this "throne of the house of David" (Psalms 122:5) was of wood, veneered with ivory, as was the practice in Assyria, and in the chryselephantine statues of the Greeks (Paus. 2.4.1; 6.25. 4, etc.) Bähr says there is no more necessity for believing this throne to have been of solid ivory than the "ivory house" mentioned in 1 Kings 22:39. Cf. Psalms 45:8; Amos 3:15; Amos 6:4. But there is surely this difference between them, that the palace could not possibly be constructed entirely of ivory, whereas the throne might be, and some of the thrones of India have been (Rawlinson)], and overlaid it with the best [מוּפָז, from the root פָּזַז, separavit = aurum depuratum. The chronicler explains the word by טָהוֹר (2 Chronicles 9:17)] gold. [It is very unlikely that the gold entirely covered and concealed the ivory, especially if the latter was merely a veneer. Keil and Bähr consider that the gold was laid on the wood and the ivory inserted between the plates, but the text does not speak of overlaying with ivory, but of overlaying ivory with gold. And the presumption is that the ivory was solid. In the Greek statues both ivory and gold were applied in laminae, the former representing the flesh, the latter the drapery.]

1 Kings 10:19

The throne had six steps ["The characteristic feature in the royal throne was its elevation"; cf. Isaiah 6:1], and the top [Heb. head] of the throne was round behind [same word Hebrews 7:23, Hebrews 7:24. Thenius and Bähr understand it of an arched or rounded canopy attached to the back; Keil supposes that the back was arched or rounded in form]: and there were stays [Heb. hands, i.e; arms] on either side on the place of the seat [see drawing of Assyrian throne in Layard's "Nineveh," 2:301; Dict. Bib. 52. p. 1494], and two liens [probably of wood overlaid with gold. Cf. Jeremiah 10:3, Jeremiah 10:4] stood beside the stays.

1 Kings 10:20

And twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the other, upon the six steps [It is somewhat doubtful whether there were twelve or fourteen lions in all. Most commentators assume that there were fourteen, and the text will certainly bear that construction. But it is altogether more likely that there were twelve; that is to say, that the two lions on the topmost step are the two mentioned in the preceding verse as "standing beside the stays," otherwise there would have been four lions on that step. And we all know that twelve had a significance such as could not attach to any other number. It would signify that all the tribes had an interest in the royal house (cf. 1 Kings 12:16; 2 Samuel 20:1); and a right of approach to the throne (cf. 1 Kings 18:31). The lion, a familiar emblem of sovereignty among many nations, had an especial appropriateness in this case, as being the symbol of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:9; cf. Numbers 23:24; Numbers 24:9). We are to see in them partly "symbols of the ruler's authority" (Keil), and partly, perhaps, they represented the twelve tribes as guardians of the throne. "The king mounted between figures of lions to his seat on the throne, and sat between figures of lions upon it" (Wordsworth). Thrones somewhat similar to this in character, but much less magnificent, are represented on the Assyrian monuments. The historian might justly add]: there was not the like made [Heb. not made so] in any kingdom.

1 Kings 10:21

And an king Solomon's drinking vessels were of gold [as were those of Assyria and Babylon. This lavish display of wealth was characteristic of Oriental courts. Rawlinson quotes Chardin's description of the splendour of the court of Persia, "Tout est d'or massif," etc; and adds, "Both Symes and Yule note a similar use of gold utensils by the king of Ava"], and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold [סָגוּר; see on 1 Kings 6:20. LXX. χρυσίῳ συγκεκλεισμένα. This immense quantity of gold is quite paralleled in the accounts of profane writers. "Sardanapalus, when Nineveh was besieged, had 150 golden bedsteads, 150 golden tables, a million talents of gold, ten times as much silver, etc.. No less than 7170 talents of gold were used for the vessels and statues of the temple of Bel in Babylon.. Alexander's pillage of Ectabana was estimated at 120,000 talents of gold," etc. (Bähr, in loc.)]; none were of silver [Heb. none silver. The Marg; "there was no silver in them," i.e; they were unalloyed, is a misapprehension of the true meaning]: it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon.

1 Kings 10:22

For [Reason why silver was so lightly esteemed. It was because of the prodigious quantity both of gold and silver brought in by the fleet] the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish [It has been much disputed

(1) whether this was a second fleet, or the same as that mentioned 1 Kings 9:26-28, as trading to Ophir, and

(2) whether this fleet, if it were not the same, went to Ophir or to Tartessus in Spain. Keil and Bähr contend that there was Out one fleet, first, because there is no mention of a second fleet at 1 Kings 9:28, and, secondly, because the cargoes were practically the same.

I incline (with Rawlinson, al.) to think there were two separate navies, for the following reasons:

(1) The expression "navy of Tarshish" (in 2 Chronicles 9:21 expanded into "ships going to Tarshish," which Keil and Bähr are compelled to set aside as a mistake on the part of the writer), taken in connexion with the following words, "with (עִם, together with, as well as) the navy of Hiram" points to a separate fleet;

(2) the cargoes, so far from being the same, strike me as being altogether diverse. The Ophir fleet brought in "gold, almug trees, and precious stones." The navy of Tarshish "gold and silver ivory, apes, and peacocks." See below.

(3) Even if we understand here by the "navy of Hiram" a Phoenician fleet, still a second fleet is indicated. But this leads us to consider the destination of these ships. The term, "fleet of Tarshish," does not in itself prove anything, for the expression, "ships of Tarshish," is almost a synonym for "merchant vessels." In 1 Kings 22:48 we read, "Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir," and they "were broken at Ezion-geber" (cf. Psalms 48:7; Jonah 1:3). It is probable that in Jewish lips the words were a nomen generale for all vessels going long voyages (Isaiah 2:16; Psalms 48:7; compare our "East Indiaman," "Greenlander"). But the words "in the sea," בַּיָּם, are most naturally understood of that ocean which the Jews called par excellence "the sea," or "the great sea" (Numbers 34:6, Numbers 34:7), i.e; the Mediterranean, though the term הַיָּם is undoubtedly used of the Red Sea, the Sea of Galilee, and the Dead Sea. And the more so as we know that the Tyrians had an extensive commerce with Tartessus, which was a great emporium of trade from the earliest times. Bähr objects that "no gold is found in Spain, but few peacocks, and little ivory;" but Rawlinson, on the other hand, affirms that "Spain had the richest silver mines known in the ancient world, and had a good deal of gold also" (Plin; Nat. Hist. 1 Kings 3:4), while "apes and ivory were produced by the opposite coast of Africa" (Herod. 4:191. As to peacocks see below). And it is a powerful argument in favour of Tartessus that it is the plentifulness of silver in Solomon's days has suggested this reference to the fleet. For though silver "was found in the land of the Nabataeans, according to Strabo, 16:784" (Keil), yet it was to Tartessus that the ancient world was chiefly indebted for its supplies of that metal. On the whole, therefore, it seems probable that second fleet, trading with the Mediterranean seaports, is here described. And Psalms 72:10 is distinctly in favour of this conclusion. When Ewald says ("Hist. Israel," 3:263) that the Phoenicians would hardly tolerate a rival in the Mediterranean, he surely forgets that they had been admitted by the Jews to share the trade of Ophir] with the navy of Hiram; once in three years [This period agrees better with a voyage to Spain than to Southern Arabia. And if we understand it of Spanish voyages, it removes one difficulty in the way of placing Ophir in Arabia. It has also been urged that "the Hebrews reckoned parts of years and days as whole ones" (Kitte); but this hardly would apply to the expression "once in three years"] came the navy of Tarshish, bringing gold and silver ivory [Heb. tooth of elephants, LXX. ὀδόντες ἐλεφάντινοι. It is noteworthy that the name for elephant used here is derived from the Sanskrit (Gesen.), and an argument has been drawn hence in favour of placing Ophir in India, and of identifying the Tarshish fleet with the navy of Ophir. But such conclusions are extremely precarious. The name may have first come to the Jews from India, in which case it would be retained, from whatever quarter the commodity was subsequently derived. See Rawlinson, p. 546], and apes [קוֹף is in like manner identified by Gesenius, al; with the Sanskrit kapi. Sir J. Emerson Tennant says "the terms by which these articles (ivory, apes, and peacocks) are designated in the Hebrew Scriptures are identical with the Tamil names by which some of them are called in Ceylon to the present day"], and peacocks. [So the the ancients interpret the original word, though some of the moderns would understand "parrots." But the root תכי appears in several Aryan tongues (cf. ταῶς, from ταρως, and pavo) as indicating the peacock (Gesen; Max Muller, al.) which originally came from India. Whether it was also found in Africa is uncertain. Aristophanes says, καλεῖται Περσικὸς ὄρνις. Wordsworth very justly sees in the mention of these curious beasts and birds a symptom of declension in simplicity and piety, a token that "wealth had brought with it luxury and effeminacy, and a frivolous, vainglorious love for novel and outlandish objects.'

1 Kings 10:23

So King Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and wisdom [Cf. 1 Kings 3:13. "There is something ominous of evil here. Riches are put before wisdom. This was not the case in the beginning of Solomon's reign (1 Kings 3:11)"—Wordsworth.

1 Kings 10:24

And all the earth sought to [Heb. sought the face of] Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart [i.e; mind. Cf. 1 Kings 4:34].

1 Kings 10:25

And they brought [Heb. and these (visitors were) bringing] every man his present [It is doubtful whether we are to understand by this word tribute, or gifts. The succeeding words, "a rate year by year," would seem to imply the former; the fact that the visitors came not as subjects, but to "hear the wisdom," etc; the latter. Bähr understands that the presents "were repeated year by year, so highly had Solomon risen in estimation." But even this supposition does not explain the "rate"] vessels of silver and vessels of gold, and garments [cf. Gen 45:22; 2 Kings 5:26; Ezra 2:69], and armour [rather, "arms, weapons" (Gesen.) Ewald understands perfume; LXX. στακτὴν, i.e; oil of myrrh], and spices [cf. Ezra 2:10], horses and mules [see on 1 Kings 1:33], a rate year by year [Heb. the matter of a year in his year] .

The remaining verses of this chapter, which, in the account of the chronicler, find a place at the end of the first chapter of his second book, repeat some of the information already given in 1 Kings 4:26 and 1 Kings 9:19, and furnish a few additional particulars as to the wealth and commerce of the king.

1 Kings 10:26

And Solomon gathered together his chariots and horsemen, and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots [these words have an important bearing on 1 Kings 4:26, where see note], and twelve thousand horsemen. [The question may suggest itself here, why did Solomon, who was a "man of peace," maintain such a formidable array of chariots and horsemen? For not only was it in contravention of Deuteronomy 17:16 (cf. 1 Samuel 8:11), but it was entirely unnecessary, especially for a nation inhabiting a hilly country like that of Israel. We find, consequently, that David, when he took a thousand chariots from Hadarezer (1 Chronicles 18:4), only reserved for his own use one hundred of them, though he was at the time engaged in war. It may perhaps be said that this force was necessary to keep the tributary kings in due subjection. But it seems quite as likely that it was maintained largely for the sake of pomp and display. Solomon seems to have determined in every way, and at any cost, to rival and surpass all contemporary kings. The maintenance of this large force of cavalry is another token of declension], whom he bestowed in the cities for chariots (1 Kings 9:19), and with the king at Jerusalem.

1 Kings 10:27

And the king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones [an obviously hyperbolical expression], and cedar trees made he to be as the sycamore trees [the שִׁקְמָה is the συκομωρέα of the New Testament (Luke 19:4), i.e; as the name imports, the fig mulberry—the "sycamine tree" of Luke 17:6 would seem to denote the mulberry proper. Though now but comparatively rare in Palestine, it is clear that formerly it was very common (see, e.g; Isaiah 9:10, whence it appears that it was used for building purposes, and where it is also contrasted with the cedars). It was esteemed both for its fruit and its wood, so much so that David appointed a steward to have the supervision both of "the olive trees and the sycamore trees in the Shefelah" (1 Chronicles 27:28). The sycamores of Egypt, which were used for the coffins of mummies, are referred to in Psalms 78:47, in a way which bespeaks their great value. There is a good description of the tree in Thomson, "Land and Book," 1:23-25] that are in the vale [Same word as in 1 Chronicles l.c. The Shefelah is a "broad swelling tract of many hundred miles in area, which sweeps gently down from the mountains of Judah 'to mingle with the bounding main' of the Mediterranean". This "Low Country" extended from Joppa to Gaza. The translation "vale" is altogether misleading. Conder describes it as "consisting of low hills, about five hundred feet above the sea, of white soft limestone," and adds that "the broad valleys among these hills… produce fine crops of corn, and on the hills the long olive groves flourish better than in other districts"—an incidental and valuable confirmation of the text. "The name Sifia, or Shephelah, still exists in four or five places round Beit Jibrin" (Eleutheropolis), ib. p. 276] for abundance.

1 Kings 10:28

And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt, and linen yarn: the king's merchants received the linen yarn at a price. [This is a difficult passage, and the difficulty lies in the word מִקְוֶה, here rendered "linen yarn." Elsewhere the word signifies, a congregation, or gathering, as of water (Genesis 1:10; Exodus 7:19; Leviticus 11:36). Consequently, Gesenius (with Vatablus, al.) would here interpret, "company." "And the company of kings' merchants took the company (of horses) at a price." The great difficulty in the way of this interpretation is perhaps the paronomasia, which, though not altogether without precedent, would be formal and unusual in grave history. Somewhat similarly Bähr: "and as to horses … and their collection, the merchants of the king made a collection for a certain price," but this again is strained and artificial. Perhaps it is safer to see in the word the name of a place. The LXX. (similarly the Vulgate) renders, "from Egypt and from Thekoa," καὶ ἐκ θεκουὲ, which Keil, however, contends is manifestly a variation of an older reading, καὶ ἐκ Κουὲ, "and from Κουα." As to Koa or Kova, it is objected that no such place is mentioned elsewhere, and it is alleged that if it were a market for horses, or even if it were a frontier station, where the duties on horses were collected, we should surely have heard of it again. But this is by no means certain. Koa may well have been an in. significant post on the frontier which it was only necessary to mention in this connexion. Θεκουὲ certainly looks like an emendation, but it is to be remembered that although Tekoa (Amos 1:1; 2 Chronicles 11:6; 2 Chronicles 20:20) was apparently an insignificant village, still it gave its name to a district; it was no great distance from the Egyptian frontier—it was some six Roman miles south of Bethlehem, according to Jerome (in Amos, Proem.), and it may have been the rendezvous of the Egyptian and Hebrew horse dealers. The text would thus yield the following meaning: "And as for the expert of Solomon's horses from Egypt and from Koa (or Tekoa), the king's merchants took them from Koa (or Tekoa) at a price."

1 Kings 10:29

And a chariot [including perhaps the two or three horses (see note on 1 Kings 5:6) usually attached to a chariot, and the harness. רֶכֶב is used (2Sa 8:4; 2 Samuel 10:18; Ezekiel 39:20) for chariot and horses] came up and went out of Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver [about £80 (Wordsworth, £35), but, as these figures show, the precise value cannot be ascertained with certainty. But it is quite clear that these amounts cannot have been the custom duty, or the profits after reckoning all expenses (Ewald) paid on chariots and horses, but must represent the actual price], and an horse for an hundred and fifty: and so for all the kings of the Hittites. [We can hardly see in these Hittites representatives of the seven nations of Canaan (Wordsworth, al.), though the term "Hittite" is sometimes undoubtedly used as a nomen generale for Canaanites (Joshua 1:4; Ezekiel 16:3), for the Canaanitish bes had been reduced to bond service, the Hittites amongst them (1 Kings 9:20). The word is probably used somewhat loosely of the semi-independent tribes bordering on Palestine, the Khatti of the Assyrian inscriptions (Dict. Bib. 1:819), with whom Solomon had a sort of alliance. It is a curious coincidence that we find horses and chariots associated in popular estimation with the Hittites, at a later period of the history (2 Kings 7:6). Nor are we justified in supposing that these horses and chariots were furnished as cavalry to "Solomon's vassals, whose armies were at his disposal, if he required their aid" (Rawlinson), for the kings of Syria are mentioned presently, and some of these at least were enemies to Solomon. Probably all we are to understand is that neighbouring nations received their supply of horses from Egypt—the home of horses and chariots (Exodus 14:6; Exodus 15:1; Deuteronomy 17:16; Isaiah 31:1; Jeremiah 46:2-4)—largely through the instrumentality of Solomon's merchants], and for the kings of Syria ["who became the bitterest enemies of Israel" (Wordsworth): one fruit of a worldly policy], did they bring them out by their means. [Heb. by their hand they brought them out, i.e; they exported them through Solomon's traders.


1 Kings 10:14-29

The Decline and Fall of Solomon.

The fall of Solomon, in itself one of the most portentous facts in Scripture history, is rendered doubly suggestive and admonitory by a consideration of the way in which it was brought about. It was not that he succumbed to some fierce onslaught of temptation; it was no terrible rush of passion—no sudden guilty love of "fair idolatresses," as some have held—wrought his ruin; on the contrary, his decline in piety was so gradual and slow as to be almost imperceptible. It is almost impossible—and this consideration alone is most instructive—to trace with certainty the steps which led to his downfall. The Arab tradition teaches that a little worm—no more—was, silently and unseen, gnawing at the staff on which this Colossus leaned, and that it was only when it broke and he fell that men discovered he was dead—an instructive parable of his moral and spiritual decay. We may well cry here—

"O fall'n at length that tower of strength
Which stood foursquare to all the winds that blew."

But it is much more pertinent to ask what brought that proud fortress to the ground. It would have sustained unshaken the blows of engines of war; it would have defied the hurtling storm and tempest, but it could not resist the gradual subsidence of its foundations, and so, while preserving a fair appearance almost to the last, it settled and settled, and at the last became a heap of ruins.
Let us trace, then, as best we can, that downward course which ended in the builder of the temple building altars to Baal; let us lay bare, if we can, this worm that was noiselessly but ceaselessly eating out his inner life. Perhaps we cannot discover all its hidden workings, but we can surely see some.
Up to the date of the dedication of the temple all would seem to have gone well. Unless the dedication prayer is, as some have affirmed, the composition of a later age, the prince who poured out his soul before God in those earnest and gracious words cannot have erred very far from the right way. And the message he received during the building of the temple confirms this view. It is a message not of warning but of encouragement. It is at the completion of the palaces that we discover the first certain token of defection. For it was then that the Lord appeared unto him the second time, and the communication then made was undeniably minatory. Its tone of threatening is inexplicable, except on the supposition that Solomon's "heart was not right with the Lord," etc. At this period, then, about the twenty-fourth year of his reign, the destroying worm was already at work.

Nor is it difficult to conjecture what was the first beginning of declension on Solomon's part. We find it in the erection of the palaces, or rather in the carnal mind and the self love and the desire for ostentation which led to their erection. It is just possible that the building of these palaces was not, in itself, to be condemned. It is suspicious, no doubt, and argues selfishness and heartlessness, when, as in Russia, Turkey, etc; the huge and costly residences of the Crown contrast everywhere with the wretched hovels of the peasantry. And one would naturally expect the theocratic king to attain a higher level and to devote himself more to the advancement of his people's good than ordinary rulers. But it must be remembered that under Solomon the Jewish people enjoyed an unprecedented prosperity (1 Kings 4:20, 1 Kings 4:21). The entire nation shared in the wealth and abundance of the court. We cannot be certain, consequently, that the palaces, per se, involved a departure from the law, the more so as some of them were necessary, for purposes of state and justice (see on 1 Kings 7:7). But the matter appears in a very different light when we come to consider the way in which they were reared. Forced labour, on the part of the subject races at least, can no doubt be justified from Scripture (Joshua 9:21 sqq.), at any rate, for the house of God (1 Kings 10:23), but not for the pleasure or aggrandisement of the monarch (1 Samuel 8:11, 1 Samuel 8:16). "It is not of the Lord of Hosts that the people shall weary themselves for very vanity" (Habakkuk 2:13). And when we remember that Jeroboam was probably encouraged to rebel by seeing and hearing the murmurings of the house of Joseph (1 Kings 11:28) of whose labours he was the overseer, and that this and similar burdens laid upon the people (1 Kings 12:4) resulted in the revolt of the ten tribes, we can hardly suppose that Solomon completed his great undertakings (1 Kings 9:15-19) without inflicting positive hardship and grave injustice on large numbers of his subjects. It is probable, indeed, that the woe pronounced against a later monarch (Jeremiah 22:13, Jeremiah 22:14) had not been unmerited by him. He had "used his neighbour's service without wages," etc. Possibly he had raised his forest of cedar pillars, etc; by the sweat and groans of his serfs. It was a common thing for Eastern autocrats to do, but when "Jedidiah" did it, the cries of the oppressed labourer went up "into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth."

But whether the erection of the palaces was in itself wrong or not, and whether the raising of the "levy" (1 Kings 9:15) was oppressive or not, there can be little doubt that the "proud look and high stomach" (Psalms 101:5; Psalms 131:1, Psalms 131:2)—the very spirit which David had disclaimed—which prompted some of these understandings was altogether sinful. Solomon is now no longer the "little child" he once was (1 Kings 3:7). Now that he has "strengthened himself," like his son after him, he begins to forget his God and to forsake His law (2 Chronicles 12:1). It has been promised him that he shall exceed all other kings in wisdom and riches and honour (1 Kings 3:12, 1 Kings 3:18); but this is not enough for him, he must surpass them also in the outward tokens of wealth and power. His palaces, to begin with, must be greater than theirs, he no longer covets the best gifts. The fine gold is become dim.

Still, so far, there has been no deliberate, or perhaps even conscious, infraction of the law—only the worldly and selfish mind. He may well have argued that his state required this show of magnificence; that the Canaanites were ordained of God to hew wood and draw water at his pleasure. But this only shows how slight are the beginnings of evil; how fine sometimes is the line which divides right from wrong, and how easily our judgment is warped by our inclinations. It is the old story, Homo vult decipi et decipiatur.

It is impossible to say in what precise order the records of Solomon's reign are to be arranged, but it is probable that the next downward step is to be traced in the alliance in which he engaged with the Tyrians. We cannot blame him, of course, for the "league" of 1 Kings 5:12. But for that, he could hardly have built the temple, to say nothing of the palaces. Whether he was justified, however, in hang at sea "a navy of Tarshish with the navy of Hiram" (1 Kings 10:22) may well be doubted. For it was part of God's plan that the Jewish people should "dwell alone and not be reckoned among the nations" (Numbers 23:9). Their geographical position was one of almost complete isolation. They were not destined to be a great commercial country. Their land was to be the theatre of our redemption. Theirs were

"those holy fields

Over whose acres walked those blessed feet,
Which eighteen hundred years ago were nailed
For our salvation, to the bitter cross;"

and it was no preparation for the Incarnation that it should become the home of "gripple merchants." Contact and copartnership with idolaters could hardly be for the advantage of the faith. Nor is it difficult to see that Solomon's commerce grew at the expense of his religion. Riches, proverbially a dangerous possession, were with him—wise though he was—a step towards utter ruin. All the time that his fleets were ploughing the main, that caravans of merchants were filling his store cities, that he was driving bargains with the Syrians and Hittites (verse 29), leanness was spreading in his soul—he was becoming more and more a secular prince. It has been justly remarked that the mention of "apes and peacocks" (verse 22), is a significant indication of the moral and mental deterioration which he was undergoing. To think that the wisest of men should find his pleasure in the antics of the one or the plumage of the other; or that he, the viceroy of Jehovah, should import jibbering baboons and strutting fowls, if not for himself, for the outlandish women of his court. No, these "wide views of commerce," this partnership with the Tyrians, this influx of prosperity, has not been for Solomon's or Israel's good. Indeed, if we study the character of the average nineteenth century Jew, we may form a fair idea of what commercial enterprise and lust of gold did for Solomon, the first of Hebrew chapmen.
And yet this commerce, it is easy to see, may have been in its commencement unexceptionable. Possibly it was in part undertaken to provide gold for the embellishment of the temple. But it soon engendered, if indeed it was not engendered by, that "love of money which is the root of all evil." As Solomon grew richer he loved riches more. Verse 28 is full of significance. "So Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and wisdom." Time was when wisdom held the first place (1 Kings 3:11). And so it came to pass that he who at first was "rich toward God," and who, like David his father, had only accumulated gold for the glory of the sanctuary, proceeded to "multiply silver and gold to himself" (Deuteronomy 17:17). Even his drinking vessels were of pure gold (1 Kings 10:21). So that his commerce and its prodigious gains led at last to a distinct violation of the law. He has not ceased to serve God. He still sacrifices and burns incense three times a year (1 Kings 9:25). But he is trying to serve God and mammon, and mammon has gained the mastery. It is probably mentioned as a circumstance full of significance, that the weight of gold that came to him in one year was six hundred and sixty-six talents (1 Kings 5:14). For as seven is the number of the covenant, so six marks a falling short of that covenant, and the first distinct violation of the covenant consisted in the multiplication of silver and gold.

And when a breach in the law was once made we are not surprised to hear presently that it was widened. Facilis descensus Averni. From the multiplication of the precious metals it was an easy step to the multiplication of horses. And here we see at once how Solomon's conscience has become seared, or he has learnt to disregard its warnings. He knew perfectly well that his "twelve thousand horsemen" were a violation of the law. And he could hardly excuse himself on the ground that they were required for purposes of defence. The hilly country of Palestine does not admit of their being deployed therein. It was partly because they could only be employed in aggressive warfare that they were forbidden. Whatever unction, therefore, he might lay to his soul as to his accumulation of gold, he could hardly think, if he thought at all, that his horses and chariots involved no sin. But they were necessary, he persuaded himself, to the state of so great and puissant a monarch, and he would have them. And so hardened was he, so careless of the commandment, that he actually established a market for horses on his southern frontier and supplied them to neighbouring kings, who presently employed them against the people of the Lord.

And yet, grave as was this disregard of law, it was but a worm that was at work in his soul—only self love and self confidence (cf. Isaiah 30:1); only the lust of the eye and the pride of life. He is still the Lord's anointed: his tips distil knowledge; he still offers hecatombs, but his "heart is not right," etc.

And so the years passed by. To all outward appearance his glory and magnificence increased. It is very suggestive to consider how hollow was that prosperity which was the marvel of the world, and how that wisdom which was so renowned was foolishness with God. The court became more splendid, more voluptuous, more dazzling, but the man became year by year poorer and meaner and baser. It only needed one step more—and apparently he was not long in taking that—to complete his defection. The other monarchs of his time had their seraglios. It was necessary that he too should have an establishment of this kind, and he must have it even greater than theirs. He knew that the law forebade the multiplication of wives, but what of that? He had violated the law already: he might just as well do it again. An obsolete precept, he may have argued, suited to primitive times, must not stand in the way of his pomp or his pleasures. And so the Lord's anointed gathered round him in the holy city a thousand strange, immodest women. His fleets and merchants brought him mistresses from every land. And they brought with them their foreign rites, and the effeminate king was taken captive by their charms, and they had their way, and nothing would suffice them but he must tolerate their religion, and what he did for one he must do for all, and—and so the end of sin and shame is reached, and the decline becomes a fall, and "the darling of Jehovah," the wisest of men, the representative of Heaven, the builder of the temple, the type of our Lord, builds altars to the "abominations" of Moab and Ammon "in the hill that is before Jerusalem" (1 Kings 11:7).

This mournful history is full of admonition and instruction. It must suffice to indicate the following lessons:—

1. A man may preach to others and yet be a castaway (1 Corinthians 9:27). Solomon's Prayer (1 Kings 8:1-66.), Psalm (Psalms 127:1-5.), and Proverbs should be studied in the light of his fall. "Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?" (Romans 2:21). Compare verses 22, 23 with Proverbs 5-7.; and remember the constant references to the "law" in the dedication prayer.

2. "Nemo repente turpissimus fuit." "He that despiseth little things shall fall by little and little."

"It is the little rift within the lute
That by and by shall make its music mute."

3. "Out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications," etc. (Mark 7:21). It was not to an assault from without, it was to treachery within that Solomon yielded—Solomon who had said, "Keep thy bears with all diligence," etc.

4. "The love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). May we not say," Behold two kings stood not before him: how then shall we stand?" (2 Kings 10:4). "Children, how hard it is for them that trust in riches," etc. (Mark 10:24). "Take heed, and beware of covetousness" (Luke 12:15), "which is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5).

5. The course of sin is downhill. Vires acquirit eundo. The sinner is on an inclined plane; and the gradient at first is almost imperceptible. Let us learn, too, "the deceitfulness of sin."

6. Woman, made to be man's helpmeet, too often becomes his snare. It is seldom that a man is ruined but a woman has had a share in it.

7. Solomon was old at the time of his fall, etc. (1 Kings 11:4). Hot youth has its dangers and temptations; but mature age has them also. David was not less than fifty when he fell. See p. 225.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Kings 10". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/1-kings-10.html. 1897.
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