I Kings 10

 

 

                        The Visit of the Queen of Sheba (vs. 1-13)

 

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 (ch. 8:42)

has soon had a fulfillment.

 

 

1  “And when the queen of Sheba” - There is no good ground for doubting that

by ab;v] we are to understand the kingdom of Southern Arabia (Yemen). It is true

 that while Genesis 25:3 (cf. I Chronicles 1:32) speaks of Sheba, the son of Joktan,

one of the colonists of southern Arabia, Genesis 10:7 and I 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 (ab;v]) and Saba

(ab;s]) are entirely distinct (Psalm 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; Psalm 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.

“heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came

to prove him with hard questions.”  The record of this visit, following immediately

upon the mention of the voyages (ch. 9:26), is a grain of evidence in favor of locating

Ophir in Arabia.  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 (cited in Josephus, Contra Ap. 1:17. 18) Solomon

also had dialectical encounters with Hiram and with Abdemon, or, according to

Menander, a younger son of Abdemon, a man of Tyre.

 

2 “And she came to Jerusalem” – a great undertaking in those days as Christ

lays stress on this long journed (Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31) – “with a very

great train,” - 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 - “with camels that bare spices,

and very much gold, and precious stones:” – 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.  The perfumes

of Arabia are proverbial (see Herod. 3:107-113), and Yemen is a chief spice

country.  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 all that was in her heart.”

These may well have been religious discourses.

 

3 “And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not any thing

hid from the king, which he told her not.  4 And when the queen of Sheba

had seen all Solomon's wisdom, and the house that he had built,” 

Josephus says she was especially astonished at the h  ouse of the forest of

Lebanon - 5 And the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and

the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel,” - The rich and costly dress

of Eastern courtiers and attendants is sometimes furnished by the king (Genesis 45:22;

I Samuel 18:4; II Kings 5:5; Daniel 5:7) - “and his cupbearers, and his ascent by

which he went up unto the house of the LORD; there was  no more spirit in her.

6  And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land

of thy acts and of thy wisdom.  7 Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came,

and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom

and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard.  8 Happy are thy men,

happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that

hear thy wisdom.  9 Blessed be the LORD thy God,” - From this mention of

the name of Jehovah, taken in connection 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 ch. 5:7, II 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, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because the

LORD loved Israel for ever,” - 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.”

 

10 “And she gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of gold, and

of spices very great store,” - The immense abundance of spices in Arabia

is noted by many writers. Herodotus says that the whole tract exhaled an odor

marvelously sweet (3:113). Diodorus relates that the odor 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 (Bahr). But it would rather seem that they are included as one of the

chief products of the voyage.

 

11  “And the navy also of Hiram, that brought gold from Ophir, brought

in from Ophir great plenty of almug trees,” - It is 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   (The wood is heavy and yellow in color as

well as fine-grained, and unlike many other aromatic woods it retains its fragrance

for decades. The sandalwood fragrance is very distinctive and is used in countless

applications. Sandalwood has been valued and treasured for many years for its

fragrance, carving, medical, and religious qualities – Wikipedia)  - “and precious

stones.”

 

12  “And the king made of the almug trees pillars for the house of the

LORD, and for the king's house,” - Keil understands “steps with banisters”,

others benches or similar movables – “harps also and psalteries for singers:”

stringed instruments but their precise shape and character is quite uncertain –

“there came no such almug trees, nor were seen unto this day.”  The

wood was no doubt purchased at the emporium of Ophir.  The intrinsic nature

of the wood, and its intrinsically valuable nature, may easily be inferred from its

use for the woodwork and sounding-board woodwork of musical instruments.

(See also II Chronicles 9:11)

 

13  “And king Solomon gave unto the queen of Sheba all her desire,

whatsoever she asked, beside that which Solomon gave her of his

royal bounty.   The chronicler (Ibid.) says “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 (p. 44) 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

“fullness of the time,” when the Gentiles should be “fellow heirs,” was

distant from Solomon’s day by a whole millennium.,

 

 

  ADDITIONAL NOTES ON THE VISIT OF THE QUEEN OF SHEBA

 

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.

 

Well may the journey of this Eastern queen have a triple mention in the sacred page

(here; II Chronicles 9.; St. Matthew 12.; St. Luke 11).  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 traveler who brought gold and sought wisdom.  And our Lord

has honored this history — this almost romantic story — by drawing one of its

lessons with His own hand (Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31). But though He has

there furnished the outline, He has left it for us to fill in the coloring. And the

rest of the story He has left untouched; the other lessons we have to gather

for ourselves.  Let us consider:

 

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

     mind:

 

  • The Length of the Way. Presuming that Sheba was Yemen,  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.

 

  • Its Fatigues and Hardships. Eastern queens, even of the Sabeans,

      were acquainted with luxury (note on ver. 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.

 

  • Its Perils. “Perils of the wilderness” (cf. Psalm 91.; Deuteronomy 8:15),

      and “perils of robbers” alike. Her course lay through the land of Ishmael,

      whose “hand was against every man,” (Genesis 16:12) 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

 

  • Undertaken by a Woman. True, she was an Arabian, and therefore

            presumably hardy and patient, but all the same the sex of the traveler

            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.”

 

            Consider:  Jesus said, “The queen of the south shall rise up in the

            judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it:  for she came

            from the uttermost part of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon;

            and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.”

 

 

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

      (Tamerlane was the most influential military leader of the Middle Ages who

      restored the former Mongol empire of Genghis Khan) 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; 8:11) to obtain it. She is

     like the “merchantman seeking goodly pearls.” (Matthew 13:45-46)

     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 (v. 8) and heard his words.

    And our Savior 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.

 

  • Christ is more (plei~onpleion - greater) than Solomon.” Solomon

      was the wisest of men; Christ was “the wisdom of God.” (I Corinthians

      1:24)  - Solomon, a great king; Christ, “King of kings and Lord of

      lords” (Revelation 19:16). 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.

 

  • 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:) or, Who shall descend into the

      deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead. )  But

      what saith it?  The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and

      in thy heart:  that is the word of faith which we preazch;”

      (Romans 10:6-8). 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 – “lo, I am with you always, even

      unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20) – “For where two or

      three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of

      them.” (Ibid. 18:20) He is Omnipresent!  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.

 

  • Christ has come from the uttermost parts of the universe to us. It is

      not we who have to leave a kingdom. He has left His that He may “appoint

      unto us a kingdom.”  (Luke 22:29)

 

                        “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 laboring 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 will meet the Queen of the Sheba.

            She will witness of:

 

ü      the journey she took,

ü      the sacrifices she made, and

ü      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?

                (I once saw Billy Graham on TV speak to 1,500,000 Koreans sitting on an

            airport runway – will not those who met Jesus there and accepted Him as

            their personal savior rise up also and condemn those who would not?  - CY  -

            2010)

 

 

                        Solomon’s Wealth, Pomp and Power (vs. 14-29)

 

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.

 

14  “Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one 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 (I Timothy 6:10).  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).  Although

we do not know the value of the Hebrew talent, this was a tremendous sum.

 

15  “Beside that he had of the merchantmen, and of the traffick of the

spice merchants,” - 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 - “and of all the kings of Arabia,

and of the governors of the country.”  The contributions which passed

through their hands were furnished in kind; hence, perhaps, it is that this income

is distinguished from the gold of v.14.

 

16 And king Solomon made two hundred targets (hN;xi, from a root which

signifies protect, a large oblong shield which covered the entire person) of beaten

gold: six hundred shekels of gold went to one target.”

 

17  “And he made three hundred shields” - portable shields (peltas, Vulgate)

adapted for use in hand to hand encounters (II Chronicles 12:9-10) – “of beaten

gold; three pound of gold went to one shield: and the king put them in the

house of the forest of Lebanon.”  Shields were often suspended on the walls

of armories in those days.  There were also arms hung round the wails of the

second temple (Joshua, Ant. 15:11. 3),” -  It is supposed that along with

those made by Solomon were hung the shields taken by David from the

Syrians, as according to II 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;  (Isaiah 22:8).

 

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” (ch. 7:7) by the chryselephantine throne.

 

18  “Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it

with the best gold.”  Hebrew 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 II Kings 4:10; Proverbs 9:14).

 

19  “The throne had six steps, and the top of the throne was round

behind: and there were stays on either side on the place of the seat,

and two lions stood beside the stays.  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 (ch.12:16; II Samuel 20:1); and a right of approach to the

throne (ch.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; Numbers 23:24) - “there was

not the like made in any kingdom.”

 

21  “And all king Solomon's drinking vessels were of gold, and all the

vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold; none were

of silver:” This lavish display was characteristic of Oriental courts.  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. (Ctesias, ap. Athenaeus, 12. p. 29). 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,” -

“it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon.” 

 

22  “For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish with the navy of Hiram:

once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold, and silver,

ivory, and apes, and peacocks.”  The extent of the trade is speculated, possibly

Spain, certainly Africa, and India - 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.  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.’

 

 

23  “So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and

for wisdom.”  There is something ominous of evil here. Riches are put before

wisdom. This was not the case in the beginning of Solomon’s reign (ch.3:11)

 

24  “And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which

God had put in his heart.  25  And they brought every man his present,

vessels of silver, and vessels of gold, and garments, and armor, and spices,

horses, and mules, a rate year by year.” This seems to be tribute rather than

gifts.

 

The remaining verses of this chapter, which, in the account of the chronicler,

(II Chronicles 1:16-17)  repeat some of the information already given in chps.

4:26 and 9:19, and furnish a few additional  particulars as to the wealth and

commerce of the king.

 

26  “And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen: and he had

a thousand and four hundred chariots, 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 – see I 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,

and with the king at Jerusalem.”

 

27 “And the king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones, and cedars

made he to be as the sycomore trees that are in the vale, for

abundance.

 

28  “And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt, and linen yarn: the

king's merchants received the linen yarn at a price.”  The LXX.

(similarly the Vulgate) renders, “from Egypt and from Thekoa,kai< ejk

qekoue<, which Keil, however, contends is manifestly a variation of an

older reading, kai< ejk Koue<, “and from Koua.” 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

connection. Qekoue< certainly looks like an emendation, but it is to be

remembered that although Tekoa (Amos 1:1; II Chronicles 11:6; 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.”

 

29  “And a chariot came up and went out of Egypt for six hundred

shekels of silver, and an horse for an hundred and fifty: and so for

all the kings of the Hittites, and for the kings of Syria, did they

bring them out by their means.”  Probably all we are to understand is that

neighboring nations received their supply of horses from Egypt — the home

of horses and chariots (Exodus 14:6; 15:1; Deuteronomy 17:16; Isaiah 31:1;

Jeremiah 46:2-4) — largely through the instrumentality of Solomon’s merchants.

 

 

                        ADDITIONAL NOTES (vs. 14-19)

 

The fall of Solomon, in itself one of the most portentous facts in Scripture

history and 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 (threatening).

Its menacing tone  is inexplicable, except on the supposition that Solomon’s

“heart was not right with the Lord.” 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 (ch.4:20-21).

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

(ch. 7:7). But the matter appears in a very different light when we come to consider

the way in which they were reared. Forced labor, 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 (v. 23), but not for the pleasure or aggrandizement of the

monarch (I Samuel 8:11, 16). “It is not of the Lord of Hosts that the people shall

labor in the very fire, and 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 (ch. 11:28) of whose labors he was the overseer, and that this and similar

burdens laid upon the people (ch.12:4) resulted in the revolt of the ten tribes,

we can hardly suppose that Solomon completed his great undertakings

(ch. 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 22:13-14) had not been unmerited by him. He had

“used his neighbor’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 (Solomon’s first name)

did it, the cries of the oppressed laborer 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” (ch. 9:15) [think of the cries of the Tea

Party in the election of 2010 in the USA – CY – 2010] was oppressive or not,

there can be little doubt that the “proud look and high stomach” (Psalm

101:5; 131:1-2) — 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 (ch. 3:7). Now that he

has “strengthened himself,” (Think of leftist philosophy of the 20th

and 21st century which encourages to “look deep within” – CY – 2010)

like his son after him, he begins to forget his God and to forsake His law

(II Chronicles 12:1). It has been promised him that he shall exceed all other

kings in wisdom and riches and honor (ch. 3:12, 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.

(man wishes to be deceived, deceive him)

 

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 ch. 5:12. But for that, he

could hardly have built the temple, to say nothing of the palaces. Whether

he was justified, however, in having at sea “a navy of Tarshish with the navy

of Hiram (v.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

theater of OUR REDEMPTION!  Theirs were:

 

                                                            “those holy fields

                        Over whose acres walked those blessed feet,

                        Which two thousand 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 co-partnership 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 plowing the

main, that caravans of merchants were filling his store cities, that he was

driving bargains with the Syrians and Hittites (v. 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” (v. 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 (merchant, trader).

 

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” (I Timothy 6:10).  As Solomon grew richer he loved riches more.

V. 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 (ch.

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

(v. 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 (ch. 9:25). But he is trying

 to serve God and mammon (Luke 16:13), 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 (v. 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.

(I stop in the middle of this to say that I have used extensively the Pulpit

Commentary for 48 years and this is one of the best comments

on scripture that I have ever read – whoever did this had to have been

greatly lead by the Holy Spirit as it is so full of instruction – and to contrast

this with some of the nonsense I came across a minute ago when I

researched the words “Homo vult decipi et decipiatur” on the internet –

basically an attack on God and religion – many comments were made by

people we would recognize – pseudo-intellectuals are they at best and, in my

opinion, are not in the same league as the writer of this homily – CY  - 2010)

And when a breach in the law was once made we are not surprised to hear

presently that it was widened. Facilis descensus Averni. (the descent into

hell is easy).  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, (I Timothy 4:2) 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 defense. 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. (I would like to recommend II Kings 5 – Spurgeon

Sermon – I Thought – this web site – CY – 2010)  [Mr. Spurgeon once

said “the only way that sinners can be happy is through thoughtlessness.”]

But they were necessary, he persuaded himself, to the state of so great and

powerful 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 neighboring kings,

who presently employed them against the people of the Lord. (This is

probably nothing new to a drug dealer in America in the 21st century – CY –

2010).   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 (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,” – (I guess the next question is “Do you or I have worms?” – CY –

2010)

 

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 (ch. 11:7).

 

This MOURNFUL HISTORY is full of ADMONITION and INSTRUCTION.

 Note the the following lessons:

 

  • A man may preach to others and yet be a castaway.   (I Corinthians

            9:27). Solomon’s Prayer (ch. 8.), Psalm 127 and the book of Proverbs

            should be studied in the light of his fall. “Thou therefore which teachest

             another, teachest thou not thyself?” (Romans 2:21-23). Compare vs.

            22-23 with Proverbs 5-7.; and remember the constant references to the

            “law” in the dedication prayer.

 

  • 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.”

 

  • Out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries,

            fornications, (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 heart with all diligence,” (Proverbs 4:23) - did not keep his!

 

  • The love of money is the root of all evil (I Timothy 6:10). “Children,

      how hard it is for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom

       of God ,” (Mark 10:24). “Take heed, and beware of covetousness”

       (Luke 12:15), “which is idolatry” – (Colossians 3:5).

 

  • The course of sin is downhill.   Vires acquirit eundo. (it gathers strength

      as it goes)  The sinner is on an inclined plane; and the gradient at first

      is almost imperceptible. Let us learn, too, “the deceitfulness of sin.”

      (Matthew 13:22; Mark 4:19)  The chains of habit are too light to be felt

      until they are too strong to be broken!

 

  • 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.

      “Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart” (Hosea 4:11)

 

  • Solomon was old at the time of his fall.. (ch. 11:4). Hot youth has its

      dangers and temptations; but mature age has them also. David was not less

            than fifty when he fell.  It was when he was old.” Paul speaks of “youthful

            lusts,” (II Timothy 2:22) but old age has its special dangers and temptations.

            It was in the time of mature experience, when the hot blood of youth should

            have cooled, when he should have known the world and his wisdom should

            have been ripest, that his wives turned away his heart. Perhaps he presumed

            upon his exalted gifts and revelations. With age came self-confidence. It is

            thus that many strong cities have been taken. “Praeruptum eoque neglectum

            discloses the secret of their fall.

 

 

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