II Chronicles 9

 

 

 

The writer is about to take his leave of Solomon and the glowing memories

of his golden reign; and, whether he designed it or not, he has done so in a

most dramatically successful manner in this chapter, and especially in the

episode, that narrates the ever-memorable visit of the Queen of Sheba,

contained in the first twelve verses of this chapter (parallel, I Kings 10:1-13).

 

1 "And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, she

came to prove Solomon with hard questions at Jerusalem, with a

very great company, and camels that bare spices, and gold in

abundance, and precious stones: and when she was come to

Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart."

The parallel shows very little variation on this narrative. In its

first verse it adds the words (Authorized Version), “concerning the Name

of the Lord” (i.e. “to the glory of God”), after the words, the fame of

Solomon.   Sheba. This was the name of a descendant of Cush, a Hamite

(Genesis 10:7; I Chronicles 1:9); also of a son of Joktan, a Shemite

(Genesis 10:28; 1 Chronicles 1:22); also of a son of Jokshan, Abraham’s son by

Keturah (Genesis 25:3; I Chronicles 1:32). It is quite uncertain who of these

constituted, or preponderated in, the country of Sheba here referred to. This is

probably Saba, the capital of Yemen, an important province of Arabia, west of

the Red Sea, north of the Indian Ocean, and extending upward nearly to Idumaea.

The city was reputed splendid, the country wealthy, and long as the most southerly

inhabited part of the world. If it were, as is believed, first occupied by Cushites it

was afterwards peopled also by Joktanites and Jokahanites, as above. In

addition to the two celebrated allusions to it, ever memorable, see as other

references, Job 6:19; Psalm 72:10,15; Isaiah 60:6; Jeremiah 6:20; Ezekiel 27:22-23;

38:13; Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31 (see also Smith’s ‘Bible Dictionary,’ 3:1232).

The hard questions consisted in riddles (Judges 14:12) and enigmas and primitive

casuistry, in which the Arabians found some considerable portion of their mental

gymnastics. These, no doubt, bore some mild cousinly relationship to the proverbs

and songs of Solomon, and his treasures of botanical and natural history facts

(I Kings 4:29-32). Spices; Hebrew,  בְּשָׂמִים, here as also in the parallel. This word

is used twenty-one times, and in a slightly varied form (as in the ninth verse of this

same chapter) nine more times. It is almost always translated (Authorized Version)

by this same word “spice” or “spices” (except Exodus 30:23; here, ch. 16:14; Esther

2:12; Isaiah 3:24). There are other Hebrew words for “spices,” such as נְכות (Genesis

37:25; 43:11), סַמִים (Exodus 30:7), רֶקַח, (Song of Solomon 8:2; Ezekiel 24:10);

but the “spice” or “spices” designated by our present word, and the exact name or

nature of which cannot be certainly pronounced upon, was in great request for

domestic, ecclesiastical, funeral (ch. 16:14), and other purposes, and

was a chief export from Arabia, Syria, and Persia. Gold in abundance. Of

course, it is not necessary to suppose that the gold that came either now

from Sheba, or even from Ophir, was obtained from the immediate region;

as seen before, there may have been a special market or emporium for them

there. Precious stones. These were used for sacred purposes, and for

domestic and dress ornaments, and were graven upon in early times by the

Hebrews The chief of those mentioned in the Old Testament are the

carbuncle, sardius, topaz (Exodus 39:10; Ezekiel 28:13), diamond,

emerald, sapphire (Exodus 39:11); Ezekiel 28:13-20), agate, amethyst,

ligure (Exodus 39:12), beryl, jasper, onyx (Genesis 2:12; Exodus 39:6, 13;

Ezekiel 28:13-20), ruby (Job 28:18; Proverbs 3:15), chrysolite, chrysoprasus

(Ezekiel 28:13-20). The precious stones which the queen brought are likely enough,

however, to have comprised other varieties (including the pearl from the Persian

Gulf), such as Pliny describes; and see in particular I Chronicles 29:2; Ezekiel

27:16; and the article “Stones, Precious,” in Smith’s ‘Bible Dictionary,’ 3:1382.

All that was in her heart. The expression simply means all that she had so

desired to get information upon, since she had heard of the fame of Solomon.

 

2 "And Solomon told her all her questions: and there was nothing hid from

Solomon which he told her not."  3 "And when the queen of Sheba had

seen the wisdom of Solomon, and the house that he had built," Nothing hid

from Solomon; i.e. nothing obscure to him —no question knotty for Solomon.

 

4 "And the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the

attendance of his ministers, and their apparel; his cupbearers also,

and their apparel; and his ascent by which he went up into the

house of the LORD; there was no more spirit in her.

5 And she said to the king, It was a true report which I heard in mine

own land of thine acts, and of thy wisdom:

6 Howbeit I believed not their words, until I came, and mine eyes

had seen it: and, behold, the one half of the greatness of thy

wisdom was not told me: for thou exceedest the fame that I heard.

The meat of his table (see I Kings 4:22-23). Translating

our thoughts rather violently into modern language, we might picture the

queen inspecting the kitchens of the palace, and remember that the kitchens

of an Oriental court did the work, not of an individual “table,” but of those

of a very large domestic and official retinue; much more these of Solomon

now. Keil and Bertheau, however, with others, refer this expression to the

set-out of one meal-table (as e.g. that of a modern banquet, wedding

breakfast, or the like), where both the abounding lading of the table and the

ample variety of the courses, and the rich foreign or home fruits, in season

or out of season, and the furnishing and decorating of the table, all come in

to add their contribution of effect; and they quote not inaptly our v. 20,

elucidated by I Kings 10:21. This was a daily glory with Solomon’s

palace-establishment. The immediate connection and the contents of this

verse, though difficult, favor this direction of explanation, as will be seen

in the succeeding clauses. The sitting of his servants. The word here used

(מושָׁב) occurs forty-three times, and is rendered in the Authorized Version

thirty-two of these times as “habitation” or “dwelling.” Of the remaining

eleven times, one or other of those words would be almost the synonym of

the word used, and in every case the rendering “dwelling,” if kept to the

general idea of a dwelling or resting-place more or less temporary, would

not be inappropriate or inconsistent with the evident drift of the

connection; only here and in the parallel is the inconvenient rendering

sitting” adopted by the Authorized Version. Hence we disagree with

Professor Dr. Murphy’s explanation, the sitting, i.e. “in council of his chief

officers.” What the nature of the location (to use a term least specific) of

the servants pointed to here is, nevertheless, still not quite clear. It is

evidently placed in some antithesis with the standing (i.e. the standing-place)

here rendered ‘inadequately or incorrectly, the attendance of his ministers.

The attendance, i.e. “the station (מַעֲמָד) (see the four other occurrences of this’

word:  I Kings 10:5; I Chronicles 23:28; here ch. 35:15). Of his ministers;

Hebrew, מְשָׁרְתָיו, participle of a piel verb, שָׁרֵת. This word, in an

amazing majority of the hundred occurrences of it, expresses ministry of sacred

service of some kind. It may, indeed, be said that the present passage, with only

one or two others, are doubtful in this meaning or character of explanation. To

our next clause, referring to their apparel, we find in the parallel mention, as

here, of the cupbearers, though the matter of their apparel is not included

as it is here. Part of the difficulty of the verse arises from the consideration

that up to this point the contents of the successive clauses of it may

compose possibly enough a sharp graphic description of the daily banquet

scene. An apt reference to similar description of Arabian banquets is given

in the ‘Speaker’s Commentary ‘ as to be found in vol. it. pp. 213-215 of

‘Ancient Monarchies.’ Our next clause, however, brings us back into

difficulty by its reference to Solomon’s ascent by which he went up into

the house of the Lord (I Chronicles 26:16 with our Exposition,

‘Pulpit Commentary’), apparently so unseasonably; nor are we much

helped by reading, with the Septuagint, “the burnt offerings which he

offered at the house of the Lord.” The obscurity and lack of coherence are

not formidable, indeed, and perhaps may be with moderate satisfaction set

down again to the account of the occasionally careless selection of the

compilers from the material of the older work. Possibly the allusion in our

v. 11 to the terraces, or stairs, or highways (see margin) to “the house of

the Lord,” and to the kings palace, may hold some clue to the ascent

being adverted to here.

 

The Unimaginable (vs. 4-6)

 

The Queen of Sheba was completely overwhelmed by what she saw at the

court of Jerusalem. When she had seen and heard everything there was to

see and hear, “there was no more spirit in her.” She was “astonished with a

great astonishment.” She had not credited what she had been told (v. 6);

but she found that there was a great deal more to find than anything that

had been described. What she realized altogether surpassed her

anticipation. Her experience was very remarkable of its kind, but in this

particular it was by no means exceptional. We have much to do with the

unimaginable. It meets us or awaits us in:

 

  • THE MATERIAL CREATION. What wholly unanticipated wonders

have been disclosed by the advance of human science! The men of remote

generations had not the faintest notion of the powers we have discovered

to reside in the material universe. And what still undiscovered forces await

our inquiry and investigation as we patiently plod on in the paths of

knowledge! Surely one-half hath not been told us or imagined by us.

(I recommend Fantastic Trip on You Tube – CY – 2016)

 

  • OUR HUMAN EXPERIENCE. We have our expectation concerning

the life that is before us; but it is very little like the reality, as experience

will prove. Many things we may picture to ourselves which will find no

fulfillment; but many other things there are, of which we have no

discernment, that will find their place on the page of our biography. Of

these some are unexpected sorrows losses, disappointments,

separations, struggles — of which we can form no idea; others are

unanticipated blessings - comforts, relationships, joys, triumphs

exceeding and excelling our hopes. We do not anticipate, for good or evil,

one-half of the bright or dark reality.

 

  • THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD.Eye had not seen, nor

ear heard, nor had it entered into man’s heart to conceive” one-half of

what God had prepared for them that love him.”  (I Corinthians 2:9) 

No man could or did imagine that such wealth of grace and goodness as

that which the gospel of Christ contains would be brought to us by

the Anointed of God, would be purchased for us by a Saviour’s sacrifice,

would be pressed upon us by a heavenly Father’s urgent and persistent love.

 

  • THE GLORY WHICH IS TO BE REVEALED. In that “land of great

distances’ we are one day to traverse, in that home of love in which we are

soon to dwell, what unimaginable good is in reserve! What joy and what

glory; what rest and what activity; what realization and what hope; what

knowledge of God and what pursuit of that knowledge; what royalty and

what service; what purity and what progress; what unanticipated and

inconceivable blessedness to satisfy the soul!

 

7 Happy are thy men, and happy are these thy servants, which stand

continually before thee, and hear thy wisdom."

8 "Blessed be the LORD thy God, which delighted in thee to set thee

on His throne, to be king for the LORD thy God: because thy God

loved Israel, to establish them for ever, therefore made He thee king

over them, to do judgment and justice." The abstinence on the part of the

queen in her mention of the Lord God of Israel, and of the Lord thy God, of any

indication of a desire that he should become her God, is as suggestive as it is

noticeable (compare Hiram’s language in ch. 2:12).

 

9 "And she gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of gold, and

of spices great abundance, and precious stones: neither was there

any such spice as the queen of Sheba gave king Solomon."

An hundred and twenty talents of gold. Putting the value of

gold at £4 per ounce, the value of one talent would be £5476, making a

total of £657,120. Poole makes it £1,250,000; S. Clarke, f720,000. From

our vers. 13, 14 we learn that in one year Solomon received 666 talents,

beside what merchants brought. (Of course, these values were compiled

around two centuries ago.  Suffice it to say, it would be astronomical today.

CY - 2016)  Any such spice. The parallel has “no more such abundance of spices,”

and “of spices very great store.” The Arabian spices, and their land and even

sea borne fragrance, as also the very lucrative trade they created, are often

alluded to by historians (see, among many others, Herod., 3:113; Diod., 3:46;

Strabo, 16:4, § 19). Much of all this so-termed giving was evidently matter

of exchange. The queen got quid pro quo, while v. 13 of the parallel (1 Kings 10)

seems to speak of the other truer giving.

 

10 "And the servants also of Huram, and the servants of Solomon, which

brought gold from Ophir, brought algum trees and precious stones.

11 And the king made of the algum trees terraces to the house of the

LORD, and to the king’s palace, and harps and psalteries for singers:

and there were none such seen before in the land of Judah."  Either these

two verses are misplaced (with their parallel, I Kings 10:11-12), or they ought

to have, though unstated, some occult bearing on the queen. There are some slight

indications pointing to this, and the meaning is perhaps that the terraces, balustrades,

stairs (which possibly is the idea in the “ascent,” v. 4), pillars, etc., made of the wood

which Hiram’s and Solomon’s servants had formerly brought with gold,

were the artificial-work wonders which helped to astound the queen.

Terraces to the house of the Lord, and to the king’s palace. These so

rendered terraces were probably stairs, and, as already intimated, may have

composed the “ascent” (v. 4), and explain the mention of it in v. 4. The

algum trees. This is the Hebrew text order of the lamed and gimel

alphabet characters, as the Authorized Version order in the parallel almug

is also the order of its Hebrew. The tree is mentioned only six times —

three times in Chronicles (ch. 2:8; 9:10-11) and three times in

Kings (I Kings 10:11-12). Apparently this wood did grow in Lebanon

(ch. 2:8), though we think this not certain. Kimchi thinks it

was the bukkum (Arabic word), which Europeans call Brazil wood, and

which (Keil) was found in Ethiopia, as well as India. Some think it the

sandal-wood of Malabar. Whatever it was, it no doubt was to be 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 like the

harp and psaltery. This fact would much incline to the view that the red

sandal-wood is what is here called algum. The ‘Speaker’s Commentary’

quotes Max Muller (‘Lectures on Language,’ 1st series, p. 191) for the

statement that the vernacular for this wood in India is valguka. Harps…

psalteries (see our Exposition on ch. 5:12, and articles in

Smith’s’ Dictionary of the Bible,’ and others. The sentence, there were

none such seen in the land of Judah, may be read as an indication that

they had been part of the exhibition made to the Queen of Sheba.

 

12 "And king Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatsoever

she asked, beside that which she had brought unto the king. So she turned,

and went away to her own land, she and her servants.  13 Now the weight of gold

that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred and threescore and six talents

of gold;" Beside that which she had brought unto the king. The

parallel has not this obscure clause, but has, “beside that which Solomon

gave her of his royal bounty.” Professor Dr. Murphy explains our clause as

purporting to say this: Solomon gave all the queen’s desire in the way of

bounty, “beside” all that belonged as an equivalent for “what she had

brought.” She got so much sheer gift, beside all that, according to the then

Eastern custom, was her due.

 

 

Solomon in All His Glory  (vs. 1-12)

 

Nothing so strikingly illustrated the glory of Solomon as the visit of the

Queen of Sheba, coming from “the uttermost parts of the earth to hear his

wisdom,” conferring great gifts upon him and receiving valuable presents in

return (see Matthew 12:42). We have, among many things:

 

  • ISRAEL FULFILLING ITS FUNCTION, viz. magnifying THE NAME

OF THE LORD!   One great end, the great end of its existence as a nation,

was to bear witness to the Name and character of Jehovah. By the wisdom

and the energy combined with the piety of Solomon, this was being

accomplished.  The works of the Lord were known and celebrated even in

remotest lands.

 

  • GOD FULFILLING HIS WORD TO HIS SERVANT SOLOMON.

He promised him wealth and honor, inasmuch as he had asked for

something better than these (see ch. 1:11-12). In this most

gratifying episode Solomon must have felt that the promise made him at

Gibeon was graciously redeemed. So shall we find also. To those that seek

first the kingdom of God He ensures all needful earthly good, and they may

count confidently that He will make good His word (see Matthew 6:33).

 

  • THE TRUE BLESSEDNESS OF POSSESSION — TO COMMUNICATE.

Solomon had great knowledge, large faculty, much penetration, as well as

extensive worldly wealth. He probably had some enjoyment in the

consciousness of their possession. But he found a better and wiser use of

them in communicating to others. When he enlightened the mind (v. 2) and

enriched the hands (v. 12) of the queen, he was then and thus experiencing

the true excellency of possession. It is not as we are able to retain, but as

we succeed in employing and in imparting our wealth, whether of truth

or treasures, that we are really and truly rich (Acts 20:35).

 

  • THE WORTH OF WISDOM. The queen was no doubt partly

prompted by curiosity to see the magnificence of Solomon; but what

largely induced her to take that long, tedious, expensive journey was her

desire to learn what “the wise man” could teach her. She desired “to

commune with him of all that was in her heart” (ver. 1), and she did so; and

she gathered from him a great store of knowledge and of truth. She

doubtless learned for the first time the fundamental truths of religion

perhaps also the elements of pure morality. It is probable that she went

back to her own country mentally and even spiritually enriched far beyond

her highest expectations. As she crossed the desert a second time she

would feel that she had been repaid a thousand times for all her toil and

outlay. Wisdom is always worth our purchase, whatever we may expend

upon it. “Buy the truth  (Proverbs 23:23), even though it cost much in travel,

in money, in patient laborious study, even in fellowship and friendship. It is

well worth while to “sell all that we have” in order to become possessed of

the pearl of great price,” heavenly wisdom, the knowledge which is eternal

life (Matthew 13:46; John 17:3). Many earnest pilgrims have traversed

land and sea, many anxious students have searched books and inquired of

sacred teachers, many hungering and thirsting souls have wrought and

wrestled in thought and prayer for many years, that they might find rest in

truth, that they might find a home for themselves in THE KNOWLEDGE

OF THE LIVING GOD!  And when they have found what they sought

(see Matthew 7:7-8), they have gladly and gratefully acknowledged that

the blessedness of acquiring heavenly wisdom is a most ample recompense

for all they have expended in its pursuit. WISDOM is more precious than

 rubies; it is the absolutely incomparable good (Proverbs 3:15).

 

 

Solomon’s Queenly Visitor (vs. 1-12)

 

  • HER JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM (v. 1.)

 

Ø      The country whence she came. Sheba. Not Meroe, or Ethiopia, as

Josephus (‘Ant.,’ 8:6. 5), Grotius, and others say, following Abyssinian

legend; but Sabaa, a country in Arabia Felix. Its capital Saba, or Mariaba,

still exists under the name Marib, six days east of Sanaa. The district was

extremely fertile, and abounded in frankincense, gold, and precious stones

(Jeremiah 6:20; Ezekiel 27:22; Isaiah 60:6; Psalm 72:15).

Its inhabitants had become, through extensive commerce, among the most

prosperous of Arabian tribes. The caravans of Sheba brought costly

products to the markets of the world — to Tyre, Egypt, Syria, and

Mesopotamia (Job 6:19; Ezekiel 27:22). That a high degree of

civilization prevailed from an early period in South Arabia is attested, not

only by the so-called Himarytic inscriptions found in that region, in which

the name Sheba frequently occurs, but by the above-mentioned ruins of

Marib, which, according to Arab tradition, was destroyed, probably in the

second century after Christ, by the bursting of a great dam in the upper

part of the valley (Ritter). Arabian tradition, more communicative than

Scripture concerning this queen, names her Balkis, and makes her a wife of

Solomon (Koran, ‘Sur.,’ 27).

 

Ø      The occasion of her journey. The fame of Solomon. In 1 Kings 10:1 the

words, “concerning the Name of Jehovah,” are added; but whether inserted

by the author of Kings or omitted by the Chronicler cannot be determined.

If the latter, they were probably intended to suggest that Solomon’s fame

rested chiefly on his temple-building for the Name of Jehovah (ch. 6:10),

which showed him to be pre-eminently endowed with wisdom (ch. 2:12).

(For other explanations, see Exposition.)  There is reason in the conjecture

that Solomon’s voyages to Ophir were, in part at least, the means of extending

Solomon’s fame and bringing it to the ears of the queen.

 

Ø      The object of her visit. “To prove Solomon with hard questions.” It is

hardly supposable that the queen simply aimed at a trial of wit between

herself and Solomon in propounding riddles, resolving enigmas, and

untying word-puzzles, such as, according to Menander and Dins (Josephus,

Ant.,’ 8:5. 3), Solomon once had with Hiram, and such as in ancient times

formed a common pastime with the Arabs. The “hard questions” doubtless

related to deep and important problems in religion and life. The serious

words addressed by her to Solomon (vs. 7-8) make this the most

plausible hypothesis. Great, rich, cultured, and powerful as she was, she

was obviously troubled at heart about the solemn mystery of existence, and

wished to have her doubts resolved, her questions answered, and her

anxieties allayed by one who seemed specially upraised as an embodiment

and teacher of wisdom.

 

Ø      The grandeur of her train. Attended by “a great company” of followers,

courtiers, and servants, as well as by a numerous cavalcade of camels

bearing the products of her country — gold, spices, and precious stones —

intended for presents to Solomon (compare Genesis 43:11), this royal lady,

setting forth in search of wisdom, accomplished her long and painful

journey, and eventually reached Jerusalem.

 

  • HER INTERVIEW WITH SOLOMON  (vs. 2-8.)

 

Ø      The wisdom she heard. “Of all that was in her heart she communed with

Solomon; and Solomon told her all her questions.” If these did not include

gravissimas et sacras quaestiones, i.e. questions relating to the mysteries

of religion and the worship of God, one fails to see why they should

exclude these, as has been suggested (Keil). That they concerned not

metaphysical problems may be conceded. The story bears upon its surface

that the wisdom she chiefly inquired after and Solomon principally

discoursed about was that:

 

o        whose beginning is the fear of the Lord, and

o        whose end is the keeping of his commandments (Psalm 111:10;

Proverbs 1:7)

 

that which concerned the dignity and glory of human life, and promoted the

attainment of human happiness (Proverbs 2:2-12; 3:13-18; 4:5-13; 9:9-12).

But whatever her queries were, they were all answered. None were too abstruse

or recondite for this Heaven-endowed king to explain.

 

Ø      The splendour she beheld. She saw the wisdom of Solomon embodied

in his works as well as heard it distilling from his lips. “The house that he

had built” — not the temple, but the palace, which had occupied thirteen

years in construction, and upon which he had lavished all that the

architectural and decorating arts of the time, assisted by his enormous

wealth, could procure — this royal residence which, in magnificence,

rivaled, if it did not eclipse, the dwelling of Jehovah, was locked upon with

wonder and astonishment. In particular she was fascinated by the splendor

of the royal table.

 

o        “The meat of his table,” i.e. the variety and sumptuousness of the fare,

perhaps also including the costliness and beauty of the vessels in which it

was served (v. 20; compare I Kings 10:21); “the sitting of his servants,”

i.e. of his high officials at the royal table (Bertheau, Bahr),” or “the places,

appointed in the palace for the ministers of the king” (Keil); “the

attendance of his ministers, either the standing, i.e. waiting, of his servants

at the table (Bertheau, Bahr), or, as above, the places appointed for them in

the palace (Thenius, Keil); the apparel of his attendants, which would no

doubt be distinguished for its splendor; “the cupbearers also,” whose

office was to pour out wine for the king (Genesis 40:11; Nehemiah 1:11;

Xen.,Cyrop.,’ 1:3, 8, 9), “and their apparel,” which would be

correspondingly resplendent; — all these left upon her mind an impression,

not so much of Solomon’s wealth and power as of his transcendent

wisdom. A second thing she witnessed confirmed this, viz.

 

o        the stair which led from the palace to the temple. The old translators

(the Chaldee, the Syriac, and the Latin as well as the Greek) thought the

words in the Hebrew referred to the burnt offerings which he offered in the

house of Jehovah — an opinion in which they have been followed by some

modern interpreters (Luther, A. Clarke, Bertheau). These, however, he

would hardly have shown to one not a proselyte. Besides, had she beheld

the magnificence of the temple service, some allusion to this in her address

to Solomon would most likely have appeared. Hence the opinion is to be

preferred that the reference is to the arched viaduct which led from his

palace to the temple (Keil, Bahr, Winer, Ewald, Jamieson), the remains of

which, recently discovered, show it to have been, “for boldness of

conception, for structure and magnificence, one of the greatest wonders in

Jerusalem.” That such a communication between the palace on Zion and

the temple on Moriah existed seems hinted at in II Kings 16:18 and in

here, ch. 23:20; while Josephus speaks of a passage from the temple to the

king’s palace which led over the intermediate valley (‘Ant.,’ 15:11. 5). If

the ruins described by Robinson are those of this bridge, it must have

contained five arches, each sixty feet wide and a hundred and thirty feet

high. “The whole structure,” says Isaac Taylor, “when seen from the

southern extremity of the Tyropoeon, must have had an aspect of

grandeur, especially as connected with the lofty and sumptuous edifices of

the temple and of Zion to the right and to the left” (quoted by Jamieson, in

loc.).

 

Ø      The admiration she felt. Sincere and intense. Solomon’s wisdom had

been:

 

o        in complete accordance with the report she had heard of it in her own

country (v. 5) — rumor had not lied;

o        it had equalled her expectations — fancy had not deceived;

o        it had far exceeded both the report of it and her own expectations

regarding it (v. 6) — her sense of wonder was more than satisfied;

o        it was so overpowering that it left no spirit in her (v. 4) — her hope

of rivaling it was gone.

 

Ø      The sentiments she expressed.

 

o        She pronounced happy Solomon’s courtiers and attendants because of

their proximity to his throne and person, which enabled them to hear his

wisdom. In so doing she took for granted both that Solomon would never

discourse otherwise than wisely, and that Solomon’s servants and ministers

would always feel disposed to listen to and profit by their master’s speech;

in both of which she reckoned before the mark.

 

o        She praised Jehovah for His goodness to Solomon in giving him such a

throne, i.e. for making Solomon His vicegerent in Israel, and for His

favor to Israel in furnishing them with such a king — in her eyes a proof

that Jehovah loved them and purposed to establish them for ever (v. 8).

In neither of these utterances did she err. Stable thrones and good kings

are of God’s making.

 

o        She instructed Solomon as to the kingly work such a one as he was

raised up to do, viz. to execute judgment and justice (Psalm 72:2). If

from these utterances it cannot be inferred that she was either assisted

by inspiration or converted to Jehovah’s religion, it is open to conclude

she was a deeply reflecting and far-seeing woman, second only to

Solomon in wisdom and sagacity.

                                                       

Ø      The presents she made.

 

o        “A hundred and twenty talents of gold “

o        “Spices in great abundance,” and of unsurpassed excellence, the

principal of which was probably the Arabic balsam Josephus (‘Ant.,’

8:6.6) says his countrymen derived from this queen.

o        “Precious stones,” the names unknown.

 

Ø      The gifts she received. Besides the solution of her questions, she

obtained handsome and valuable presents from Solomon, partly in

compliance with her own request (v. 12), partly in payment of the costly

gifts brought to him by her, and partly over and above out of his own royal

liberality (I Kings 10:13).

 

  • HER RETURN TO SHEBA (v. 12.)

 

Ø      The termination of her visit. How long this visit continued is not

recorded, but at length the queen departed on her homeward journey,

attended by her servants and accompanied by her train of camels.

 

Ø      The spoils of her visit. Besides carrying home the presents given by

Solomon, she bore with her, what was of greater moment for herself and

her subjects, the impressions she had received upon her travels and the

lessons of earthly and heavenly wisdom she had derived from her

interview with the king.

 

Ø      The historicity of her visit, That the preceding narrative is no fable is

guaranteed by Christ’s use of it in the First Gospel (Matthew 12:42),

and by recent archaeological research (see ‘Ancient Arabia,’ by Professor

Sayce, in Contemporary Review, December, 1889).

 

  • LESSONS:

 

Ø      The privilege of Christians in having as King a greater than Solomon —

Him “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”

(Colossians 2:3).

 

Ø      The obligation of the world to hear the wisdom of Him who, besides

being greater, is also nearer to them than was he to the Queen of Sheba

(Matthew 12:42).

 

Ø      The blessedness of such as hear Christ’s wisdom, waiting at His throne

and standing in His presence, first on earth and AFTERWARDS IN

HEAVEN!  (Proverbs 8:34).

 

Ø      The certainty that Christ will give to them who seek His wisdom all that

they ask and more of His royal bounty (Ephesians 3:17).

 

Ø      The duty of those who come to know Christ’s wisdom to carry the

tidings of it back to their own country (Matthew 28:19-20).

 

14 "Beside that which chapmen and merchants brought. And all the

kings of Arabia and governors of the country brought gold and

silver to Solomon." Beside, etc. The preposition (In.) left both here and in the

parallel, before the words “men of,” etc., in the compound English word

chapmen (Authorized Version), shows clearly the construction of this and

the following sentence; from the previous verse needs to come the words,

after our “beside,” “the weight of gold which came,” etc. This gold

probably came by way of tax payments from the merchant travelers, and as

tribute money from the kings of the part of Arabia where the blood was

mingled, Jewish and Arabian, and not exclusively and independently

Arabian (see the word used in place of our Arabian in the parallel, and

Jeremiah 25:24), and from those governors (perhaps in some cases

superseding older kings) of adjacent countries, that had become in some

part tributary to Solomon. Governors. For this unusual and un-Hebrew

word (פַחות) see Ezra 5:6; Haggai 1:1; Nehemiah 5:14.

Gesenius mentions Turkish, Persian, and Sanscrit derivations that would

well suit it. It is very noticeable that it is employed also by the writer of

Kings. It is used of a ruler in the Assyrian empire (II Kings 18:24;

Isaiah 36:9), in the Chaldean (Ezekiel 23:6, 23; Jeremiah 51:23), in

the Persian (Esther 8:9; 9:3), specially of the Persian governor of

Judaea (Haggai 1:1, 14; 2:2, 21; Nehemiah 5:14, 18; 12:26;

Malachi 1:8); while Gesenius reads this passage in our present text and

its parallel, to speak of governors of Judaea (the country). See also

I Kings 20:24, where the word is translated (Authorized Version)

captains,” and is in the Syrian king’s mouth. The word is not used before

Kings. It is used by the writer of Kings three times; of Chronicles, once; by

Ezra, six times; in Nehemiah, eight times; in Esther, three times; in Daniel,

four times; and in the remaining prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel,

Haggai, Malachi, ten times in all. The Authorized Version, out of the

whole number of these occurrences of the word, has rendered it “captains”

thirteen times; “deputies,” twice; and “governors,” twenty times.

 

15 "And king Solomon made two hundred targets of beaten gold: six

hundred shekels of beaten gold went to one target.  16  And three hundred

shields made he of beaten gold: three hundred shekels of gold went to one

shield. And the king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon."

Targets… shields. The Authorized Version “target” is

unfortunate, though it may with somewhat grim truth represent fact. It was

a very large solid shield, originally made of some common material, as

basketwork or wood, and covered with leather; these with a plate of gold.

The absence of the word “shekel” in each clause, both here and in Kings,

leaves it open to us to suppose that the beka, or half-shekel, may be the

right word. Now, the maneh (see I Kings 10:17), or pound, meant 100

bekas, i.e. 50 shekels. Thus the targets, or shields, had six manehs of gold

to their plating each, and the lesser bucklers (as we may perhaps call them)

three manehs each. On the estimate that the shekel weighed 9 dwt. 3 gr.,

since the maneh weighed fifty shekels (100 bekas, or half-shekels), the gold

to a shield (target) may be put at something over 11 lbs. troy. The house

of the forest of Lebanon; i.e. an armory (see I Kings 7:2-5; II Samuel 8:7;

Song of Solomon 4:4; Isaiah 22:8). Shishak took these when he conquered

Jerusalem (I Kings 14:26).

 

17 "Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with pure

gold.  18 And there were six steps to the throne, with a footstool of gold, which

were fastened to the throne, and stays on each side of the sitting place, and two

lions standing by the stays:  19 And twelve lions stood there on the one side

and on the other upon the six steps. There was not the like made in any

kingdom."  It is not necessary to suppose that the throne was made of

solid ivory (Psalm 45:9; Amos 3:15; 6:4), or that the overlaying

gold concealed the ivory, whether more or less of it. The parallel adds that

the top of the throne was round behind” (I Kings 10:19). Comparing

also the two accounts, it would appear that there were twelve lions on each

side of the throne, i.e. two to each step. When it is said that there were

two lions standing by the stays (or, arms) on each side of the sitting-place,

we may easily imagine, from ancient modeled thrones, that of them

the arms were themselves “no small part.” It is remarkable that the parallel

does not take cognizance of the footstool. The lion is, of course, as natural

a symbol as it is an old one of sovereign power and place; and the use of

the lion and the number of them, reminding of the tribes of Israel, were

specifically justified to the people, whose oracles contained such words as

those in Genesis 49:9; Numbers 23:24; 24:9. Josephus tells us that

a golden bull supported the seat of the throne. If so, it is remarkable that

the statement should be omitted in both of our Old Testament narrations.

The dimensions of the throne we might have looked for, but they are not

given. That they were well proportioned to the height, marked by six steps,

may be taken for granted.

 

20 "And all the drinking vessels of king Solomon were of gold, and all the

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

of  silver; it was not any thing accounted of in the days of Solomon."

The house of the forest of Lebanon, The circumstance of the

vessels of this house being mentioned in such close connection with the

drinking-vessels of Solomon, is another indication of the close connection

of the buildings themselves (I Kings 7:1, 2-5-6, etc.); also that these

"vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were (as may be inferred

naturally from the connection) like Solomon s drinking-vessels, infers the

use of the apartments of the house for social or, at any rate, state occasions.

 

21 "For the king’s ships went to Tarshish with the servants of Huram:  every

three years once came the ships of Tarshish bringing gold, and silver, ivory,

and apes, and peacocks."  To Tarshish. The parallel has, in both clauses of its

verse (I Kings 10:22), “ships of Tarshish.” The order of the words in the former

clause of our present verse, that compels us to read, “going to Tarshish,”

certifies the correct meaning. The word Tarshish (the subsequent

Tartessus) covered a district in South Spain, as well as named a town and

river, and stretched opposite the coast of Africa. Both coasts were beneath

Phoenician rule, and a voyage to Tarshish would most naturally mean

calling at many a port, and many an African port, from one and another of

which all the imports here spoken of would be obtainable. The meaning of

the Hebrew root of Tarshish is “to subjugate.” The town lay between the

two mouths of the river Baetis, now Guadal-quiver. Gesenius thinks that

the writer of Chronicles says, in ignorance, “to Tarshish.” and that the

ships went to Ophir! These passages do not say that the voyage, whatever

it was, took three years; much less that that length of time was necessary.

Whether voyages were in Solomon’s time made from the Red Sea,

circumnavigating Africa, into the Mediterranean, is not certain. If they

were such voyages, taken at a sauntering pace, with calls at many ports and

easy-going delays, they may easily have consumed as long a space of time

as three years! The theory that Tarshish was Tarsus in Cilicia is easily and

conclusively negated. The names in Hebrew of “ivory, apes, and

peacocks have been said to be of Indian origin. This is far from proved,

and, as regards the first two, may be said to be sufficiently disproved. But

if it all were so, still the fact that the Hebrew names were of an Indian

language derivation would go very short way to prove that the Hebrew

people got the things represented by them direct, or at all, from India.

Ivory; Hebrew, שֶׁנְחַבִּים. The Authorized Version rendering “ivory”

occurs ten times in the Old Testament, having for its original the Hebrew

שֵׁן (I Kings 10:18; 22:39; here ch. 9:17; Psalm 45:8; Song of Solomon 5:14;

7:4; Ezekiel 27:6, 15; Amos 3:15; 6:4).  In all these cases, two of them being in

closest juxtaposition with the present and its parallel occasion, the word speaks of

ivory that is being used, i.e. as though it were manufactured material or ready for

manufacture. But in our passage and its parallel, where the different word given

above is found, it is manifest that it speaks of the material, so to say, in the

rough, as just “tooth or tusk of ¯;” but, further, what the חַבִּים is is not yet

ascertained. It is not a word known in the Hebrew vocabulary. Gesenius

finds the Sanscrit ibhas, which signifies an “elephant;” Canon Rawlinsen

finds in some Assyrian inscriptions a word habba, used of both elephant

and camel, but probably having for its generic signification “a great

animal;” Keil (on the parallel) finds a Coptic word, eboy, the Latin elephas,

to which he prefixes the Hebrew article ה. The Targum Jonathan shows at

once שְֵׁןאּדּפִיל.  Gesenius, in his ‘Thesaurus,’ calls also timely attention to

Ezekiel 27:15, where we read, “They brought thee a present, horns of

ivory and ebony” (Hebrew, Chethiv, וְהָובְנִים; Keri, קַרְנות שֵׁן וְהָבְנִים).

But no use of “ebony” happens to be mentioned in the connection of our

present passages or subject. Thus it will be seen that no little ingenuity has

been employed to hunt down this little word, though as yet not quite

successfully. More may be seen in Smith’s ‘Dictionary of the Bible,’ 1:906.

Apes; Hebrew, קופִים. Conder (‘Handbook to the Bible,’ 2nd edit., p.

390) says, “This word is identical with the name of the monkey in Tamil.

Keil connects it with the Sanscrit kapi, but does not believe, with Gesenius,

that the animal came from India, but Ethiopia. In a valuable note in the’

Speaker’s Commentary’ we read, “It is found” (not stated where) “that the

word was an Egyptian word, signifying a kind of monkey, in use in the

time of Thothmes II., i.e. about the time of the Israelites’ exodus.” (For

Herodotus’s testimony respecting ivory and apes in North Africa, see his

Hist.,’ 4:91.) Peacocks; Hebrew, תֻּכִּיִּים. Conder (‘Handbook to the

Bible,’ p. 393’) says a Tamil word, tokei, means “peacock.” Keil proposes

to consider it one of the later Romans’ luxurious delicacies, aves

Numidicae, from Tuoca, a town in Mauretania or Numi-alia. Some

translate it “guinea-fowl,” and some “parrots.” The peacock did not belong

to Africa, yet still it may have been purchased at some port there.

 

22 "And king Solomon passed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. 

23 And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to

hear his wisdom, that God had put in his heart."  All the kings of the earth; i.e.

 of the land of tributary sovereignties, from Euphrates to the borders of Egypt, and

to the Philistines (I Kings 4:21; also note Genesis 15:18; Exodus 23:31; Numbers

22:5; Joshua 1:4; II Samuel 10:16).

 

24 "And they brought every man his present, vessels of silver, and

vessels of gold, and raiment, harness, and spices, horses, and

mules, a rate year by year." Every man his present; Hebrew, מִנְחָתי; which

word represents the tribute, paid partly in money, partly in kind (II Samuel 8:2;

II Kings 17:3-4; and the parallel). A rate year by year; Hebrew, דְּבַר־שָׁנָח;

which might be simply rendered, “a yearly thing.”

 

25 "And Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and

twelve thousand horsemen; whom he bestowed in the chariot cities, and with

the king at Jerusalem.  26 And he reigned over all the kings from the river

even unto the land of the Philistines, and to the border of Egypt."

Four thousand stalls. Not forty thousand, as by error in I Kings 4:26.

The parallel mentions one thousand four hundred as the number of the chariots

(ch. 1:14). Both agree in twelve thousand as the number of horsemen.

Chariot cities  (I Kings 9:19; here ch. 1:14). Some of the horse and chariot

depots were kept near the king, but the rest in those specially chosen and

prepared cities, which might be nearest or fittest against time of war-need.

 

27 "And the king made silver in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar trees

made he as the sycomore trees that are in the low plains in abundance."

The foundations of the evil of exceeding metropolitan centralization were being

too surely laid now. Silver… sycomore trees (see I Chronicles 27:28; here ch. 1:16).

 

 

Gold and Silver (vs. 13-20, 27)

 

The chronicler who records these events of Solomon’s reign dwells upon

the abundance of gold and silver as one who takes a delight in his story.

And there was something in which to triumph, if not to rejoice; for it spoke

of a certain excellency and strength which has its own value. But what was

(or is) the value of it? We may consider the extent to which the

plentifulness of silver and gold is:

 

  • A SOURCE OF PRESENT GRATIFICATION. Undoubtedly Solomon,

his courtiers, and his subjects did find a pleasure in the fact that all these

objects were “of beaten gold,” that gold and silver met their eye

everywhere. At first that pleasure may have been keen enough. But it was

one of those joys that pall and pass with time; familiarity with it made it to

lose its charm; it must have become less delightful as it became more

common, until it became literally true that “it was not anything accounted

of (v. 20). Splendid surroundings are pleasurable enough at first, but

their virtue fades with the passing years and even with the fleeting months;

and it is not long before that which seemed so brilliant and promised so

much enjoyment is “not accounted of” at all.

 

  • A LASTING ENRICHMENT. Abundance of material wealth often

proves a transient good. In the nation it becomes a prey for the spoiler, a

temptation to the neighboring power that can come up with a victorious

army and go back with a well-stored treasury (see I Kings 14:25-26).

In the man it often allures the fraudulent adventurer and becomes his

possession. No one can be sure that he will hold what he has gained.

“Securities” are excellent things in their way, but they go down before

some of the forces which no finite power can control.

 

  • A REAL ENLARGEMENT. Great wealth does not go far to enrich a

nation when it does nothing more for it than provide targets and shields,

drinking-vessels and ivory thrones overlaid with gold with golden

footstools: — nothing more than multiply splendors about the royal

palace. When it promotes healthful and remunerative activities among the

people, when it facilitates and quickens the expenditure of profitable labor

in agriculture, in seamanship, in manufacture, in art, in literature, in

worship, then it is really and truly serviceable. So with individual men.

Wealth that only ministers to luxury does very little good to its owner. But

when it enables a man to put forth mental and physical powers that

otherwise would slumber for lack of opportunity, when it stimulates to

worthy and elevating enterprise, when it opens the door of usefulness and

helpfulness, then it is a blessing indeed, a real and true enlargement.

 

  • A SPIRITUAL PERIL. Serious and strong indeed are the Master’s

words (Mark 10:23-25). But they are amply verified by human history,

both national and individual. Wealth tends to luxury; luxury to indulgence;

indulgence to deterioration; deterioration to RUIN!   Much gold and silver

may be attractive enough; but they need to be well fortified with SACRED

PRINCIPLES who would stand the test of them, and be quite unscathed by

them.

 

  • PICTORIAL OF A WEALTH THAT IS TRUER AND BETTER. It

is possible to be endowed with those resources that make rich and that add

no sorrow thereto (Proverbs 10:22); it is possible to be “rich toward God”

(Luke 12:21), to have treasures within our keeping which the strong thief of

time has no power to steal.  These are to be had of the ascended Lord. He

counsels us to buy of himself “gold tried in the fire, that we may be rich.”

(Revelation 3:18)  Of Him we may gain the riches of:

 

Ø      a reverence that ennobles,

Ø      a faith that saves,

Ø      a love that blesses and beautifies,

Ø      a hope that strengthens and sustains, and

Ø      a joy that “satisfies and sanctifies” the soul.

 

28 "And they brought unto Solomon horses out of Egypt, and out of all

lands."  The parallel mentions horses from Egypt only, but adds that

linen yarn” was brought. The all lands alluded to with us, would

manifestly include Armenia (Ezekiel 27:14) and Arabia. The parallel

also, in I Kings 10:29, states the prices of a chariot from Egypt as “six hundred

shekels [qu. bekas] of silver” (i.e. about either £90 or £45); and of a horse

for the cavalry, perhaps, not for the chariot, as “one hundred and fifty

shekels [qu. bekas] of silver” (i.e. £22 10s. or £11 5s., estimating the

shekel as worth three shillings with us). Other estimates (see ch.1:17)

would make the prices £70 and £17 (see our Exposition, ch. 1:15-17).

(Remember these estimates are about two centuries ago   the time

period in which the Pulpit Commentary was produced.  It is the main

human source that I use - CY – 2016)

 

29 "Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, first and last, are they not

written in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the prophecy of

Ahijah the Shilonite, and in the visions of Iddo the seer against

Jeroboam the son of Nebat?  30 And Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over

all Israel forty years.  31 And Solomon slept with his fathers, and he was

buried in the city of David his father: and Rehoboam his son reigned in

his stead."  Nathan the prophet… Ahijah the ShiloniteIddo the

seer. The present quotation of the name of Ahijah in connection with his

work, and the brief allusion to himself in ch. 10:15, are the only appearances

of Ahijah in Chronicles. He and the importance of his work are clear enough

from I Kings 11:28-40; 14:1-20. As the compiler of Chronicles evidently by

a law omits any even reference to the defection of Solomon, it is natural that

the name and special ministry of Ahijah should fall into the shade with him.

Uniformly it is observable in Chronicles that the personal is not enlarged upon

where it is not directly and indispensably ancillary to the ecclesiastical and

national history. On the other hand, the writer of Kings does not once mention

Iddo the seer, whereas we read of him again twice in this book – ch.12:15; 13:22).

 

 

A Study in the Matter of Fame (vs. 1-31)

 

The first twelve verses of this chapter — a chapter which otherwise offers

little homiletic matter — put before us a very favorable instance of the

legitimate operation of a great force in this world, the force called fame. It

may sometimes be more pleasantly viewed under the description and title

of an attraction, but it is a force under any circumstances, and often a very

great one. The instance before us is a “favorable” one, because it is

exhibited and it is occupied in matter which we are glad to think of, and to

think of as availing itself of whatever advantage may lie within reach. And

its “operation” is “legitimate,” because there is nothing in the motives and

methods brought into play in the effective short history on the page but

what we readily sympathize with. These even add interest to the main

subject. The instances of the action of fame in unfavorable matter may

perhaps seem to preponderate; but perhaps, also, this may rather seem to

be the case than really be so. Notice:

 

  • SOME GENERAL FACTS CHARACTERIZING THE ACTION OF

FAME.

 

1. It is in fame to travel the longest distances.

2. It travels at no appreciable expense.

3. The greater distance absolutely lends generally the greater bulk.

4. The travel is swift, silent, and very difficult to track.

5. It may serve great and useful ends, as in the present instance, and in

    the greater instance involved in the history of the Wise Men of the East.

6. The fame of a person or of some exploit travels and spreads in

    obedience to what seem to be almost principles in human nature — the

    love to hear and to tell in proportion to the novelty and the strikingness

    for any reason of the tidings in question.  (God gave man the command in

    Genesis 1:28 to “subdue it” [the earth] which means to find out its secrets.

    CY – 2016)

 

  • THE PARTICULAR FACTS THAT CHARACTERIZED THIS

INSTANCE OF FAME.

 

Ø      It was the fame of wisdom. The picture suggested to our mental vision is

most interesting and most unusual. For a moment the Solomon of Scripture

is the Socrates of Greece. For great stress is laid on the queen’s

communing with Solomon of the things in her heart, and questioning him

on them. The wonders of human life individually and of human history may

have been debated. The casuistry of those days may have been very real

and perplexing, even though to our day it should seem trifling and simple.

It is emphatically said that the queen laid herself out to prove Solomon

with hard questions.

 

Ø      The fame was also that of knowledge and what we might call learning.

Elsewhere we read of Solomon’s knowledge of natural history, and of his

amazing command by memory of proverbs.

 

Ø      It was the fame of wealth, splendor, magnificence; and these not

lavished altogether upon himself.

 

Ø      And not least, it was the fame of one on whom rested super-eminently

the blessing of the Lord his God. The queen, by whatsoever means, and

these are not altogether hard to imagine, had learned of the delight that God

took in Solomon and his throne and his people, inextricably and

prophetically one. Whether she knew more or less, much or but very, very

little, of the relation of earth to heaven, of the dependence of man on God,

and of the practice of a reasonable, intelligent, and acceptable worship of

Him, it is evident that she recognized and rejoiced in the fact that she had

come to see a man on whom the Spirit of God rested.

 

  • THE CHARACTER, AT LEAST IN SOME FEATURES OF IT, ON

WHICH THE FAME OF SOLOMON TOOK SUCH EFFECT.

 

Ø      The Queen of Sheba was one of those who have an ear to hear. This

does not mean an ear to hear necessarily everything. It does not mean an

ear to hear the loudest sound or the nearest sound. It does mean an ear

opened to hear the most important sounds, though they may be very

distant, or very high, or from deepest depth. It means a discerning,

instinctively selecting, discriminating ear.  (Matthew 11:15; Revelation

2:17)

 

Ø      She had an earnestly inquiring disposition. Suggestions are often the

best of thoughts, as sketches are often the best of pictures, and as seeds

have all growth, flower, fruit, concealed in them. We can follow here the

birth from a suggestion of thought, resolve, patient, long expectation, faith

in her journey’s reward, and all the final realization vouchsafed to her

enterprise. How many sounds enter the ear which might well waken us!

How many suggestions proffer activity for the powers and fruit for the life

within us, and fall like chilled flowers, withered fruit-settings, because of

the barren nature, the absolute un-inquiring nature of our disposition!

The best seed asks soil, and good soil; the highest thoughts ask prepared

minds; and the purest truth, pure hearts.

 

Ø      The queen was willing to expend labor, to endure fatigue, to exercise

long patience, in order to satisfy herself as to the trustworthiness and the

very facts of the fame of Solomon. Labor, fatigue, and patience were all

worthily encountered. The object was worth them, even though it were no

greater and higher than it was. It was far greater and higher than the

objects which often exert far greater attraction for men, when for them,

being things destitute of any heavenward aspect whatsoever, they will rise

up early, go to rest late, and eat the bread of sorrow continually.

 

Ø      When the queen had seen and heard Solomon, and had satisfied herself

of all, she feels no envy, seeks no points of detraction, suspects no

dements of weakness, but gives to all the display her heartiest, most

unaffected praise and congratulation.. She can make the prosperity and

blessedness of others joy and matter of thanksgiving for her own heart. She

can genuinely rejoice with those who rejoice — that rarer thing, even, than

to weep with those who weep! (Romans 12:15) And, after bestowing her

lavish Eastern gifts, can return to her home, alike wiser and happier. Amid all

the dim light of knowledge, and dimmer light of religion, of faith, and of love,

we cannot doubt that we have an example in this woman of some of the best

qualities possible to human nature; of a large mind, a noble and pure heart,

of generous apprehensions of faith and love, and of — in one word — a

graciousness that cometh only FROM ABOVE!

 

  • THE CHIEF LESSONS OF THIS HISTORY FOR OURSELVES.

The history is referred to by our supreme Teacher Himself (Matthew

12:42; Luke 11:31). His powerful reference to it is to point us to a

lesson for good and timely example and imitation.

 

Ø      We are to seek:

 

o        earnestly;

o        simply, purely, and without envy;

o        with labor and fatigue,

o        with patience and faith,

o        with strong expectation and love unfeigned; and

o        to seek, with full, ungrudging gift,

 

§         His wisdom,

§         His knowledge,

§         His surpassing and most real splendor, and

§         His solution of all our hard questions.

 

The very existence of the example declares and pronounces its claim upon us.

Its look, its tone, its matter, all speak forth its meaning.

 

Ø      But we are pointed, not merely to a kindly lesson and attractive example, but

to a forcible warning. For if we will not follow, do not follow, the Queen of

Sheba, her example will follow us, even to the pursuing of us, to THE GREAT

JUDGMENT!   She will condemn us (Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31), whose

expectation, and effort, and interest, and liberal generosity were all

inflamed by the fame of Solomon, while all the fame of Christ fails to

waken our zeal.

 

o        Hearts are cold.

o        Effort is feebleness itself, or even as naught.

o        Patience is intolerable.

o        Fatigue cannot be contemplated.

o        Gold must be hoarded, and

o        Christ and heaven MUST BE LOST;

 

while she, of dim ages and dim knowledge, and but most broken rays of

revelation, shall, because she used them to the best, rise up in the judgment

and condemn those whose privileges and opportunities were IMMENSE,

IMMEASURABLE!   Warning and lesson both are pressed upon us by the

“Greater than Solomon,” THE INFINITELY GREATER!   Who will not

wish to eschew the condemnation of which he is here warned? Who will not

be guided and attracted by the lesson which is here offered to him?

 

 

The Glory of Solomon (vs. 13-31)

 

  • THE VASTNESS OF HIS WEALTH (vs. 13-14, 21, 24.)

 

Ø      Its sources.

 

o        The contributions of merchants and traders towards the imperial

revenues (v. 14);

o        the presents of kings and governors in Arabia and elsewhere; and

o        the cargoes brought by his fleets from Ophir yearly (v. 10), and from

Tartessus, or Tarsus, in Spain, every three years (v. 21).

 

Ø      Its amount. 666 talents of gold per annum, not reckoning the silver as

abundant as stones (v. 27).

 

Ø      Its use. It was employed:

 

o        In making state shields — 200 larger, to each of which 600 shekels of

gold were devoted; and 300 smaller, to each of which 300 shekels were

assigned. The shields, probably made of wood and covered with gold

instead of leather, were hung in Solomon’s palace, “the house of the forest

of Lebanon (I Kings 7:2), where they remained until plundered by

Shishak (ch. 12:9; I Kings 14:26).

 

o        In fashioning a state throne, made of ivory and overlaid with pure gold

(v. 17); i.e. the woodwork, not the ivory, was covered with the metal.

The throne had six steps and a golden footstool (v. 18); each step had on

either side a lion, probably of cast metal gilded. On each side of the seat

was an arm or stay, beside which sat another lion. Thus there were in all

fourteen gilted lions. No wonder the historian adds, there was nothing

like it in any kingdom.” Yet many modern thrones surpass it in splendor.

 

o        In constructing state cups or drinking-vessels for the palace. All were

made of pure gold — gold of Ophir, Tarshish, or Parvaim; “not one of

silver, which was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon.”

 

Ø      Its credibility. The above account is rendered trustworthy by comparing

it with well-known recorded facts. “When Nineveh was besieged,

Sardanapalus had 150 golden bedsteads, 150 golden tables, 1,000,000

talents of gold, ten times as much silver, while 3000 talents had been

previously distributed among his sons. No less than 7170 talents of gold

were used for the statues and vessels of the temple of Bel in Babylon.

Alexander’s pillage of Ecbatana was valued at 120,000 talents of gold;

Cyrus’s pillage was 34,000 pounds of gold and 500,000 petards of silver,

besides an immense number of golden vessels” (Bahr, in loco, Lange’s

series).

 

  • THE EXCELLENCE OF HIS WISDOM (vs. 22-23.) Solomon’s

wisdom was excellent in respect of:

 

Ø      Origin. It was God-inspired. All wisdom proceeds from the same source

(Job 32:8), and “a man can receive nothing except it be given him from

heaven (John 3:27); but in Solomon’s case wisdom was a special

endowment (ch.1:12).

 

Ø      Measure. Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in the quantity as

well as quality of his wisdom — not easy to do. The Queen of Sheba was a

proof that royal personages in that era were not fools; while the

monumental histories of Egypt and Assyria have revealed the existence of

wise and powerful princes long before Solomon. There were brave men

before Agamemnon.

 

Ø      Manifestation. Solomon’s wisdom expressed itself in a variety of ways:

in temple-building and other architectural undertakings; in the pronouncing

of judgments and the utterance of apothegms; in the acquisition of

knowledge, and more especially of natural history; and in literary

compositions both prosaic and poetical (I Kings 4:29-33).

 

Ø      Fame. It spread abroad through all countries, and attracted kings and

queens to his court to hear his oracular utterances and make trial of his

insight, as well as to gaze upon the splendor of his court and the

magnificence of his person (I Kings 4:34).

 

  • THE EXTENT OF HIS EMPIRE (v. 26.)

 

Ø      Its eastern boundary — the Syrian desert, in which Tadmor or Palmyra

was situated.

 

Ø      Its westernthe Mediterranean, or, more correctly, Phoenicia and the

country of the Philistines, with the strip of Mediterranean coast between.

 

Ø      Its northernthe river — the Euphrates, in its upper reaches, from

Tiphsah, or Thapsacus, a large and populous town on the west bank, a

place where armies crossed over the stream, and where was a quay for

landing and shipping wares coming from or going to Babylon (Winer, 2. p.

612).

 

Ø      Its southernthe border of Egypt (I Kings 4:24). Within these

limits he either exercised sovereign power directly, as over his own

subjects in Palestine, or indirectly through receiving tribute from the

reigning kings who expressed their fealty to him by bringing, year by year,

every man his present — vessels of silver and vessels of gold and raiment,

harness and spices, horses and mules (v. 24).

 

  • THE DURATION OF HIS REIGN (v. 30.) Forty years.

 

Ø      A great privilege. Long life a mark of special favor under the old

dispensation (Proverbs 3:16); under the new, a valuable blessing to

those who enjoy it (Ephesians 6:2-3).

 

Ø      A large opportunity. Life not for personal enjoyment merely, but for

religious and philanthropic activity. A long life means a long time for doing

good. What benefits Solomon might have conferred upon his people during

that extended period!

 

Ø      A high responsibility. “To whomsoever much is given, much is required” etc.

(Luke 12:48) That Solomon did less than he might with his great wisdom, vast

riches, immense power, extended fame, and protracted life, entailed upon him

deeper guilt.

 

Ø      An evident mercy. Considering the bad use Solomon made of his

numerous years, declining in his old age through love of women into

debasing idolatries (I Kings 11:1-8), it was a proof of the Divine

patience and long-suffering that he was not earlier cut off.

 

  • THE CLOSE OF HIS CAREER (vs. 29, 31.)

 

Ø      His biography was written by the hand of prophets. (v. 29.) Nathan

the prophet, who had announced his birth to David (II Samuel 7:12-14;

I Chronicles 17:11), and who had called him, when a child, Jedidiah,

“Beloved of the Lord” (II Samuel 12:25), in all probability began it;

Ahijah the Shilonite (i.e. inhabitant of, or prophet from, Shilo, an

Ephraimite town), who predicted the division of the kingdom (I Kings

11:29), it may be supposed, carried it on; and Iddo the seer, a

contemporary of Rehoboam and Jeroboam (ch. 12:15 and ch.13:22),

finished it. Being prophets of the Lord, these writers would

nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice,” but would deliver “a

plain unvarnished tale” of the great monarch’s acts and words, of his wise

speeches and foolish deeds.

 

Ø      His corpse was buried in the tomb of his father. (v. 31.) It was well

that he had a tomb to lie in; better men than he have had none. He had sat

upon his father’s throne, worn his father’s crown, extended his father’s

kingdom, improved upon his father’s vices, declined from his father’s piety;

now his lifeless dust was consigned to rest in his father’s sepulcher.

 

Ø      His throne was filled by his own son. No man likes to be succeeded by a

stranger. It must have been a comfort to the old monarch that Rehoboam

was to wear his crown.

 

  • LEARN:

 

Ø      The vanity of earthly glory — the magnificence of Solomon unequal to

the raiment of a lily (Matthew 6:29).

 

Ø      The worthlessness of all earthly things without religion: Solomon had

everything that could satisfy ambition, and yet he declined from the

worship of Jehovah (Matthew 19:20-22);

 

Ø      The certainty of death: Solomon could not evade the king of terrors,

neither shall common men! (Ecclesiastes 8:8).

 

 

Grandeur without Godliness (vs. 21-31)

 

These words and those that precede them are as suggestive by reason of

what is absent from them as by that which is contained in them. They are

significant of:

 

  • GRANDEUR WITHOUT GODLINESS. The historian is drawing his

records of the reign of Solomon to a close; and, in taking his view (or his

review) of it, he has much to say of the splendors of his throne and of his

surroundings; of the multitude of his horses and chariots, with their stalls

and stables; of his store of gold and silver; of his apes and peacocks; of his

ships and his cedars; but he says nothing of:

 

Ø      his service of Jehovah;

Ø      of the gratitude he showed to God for:

o       the very bountiful blessings He had bestowed upon him,

o       the high estate to which he had raised him, and

o       the special gifts of mind with which he had endowed him.

 

Here there is a painful absence, a silence that speaks only too forcibly. When

Solomon came to review his own life and to examine his own career in the

light of early influence and special privilege, he must have felt constrained

to be silent, or, if he spoke at all, to use the language of confession. There had

been much grandeur but little godliness in his reign. And what had been the

proved value of it?

 

Ø      The delight it had ministered to him had been of a less noble and less

elevating kind, if not actually ignoble and injurious.

 

Ø      It had LED HIS MIND AWAY from sources of joy which would have been

far worthier in themselves and far more beneficial in their influence.

 

Ø      It had raised a standard of excellency before the eyes of his subjects

which can have had no enlarging and elevating effect upon their minds.

 

Ø      It must have awakened the greed of surrounding sovereigns and the

envy of many among his subjects.

 

Ø      It must have been in painful, not to say guilty, contrast with much

poverty in many hundreds of Hebrew homes.

 

Ø      It entailed a heavy penalty on the people in the shape of burdensome

taxes. Grandeur without godliness is a serious sin and A PROFOUND

MISTAKE.  It is as guilty as it is foolish. And so we find the man who

passed all the kings of the earth” in wealth and in a certain order of

wisdom (v. 22), going down into fault and failure because he lost that

fear of God” which he ought to have understood was “the beginning

of wisdom.”  Unfaithfulness to the principles he learned in youth sent him

down into his grave:

 

o        “prematurely old,”

o         his kingdom weakened,

o        his character corrupted,

o        his reputation bearing upon its face a dark and ineffaceable stain.

 

How unspeakably preferable is:

 

  • SIMPLICITY AND SACRED SERVICE. Rather than have grandeur

without godliness, who would not live in obscurity with a name that does

not travel beyond his native hills:

 

Ø      in a home unfamiliar with ivory and gold,

Ø      living on homeliest fare and dressed in plainest raiment,

o       with the love of the heavenly Father in the heart,

o       the sense of His abiding favor in the soul,

o       Christ’s happy and holy service for the heritage of the life, and

o       His nearer Presence the promise of the future?

 

Before honor is humility, before grandeur is godliness, before gold and silver

is a noble and a useful life.

 

 

 

 

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