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
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
probably Saba, the capital of
Red Sea, north of the
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
a chief export from
course, it is not necessary to suppose that the gold that came either now
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
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 king’s 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:
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)
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.
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.
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
over them, to do judgment and justice." The abstinence on the part of the
queen in her mention of the Lord God of
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
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.
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
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
the bukkum (Arabic word), which Europeans call
which (Keil) was found in
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
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
they had been part of the exhibition made to the Queen of Sheba.
king Solomon gave to the queen of
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
wisdom,” conferring great gifts upon him and receiving valuable presents in
return (see Matthew 12:42). We have, among many things:
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
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
count confidently that He will make good His word (see Matthew 6:33).
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).
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)
Ø The country whence she came.
but Sabaa, a country in Arabia Felix. Its capital
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
of Arabian tribes. The caravans of
the markets of the world — to
civilization prevailed from an early period in
only by the so-called Himarytic inscriptions found in that region, in which
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, ‘
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,
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
and eventually reached
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;
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
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
palace which led over the intermediate valley (‘
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
temple and of
Ø The admiration she felt. Sincere and intense. Solomon’s wisdom had
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
for making Solomon His vicegerent in
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
of which was probably the Arabic balsam Josephus (‘
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).
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).
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”
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
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
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
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
parallel, to speak of governors of
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
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
lion and the number of them, reminding of the tribes of
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Tuoca, a town in
translate it “guinea-fowl,” and some “parrots.” The peacock did not belong
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.
the land of tributary sovereignties, from Euphrates to the borders of
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
even unto the land of the Philistines, and to
the border of
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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
The parallel mentions horses from
“linen yarn” was brought. The all lands alluded to with us, would
also, in I Kings 10:29, states the prices of a chariot from
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
buried in the city of
his stead." Nathan the prophet… Ahijah the Shilonite… Iddo 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:
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)
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.
WHICH THE FAME OF SOLOMON TOOK SUCH EFFECT.
Ø The Queen of
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
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 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 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
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)
Ø Its sources.
o The contributions of merchants and traders towards the imperial
revenues (v. 14);
presents of kings and governors in
o the cargoes brought by his fleets from Ophir yearly (v. 10), and from
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
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
well-known recorded facts. “When
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
for the statues and vessels of the
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
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
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
wise and powerful princes long before Solomon. There were brave men
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).
eastern boundary —
the Syrian desert, in which Tadmor or
western — the Mediterranean, or, more correctly,
country of the Philistines, with the strip of Mediterranean coast between.
northern — the river — the
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
and shipping wares coming from or going to
Ø Its southern — the border of
limits he either exercised sovereign power directly, as over his own
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).
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
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.
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.
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
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:
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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