Wednesday, Apr 26th

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1 Kings 10

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Plenty of unbelievers, such as historians, are only too willing to decry the ‘stories’ of men like Solomon. They do it because they hate the idea of God. And they hate the idea of God being true, because a real God challenges their selfish desires and beliefs, showing them their sin. Oddly, men who say they do not believe actually DO believe, but deny it for fear of facing the Lord. Better to decry and deny Him (they think) than to face Him and obey His commands!

But, Solomon existed. His wealth and wisdom were not just legends – they were real historical facts. His wisdom was given by God as a very special sign of holy power from Jehovah, giving Israel worldwide authority and engendering awe. His wealth was greater than any king or queen had ever known, before and since. He was given the riches by God as another sign of His presence with David’s son. One has to ask the question – why does God not give such blessings today on men who rule? The answers should be obvious. Plenty have an easy living - but this is not necessarily a sign of God’s presence… quite the opposite. Solomon did not seek out his own future; he waited for God to give him one. And that was the key to his success.

Verses 1-3

  1. And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions.

  2. And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart.

  3. And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not any thing hid from the king, which he told her not.

Solomon was visited by many dignitaries and kings, all of whom would bring presents of some wealth. Here we see that the queen of Sheba came to see Solomon. Sheba was either in southern Arabia or Ethiopia (though Arabia is the majority view), the people possibly descended from a son of Joktan, from the family line of Seth. Sheba or Sabaea was rich in frankincense, spices, gold and gemstones. We do not know the queen’s name.

The queen heard many accounts of this Israelite king and wanted to see for herself if the stories were true, by trying to undermine his wisdom. Films have been made of her arrival, that say she had a torrid affair with Solomon – all of which is either surmised or circumstantial. (Though it is true he had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines).

She visited him to ask some “hard questions”, probably devised by her best court counsellors and wise men who would have felt threatened by Solomon’s prowess, and designed to ask questions difficult to answer, maybe riddles or trick queries to cause him to stumble. This appears to be a chance to make Solomon look less than wise, but it may also have been a genuine test to see how he fared.

In those days a regal person would have travelled with hundreds of retinue and hundreds of camels, with bullocks and carts to carry essentials such as tents, and so on. Sheba had such a caravan train, accompanied by armed soldiers and charioteers. These were as much a sign of her status as it was of her wealth. She brought prized besem - spices, balsam and perfumes. She also carried a large amount of gold and jewels.

When given her quarters in the palace, she was able to talk to Solomon about everything on her mind. It seems she did not hold back her thoughts, because this was her only opportunity to either make a fool of Solomon, or profit from his wisdom. For his part, Solomon did not speak in the careful words or hidden meanings often used by modern pastors! Rather, he spoke openly and to the point. This is what Christians ought to be like, instead of covering up secrets and talking in veiled terms.

Verses 4&5

  1. And when the queen of Sheba had seen all Solomon's wisdom, and the house that he had built,

  2. And the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up unto the house of the LORD; there was no more spirit in her.

Solomon gave a good account of himself and the queen was amazed by his wisdom. She observed the immense riches of the city and palace, the fine foods he and his courtiers ate, the ranks of servants and his relationship to them, their rich clothing, and the huge number of servants. She also watched as he entered the Temple with such solemn intent. Combining all the information touching her senses and mind, the queen gave up any undermining purpose and simple enjoyed her visit. What she saw before her was truly the wisest man on earth, a great ruler, an ultra-wealthy man and a king worthy to be honoured.

Verses 6-10

  1. And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom.

  2. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard.

  3. Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom.

  4. Blessed be the LORD thy God, which delighted in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because the LORD loved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king, to do judgment and justice.

  5. And she gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store, and precious stones: there came no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon.

The queen admitted to Solomon that though she had tried to trip him up, he displayed a wisdom superior to any she had previously come across, and his royal status was unsurpassed. She said that she had heard much about him, but what she had heard was not as wondrous as what she had heard and seen herself – his wisdom and actions were even better than anything she was told in her own land.

The queen said that Solomon’s servants and nation were blessed by his wisdom and stately actions. Note that though not Hebrew, she blessed the ‘elohiym (God) of Israel, Jehovah (the LORD), thus displaying a proper regard for the true ruler of Israel, and a due regard for Israel’s superiority as a nation. She gave Solomon 120 kikkar (talents) of gold (see earlier estimate of possible values) and more spices than any other regal dignitary had given to him in his lifetime. We need not doubt that the number of precious stones must have been enormous. And so Solomon’s personal wealth increased yet again.

Verses 11-13

  1. And the navy also of Hiram, that brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug trees, and precious stones.

  2. And the king made of the almug trees pillars for the house of the LORD, and for the king's house, harps also and psalteries for singers: there came no such almug trees, nor were seen unto this day.

  3. And king Solomon gave unto the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatsoever she asked, beside that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty. So she turned and went to her own country, she and her servants.

Added to this, Hiram’s side of the combined navy brought back much gold and precious stones from south-western Arabia, plus many almug trees (possibly sandalwood, of an amount not seen to this day). Solomon used the almug trees to make pillars for the finished Temple and for his own palace. He also used them to make musical instruments such as lutes and harps. Solomon gave the queen of Sheba whatever she asked for, plus much from his personal treasury, before she returned to her own country with her retinue.

We can say, without ‘spiritualising’, that this unlimited generosity is symbolic of our own lives, which should be given back to God without stint or personal gain... what Sheba gave to Solomon was reciprocated by probably even greater gifts from the king. When we give back to God what rightly belongs to Him (everything we have and our very bodies), He reciprocates with very much more than we can ever give to Him. In practical terms it means to give God everything in our lives, no matter what we think will be the result – very often the result will be greater and not as we imagined.

Verses 14-20

  1. Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold,

  2. Beside that he had of the merchantmen, and of the traffick of the spice merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia, and of the governors of the country.

  3. And king Solomon made two hundred targets of beaten gold: six hundred shekels of gold went to one target.

  4. And he made three hundred shields of beaten gold; three pound of gold went to one shield: and the king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon.

  5. Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the best gold.

  6. The throne had six steps, and the top of the throne was round behind: and there were stays on either side on the place of the seat, and two lions stood beside the stays.

  7. 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.

In just one year, Solomon received 666 talents of gold – an unimaginable amount. Along with this (in one year) came the items brought in by merchants and spice importers, and from kings in Arabia and his own governors of provinces... allowing him to make gold artefacts: 200 targets (large shields) of gold, beaten (probably around wood formers). Each shield contained 600 shekels of gold; a shekel worth about $10, therefore each shield worth about $6000, bringing the total to well over $1 million. These were made for the Temple treasury, and perhaps used for ceremonial occasions. A further 300 smaller shields of three pound (300 shekels) of beaten gold; total cost just under $1 million. All these were stored in the Temple (“house of the forest of Lebanon”, the foundational materials for the house of God).

Solomon also made an ornate ivory throne covered in pure gold. The throne had six steps up to the seat, and a round back. There were two sides to the throne, and a large lion statue on either side. There were also two smaller lions resting on each end of each step, numbering twelve lions on the steps. All made of gold. Such magnificence had not been seen anywhere else in the world.

Whilst we might think all this extravagance was too much, we must remember that Solomon was set-up by God, and everything done by Solomon was to His glory. So, when visitors, and even courtiers, saw this throne, they were reminded of the glory and grace of Jehovah, Whose Person demanded the very best of the very best (just as the entire inward and outward parts of the Temple were of gold). This kind of giving to God cannot be equalled by any Christian on earth today!

Verses 21-23

  1. And all king Solomon's drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold; none were of silver: it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon.

  2. For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish with the navy of Hiram: once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.

  3. So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom.

For this reason everything in Solomon’s Palace was similarly rich and representative of God’s goodness... drinking goblets were of pure gold, as well as every utensil in the Temple. There was no silver (which would have been considered second-value), and the use of gold was not even questioned in Israel. Every three years Solomon’s navy sailed out of Tarshish (ships sited close to the Red Sea, after being constructed at Ezion-geber), with Hiram’s navy, to bring back even more gold, silver, ivory, and live animals – monkeys and peacocks (probably to adorn the palace and grounds).

As verse 23 tells us, Solomon’s wisdom and wealth were legendary, far greater than was experienced by any other kind of his day... and all was attributed to God. Today, Christians think that if they gain anything in life it is because of their studies and hard work. Not so. God can remove them at any time, and often does. The Christian should enjoy what he is given, but should never assume it will last (a great deterrent against debt). In essence every Christian should hold very short accounts, so that if everything was taken away he is not left helpless, and can walk away with little difficulty. The problem arises when everything a person has is considered to be for life, an attitude that can only lead to distress.

Verses 24-29

  1. And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart.

  2. And they brought every man his present, vessels of silver, and vessels of gold, and garments, and armour, and spices, horses, and mules, a rate year by year.

  3. And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen: and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen, whom he bestowed in the cities for chariots, and with the king at Jerusalem.

  4. And the king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones, and cedars made he to be as the sycomore trees that are in the vale, for abundance.

  5. And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt, and linen yarn: the king's merchants received the linen yarn at a price.

  6. And a chariot came up and went out of Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and an horse for an hundred and fifty: and so for all the kings of the Hittites, and for the kings of Syria, did they bring them out by their means.

All the known world, including kings and queens, travelled to Jerusalem to listen to Solomon. His wisdom was not of the natural kind, but was given by God, so listening to him was listening to Jehovah. When they came, they brought all manner of expensive gifts... silver, gold, rich clothing, armour, spices, horses, mules... and the number of gifts increased year by year. Solomon had 1400 chariots and 12,000 cavalry soldiers, in cities that housed them. A large number stayed in Jerusalem with the king, who also collected expensive wood, jewels and silver in the city, and grew trees in the valleys.

Solomon added to his amazing wealth daily: he had horses brought from Egypt, with Egyptian linen (still some of the best today), all negotiated by the king’s merchants. A chariot cost 600 shekels of silver, and a horse cost 150 silver shekels. The kings, though their nations were once enemies around Israel, fared well from this trade. It is a truism that when a ruler is holy, the whole nation is blessed, and so are surrounding nations.

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Published on www.christiandoctrine.com

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