New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

1Ki 10:1 When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of Yahweh, she came to test him with hard questions-
As explained on 1 Kings 9:28, she would have first encountered Solomon's servants when they came to Sheba in search of gold, for which Sheba was famous. "Hard questions" is the word for "riddle". And it seems Solomon answered her riddles using his book of Proverbs. For he uses the word in Prov. 1:5,6 about how his Divinely inspired Proverbs were the answers to such "riddles" of the wise: "These proverbs can even add to the knowledge of the wise and give guidance to the educated, so that they can understand the hidden meanings of proverbs and the problems [s.w. "riddles", "hard questions"] that the wise raise" (GNB). He may have this wise queen of Sheba in mind, as it was her who raised these "riddles" / "problems" with him.

1Ki 10:2 She came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that carried spices, and very much gold and precious stones; and when she had come to Solomon, she talked with him of all that was in her heart-
This woman obviously had genuine questions which were more than mere intellectual tests of Solomon (:1). She presumably accompanied the latest shipment to Solomon of the things Israel traded with Sheba for, although we note she came by land with camels rather than by sea. It seems from the closing verses of 1 Kings 9 that the Israelites usually traded with Sheba by sea. "Great train" is elsewhere translated "great army", as if the wealth of what was being brought was so great that it needed major military escort. The same terms "spices... gold... precious stones" is used of what the queen of Sheba brought to Solomon, and what was brought to Hezekiah after his healing (2 Chron. 32:27). Perhaps the conversion of the queen of Sheba to Israel's God meant that her people continued to be sympathetic to Judah even in Hezekiah's time, and they were the source of these things in his time.

David had prayed that Solomon would be the Messianic king who would receive gold and gifts from the ruler of Sheba (Ps. 72:10,15), and this appeared an exact fulfilment of that. But although :1 implies the visit was of her initiative, we wonder whether Solomon's obsession with living out his father's expectations led him to actually invite her, in order to fulfil the words of Ps. 72 and as it were force a fulfilment in him. For they had been trading partners before this, as 1 Kings 9 makes clear. And yet the majority of Ps. 72 was not fulfilled by Solomon, and will only come true in the Lord Jesus. 

1Ki 10:3 Solomon told her all her questions: there was not anything hidden from the king which he didn’t tell her-
The idea is as in GNB "there was nothing too difficult for him to explain". "Told her" translates the word used for solving riddles (Jud. 14:13) and interpreting dreams (Gen. 41:24; Dan. 5:12). See on :1.     

1Ki 10:4 When the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, and the house that he had built-
The next verse suggests the "house" she was amazed at was not so much the temple, as his own house which had taken nearly twice as long to build and was of a grander nature than the temple. Yet he had prayed in 1 Kings 8 that the temple would be the source of wonder for the Gentile world, and would of itself bring about the creation of proselytes for Yahweh. But in reality it was replaced by his own house. We note how she was impressed by 'seeing' his wisdom; she had heard it in theory (:1), but it is the word made flesh which has the power of personal conversion in practice.  

1Ki 10:5 and the food of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their clothing, and his cup bearers, and his ascent by which he went up to the house of Yahweh; there was no more spirit in her- Josh. 2:11; 5:1
The way the Queen of Sheba was given a guided tour of Solomon's wealth makes ominous connection with Hezekiah's proud parading of his blessings to the Babylonian ambassadors. I noted another connection with Hezekiah on :2. The "ascent" was the king's personal entry into the temple (2 Kings 16:18) and Hezekiah is also associated with this in that he wrote the songs of degrees after his healing. They allude to how the sun went back on the sundial of Ahaz, which appears to have been a development of these grandiose steps of the king's entrance to the temple into a sundial. It is this very striking "ascent" which is described in :12.

1Ki 10:6 She said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in my own land of your acts, and of your wisdom-
The actual content of Solomon's wisdom, perhaps in the form of the writings we now have as the book of Proverbs, had already been taken to her. She had heard the words by "report", but "didn't believe the words" (:7) until she actually saw the word made flesh. And this is typical of so many people. It is why God speaks His word to us now "in His Son", and why our witness will be the more effective if we make the word flesh in our lives.

1Ki 10:7 However I didn’t believe the words, until I came, and my eyes had seen it. Behold, the half was not told me! Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame which I heard-
As explained on :6, it is hard for people to believe mere words. They have to see the word made flesh. This is why simply distributing propositional truths on various media will not of itself convert many people. The word must be made flesh, and then it is believed. This is why the person of the Lord Jesus, the word made flesh, must be absolutely and utterly paramount in our teaching of the Gospel. And it is why public lecturing about various Gospel truths will never convert as many people as witnessing that word in the flesh. It is encounter with real persons which converts real persons, rather than encounter with words and ideas. That is not to say God's word is not alive and powerful of itself. But people are people, they are weak, and often they have lacked access to God's word in its written form. It is the word made flesh in believers of that word which will be the most powerful witness in practice.   

1Ki 10:8 Happy are your men-
It is as if she wishes to see David's words about the blessedness or happiness of the righteous nation and people being fulfilled, or perhaps it was Solomon trying to fulfil those words (Ps. 1:1; 33:12 etc.). But it seems this was all an impression Solomon was giving her, for many things were "rotten in the state of Denmark" as noted throughout 1 Kings 8,9. LXX gives "wives" for "men", as if she was struck by the happiness of the wives in his harem, which was unusual. But surely this too was only an appearance, because Ecclesiastes betrays an unhappy family life in Solomon's experience. 

Happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you, who hear your wisdom-
The next generation were to complain that Solomon had chastised the people with whips (1 Kings 12:11). The happiness of the people which the Queen of Sheba observed was therefore just an impression Solomon arranged for her to receive.

1Ki 10:9 Blessed is Yahweh your God, who delighted in you, to set you on the throne of Israel. Because Yahweh loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness-
These are identical words as in 1 Kings 5:7, of Hiram's response. We are given the impression that they became proselytes because they used the Yahweh Name; although polytheists could take the name of other gods, such as Yahweh, without it meaning they had accepted them as their own gods. 

Because of God's enthusiasm for human response to His ways, the exalted language in which He describes believers, even in their weakness, is a further essay in His humility. The way the Father runs to the prodigal and falls on his neck in tears is a superb essay in this (Lk. 15:20). Thus God "delighted" in Solomon (1 Kings 10:9)- translating a Hebrew word meaning literally 'to bend down to'. It's used about men in love (Gen. 34:19; Dt. 21:14; 25:7), and about Jonathan's deferential attitude to David (1 Sam. 19:2).

1Ki 10:10 She gave the king one hundred and twenty talents of gold-
This was about one third of his annual income (:14), which could imply she was more wealthy than he was.

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-
This note seems to imply that spices were never again imported into Israel, the implication being as Josephus states (Antiquities, 8.6.6), "that the cultivation of the balsam in Palestine dates from this visit; the plant having been one of the queen’s gifts".

1Ki 10:11 The navy also of Hiram-
Built and operated by him on Solomon's behalf (1 Kings 9:26-28).

That brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir a great quantity of almug trees and precious stones-
"Almug" appears to refer to sandalwood, "the Hebraized form of the Deccan word for sandal". This points to "Ophir" as being in the east, possibly as far as the Indian coast where these trees grow.

1Ki 10:12 The king made of the almug trees pillars for the house of Yahweh, and for the king’s house, harps also and stringed instruments for the singers: there came no such almug trees, nor were seen, to this day-
"Pillars" is "steps" in 2 Chron. 9:11, so the idea is of a magnificent staircase with elaborate banisters. This appears to be the king's "ascent" into the temple which so amazed the queen of Sheba (:5). This verse is referring back before her visit, because the almug trees were brought for the temple and for the king's house, which were already built by the time she visited. 

1Ki 10:13 King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatever she asked, besides that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty. So she turned, and went to her own land, she and her servants-
It is unclear whether this was a genuine gift, or whether it was part of a trade deal. For she had brought a huge caravan of gifts, and in return Solomon gave her what she asked for, as well as his own presents ("his royal bounty").

According to Ethiopian tradition, Solomon slept with the queen of Sheba and she bore Solomon a son called Melimelek. It is possible to interpret Ps. 45 as a reference to Solomon's relationship with the Queen of Sheba.    

1Ki 10:14 Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold-
This number occurs in the description of the mark of the beast in Rev. 13:18. It is one of the biggest hints that in fact Solomon's kingdom was the kingdom of the flesh, and not at all God's Kingdom as had been promised to David. The apostate religious system called "Babylon" in Revelation is evidently presented in the language of Solomon - at the time his kingdom was apparently flourishing, due to his righteousness. 1 Kings 10:14 = Rev. 13:17,18; 1 Kings 10:23 = Rev. 18:11,12,15; 1 Kings 11:1,2 = Rev. 17:1,2; 1 Kings 10:22 = Rev. 18:17,19; 1 Kings 10:23 = Rev. 18:3,17; 1 Kings 10:21,22 = Rev. 18:12; 1 Kings 10:11 = Rev. 18:12; 1 Kings 10:22 = Rev. 18:12; 1 Kings 10:10,25 = Rev. 18:13; 1 Kings 10:23 = Rev. 18:3,9; 1 Kings 10:28 = Rev. 18:12; 1 Kings 9:22 = Rev. 18:13. These allusions of themselves suggest Solomon's spirituality was a mere appearance. The latter day system which his kingdom looked ahead to may therefore be Jewish or Jerusalem based, with elements of apparent obedience to God.

2 Chron. 3:8 says that Solomon used 600 talents of gold on the temple. Seeing he received 666 talents / year, plus the large income from :16, this means that it was not particularly generous. One talent is 26 kilograms (57 pounds). 1 kilogram of gold is currently worth about 40,000 US$ [2020].

1Ki 10:15 besides that which the traders brought, and the traffic of the merchants, and of all the kings of the mixed people, and of the governors of the country-
LXX understand this as tribute, the taxes he charged on trading with his ships or through his territory; and in addition there was the income from the taxation system described in 1 Kings 4.

1Ki 10:16 King Solomon made two hundred bucklers of beaten gold; six hundred shekels of gold went to one buckler-
LXX "spears"; the Hebrew idea is of a large shield. David had taken shields of gold in 2 Sam. 8:7, and it seems Solomon was as ever seeking to imitate his father, at least externally, by making shields of gold. It was this almost pitiable imitation of his father which led to his undoing; for he was never his own man, never personally engaging with God. And when he finally matured in much later life, he had no faith in God at all, and turned to idols.

1Ki 10:17 he made three hundred shields of beaten gold; three minas of gold went to one shield: and the king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon-
2 Chron. 9:16 says they weighed 300 shekels each, meaning that one mina was 100 shekels; although the definitions seemed to vary over time (Ez. 45:12). There were 60 shekels to one talent. But this hanging of shields on the walls was exactly what was done in Tyre (Ez. 27:11,12), so as noted earlier, it seems Solomon was copying Tyre as well as other Gentiles. Song 4:4 speaks of 1000 shields hanging "on the tower of David". This may be an exaggerated number, or it could be that these shields combined with those David had taken (see on :16) were 1000 in number.

Is. 2:6-13 condemns Israel for their pride whilst making many allusions to Solomon: "Full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures... full of horses... chariots... idols... the work of their own hands... the cedars of Lebanon" (i.e. Solomon's armoury of 1 Kings 7:2,3; 10:17). The amount of cedar used for Solomon's house as well as the temple would have probably resulted in the deforestation of parts of Lebanon in order to provide this number of mature cedar trees. To cover an area of 100 x 50 cubits (1 Kings 7:2) with a roof of cedar (1 Kings 7:3) would have required 5000 square cubits of cedar wood if it were a flat roof, and more if the roof was angled; although it could be that not all the area was covered, i.e. there may have been a courtyard. But if it was, then we can better understand why it was called "the house of the forest of Lebanon" (1 Kings 10:17; Is. 22:8). About a whole forest of Lebanon would have been felled and transported to Jerusalem for all this building work.     

1Ki 10:18 Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the finest gold-
"Ivory" is literally "tooth" as in :22. It was likely made of wood overlaid with ivory and then gold, just as the 'house of ivory' (1 Kings 22:39) and 'bed of ivory' (Am. 6:4) were likewise not made of solid ivory. Ivory thrones were typical of the kings of Assyria, and we wonder if again this is evidence of pagan influence upon Solomon. God had promised to establish David's throne for ever, and Solomon wrongly assumed this was fulfilled in him and therefore he glorified his literal throne. This is typical of his total lack of spiritual perspective.

1Ki 10:19 There were six steps to the throne, and the top of the throne was round behind; and there were stays on either side by the place of the seat, and two lions standing beside the stays-
The six steps stressed the elevation of the throne. It is God's throne which alone is exalted (Is. 6:1). But Solomon justified his self exaltation on the basis that he had been exalted by God, and his throne was God's throne. He repeatedly refused to accept the conditionality of what had been promised to him. The two lions were surely part of the 12 lions of :20. Clearly two of the 12 lions [tribes of Israel] were seen as more exalted. This implies the supremacy of Judah over the ten tribes- and yet this kind of human point scoring was built in to what was supposed to be a replica of God's throne. Solomon was quite unawed by God's glory. For if he had been, he would have realized that before Him, all the tribes were equal.

1Ki 10:20 Twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the other on the six steps: there was nothing like it made in any kingdom-
This extraordinary throne received so much attention from Solomon because he was convinced that the promises about David's throne being eternal were fulfilled in him. And so he effectively portrayed it as God's throne, with the 12 lions representing the tribes of Israel ruled over by him. After the division of the kingdom, the throne would have been a sad piece of furniture. But the 12 lions were found on each side of the steps, making 24. This is a number associated with the throne room of God, with 24 elders or division of Angels before it (Rev. 4:4; 5:8; 11:16; 19:4). Perhaps Solomon was aware of this, and so he was making his throne an imitation of God's. The lion was specifically the symbol of Judah (Gen. 49:9); again, Solomon was inserting a subtext of Judah's domination of the rest of Israel. All Israel were to fall under the overall characterization of Judah.

The way Solomon built a huge physical throne, defended by impressive lions of his own creation (1 Kings 10:19,20), rather indicates how he missed the entire point- of ruling on God's throne, over a dynasty or 'throne' which God would perpetuate by grace; rather than establishing or creating the throne himself.

1Ki 10:21 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-
However, Solomon only received 666 talents of gold / year (:13); and Alexander’s pillage of Ectabana was estimated at 120,000 talents of gold. So Solomon's wealth was not so great, relatively speaking. But it appeared like that, relative to the earlier poverty of a subsistence farming economy like Israel had been before Solomon.

“He that loves silver (as Solomon did, Ecc. 2:8; 1 Kings 10:21-29) shall not be satisfied with silver (as he wasn’t- see Ecc. 2); nor he that loves abundance (s.w. used about the abundance of Solomon’s wives, 2 Chron. 11:23) with increase. When goods increase, they are increased that eat them (cp. the large numbers at his table, 1 Kings 4:27)” (Ecc. 5:10,11). The Hebrew word translated “not be satisfied” occurs around 25 times in the Proverbs, with Solomon warning of how the way of the flesh couldn’t satisfy. Solomon said all this with an eye on himself. He preached it to others, he felt deeply the truth of it, but he saw no personal way out of it. All he had was the accurate knowledge of his situation, but no real motivation to change- like the alcoholic or drug abuser who knows every aspect of the harm of his habit.

1Ki 10:22 For the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish with the navy of Hiram: once every three years came the navy of Tarshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks-
The abundance of gold and silver is explained on the basis of the fact that Solomon had a "navy of Tarshish" along with that of Hiram. And along with the gold and silver therefore came ivory, apes and peacocks. The association of these five items together points to trading with areas to the south and east of Israel. There is no way that "Tarshish" can refer to Britain because these items are simply not found there in abundance, and apes and elephants [for the ivory] are hardly natives of Britain. The word for "peacocks" appears to be a Hebraized form of an Indian word. The location of the trading partners is consistently areas to the south and east of Israel, not to the west. "Tarshish" may not in this context refer to a particular location. Rather is it a play on the meaning of the word, 'endurance / long distance', and refers to long distance trading vessels; just as in the 19th century, such vessels were known as "Indiamen", even if they were not bound for India. Likewise minibuses in the USSR were known as "Latvias" but that didn't mean they were located in Latvia nor were going there. Comparing 2 Chron. 8:18 and 1 Kings 9:26, it seems that the navy of Solomon was initially based around the navy of Hiram. Hiram had transported his ships to the sea overland through Israel, and Solomon decided to have them build ships for him at their port of departure, so that his traders could accompany the men of Tyre. The ships were perhaps "sent" in the form of wooden structures which were then assembled at the port. But then Solomon began to have the men of Tyre build him his own ships, so that his navy was separate to that of Hiram. But they journeyed together, trading up and down the gulf and as far as India; returning every three years to port and transporting their valuable profits overland back to Israel and thence to Tyre. Each visit to a port would have taken some time, and they would have gained the gold, silver etc. through trading rather than thieving. So they would have bought good from one place and sold them at another, and after three years they had accumulated boats full of gold and silver which amounted to their profits.

1Ki 10:23 So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom-
These are the kings of the earth / land promised to Abraham, which is the same reference of :24. These are the kings of :26 LXX "and he ruled over all the kings from the river to the land of the Philistines, and to the borders of Egypt". The river Euphrates and the borders of Egypt were the eretz promised to Abraham.

1Ki 10:24 All the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart-
This refers to the earth / land promised to Abraham, the eretz of :23. As with the queen of Sheba, we note that they wanted to hear his wisdom from his actual mouth, in his presence; rather than just hear the ideas, which could easily enough have been relayed by word of mouth or even in writing. But for most people, the word has to become flesh to be persuasive. And so it is that God speaks to us in His Son, having earlier spoken solely through His written word. And our preaching of the word is likewise so far more effective through it being made flesh in us, as it was in the Lord, rather than being solely communicated through the written medium.

1Ki 10:25 They brought every man his tribute, vessels of silver, and vessels of gold, and clothing, and armour, and spices, horses, and mules, a rate year by year-
The first mention of mules in the Bible is associated with Absalom's murder of Amnon his brother (2 Sam. 13:29). They were cross bred in disobedience to Lev. 19:19. We get the impression that a generally slack attitude to what might have been considered minor matters of the law was associated with the major sin of murder. This is the problem when we start to think that some parts of God's laws can just be ignored. David was fond of them, having his own mule (1 Kings 1:33), and Solomon was willing to receive them as tribute (1 Kings 10:25).

1Ki 10:26 Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen: and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen, that he placed in the chariot cities, and with the king at Jerusalem-
Solomon had obsessive tendencies. We know that he became addicted to finding pleasure in women, and Ecc. 2 shows him racing down the road of obsession with architecture, alcohol, food, gold etc. The historical narratives so often mention his gold and silver (e.g. 2 Chron. 9:13-21,24,27). This repetition reflects Solomon's obsession. The same fact explains the record's repetition of Solomon's enthusiasm for horses (1 Kings 10:25-29; 4:26,28; 9:19,22; 2 Chron. 1:14,16,17; 8:6,9; 9:24,25,28). Yet amassing of gold, silver and horses was explicitly forbidden for the King of Israel (Dt. 17:17). There is a powerful point to be made here: we can deceive ourselves that God is blessing us, when actually we are breaching explicit commands. Would Solomon had understood the concept of self-examination.

LXX adds: "and he ruled over all the kings from the river to the land of the Philistines, and to the borders of Egypt".

1Ki 10:27 The king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones, and cedars made he to be as the sycamore trees that are in the lowland, for abundance-
This could mean that he planted cedars in Israel, perhaps transplanting them from Lebanon; for his wisdom included being given wisdom about plants. And that wisdom was for the sake of the blessing and wise leadership of God's people Israel.

1Ki 10:28 The horses which Solomon had were brought out of Egypt; and the king’s merchants received them in droves, each drove at a price-
Solomon started off as a middleman in the horse trade, buying horses from Egypt and selling them to the Hittite and Syrian kings (2  Chron. 1:16,17; 1 Kings 10:25,29); but he was playing with fire, and  he soon came to flout the spirit of the command not to buy horses from  Egypt. It’s rather like the brother who works in a video store starting to watch the blue movies which he handles daily. Solomon would have  justified it initially by saying  that  the horses were not for himself; just as we saw he justified  his  Egyptian  wife  by  the thought that Joseph also married  an Egyptian girl.

1Ki 10:29 A chariot came up and went out of Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse for one hundred and fifty; and so for all the kings of the Hittites, and for the kings of Syria, they brought them out by their traders
The description of Solomon's trading with Egypt is described with an unusual phrase- he brought forth chariots and horses out of Egypt by his hand. But the Hebrew phrase 'to bring forth by the hand' is used so very often to described how God's might hand brought forth His people from Egypt- destroying the horses and chariots of Egypt in the process (Ex. 7:4,5; 13:3,14,16; 14:8; 32:11 and so often). This is such a major theme in Biblical history that the inspired choice of words is surely intentional and allusive in 1 Kings 10:29- for Solomon did the very opposite to what God did for His people. Solomon's hand brought forth and glorified the chariots and horses of Egypt, bringing them all the way from Egypt to Canaan. Solomon is thus being subtly set up as an anti-God figure- although apparently, all was well, the promises of blessing were being fulfilled etc.