1 Kings 10:15
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.
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(15) The governors of the country.—The word “governor” (pechah) is supposed to be of foreign origin—possibly cognate to the Sanscrit word paksha “friend.” It is used constantly of foreign officers, or satraps: as in 1Kings 20:24, of the Syrian officers; in 2Kings 18:24 and Isaiah 36:9, of the Assyrians; in Jeremiah 51:23, of the Babylonians; in Esther 8:9, Nehemiah 5:14; Nehemiah 5:18; Nehemiah 12:26, &c., of the Persians. Hence it would seem to be used here, not for the officers in the land of Israel described in 1 Kings 4, but for governors (Israelite or foreign) in tributary countries: and it may possibly be a word of later origin than the age of Solomon, introduced by the compiler of the book.

1 Kings 10:15. Besides that he had of the merchant-men — Who paid custom for the goods they brought from divers countries. Hebrew, מאנשׁי התרים, meanshee hattarim, from the men, the searchers. Merchants may be so called, because they search for commodities and articles of traffic. Or rather, the gatherers of the king’s revenues are intended, who used to search narrowly into all wares, that the king might not be defrauded of his rights. Of the traffic of the spice-merchants — Or rather, of the merchants in general, as the word רכלים, rochelim, is continually used; for there is no reason why it should be confined to those that traded in spices. Of all the kings of Arabia — Who sent him presents. We must not suppose that these in general were kings of large dominions; most of them were only rulers of cities, and the territories belonging to them, such as were formerly in Canaan, and were anciently called kings. And of the governors of the country — Or, of the land, namely, the land of Arabia; some parts of which were so far conquered, that he had governors of his own placed over them, each of whom was to take care of the king’s revenue in his jurisdiction; and some parts only so far, that they still had kings of their own, but such as were tributaries to him.

10:14-29 Solomon increased his wealth. Silver was nothing accounted of. Such is the nature of worldly wealth, plenty of it makes it the less valuable; much more should the enjoyment of spiritual riches lessen our esteem of all earthly possessions. If gold in abundance makes silver to be despised, shall not wisdom, and grace, and the foretastes of heaven, which are far better than gold, make gold to be lightly esteemed? See in Solomon's greatness the performance of God's promise, and let it encourage us to seek first the righteousness of God's kingdom. This was he, who, having tasted all earthly enjoyments, wrote a book, to show the vanity of all worldly things, the vexation of spirit that attends them, and the folly of setting our hearts upon them: and to recommend serious godliness, as that which will do unspeakably more to make us happy, that all the wealth and power he was master of; and, through the grace of God, it is within our reach.There is no mention in the original of "spice merchants." Two classes of traders are spoken of; but both expressions are general.

Kings of Arabia - Rather, "kings of the mingled people" (compare Jeremiah 25:24). These were probably tribes half Jewish, half Arabian, on the borders of the western desert. They are regarded as Arabs by the author of Chronicles (marginal reference).

Governors - The word used here is thought to be of Aryan origin. It appears to have been a title given by the Persians to petty governors, inferior to the great satraps of provinces. We find it borne by, among others, Tatnai Ezra 5:6, Zerubbabel Haggai 1:1, and Nehemiah Neh 5:14. It can scarcely have been in use among the Jews so early as Solomon, and we must therefore suppose it to have been substituted by the writer of Kings for some corresponding Semitic title. The empire of Solomon was not a state governed from a single center by an organisation of satrapies or provinces (1 Kings 4:21 note). But exceptionally, in some parts of the empire, the kings had been superseded by "governors" (compare 1 Kings 20:24).

1Ki 10:14-29. His Riches.

14, 15. Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year—666 talents, equal to £3,996,000. The sources whence this was derived are not mentioned; nor was it the full amount of his revenue; for this was "Beside that he had of the merchantmen, and of the traffic of the spice merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia, and of the governors of the country." The great encouragement he gave to commerce was the means of enriching his royal treasury. By the fortifications which he erected in various parts of his kingdom, (particularly at such places as Thapsacus, one of the passages of Euphrates, and at Tadmor, in the Syrian desert), he gave complete security to the caravan trade from the depredations of the Arab marauders; and it was reasonable that, in return for this protection, he should exact a certain toll or duty for the importation of foreign goods. A considerable revenue, too, would arise from the use of the store cities and khans he built; and it is not improbable that those cities were emporia, where the caravan merchants unloaded their bales of spices and other commodities and sold them to the king's factors, who, according to the modern practice in the East, retailed them in the Western markets at a profit. "The revenue derived from the tributary kings and from the governors of the country" must have consisted in the tribute which all inferior magistrates periodically bring to their sovereigns in the East, in the shape of presents of the produce of their respective provinces.

Of the merchantmen, Heb. of the searchers, or spies, i.e. either merchants, who use to inquire and search out commodities, and all advantages of trade; or rather, the publicans or gatherers of the king’s revenues, who used to search narrowly into all wares and dealings, that the king might not be defrauded of his rights.

Of the spice merchants, or rather, of the merchants in general, as that word is oft used in Eze 27, and elsewhere. So this and the former particular contain both the branches of the king’s revenue, what he had from the land and fruits thereof, and what he had from the merchants and traders in other commodities.

Of all the kings of Arabia, to wit, of those parts of Arabia which were next to Canaan, which were either conquered by David, or submitted to pay tribute to Solomon. But we must not think all these to be kings of large dominions, but many of them only governors of cities, and the territories belonging to them, such as were formerly in Canaan, and were anciently called kings. Of the country, or, of the land, or, of that land, for there is an article in the Hebrew; i.e. either of the land of Canaan; or rather, of the land of Arabia; whereof some parts were so far conquered, that he had governors of his own over them, who were each of them to take care of the king’s revenue in his jurisdiction; and part only so far that they still had kings of their own, but such as were tributaries to him.

Besides that he had of the merchantmen, and of the traffic of the spice merchants,.... What they paid him as a duty or custom for the importation of their goods:

and of all the kings of Arabia; who were subject to him, and paid him a yearly tribute, or at least made presents, see 1 Kings 4:21.

and of the governors of the country; who were viceroys or deputy governors of countries conquered by his father, and who collected tribute from the people, and paid it to him.

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 {f} country.

(f) That is, Arabia, which for the great abundance of all things was called Happy.

15. beside that he had of the merchantmen] There are two kinds of traders specified in this verse, and the participle here used to describe the first signifies ‘those who go about’ with their goods, hawkers of their wares, which is a general characteristic of Oriental traffickers. Hence in R.V. the word chapmen has been adopted, and the clause a little differently worded. Literally it is, ‘beside (what came) from the men of the hawkers,’ and this is represented by ‘beside that which the chapmen brought,’ though the literal rendering shews that ‘brought’ might fairly have been printed in Roman and not in italics. The LXX. gives, apparently having read some other words in the original, ‘from the tribute of the subject people.’

and of the traffick of the spice merchants] A mistaken identification of the word descriptive of this second class of traders with a Syrian noun which means ‘a dealer in aromatic herbs’ has led to the rendering ‘spice merchants.’ The word merely implies another class of merchants, but whether more or less dignified than the former it is not easy to make out. The LXX. renders by ἒμπορος here and elsewhere, and gives here ‘the taxes on the merchants’. Render (as there is no preposition with this clause) and the traffick of the merchants.

and of all the kings of Arabia] R.V. ‘and of all the kings of the mingled people.’ The word in the original, though it has the same consonants, has not the same vowels as the proper name. In this text we have הָעֶרֶב, while the other word is עֲרַב = Arabia. That the two are distinct designations is proved by Jeremiah 25:24, where both occur in the same verse, ‘all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of the mingled people.’ The word in our text is used very early in the history of Israel (Exodus 12:38) of ‘the mixed multitude’ which came up with the Israelites out of Egypt, and afterwards of people who were in a sort of loose attachment to the kingdom. (Cf. Jeremiah 1:3-7.) In the parallel passage (2 Chronicles 9:14) the Hebrew text has the ‘kings of Arabia,’ but the form of the sentence is somewhat altered, and the close connexion of the two sets of persons in the verse already quoted from Jeremiah makes it not unlikely that both were under a sort of tribute to Solomon. The LXX. has τῶν βασιλέων τοῦ πέραν, but the Vulgate ‘reges Arabiæ.’

and of the governors of the country] Most likely those officers are meant whose positions were described 1 Kings 4:7-19. After the Oriental fashion such persons would pay for their posts by regular tribute to the king.

Verse 15. - Beside that he had of the marchantmen [The root תּוּר signifies to wander or travel about. In Numbers 13:16, 17, it is used of spies. It may here be applied to persons who travelled for purposes of trade; but the versions differ very materially in their rendering of the word; the LXX. understanding it of tribute (τῶν φόρων τῶν ὑποτεταγμένων); the Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic of artizans; the Vulgate of ambassadors. And the word is nowhere else used of traders. For the construction, see Ewald 287e], and of the traffick [it is noteworthy that no such word is used before הַתָּרִים above] of the spice [not in Hebrews] merchants רָכַל is akin to רָגַל Like the preceding word, the primary meaning is to go about (תווט רֶגֶל); hence, to trade. It is probable that Solomon's great commercial enterprises were conducted for his own benefit, i.e., that the merchants were little more than agents, who bought and sold for the king. Such is the custom of Eastern kings (Kitto)], and of all the kings of Arabia [הָעֶרֶב is very variously interpreted. According to Gesenius it means foreigners, and he would understand "foreign kings who made an alliance with the Israelites," and so the Chaldee. Keil: "the kings of the mixed population" (mentioned Exodus 12:38. Cf. Jeremiah 50:37; Nehemiah 13:3). Perhaps the words are best explained by Jeremiah 25:24: "The kings of Arabia (עֲרָב) and ... of the mingled people (עֶרֶב) that dwell in the desert," i.e., the desert of Arabia deserta, bordering on Palestine. The chronicler here gives us עֲרָב, i.e., not the Arabia of the geographers, but the tract of country south and east of Palestine, as far as the Red Sea (Gesenius). No doubt these kings, who were great sheepmasters, paid their tribute in flocks of sheep and goats (2 Chronicles 17:11; 2 Kings 3:4], and of the governors of the country. [The word פַחות (cf. ch. 20:24) is a foreign word, perhaps Sanskrit, apparently borrowed by the Jews from the Persians. It is used of Tatnai (Ezra 5:6), of Zerubbabel (Haggai 1:1), and of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5:14). Probably our author, in whose day it was a familiar and well understood word, substituted it for some older Hebrew designation. But the office and character of these "governors" is more difficult to define than the name. Rawlinson thinks that, in some parts of the empire, the kings - the "empire of Solomon," he observes, "was in the main a congeries of small kingdoms" - "had been superseded by governors." But it seems as natural to understand the term of the twelve prefects mentioned in chap. 4, who were "the governors of the land," or of similar officers in the different outposts of the kingdom. We know that the contributions which passed through their hands were furnished in kind; hence, perhaps, it is that this income is distinguished from the gold of ver. 14. 1 Kings 10:15Solomon's Wealth and the Use He Made of It (cf. 2 Chronicles 9:13-21). - 1 Kings 10:14. The gold which Solomon received in one year amounted to 666 talents, - more than seventeen million thalers (two million and a half sterling - Tr.). 666 is evidently a round number founded upon an approximative valuation. אחת בּשׁנה is rendered in the Vulg. per annos singulos; but this is hardly correct, as the Ophir fleet, the produce of which is at any rate included, did not arrive every year, but once in three years. Thenius is wrong in supposing that this revenue merely applies to the direct taxes levied upon the Israelites. It includes all the branches of Solomon's revenue, whether derived from his commerce by sea and land (cf. 1 Kings 10:28, 1 Kings 10:29) or from the royal domains (1 Chronicles 27:26-31), or received in the form of presents from foreign princes, who either visited him like the queen of Saba or sent ambassadors to him (1 Kings 10:23, 1 Kings 10:24), excepting the duties and tribute from conquered kings, which are specially mentioned in 1 Kings 10:15. הת מאנשׁי לבד, beside what came in (לשׁלמה בּא) from the travelling traders and the commerce of the merchants, and from all the kings, etc. התּרים אנשׁי (a combination resembling our merchantmen; cf. Ewald, 287, e., p. 721) are probably the tradesmen or smaller dealers who travelled about in the country, and רכלים the wholesale dealers. This explanation of תּרים cannot be rendered doubtful by the objection that תּוּר only occurs elsewhere in connection with the wandering about of spies; for רכל signified originally to go about, spy out, or retail scandal, and after that to trade, and go about as a tradesman. הערב מלכי are not kings of the auxiliary and allied nations (Chald., Ges.), but kings of the mixed population, and according to Jeremiah 25:24, more especially of the population of Arabia Deserta (בּמּדבּר השּׁכנים), which bordered upon Palestine; for ערב rof is a mixed crowd of all kinds of men, who either attach themselves to a nation (Exodus 12:38), or live in the midst of it as foreigners (Nehemiah 13:3), hence a number of mercenaries (Jeremiah 50:37). In 2 Chronicles 9:14, הערב is therefore correctly explained by the term ערב, which does not mean the whole of Arabia, but "only a tract of country not very extensive on the east and south of Palestine" (Gesenius), as these tribes were tributary of Solomon. הארץ פּחות, the governors of the land, are probably the officers named in 1 Kings 4:7-19. As they collected the duties in the form of natural productions and delivered them in that form, so also did the tradesmen and merchants pay their duties, and the subjugated pastoral tribes of Arabia their tribute, in natura. This explains in a very simple manner why these revenues are separated from the revenue of Solomon which came in the form of money. פּחה is a foreign word, which first found its way into the Hebrew language after the times of the Assyrians, and sprang from the Sanscrit paksha, a companion or friend, which took the form of pakkha in Prakrit, and probably of pakha in the early Persian (vid., Benfey and Stern, die Monatsnamen, p. 195).
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