Matthew 12:42
The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
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(42) The queen of the south.—Literally, a queen of the south, as before, men of Nineveh, the Greek having no article. Rhetorically, the absence of the article is in this case more emphatic than its presence.



Matthew 12:42

It is condescension in Him to compare Himself with any; yet if any might have been selected, it is that great name. To the Jews Solomon is an ideal figure, who appealed so strongly to popular imagination as to become the centre of endless legends; whose dominion was the very apex of national glory, in recounting whose splendours the historical books seem to be scarce able to restrain their triumph and pride.

I. The Man.

The story gives us a richly endowed and many-sided character. It begins with lovely, youthful enthusiasm, with a profound sense of his own weakness, with earnest longings after wisdom and guidance. He lived a pure and beautiful youth, and all his earlier and middle life was adorned with various graces. There is a certain splendid largeness about the character. He had a rich variety of gifts: he was statesman, merchant, sage, physicist, builder, one of the many-sided men whom the old world produced. And on this we may build a comparison and contrast.

The completeness of Christ’s Humanity transcends all other men, even the most various, and transcends all gathered together. Every type of excellence is in Him. We cannot say that His character is any one thing in special, it falls under no classification. It is a pure white light in which all rays are blended. This all-comprehensiveness and symmetry of character are remarkably shown in four brief records.

But we have to take into account the dark shadows that fell on Solomon’s later years. He clearly fell away from his early consecration and noble ideals, and let his sensuous appetites gain power. He countenanced, if he did not himself practise, idolatry. As a king he became an arbitrary tyrant, and his love of building led him to oppress his subjects, and so laid the foundation for the revolt under Jeroboam which rent the kingdom. So his history is another illustration of the possible shipwreck of a great character. It is one more instance of the fall of a ‘son of the morning.’ We need not elaborate the contrast with Christ’s character. In Him is no falling from a high ideal, no fading of morning glory into a cloudy noon or a lurid evening. There is no black streak in that flawless white marble. Jesus draws the perfect circle, like Giotto’s O, while all other lives show some faltering of hand, and consequent irregularity of outline. Greater than Solomon, with his over-clouded glories and his character worsened by self-indulgence, is Jesus, ‘the Sun of righteousness,’ the perfect round of whose lustrous light is broken by no spots on the surface, no indentations in the circumference, nor obscured by any clouds over its face.

II. The Teacher.

Solomon was traditionally regarded as the author of much of the Book of Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes was written as by him. Possibly the attribution to him of some share in the former book may be correct, but at any rate, his wisdom was said to have drawn the Queen of Sheba to hear him, and that is the point of the comparison of our text.

If we take these two books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes into account, as popularly attributed to him, they suggest points of comparison and contrast with Jesus as a teacher, which we may briefly point out. Now, Proverbs falls into two very distinct portions, the former part being a connected fatherly admonition to the pursuit of wisdom, and the latter a collection of prudential maxims, in which it is rare for any two contiguous verses to have anything to do with each other. In the former part Wisdom is set forth as man’s chief good, and the Wisdom which is so set forth is mainly moral wisdom, the right disposition of will and heart, and almost identical with what the Old Testament elsewhere calls righteousness. But it is invested, as the writer proceeds, with more and more august and queenly attributes, and at last stands forth as being, if not a divine person, at least a personification of a divine attribute.

Bring that ancient teaching and set it side by side with Jesus, and what can we say but that He is what the old writer, be he Solomon or another, dimly saw? He is the ‘wisdom’ which was traditionally called the ‘wisdom of Solomon,’ and which the Queen came from far to hear. Jesus is greater, as the light is more than the eye, or as the theme is more than the speaker. ‘The power of God and the wisdom of God’ is greater than the sage or seer who celebrates it. What is true of Solomon or whoever wrote that praise of Wisdom, is true of all teachers and wise men, they are ‘not that light,’ they are ‘sent to bear witness of that light.’ Jesus is Wisdom, other men are wise. Jesus is the greatest teacher, for He teaches us Himself. He is lesson as well as teacher. Unless He was a great deal more than Teacher, He could not be the perfect Teacher for whom the world groans.

The second half of Proverbs is, as I have said, mostly a collection of prudential and moral maxims, with very little reference to God or high ideals of duty in them. They may represent to us the impotence of wise saws to get themselves practised. A guide-post is not a guide. It stretches out its gaunt wooden arms towards the city, but it cannot bend them to help a lame man lying at its foot. Men do not go wrong for lack of knowing the road, nearly so often as for lack of inclination to walk in it. We have abundant voices to tell us what we ought to do. But what we want is the swaying of inclination to do it, and the gift of power to do it. And it is precisely because Jesus gives us both these that He is what no collection of the wisest sayings can ever be, the efficient teacher of all righteousness, and of the true wisdom which is ‘the principal thing.’

As for Ecclesiastes, though not his, it represents not untruly the tone which we may suppose to have characterised his later days in its dwelling on the vanity of life. The sadness of it may be contrasted with the light thrown by the Gospel on the darkest problems. Solomon cries, ‘All is vanity’-Jesus teaches His scholars to sing, ‘All things work together for good.’

III. The Temple builder.

In this respect ‘a greater than Solomon is here,’ inasmuch as Jesus is Himself the true Temple, being for all men, which Solomon’s structure only shadowed, the meeting-place of God and man, in whom God dwells and through whom we can draw near to Him, the place where the true Sacrifice is once for all offered, by which Sacrifice sin is truly put away. And, further, Jesus is greater than Solomon in that He is, through the ages, building up the great Temple of His Church of redeemed men, the eternal temple of which not one stone shall ever be taken down.

IV. The peaceful King.

There were no wars in Solomon’s reign. But a dark shadow brooded over it in its later years, which were darkened by oppression, luxury, and incipient revolt.

Contrast with that merely external and sadly imperfect peacefulness, the deep, inward peace of spirit which Jesus breathes into every man who trusts and obeys Him, and with the peace among men which the acceptance of His rule brings, and will one day bring perfectly, to a regenerated humanity dwelling on a renewed earth. He is King of righteousness, and after that also King of peace.

Surely from all these contrasts it is plain that ‘a greater than Solomon is here.’

Matthew 12:42. The queen of the south, &c. — Of this queen, see note on 1 Kings 10:1. She came from the uttermost parts of the earth — That part of Arabia from which she came was the uttermost part of the earth that way, being bounded by the sea. A greater than Solomon is here — “Our Lord speaks of himself in this sublime language with the utmost reason, and with perfect modesty and decorum. The humble form of his appearance, and his necessary reserve in declaring himself the Messiah in so many words, made it yet more expedient, that by such phrases as these he should sometimes intimate it: and indeed his saying he was greater than Solomon, that most illustrious of all the descendants of David, was as plain an intimation as could well be given.” — Doddridge.

12:38-45 Though Christ is always ready to hear and answer holy desires and prayers, yet those who ask amiss, ask and have not. Signs were granted to those who desired them to confirm their faith, as Abraham and Gideon; but denied to those who demanded them to excuse their unbelief. The resurrection of Christ from the dead by his own power, called here the sign of the prophet Jonah, was the great proof of Christ's being the Messiah. As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale, and then came out again alive, thus Christ would be so long in the grave, and then rise again. The Ninevites would shame the Jews for not repenting; the queen of Sheba, for not believing in Christ. And we have no such cares to hinder us, we come not to Christ upon such uncertainties. This parable represents the case of the Jewish church and nation. It is also applicable to all those who hear the word of God, and are in part reformed, but not truly converted. The unclean spirit leaves for a time, but when he returns, he finds Christ is not there to shut him out; the heart is swept by outward reformation, but garnished by preparation to comply with evil suggestions, and the man becomes a more decided enemy of the truth. Every heart is the residence of unclean spirits, except those which are temples of the Holy Ghost, by faith in Christ.The queen of the south - That, is, the Queen of Sheba, 1 Kings 10:1

Sheba was probably a city of Arabia, situated to the south of Judea. Compare the notes at Isaiah 60:6.

From the uttermost parts of the earth - This means simply from the most distant parts of the habitable world "then known." See a similar expression in Deuteronomy 28:49. As the knowledge of geography was limited, the place was, "in fact," by no means in the extreme parts of the earth. It means that she came from a remote country; and she would condemn that generation, for she came "a great distance" to hear the wisdom of Solomon, but the Jews of that age would not listen to the wisdom of one "much greater" than Solomon, though present with them.

42. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, &c.—The queen of Sheba (a tract in Arabia, near the shores of the Red Sea) came from a remote country, "south" of Judea, to hear the wisdom of a mere man, though a gifted one, and was transported with wonder at what she saw and heard (1Ki 10:1-9). They, when a Greater than Solomon had come to them, despised and rejected, slighted and slandered Him. We have the history to which this relates 1 Kings 10:1, &c. She is here called the queen of the south; in the Book of Kings, and 2 Chronicles 9:1, the queen of Sheba. Whether this Sheba, or Saba, was in Arabia or Ethiopia, is not much material; certain it is, it was southward of Judea, and a place at a great distance. Yet, saith our Saviour, though she was a great queen, though she lived at so great a distance from Jerusalem, though she had only heard of the fame and wisdom of Solomon; yet she came in person to hear his wise discourses, either about things natural or supernatural. These wretched Jews are not put to it to take a journey, I am come amongst them, I who am greater than Solomon, who am the Eternal Wisdom, and come to discourse of heavenly wisdom to them; I am come to their doors, theirs to whom the notion of a Messiah is no new thing, they have heard of me; they are no heathens, but bred up to the knowledge of God. I have done many miracles before them, yet they will not hear nor believe me. The queen of Sheba in the day of judgment shall rise up as a witness against them, when God shall condemn them for their unbelief. The more light, and means, and obligations men have upon them to faith and holiness, the greater will their judgment and condemnation be.

The queen of the south,.... Called the queen of Sheba, 1 Kings 10:1. Sheba was one of the sons of Joktan, a grandchild of Arphaxad, who settled in the southern parts of Arabia: hence this queen is called the queen of the south. Sheba is by the Targumist (p) called Zemargad: and this queen the queen of Zemargad: she goes by different names. According to some, her name was Maqueda (q), and, as others say, Balkis (r): a Jewish chronologer (s) tells us, that the queen of Sheba, who is called Nicolaa, of the kingdom of Jaman, or the south, came to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, and gave him much riches: and Josephus (t) calls her Nicaulis, queen of Egypt and Ethiopia; of whom it is here said, that she

shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: the meaning is, as before; that she shall rise from the dead, and stand as a witness against that generation at the day of judgment, and, by her example and practices, which will then be produced, condemn them, or aggravate their condemnation:

for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth; an hyperbolical expression, meaning a great way off from a far country, a very distant part of the world from Jerusalem, , "to hear the wisdom of Solomon"; the very phrase used by the above Jewish (u) writer.

And behold, a greater than Solomon is here; one that was infinitely greater than Solomon was, in everything; so particularly in that, in which he excelled others, and on the account of which the queen of the south came unto him, namely, wisdom: for he is the wisdom of God, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. The Jews themselves (w) own, that the king, meaning the Messiah, that shall be raised up of the seed of David, , "shall be a greater master of wisdom", or "wiser than Solomon". Now what an aggravation of the condemnation of the Jews will this be another day, that a Gentile woman, living in a foreign and distant land, should, upon the fame of the wisdom of Solomon, leave her own kingdom and country, and come to Jerusalem, to hear his wise discourses about things natural, civil, and moral; and yet the Jews, who had a greater than Solomon in the midst of them, and had no need to take much pains to come to the sight and hearing of him, yet rejected him as the Messiah, blasphemed his miracles, and despised his ministry; though it was concerned about things of a spiritual and evangelic nature, and the eternal welfare of immortal souls.

(p) In 1 Chron. 9. & 2 Chron. 1.((q) Ludolph. Hist. Aethiop. 1. 2. c. 3. & not. in Claud. Confess. sect. 1.((r) Pocock. Specimen Hist. Arab. p. 59. (s) Juchasin, fol. 136. 1.((t) Antiqu. 1. 8. c. 2.((u) Juchasin, fol. 136. 1.((w) Maimon. Hilchot. Teshuba, c. 9. sect. 2.

The queen of the {g} south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the {h} uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.

(g) He means the Queen of Sheba: whose country is south in respect to the land of Israel; 1Ki 10:1-13.

(h) For Sheba is situated in the farthest coast of Arabia at the mouth of the Arabian Sea.

Matthew 12:42. βασίλισσα νότου is next pressed into the service of putting unbelievers to shame. The form βασίλισσα was condemned by Phryn., but Elsner cites instances from Demosthenes and other good writers. J. Alberti also (Observ. Philol.) cites an instance from Athenæus, lib. xiii. 595: βασίλισσʼ ἔσει Βαβυλῶνος. The reference is to the story in 1 Kings 10 and 2 Chronicles 9 concerning the Queen of Sheba visiting Solomon.—ἐκ τῶν περάτων τῆς γῆς. Elsner quotes in illustration the exhortation of Isocrates not to grudge to go a long way to hear those who profess to teach anything useful.—πλεῖον Σ., again a claim of superiority for the present over the great persons and things of the past. On the apparent egotism of these comparisons, vide my Apologetics, p. 367; and remember that Jesus claimed superiority not merely for Himself and His work, but even for the least in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 11:11).

42. The queen of the south] So correctly and not a queen of the South as some translate. The absence of the definite article in the original is due to the influence of the Hebrew idiom. The queen of Sheba, Southern Arabia, 1 Kings 10:1.

Matthew 12:42. Νότου, of the south) from Arabia-Felix.—Πλεῖον Σαλομῶνος, Something Greater than Solomon) Solomon was wise, but here is Wisdom itself.—See Luke 11:49.

Verse 42. - Almost verbally identical with Luke 11:31. The queen of the south (βασίλισσα νότου, anarthrous; ver. 41, note). The south here doubtless represents part of Arabia Felix (see Dr. Lumby, on 1 Kings 10:1). Shall rise up. Does ἐγερθήσεται here imply more effort than ἀναστήσονται (ver. 41)? This would at least be consistent with the energy which the mention of the Queen of Sheba always suggests. In the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts (the ends, Revised Version) of the earth. Observe the contrast; the message was brought to the Ninevites in their own homes. She marks a higher stage of inquiry and faith. To hear the wisdom of Solomon; i.e. not out of mere curiosity to see him. And, behold, a greater than Solomon is here (ver. 41, note). Observe that Christ claims for himself superiority to the one prophet that was listened to by a Gentile nation, and to the one king whose wisdom drew an inquirer from "the ends of the earth." Rightly; for the claim is confirmed by history; the Gospels have had greater influence than all the Prophets, both "former" and "later," and than all the Hekmah literature. Jesus of Nazareth has drawn all men unto him (John 12:32; cf. 19). Matthew 12:42
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