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.
Ver 1. - And when the queen of Sheba [There is no good ground for doubting that by שְׁבָא we are to understand the kingdom of Southern Arabia (Yemen). It is true that while Genesis 25:3 (cf. 1 Chronicles 1:32) speaks of Sheba, the son of Joktan, one of the colonists of southern Arabia, Genesis 10:7 and 1 Chronicles 1:9 mention another Sheba, the son of Cush, and a doubt has arisen whether this was an Arabian or an Ethiopian princess, and it is alleged that she was the latter by Josephus, who calls her "queen of Egypt and Ethopia," and by some Rabbinical writers, and in the traditions of the Abyssinian church. But the kingdoms of Sheba (שְׁבָא) and Saba (סְבָא) are entirely distinct (Psalm 72:10), the latter being the name both of the capital and country of Meroe, a province of Ethopia (Joshua, Ant. 2:10. 2); while the former in like manner designates both the chief city and also the kingdom of the Sabeans (Job 1:15). This tribe would seem to have grown richer and stronger than all the other Arabian peoples by means of its commercial enterprise, and it was especially famed for its gold, gems, and spices (Ezekiel 27:22; Jeremiah 6:20; Isaiah 60:6; Joel 3:8; Job 6:19; Psalm 72:10). It is noticeable that in both kingdoms government by female sovereigns was not uncommon (cf. Acts 8:27); but it is very remarkable to find any country under the rule of a queen at this early date. (The idea that either of these lands was always governed by queens has no real basis.) The name of this princess, according to the Koran, was Balkis, according to Abyssinian belief, Maqueda. Whether she was a widow or virgin is unknown] heard [Heb. hearing. Doubtless through the Arab traders. The record of this visit, following immediately upon the mention of the voyages (1 Kings 9:26), is a grain of evidence in favour of locating Ophir in Arabia] of the fame (Heb. hearing; cf. ἀκοή, which also means the thing heard, report. Compare ἀποκάλυψις καύχησις, etc.] of Solomon concerning the name [Heb. לְשְׁם, i.e., "in relation to, in connexion with, the name," etc. No doubt it was the house he had built לְשֵׁם יְיָ (cf. 1 Kings 3:2; 1 Kings 5:17, 18; 1 Kings 8:17, 18, 19, 20, etc.) had made him famous. But the expression is somewhat unusual, and these words are omitted by the chronicler. Gesenius and Ewald, however, regard the ל as instrumental, "the fame given him by the name," etc., as Judges 7:18; Ezekiel 12:12, etc., and Wordsworth compares the use of ἐν in Greek. The LXX. and other versions read "the name of Solomon and the name of the Lord." But the text is on every ground to be retained. The alliteration in this verse (probably accidental) is to be noticed. There is also a slight paronomasia] of the Lord, she came to prove (LXX. πειράσαι, to test)] him with hard questions [Heb. in riddles; LXX. ἐν αἰνίγμασι. The Arabian mind has ever delighted in dark sayings, enigmas, etc., and extensive collections of these have been made by Burckhardt and others (see Keil in loc.) According to Dius (cited in Josephus, Contra Ap. 1:17. 18) Solomon also had dialectical encounters with Hiram and with Abdemon, or, according to Menander, a younger son of Abdemon, a man of Tyre.]
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.
Verse 2. - And she came to Jerusalem [a great undertaking in those days. Our Lord lays stress on this long journey, ἐκ τῶν περάτων τῆς γῆς, Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31] with a very great train [Heb. with a very heavy force or host (חַיִל). Thenius understands the words of an armed escort, which may well have been necessary considering the countries through which she passed, and the treasures she carried. It would also be quite in the spirit of the age that the queen should be escorted by a band of her soldiers. But it is not so certain that this idea was in the historian's mind], with [not in Hebrews] camels [2 Chronicles 9:1 has "and camels." But the word is here explicative of the חַיִל preceding (Keil). It does not, however, decide against an armed force, as camels would be in any case required. The camel was a familiar object to the Jews (Exodus 9:3; Leviticus 11:4; Deuteronomy 14:7, etc.); but such a procession as this would create great astonishment in Jerusalem, and we may imagine how the people would line the bazaars as she passed, and the acclamations with which they would greet the queen (cf. 1:40; Matthew 21:9) and her swart attendants] that bare spices [Heb. balsams; hence spices generally; LXX. ἡδύσματα. Exodus 25:6; Exodus 35:28; Ezekiel 27:22. The perfumes of Arabia are proverbial (see Herod. 3:107-113), and Yemen is the chief spice country (Dict. Bib. 1. p. 91], and very much gold [Psalm 72:15. Gold is not now found in Arabia, nor are there any traces of gold mines; but Strabo and Diodorus both state that it was found there, and, according to the latter, in nuggets of considerable size (Dict. Bib. 1. p. 707). It is quite possible, however, that much of the "gold of Arabia" came to its emporiums from other lands. This particular present was doubtless brought by the queen because she had heard of the extensive use made of it by Solomon, and of the enormous quantities he required. "Strabo relates that the Sabeans were enormously wealthy, and used gold and silver in a most lavish manner in their furniture, their utensils, and even on the walls, doors, and roofs of their houses" (Rawlinson)] and precious stones [the onyx, emerald, and turquoise are still found in Arabia, and in former times the variety was apparently much greater (Plin., Nat. Hist. 37.)]; and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of [Heb. spake to him] all that was in her heart. [The words are not to be restricted, as by Keil, to riddles. There may well have been, as the earlier interpreters supposed, religious discourse - gravissimas et sacras quaestiones.
And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not any thing hid from the king, which he told her not.
Verse 3. - And Solomon told her [הַגִּיד is used of solving riddles in Judges 14:13 (Bahr), and interpreting dreams Genesis 41:24; Daniel 5:12] all her questions [Heb. words]; there was not anything hid from the king, which he told her not.
And when the queen of Sheba had seen all Solomon's wisdom, and the house that he had built,
Verse 4. - And when the queen of Sheba had seen all Solomon's wisdom, and the house he had built [ver. 5 compels us to understand this of the palace, not of the temple. Josephus says she was especially astonished at the house of the forest of Lebanon],
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.
Verse 5. - And the meat of his table [1 Kings 4:22, 23], and the sitting ["The rooms of the courtiers in attendance" (Keil). But מוָשב may mean an assembly (Psalm 1:1), and possibly the queen saw them when gathered together for a meal] of his servants, and the attendance [Heb. standing. According to Keil, "the rooms of the inferior servants." But ver. 8 appears to be decisive against this view] of his ministers [i.e., those who ministered to him. The word "servants" is, perhaps, to be understood of state officers; the word "ministers" of personal attendants (as in Acts 13:5, etc.) That the latter were an inferior class, the "standing" shows], and their apparel [cf. Matthew 6:29. The rich and costly dress of Eastern courtiers and attendants is sometimes furnished by the king (Genesis 45:22; 1 Samuel 18:4; 2 Kings 5:5; Daniel 5:7; Esther 5:8; 1 Macc. 10:20. Cf. Chardin, "Voyage en Perse," 3:230], and his cupbearers [By this word Keil would understand "drinking arrangements." But see 2 Chronicles 9:4, "cupbearers (same word) and their apparel"], and his ascent [עֹלָתו. It is somewhat doubtful whether we are to interpret this word, ascent, or burnt offering. 2 Kings 16:18, 1 Chronicles 26:16, Ezekiel 40:26 make for the former, and the chronicler has עֲלִיָּתו. which undoubtedly means "ascent." But all the translations understand the word of burnt offerings - the LXX. has καὶ τὴν ὀλοκαύτωσιν ( and the word, "which occurs at least 300 times in the Bible," always (with one exception) signifies burnt offering. It is objected against this interpretation
(1) that we should require the plural, i.e., "burnt offerings;" but this is by no means certain, as the historian may refer to one particular holocaust (see 1 Kings 9:25) which the queen witnessed; and
(2) that the sight of burnt offerings could not have caused her any astonishment (Keil). But their prodigious number may surely have done so; and we are certainly to understand that Solomon was remarkable for the scale of his sacrifices. Considering, however, that the word undoubtedly means "ascent" in Ezekiel 40:26, and that it is so paraphrased by the chronicler, it is perhaps safer to retain this rendering here]; there was no more spirit in her [same expression Joshua 5:1, and cf. 2:11. For various legends as to this queen, see Stanley, "Jewish Ch." 2. pp. 234-236].
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.
Verse 6. - And she said to the king, It was a true report [Heb. Truth was the word] that I heard in mine own land of thy acts [or words. Same word as above and in the next verse] and of thy wisdom.
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.
Verse 7. - Howbeit, I believed not the words ["Fame, as it is always a blab, so ofttimes a liar" (Bp. Hall)] until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and behold, the half was not told me; thy wisdom and prosperity exceeded the fame [Heb. thou hast added wisdom and good to the report] which I heard.
Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom.
Verse 8. - Happy [Heb. O the happiness, as in Psalm 1:1; Psalm 2:12; Psalm 33:12, etc.] are thy men [LXX. wives, γυνᾶικες]; happy are thy servants, which stand continually before thee [see on 1 Kings 1:2], and that hear thy wisdom.
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.
Verse 9. - Blessed be the Lord thy God [From this mention of the name of Jehovah, taken in connexion with Matthew 12:42, it has been concluded that the queen became a convert to the faith of Israel. But this inference is unwarranted. Polytheism permitted, and, indeed, encouraged, a full recognition of the gods many of the different races and regions. See on 1 Kings 5:7, and cf. 2 Chronicles 2:12 and Ezra 1:3. Observe, too, it is "Jehovah, thy God." And it is very significant that all her gifts and treasures were for the king; none were offerings to the temple] which delighted in thee [cf. 1 Kings 5:7], to set thee on the throne of Israel; because the Lord loved Israel forever [a graceful and thoroughly Oriental compliment. This visit was as flattering to the pride of the chosen people as to their king], therefore made he thee king, to do judgment and justice.
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.
Verse 10. - And she gave the king an hundred and twenty [Josephus says twenty] talents of gold [Psalm 72:15. "The rivers still run into the sea; to him that hath shall be given" (Bp. Hall). As to the talent, see on 1 Kings 9:14], and of spices very great store [Heb. much exceedingly (Ewald, 287 c.) "The immense abundance of spices in Arabia.. is noted by many writers. Herodotus says that the whole tract exhaled an odour marvellously sweet (3:113). Diodorus relates that the odour was carried out to sea to a considerable distance from the shore (3:46). According to Strabo the spice trade of Arabia was in the hands of two nations, the Sabeans and Gerrhaeans, whose profits from it were so enormous that in his time they were the two wealthiest nations on the face of the earth (16. 4. 19)," Rawlinson], and precious stones; there came no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon. [Josephus states (Ant. 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. The two following verses form a sort of parenthesis. In speaking of the gold and gems brought by the Arabian queen, it occurs to the historian to state that both of these commodities were also brought in by the fleet. Possibly, too, the mention of the spices reminded him of the fragrant almug trees brought from Ophir (Bahr). But it would rather seem that they are included as one of the chief products of the voyage.
And the navy also of Hiram, that brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug trees, and precious stones.
Verse 11. - And the navy of Hiram also [i.e., built and equipped by him, 1 Kings 9:26-28], that brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug trees [In 2 Chronicles 2:8; 2 Chronicles 9:10, called "algum trees." The origin and meaning of the word are alike uncertain. By some (see Gesen., Thessalonians 1. p. 93) the Al is supposed to be the Arabic article, as found in Al-coran, Al-cohol, Ad-miral, etc., but later authorities (see, e.g., Max Muller," Science of Language," p. 214) lend no support to this view. "Celsius enumerates fifteen different trees, each of which has been supposed to have a claim to represent the almug tree of Scripture" Dict. Bib. 3. Appendix, p. 6.) It is now, however pretty generally agreed that the red sandalwood (pterocarpus sandaliorus, Linn.; or, according to others, santalum album, the white species) is intended - a tree which grows in India and on the coast of Malabar. It is said that in India sandalwood is called valguha (same root); and Stanley sees in almug the "Hebraized form of the Deccan word for sandal." Dr. Hooker, however, (Dict. Bib. l.c.) regards the question as still undecided], and precious stones. [Stanley remarks on the frequent references to gold and silver and precious stones in the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 1:9; Proverbs 3:14, 15; Proverbs 8:10, 11; Proverbs 10:20; Proverbs 16:16, etc.), as one indication that it belongs to the age of Solomon.]
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.
Verse 12. - And the king made of the almug trees pillars [lit., props. In 2 Chronicles 9:11 we have a different word, מְסִלות (cf. Judges 20:31, 32; 1 Samuel 6:12, etc.), there translated stairs. The word in the text מִסְעָד is ἅπαξ λεγ. Keil understands "steps with bannisters;" Bahr (after Jarchi) "tesselated pavements;" Gesenius, "balusters;" Thenius, "divans;" Bottcher, "benches and similar moveables." But was not the pavement already laid, and of cedar; and would the sanctuary have divans, etc.?] for the house of the Lord, and for the king's house, harps also and psalteries [also mentioned together (Psalm 71:22; Psalm 108:2; cf. 3). They were stringed instruments, but their precise shape and character is quite uncertain. One species of sandalwood, or of wood closely allied to it, is said to have been much sought after for musical instruments] for the singers: there came no such almug trees, nor were seen unto this day.
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.
Verse 13. - And king Solomon gave unto the queen of Sheba an her desire, whatsoever she asked, beside that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty. [Heb. according to the hand of king Solomon. The chronicler has, "beside that which she had brought unto the king." That is to say, in addition to the fitting presents which he made in return for her gifts, he freely gave her whatsoever she asked for. To ask for a coveted thing is no breach of Oriental propriety. The Ethiopian Christians find in these words (and considering the character of Solomon and the license of that age, perhaps not altogether without reason) a basis for their belief that she bore Solomon a son, Melimelek by name, from whom, indeed, the present sovereigns of Abyssinia claim to derive their descent.] So she turned and went to her own country, she and her servants. Bishop Wordsworth has remarked (p. 44) that the record of this visit disappoints us. He says, "He (Solomon) answered her hard questions. He showed her his palace... but we do not hear that he invited her to go up with him into the house of the Lord," etc. Again: "The visit of the queen of Sheba seem to have been without any spiritual result." "In like manner," he adds, "we hear nothing of any attempt on Solomon's part to improve his friendship and commercial relations with Hiram into an occasion for communicating the better merchandise of Divine truth to the Sidonians." But surely this criticism overlooks the fact that Judaism was not a missionary religion, and that the chosen people had no sort of commission to convert the heathen, It is, no doubt, a mystery; but it is a fact, that for 2,000 years the light of God's truth was, by the counsel and purpose of God, restricted within the extremely narrow confines of Israel, and that the "fulness of the time," when the Gentiles should be "fellow heirs," was distant from Solomon's day by a whole millennium.,
CHAPTER 10:14-29. SOLOMON'S WEALTH, POMP, AND POWER. The visit of the Queen of Sheba, in itself a striking proof of the fame and greatness of Solomon, is followed by a description of his revenues, his throne, and various other particulars of his wealth and magnificence, some of which are related here because they were the products of the voyages of that same fleet which had been the means of acquainting the queen with Solomon and his glory.
Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold,
Verse 14. - Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year [probably one particular and exceptional year, probably also the year of the queen's visit, not year by year (Wordsworth, al.), as the Vulgate (per singulos annos). One fleet only came home from its voyage after three years, and the gold would hardly weigh precisely 666 talents year by year] was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold. [The correspondence with the number of the Beast (Revelation 13:18; cf. Ezra 2:13) is in all probability not altogether accidental. It is possible, i.e., that the number of the beast is a reminiscence of this number of talents. For we may surely see in this statement of Solomon's prodigious wealth an indication of his worldliness, the turning point, perhaps, in his estrangement from God. "The love of money" may have been the root of all his evil. It is certainly remarkable that from this time forward his career is one of steady declension. It is also remarkable that while he is here represented to us as a "royal merchant," the mark of the beast is on the buyers and sellers (Revelation 13:17). But see "Expositor," May, 1881. It is, of course, possible that the number has been corrupted, but, on the other hand, it may have been recorded, partly because of the singularity of the sum total. The 666 talents include the receipts from all sources - taxes, tribute, and voyages - with the exception made presently (ver. 15). Rawlinson quotes Keil (in his earlier edition) as estimating this amount at £3,646,350. But in his later work, Keil puts it in round numbers at two and a half millions (17,000,000 thalers), while Mr. Peele calculates it at about £8,000,000. These widely varying figures are instructive, as showing that both estimates are little more than guesswork. We do not know the value of the Hebrew talent, nor, indeed, can it ever be rightly appraised until we know its purchasing power. The denarius, e.g., is generally valued at 8½ d. (or 7½ d.) because it contained some 58 grains of pure silver but its real value was nearer three shillings, inasmuch as it was a fair wage for a day's work on the land (Matthew 20:2). In any case, it is clear that this sum should hardly be compared with the annual revenue of other Oriental empires, as by Rawlinson (see above).
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.
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.
And king Solomon made two hundred targets of beaten gold: six hundred shekels of gold went to one target.
Verse 16. - And king Solomon made two hundred targets [צִנָּה, from a root which signifies protect, a large oblong shield, which covered the entire person (Psalm 5:12), θυρεός, scutum. See 1 Samuel 17:7, 41. The LXX. here reads δόρατα, i.e., spears] of beaten gold [The authorities are divided as to the meaning of שָׁחוּט, here translated beaten. This rendering is supported by Bahr and Keil (after Kimchi), but Gesenius understands mixed gold. Rawlinson infers from the weight that the shields were only plated (shields were commonly made of wood, covered with leather). But whether they were solid or not does not decide the question whether the gold was pure or alloyed. "Shields of gold" are mentioned 2 Samuel 8:7; 1 Macc. 6:39]: six hundred shekels [Heb. omits shekels, as elsewhere, Genesis 24:22; Genesis 37:28; Judges 8:26, etc. There were apparently two kinds of shekel, the Mosaic and the royal (for the latter see 2 Samuel 14:26). The former was twice as much as the latter, but there is no agreement amongst commentators as to the weight or value of either. Nor can we be certain which is indicated here. Thenius decides for the former, and estimates the weight of the gold on each target to be 17 ½ lbs., and the value to be 6000 thalers (£900), or, according to Keil, 5000 thalers (£750). Keil, however, inclines to the belief that the royal shekel is meant, in which case the weight would be 9 lbs., and the value about £400. Bahr, however, estimates the gold at no more than £78 (523 thalers)] of gold went to one target.
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.
Verse 17. - And he made three hundred shields [portable shields (peltas, Vulgate) adapted for use in hand to hand encounters (2 Chronicles 12:9, 10; cf. 2 Samuel 1:21). That these were much smaller shields is clear from the text. These shields were borne by the royal bodyguard on great occasions (1 Kings 14:27). They were taken away by Shishak (ib. ver. 26)] of beaten gold; three pound [מָגֶה μνᾶ, mina. As 2 Chronicles 9:16 has here 300 shekels, it follows that the maneh = 100 shekels. From Ezekiel 45:12, however, it would seem that there were manehs of different value] of gold went to one shield [i.e., half as much as to the target]; and the king put them in [Heb. gave them to] the house of the forest of Lebanon [1 Kings 7:2. They would certainly be suspended on the walls, but whether on the inside or the outside is not quite certain, and the text affords us no means of deciding. We know that elsewhere shields were suspended outside the walls of armouries, etc. "At Tyre the beauty of the place was thought to consist in the splendour and variety of the shields of all nations hung on its walls (Ezekiel 27:10, 11). In Rome the temple of Bellona was studded with them. In Athens, the round marks where they hung can still be traced on the walls of the Parthenon. There were also arms hung round the wails of the second temple (Jos., Ant. 15:11.3)," Stanley. It is supposed that along with those made by Solomon were hung the shields taken by David from the Syrians, as according to 2 Samuel 8:7, LXX., these latter also were carried off by Shishak. It has been inferred from Song of Solomon 4:4 that these also were 500 in number, and that the entire thousand were suspended on a part of the house of the forest of Lebanon known as the Tower of David; cf. Isaiah 22:8; Psalm 47:9]. The historian now proceeds to describe the great feature of another of Solomon's palaces. As the house of the forest of Lebanon was distinguished by the golden shields which emblazoned and glorified its walls, so was "the porch of judgment" (1 Kings 7:7) by the chryselephantine throne.
Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the best gold.
Verse 18. - Moreover the ling made a great throne [Heb. seat. The use of a chair where the custom of the country is to squat on the ground, or to recline on a divan, is always a mark of dignity. See 2 Kings 4:10; Proverbs 9:14] of ivory [Heb. tooth. Below in ver. 22 we have elephant's tooth. It is generally thought that this "throne of the house of David" (Psalm 122:5) was of wood, veneered with ivory, as was the practice in Assyria (Rawlinson, "Ancient Monarchies," 1. p. 463), and in the chryselephantine statues of the Greeks (Paus. 2:4. 1; 6:25. 4, etc.) Bahr says there is no more necessity for believing this throne to have been of solid ivory than the "ivory house" mentioned in 1 Kings 22:39. Cf. Psalm 45:8; Amos 3:15; Amos 6:4. But there is surely this difference between them, that the palace could not possibly be constructed entirely of ivory, whereas the throne might be, and some of the thrones of India have been (Rawlinson)], and overlaid it with the best [מוּפָז, from the root פָּזַז, separavit = aurum depuratum. The chronicler explains the word by טָהור (2 Chronicles 9:17)] gold. [It is very unlikely that the gold entirely covered and concealed the ivory, especially if the latter was merely a veneer. Keil and Bahr consider that the gold was laid on the wood and the ivory inserted between the plates, but the text does not speak of overlaying with ivory, but of overlaying ivory with gold. And the presumption is that the ivory was solid. In the Greek statues both ivory and gold were applied in laminae, the former representing the flesh, the latter the drapery.]
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.
Verse 19. - The throne had six steps ["The characteristic feature in the royal throne was its elevation" (Dict. Bib. ill. p. 1493); cf. Isaiah 6:1], and the top [Heb. head] of the throne was round behind [same word ch. 7:23, 24. Thenius and Bahr understand it of an arched or rounded canopy attached to the back; Keil supposes that the back was arched or rounded in form]: and there were stays [Heb. hands, i.e., arms] on either side on the place of the seat [see drawing of Assyrian throne in Layard's "Nineveh," 2:301; Dict. Bib. 52. p. 1494], and two liens [probably of wood overlaid with gold. Cf. Jeremiah 10:3, 4] stood beside the stays.
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.
Verse 20. - And twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the other, upon the six steps [It is somewhat doubtful whether there were twelve or fourteen lions in all. Most commentators assume that there were fourteen, and the text will certainly bear that construction. But it is altogether more likely that there were twelve; that is to say, that the two lions on the topmost step are the two mentioned in the preceding verse as "standing beside the stays," otherwise there would have been four lions on that step. And we all know that twelve had a significance such as could not attach to any other number (Bahr, Symbolik, 1:201-205; 2:133, 423). It would signify that all the tribes had an interest in the royal house (cf. 1 Kings 12:16; 2 Samuel 20:1); and a right of approach to the throne (cf. 1 Kings 18:31). The lion, a familiar emblem of sovereignty among many nations, had an especial appropriateness in this case, as being the symbol of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:9; cf. Numbers 23:24; Numbers 24:9). We are to see in them partly "symbols of the ruler's authority" (Keil), and partly, perhaps, they represented the twelve tribes as guardians of the throne. "The king mounted between figures of lions to his seat on the throne, and sat between figures of lions upon it" (Wordsworth). Thrones somewhat similar to this in character, but much less magnificent, are represented on the Assyrian monuments. The historian might justly add]: there was not the like made [Heb. not made so] in any kingdom.
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.
Verse 21. - And an king Solomon's drinking vessels were of gold [as were those of Assyria and Babylon. This lavish display of wealth was characteristic of Oriental courts. Rawlinson quotes Chardin's description of the splendour of the court of Persia, "Tout est d'or massif," etc., and adds, "Both Symes and Yule note a similar use of gold utensils by the king of Ava (Symes, p. 372; Yule, p. 84)"], and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold [סָגוּר; see on 1 Kings 6:20. LXX. χρυσίῳ συγκεκλεισμένα. This immense quantity of gold is quite paralleled in the accounts of profane writers. "Sardanapalus, when Nineveh was besieged, had 150 golden bedsteads, 150 golden tables, a million talents of gold, ten times as much silver, etc. (Ctesias, ap. Athenaeus, 12. p. 29). No less than 7170 talents of gold were used for the vessels and statues of the temple of Bel in Babylon.. Alexander's pillage of Ectabana was estimated at 120,000 talents of gold," etc. (Bahr, in loc.)]; none were of silver [Heb. none silver. The Marg., "there was no silver in them," i.e., they were unalloyed, is a misapprehension of the true meaning]: it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon.
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.
Verse 22. - For [Reason why silver was so lightly esteemed. It was because of the prodigious quantity both of gold and silver brought in by the fleet] the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish [It has been much disputed
(1) whether this was a second fleet, or the same as that mentioned 1 Kings 9:26-28, as trading to Ophir, and
(2) whether this fleet, if it were not the same, went to Ophir or to Tartessus in Spain. Keil and Bahr contend that there was Out one fleet, first, because there is no mention of a second fleet at 1 Kings 9:28, and, secondly, because the cargoes were practically the same. I incline (with Rawlinson, al.) to think there were two separate navies, for the following reasons:
(1) The expression "navy of Tarshish" (in 2 Chronicles 9:21 expanded into "ships going to Tarshish," which Keil and Bahr are compelled to set aside as a mistake on the part of the writer), taken in connexion with the following words, "with (עִם, together with, as well as) the navy of Hiram" (i.e., as we conclude from ver. 11, the navy manned, or, it may be, owned, by Hiram) points to a separate fleet;
(2) the cargoes, so far from being the same, strike me as being altogether diverse. The Ophir fleet brought in "gold, almug trees, and precious stones." The navy of Tarshish "gold and silver ivory, apes, and peacocks." See below.
(3) Even if we understand here by the "navy of Hiram" a Phoenician fleet, still a second fleet is indicated. But this leads us to consider the destination of these ships. The term, "fleet of Tarshish," does not in itself prove anything, for the expression, "ships of Tarshish," is almost a synonym for "merchant vessels." In 1 Kings 22:48 we read, "Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir," and they "were broken at Ezion-geber" (cf. Psalm 48:7; Jonah 1:3). It is probable that in Jewish lips the words were a nomen generale for all vessels going long voyages (Isaiah 2:16; Psalm 48:7; compare our "East Indiaman," "Greenlander"). But the words "in the sea," בַּיָּם, are most naturally understood of that ocean which the Jews called par excellence "the sea," or "the great sea" (Numbers 34:6, 7), i.e., the Mediterranean, though the term הַיָּם is undoubtedly used of the Red Sea, the Sea of Galilee, and the Dead Sea. And the more so as we know that the Tyrians had an extensive commerce with Tartessus, which was a great emporium of trade from the earliest times. Bahr objects that "no gold is found in Spain, but few peacocks, and little ivory;" but Rawlinson, on the other hand, affirms that "Spain had the richest silver mines known in the ancient world, and had a good deal of gold also" (Plin., Nat. Hist. 3:4), while "apes and ivory were produced by the opposite coast of Africa" (Herod. 4:191. As to peacocks see below). And it is a powerful argument in favour of Tartessus that it is the plentifulness of silver in Solomon's days has suggested this reference to the fleet. For though silver "was found in the land of the Nabataeans, according to Strabo, 16:784" (Keil), yet it was to Tartessus that the ancient world was chiefly indebted for its supplies of that metal. On the whole, therefore, it seems probable that second fleet, trading with the Mediterranean seaports, is here described. And Psalm 72:10 is distinctly in favour of this conclusion. When Ewald says ("Hist. Israel," 3:263) that the Phoenicians would hardly tolerate a rival in the Mediterranean, he surely forgets that they had been admitted by the Jews to share the trade of Ophir] with the navy of Hiram; once in three years [This period agrees better with a voyage to Spain than to Southern Arabia. And if we understand it of Spanish voyages, it removes one difficulty in the way of placing Ophir in Arabia. It has also been urged that "the Hebrews reckoned parts of years and days as whole ones" (Kitte); but this hardly would apply to the expression "once in three years"] came the navy of Tarshish, bringing gold and silver ivory [Heb. tooth of elephants, LXX. ὀδόντες ἐλεφάντινοι. It is noteworthy that the name for elephant used here is derived from the Sanskrit (Gesen.), and an argument has been drawn hence in favour of placing Ophir in India, and of identifying the Tarshish fleet with the navy of Ophir. But such conclusions are extremely precarious. The name may have first come to the Jews from India, in which case it would be retained, from whatever quarter the commodity was subsequently derived. See Rawlinson, p. 546], and apes [קופis in like manner identified by Gesenius, al., with the Sanskrit kapi. Sir J. Emerson Tennant ("Ceylon," 2 p 102) says "the terms by which these articles (ivory, apes, and peacocks) are designated in the Hebrew Scriptures are identical with the Tamil names by which some of them are called in Ceylon to the present day"], and peacocks. [So the the ancients interpret the original word, though some of the moderns would understand "parrots." But the root תכי appears in several Aryan tongues (cf. ταῶς, from ταρως, and pavo) as indicating the peacock (Gesen., Max Muller, al.) which originally came from India. Whether it was also found in Africa is uncertain. Aristophanes (Birds, 485) says, καλεῖται Περσικὸς ὄρνις. Wordsworth very justly sees in the mention of these curious beasts and birds a symptom of declension in simplicity and piety, a token that "wealth had brought with it luxury and effeminacy, and a frivolous, vainglorious love for novel and outlandish objects.'
So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom.
Verse 23. - So King Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and wisdom [Cf. 1 Kings 3:13. "There is something ominous of evil here. Riches are put before wisdom. This was not the case in the beginning of Solomon's reign (1 Kings 3:11)" - Wordsworth.
And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart.
Verse 24. - And all the earth sought to [Heb. sought the face of] Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart [i.e., mind. Cf. 1 Kings 4:34].
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.
Verse 25. - And they brought [Heb. and these (visitors were) bringing] every man his present [It is doubtful whether we are to understand by this word tribute, or gifts. The succeeding words, "a rate year by year," would seem to imply the former; the fact that the visitors came not as subjects, but to "hear the wisdom," etc., the latter. Bahr understands that the presents "were repeated year by year, so highly had Solomon risen in estimation." But even this supposition does not explain the "rate"] vessels of silver and vessels of gold, and garments [cf. Genesis 45:22; 2 Kings 5:26; Ezra 2:69], and armour [rather, "arms, weapons" (Gesen.) Ewald understands perfume; LXX. στακτὴν, i.e., oil of myrrh], and spices [cf. ver. 10], horses and mules [see on 1 Kings 1:33], a rate year by year [Heb. the matter of a year in his year] . The remaining verses of this chapter, which, in the account of the chronicler, find a place at the end of the first chapter of his second book, repeat some of the information already given in 1 Kings 4:26 and 1 Kings 9:19, and furnish a few additional particulars as to the wealth and commerce of the king.
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.
Verse 26. - And Solomon gathered together his chariots and horsemen, and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots [these words have an important bearing on 1 Kings 4:26, where see note], and twelve thousand horsemen. [The question may suggest itself here, why did Solomon, who was a "man of peace," maintain such a formidable array of chariots and horsemen? For not only was it in contravention of Deuteronomy 17:16 (cf. 1 Samuel 8:11), but it was entirely unnecessary, especially for a nation inhabiting a hilly country like that of Israel. We find, consequently, that David, when he took a thousand chariots from Hadarezer (1 Chronicles 18:4), only reserved for his own use one hundred of them, though he was at the time engaged in war. It may perhaps be said that this force was necessary to keep the tributary kings in due subjection. But it seems quite as likely that it was maintained largely for the sake of pomp and display. Solomon seems to have determined in every way, and at any cost, to rival and surpass all contemporary kings. The maintenance of this large force of cavalry is another token of declension], whom he bestowed in the cities for chariots (1 Kings 9:19), and with the king at Jerusalem.
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.
Verse 27. - And the king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones [an obviously hyperbolical expression], and cedar trees made he to be as the sycamore trees [the שִׁקְמָה is the συκομωρέα of the New Testament (Luke 19:4), i.e., as the name imports, the fig mulberry - the "sycamine tree" of Luke 17:6 would seem to denote the mulberry proper. Though now but comparatively rare in Palestine, it is clear that formerly it was very common (see, e.g., Isaiah 9:10, whence it appears that it was used for building purposes, and where it is also contrasted with the cedars). It was esteemed both for its fruit and its wood, so much so that David appointed a steward to have the supervision both of "the olive trees and the sycamore trees in the Shefelah" (1 Chronicles 27:28). The sycamores of Egypt, which were used for the coffins of mummies (Dict. Bib. 3. p. 1394), are referred to in Psalm 78:47, in a way which bespeaks their great value. There is a good description of the tree in Thomson, "Land and Book," 1:23-25] that are in the vale [Same word as in 1 Chronicles l.c. The Shefelah is a "broad swelling tract of many hundred miles in area, which sweeps gently down from the mountains of Judah 'to mingle with the bounding main' of the Mediterranean" (Grove, Dict. Bib. 3. p. 1611). This "Low Country" extended from Joppa to Gaza. The translation "vale" is altogether misleading. Conder ("Tent-work," p. 5) describes it as "consisting of low hills, about five hundred feet above the sea, of white soft limestone," and adds that "the broad valleys among these hills... produce fine crops of corn, and on the hills the long olive groves flourish better than in other districts" - an incidental and valuable confirmation of the text. "The name Sifia, or Shephelah, still exists in four or five places round Beit Jibrin" (Eleutheropolis), ib. p. 276] for abundance.
And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt, and linen yarn: the king's merchants received the linen yarn at a price.
Verse 28. - And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt, and linen yarn: the king's merchants received the linen yarn at a price. [This is a difficult passage, and the difficulty lies in the word מִקְוֶה, here rendered "linen yarn." Elsewhere the word signifies, a congregation, or gathering, as of water (Genesis 1:10; Exodus 7:19; Leviticus 11:36). Consequently, Gesenius (with Vatablus, al.) would here interpret, "company." "And the company of kings' merchants took the company (of horses) at a price." The great difficulty in the way of this interpretation is perhaps the paronomasia, which, though not altogether without precedent, would be formal and unusual in grave history. Somewhat similarly Bahr: "and as to horses... and their collection, the merchants of the king made a collection for a certain price," but this again is strained and artificial. Perhaps it is safer to see in the word the name of a place. The LXX. (similarly the Vulgate) renders, "from Egypt and from Thekoa," καὶ ἐκ θεκουὲ, which Keil, however, contends is manifestly a variation of an older reading, καὶ ἐκ Κουὲ, "and from Κουα." As to Koa or Kova, it is objected that no such place is mentioned elsewhere, and it is alleged that if it were a market for horses, or even if it were a frontier station, where the duties on horses were collected, we should surely have heard of it again. But this is by no means certain. Koa may well have been an in. significant post on the frontier which it was only necessary to mention in this connexion. Θεκουὲ certainly looks like an emendation, but it is to be remembered that although Tekoa (Amos 1:1; 2 Chronicles 11:6; 2 Chronicles 20:20) was apparently an insignificant village, still it gave its name to a district; it was no great distance from the Egyptian frontier - it was some six Roman miles south of Bethlehem, according to Jerome (in Amos, Proem.), and it may have been the rendezvous of the Egyptian and Hebrew horse dealers. The text would thus yield the following meaning: "And as for the expert of Solomon's horses from Egypt and from Koa (or Tekoa), the king's merchants took them from Koa (or Tekoa) at a price."
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.
Verse 29. - And a chariot [including perhaps the two or three horses (see note on 1 Kings 5:6) usually attached to a chariot, and the harness. רֶכֶב is used (2 Samuel 8:4; 2 Samuel 10:18; Ezekiel 39:20) for chariot and horses] came up and went out of Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver [about £80 (Wordsworth, £35), but, as these figures show, the precise value cannot be ascertained with certainty. But it is quite clear that these amounts cannot have been the custom duty, or the profits after reckoning all expenses (Ewald) paid on chariots and horses, but must represent the actual price], and an horse for an hundred and fifty: and so for all the kings of the Hittites. [We can hardly see in these Hittites representatives of the seven nations of Canaan (Wordsworth, al.), though the term "Hittite" is sometimes undoubtedly used as a nomen generale for Canaanites (Joshua 1:4; Ezekiel 16:3), for the Canaanitish bes had been reduced to bond service, the Hittites amongst them (1 Kings 9:20). The word is probably used somewhat loosely of the semi-independent tribes bordering on Palestine, the Khatti of the Assyrian inscriptions (Dict. Bib. 1:819), with whom Solomon had a sort of alliance. It is a curious coincidence that we find horses and chariots associated in popular estimation with the Hittites, at a later period of the history (2 Kings 7:6). Nor are we justified in supposing that these horses and chariots were furnished as cavalry to "Solomon's vassals, whose armies were at his disposal, if he required their aid" (Rawlinson), for the kings of Syria are mentioned presently, and some of these at least were enemies to Solomon. Probably all we are to understand is that neighbouring nations received their supply of horses from Egypt - the home of horses and chariots (Exodus 14:6; Exodus 15:1; Deuteronomy 17:16; Isaiah 31:1; Jeremiah 46:2-4) - largely through the instrumentality of Solomon's merchants], and for the kings of Syria ["who became the bitterest enemies of Israel" (Wordsworth): one fruit of a worldly policy], did they bring them out by their means. [Heb. by their hand they brought them out, i.e., they exported them through Solomon's traders.