Solomon has completed the Temple and his palace and now we're learning more about what he did afterward. In these passages we'll learn about his interactions with the infamous Queen of Sheba.
I Kings 10
Queen of Sheba
The chapter opens by explaining that the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon's fame she came to test him with difficult questions. It's interesting that it says she heard of his fame "concerning the name of the Lord." I wonder what that means? Not just that he was known to be smart or that he built a giant temple; but his fame concerning the name of the Lord. Is that from those workers heading back to other lands or sojourners heading back and bringing word of the work of the Lord.
It seems worth reminding myself that my actions reflect on my heavenly father.
But in verse 2, it describes what she brought and then says she spoke with him about all that was on her heart. That doesn't sound as much like a test as verse 1 indicated.
Verse 3 says he explained everything he knew to answer her questions.
Starting in verse 4, Sheba perceives everything around her from Solomon's wisdom to the very lavish life surrounding him and was deflated. She has not been able to get the best of a "country bumpkin" as she expected. She found him well-appointed, well-served, and wise.
When the enemy tests us, is we are seeking God, He will give us the answers for the victory. She came to shame Solomon's God. And she failed. She goes on to acknowledge God's greatness and Solomon's blessings from God. She also gave him gold, precious stones, and an abundance of spices.
It inserts that a ship from King Hiram brought in more precious stones and some red sandalwood trees that were used as building supports and musical instuments.
Then it goes back to Sheba and says that Solomon gave to Sheba all that she desired in addition to what he gave according to his royal bounty. I am curious what both of those things mean, in specific terms.
Then Sheba took her entourage and headed home.
Verse 14 describes one year in which 800,000 ounces of gold came in, plus the gold that came in during the normal course of his national business.
He uses it to make 200 large golden shields. Then another 300 golden shields. And then he went and put them on display in his house of the forest of Lebanon- to be brought out and displayed for events.
So he locked up this wealth in his treasuries while borrowing money off the backs of his people.
He also made an ivory throne and covered it in gold. Plus other extravagances. To the point that silver wasn't even considered valuable in the days of Solomon. Just gold. Every three years he had his ships importing valuables in his partnership with Hiram.
He did become greater than all kings in riches and in wisdom. When God promised that I wonder if He meant for Solomon to spend it on himself in conspicuous consumption- to show the world, clearly, his wealth? Or if there was something else in mind that could have displayed the wealth but with more of his people benefiting besides himself?
I'm trying not to judge because I have plenty of wealth in comparison with much of the world today and most of the world throughout history and spend the vast majority on my own thrones and shields.
It's something to pray about for sure.
In verse 24 it does say
And all the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart.I Kings 10:24
And they brought him even more gifts and treasures.
Verse 26 reviews the chariots and horsemen he collected in his special cities. Then goes on to summarize a few more imports and exports.
No where in this passage do you see him capitalizing on all of God's blessings to lift up the name of the Lord. God's name is lifted up; but not by Solomon.
Again, not to judge. I don't know how many of my blessings I have converted into praise for the One Who provided the blessings. I'd like to think I give Him credit; but probably significantly less than I suppose.
His plan is what all of this is for.
Lord, please don't let me miss another opportunity to reflect to the world the Name and Glory of the One who provides everything for me. Amen.
II Chronicles 9
This version just says that the Queen of Sheba heard of Solomon's fame and came to test him with difficult questions. It has a similar description of her entourage and gifts.
It also says that she spoke with him about all that was on her heart and that he answered all of her questions. It similarly describes her as breathless at all of the signs of his wealth, culture, and wisdom. Her proclamation about Solomon and his God is similar as well.
This passage is one of the closest in similarities to I Kings 10 that I can remember. More of a word for word telling than a paraphrase that you find elsewhere between the two books.
The same seems to be true for the rest of the chapter as well, describing Solomon's extravagant wealth.
Yikes. Similar, that is, until verse 29-31, titled Solomon's Death.
Oh my goodness. What a brief wrap up to the story of Solomon.
Verse 29 lists where more of the story of Solomon can be found. My Ryrie Study Bible footnote says these were the sources the chronicler (Ezra?) used in compiling this book. These are not biblical references but references that must have been well known at the time.
Then verse 30 restates that Solomon reigned 40 years.
Verse 31 simply states that he died, was buried with his father, and his son Rehoboam ruled in his place.
Not Much of a Eulogy
Maybe there will be more in I Kings, but this seems like a telling way for him to go out. David's widely known for what he left behind. A permanent legacy carried into eternity by Jesus Christ. Solomon was know for only what he did and owned in his own lifetime. His wisdom. His possessions. His building projects. While God is credited with all of them; none of them seem to have any legs for the future.
Maybe because everything he did in his lifetime was about himself, unless explicitly provided for, designed, prepared, and overseen by David and the Lord.
He is know for the Proverbs, which is huge. Except that is directly from the Lord. A couple of times it is mentioned that he did thousands of Proverbs and Psalms. Where are the rest?
And He's known for Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, which is a sad in and of itself. The man who had everything write the book most people avoid because of how depressing it is.
God loved Solomon and clearly showed him much favor. It's not my place to judge Solomon of his life. It is interesting to examine the fruit he bore. And except for what came to him wrapped in a bow from the Lord and David--I don't see very much.
And maybe, ultimately, that is the legacy he can give us. David showed us the roadmap for the scrappy young nobody who loved the Lord. Maybe Solomon shows us the potential road map for those who have much. There are many dangerous pitfalls on both roads, as we saw in each of their lives. However, what the Lord values most seems to be seen in the life of the one who sought the Lord and longed to bring his people and his Lord together.
Solomon's star shone bright. But David's star shone forever.
Wiersbe points out that the queen of Sheba's observations shone a light on the daily life in palace. How they ate, their advanced etiquette, the people and decor all point to a civilization that have jumped miles ahead of his father's.
Wiersbe explores a concept similar to what I wrote above- the problem with even the great wealth and wisdom of Solomon is that you can get used to it and, pretty soon, it doesn't have value.
It makes me think of the value of silver during Solomon's time. In both books it tells us that there was so much gold, silver had NO value. That;s incredible; but telling. He had become numb to reality around them. He was giving away cities that belonged to the Lord and collecting so much wealth for himself that even some items wealth didn't make the cut.
It's a cautionary tale, or just a straight explanation of life in the modern western world. We're so blessed that there are many things we just throw away or give away that would have great value outside of our bubble. Solomon's "all is vanity" emo stuff matches the modern world as well. Suicide rates are HIGHER in more modern countries. We think we'd want to kill ourselves if we had to live in a third world country; but somehow teens want to die because people say mean things about them on the internet while they are surrounded with modern luxuries never imagined in previous ages....
Wiersbe points to Deuteronomy 17:20 that the king was to be humble and not think of himself as better than his brother. It has the early shadows of government for the people; not people existing for the government as all of the societies around him would have believed, but he lost sight of that. Everyone ONLY drank from cups made of gold...not a wooden or silver cup in sight. This is not the sign that Solomon was balancing his wealth with his role as the leader of his brothers.
I know I sound so judge-y. And I feel some level of contempt for Solomon as I probably do for the trustfunders today who don't have a clear view of life from their bubbles. But again, comparatively in history and around the world today, I'm a trustfunder. Born in the country, time period, and general working/middle class that has excessively more opportunities than the world around me. They think I don't know what real life looks like.
The only cure is to look for what God loved about David. He kept running back to the Lord. Which kept bringing him back to humble. His deepest heart's desire was to bring the presence of the Lord to the people as He had been in the previous era. If you can keep on mission and seeking the Lord...He has made Himself responsible for the results. Amen.