The Word Made Fresh
1The queen of Sheba heard of Solomon and the LORD who made him famous. She came to test him with difficult questions. 2She arrived in Jerusalem with a huge entourage of attendants and camels bearing spices, much gold, and precious gems. She approached Solomon with many questions. 3He answered them all, hiding nothing. 4She was impressed with his knowledge, with his palace, 5with the food on his table, the way his officials were ordered, the way his servants attended him, their costumes, his personal valets, and the burnt offerings he presented at the LORD’s temple. She was quite impressed.
6She told him, “All that I heard in my own country about you and your knowledge and things you have done are all true. 7But I confess I didn’t believe any of it until I saw it for myself. Your knowledge and your wealth go far beyond anything I was told. 8How happy your people must be, and your attendants who have the privilege of serving you and hearing your wisdom. 9The LORD your God must certainly be pleased to have put you on Israel’s throne. The LORD loves Israel very much to have made you its just and righteous king!”
10Then she presented the king with gifts; four and a half tons of gold, huge quantities of spices, and precious gems. The king would never again receive such enormous gifts of spices.
11Hiram’s fleet, which had brought gold from Ophir also brought from Ophir a large quantity of sandalwood and precious gems. 12The king used the wood to make supports for the temple and the palace, and to make lyres and lutes for the choristers. No wood like it has ever been seen again.
13King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba everything she asked for in addition to the customary gifts he had given her out of the royal treasury, and she and her retinue returned to her land.
14About twenty-five tons of gold came to Solomon every year, 15in addition to taxes from merchants and traders and from kings of Arabia and rulers of other lands. 16He had two hundred large shields made, each with more than seven pounds of beaten gold, 17and three hundred smaller shields, each with nearly four pounds of beaten gold. He had them placed in the House of the Forest of Lebanon.
18He also made a great throne of pure ivory overlaid with fine gold. 19Six steps led up to the throne. The top was rounded and arm rests were attached to each side. Two lions stood next to the arm rests. 20Twelve more lions stood at each end of the six steps. Nothing like it had ever been seen anywhere. 21All the king’s cups were of gold, and all the containers in the House of the Forest of Lebanon were of the purest gold. No silver was used; it simply was considered to have little value in Solomon’s time. 22After all, the king had a fleet of ships of Tarshish roaming the seas along with Hiram’s ships. Every third year they would arrive with huge quantities of gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks.
23King Solomon was wealthier and wiser than all the other rulers of the earth, 24and the whole world came to Solomon to hear the wisdom God had given him. 25They all brought gifts — silver and gold items, clothing, weapons, spices, horses, and mules, year after year.26He had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses quartered around the country and in Jerusalem. 27He made silver as common as rocks, and he made cedars as plentiful as the sycamores in the foothills. 28He imported horses from Egypt, and his men bought them from Kue at the going prices. 29A chariot could be brought from Egypt for fifteen pounds of silver, and a horse for four pounds, and exported at a profit by the king’s traders to the kings of the Hittites and the Arameans.
1-5: Sheba has never been satisfactorily identified, though most scholars place it on the Red Sea around what is today Yemen. The Queen of Sheba is one of history’s mysteries. Nothing is known of her outside the Bible, the Quran, and one other Near Middle Eastern source. We don’t know if she is a queen regnant (ruler in her own right) or a queen consort (wife of a king). She has lots of wealth, whichever she is, and the text seems to want to present her as being somewhat haughty, but Solomon’s magnificence humbles her.
6-10: She is wowed by all she sees and pronounces Solomon to be a real wow-er. More importantly she now has respect for Israel’s God. She gives Solomon 120 talents of gold and some other stuff. Solomon did not give her 20 cities, however.
11-12: The insertion of this verse prompts some scholars to speculate that Sheba may be identified with Ophir; but we don’t know for sure where that was, either.
13: A tantalizing verse, leading us to speculate about the extent of her desires. In any case it appears that she returns home with more stuff than she had when she came.
14-22: Solomon’s wealth is enormous by any standards. His kingdom is largely at peace during his reign (though we’ll hear more details shortly), so the golden shields mentioned here are decorative. I don’t know why anyone would go to the trouble of making an ivory throne and then overlay it with gold, but then Solomon has gold in excess. The ships of Tarshish are another mystery. The best guess is that Tarshish was on the Atlantic coast of Spain. In route the ships could stop at ports on the North African coast as well as Italy, Greece, and southern France, bringing a wide variety of goods to Solomon.
23-25: For all his pomp, Solomon is regarded for his scholarship as much as for his wealth.
26-29: At the prevailing rate mentioned in this paragraph, Solomon’s 1400 chariots would have cost 840,000 shekels of silver. Twelve thousand horses would have cost 1,800,000. For someone who never fought a war, he has an impressive military organization. Kue is not known, and some believe it is the name of a person rather than a place.
The Queen of Sheba mentions the LORD about as many times as has Solomon. Solomon’s wealth grows and grows, but does his faith? Through the years there has been much tantalizing speculation about whether or not she wound up in his bed. Would you like to know the answer? Here it is: it’s none of our business.