The Word Made Fresh
1When the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame she came to Jerusalem to test him with difficult questions. She came with a huge number of attendants, and with camels carrying spices and much gold and precious stones. When she came before Solomon, she spoke with him about all the questions she had on her mind. 2Solomon answered them all; nothing was too difficult for him. 3When she saw his wisdom, his palace, 4the food on his table, the seating of his officials, his attending servants and staff and the way they were dressed, and his way of going up to the LORD’s house, she was astounded.
5“What I had heard in my country about your knowledge and your accomplishments is true,” she said, 6“but I didn’t believe it until I came and saw for myself. I didn’t hear of even half of your great wisdom; you are far above everything I heard. 7Your citizens must be so pleased, and your attendants who wait on you get to benefit from your wisdom. 8The LORD your God must rejoice in you and must be pleased to have set you on the throne as Israel’s king. Your LORD did this out of love for Israel, in order to establish them forever, and made you king to rule with justice and righteousness.” 9Then she presented the king with four and a half tons of gold, a huge quantity of spices, and precious stones. King Solomon had never seen spices like those she gave him.
The servants of Huram and Solomon who had brought gold from Ophir also brought algum wood and precious stones. 11The king used the wood to make aisles for the LORD’s temple and for the royal palace, and lyres and lutes for the singers. Nothing like it had ever been seen before in Judah.
12King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba everything she desired, even more than what she had brought to him. Then she and her servants left and returned to her own land.
13Each year Solomon received about twenty-five tons of gold, 14in addition to what traders and merchants brought; all the kings of Arabia and governors of the land brought gold and silver to Solomon. 15Solomon made two hundred large shields, each containing about seven and a half pounds of beaten gold. 16He made another three hundred standard shields, each containing about three and three fourth pounds of gold. He had them placed in the House of the Forest of Lebanon. 17He also made a large throne of ivory, plated with pure gold, 18with six steps and a footstool of gold attached to the throne. There were arm rests on each side of it, and two lions standing beside them. 19There were also twelve lions standing on each end of the six steps. There was nothing like it anywhere else. 20All of his drinking cups were of gold and all the vessels in the House of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold; silver was nothing in the days of Solomon. 21Every three years his ships went to Tarshish with Huram’s men and brought back gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks.
22So, King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the world in wealth and wisdom, 23and they all came to hear the wisdom God had given him. 24Each one would bring a gift; silver and gold articles, clothing, weapons, spices, horses, and mules, and their number grew year by year. 25He had four thousand stalls built for horses and chariots, twelve thousand horses which he stationed in chariot cities, and some which he kept in Jerusalem. 26He ruled over all the kings from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines, and down to the Egyptian border. 27He made silver as common as stone and cedar as abundant as the sycamores of the Shephelah. He had horses imported from Egypt and all the other lands.
29The rest of Solomon’s deeds from beginning to end of his reign are written in the history of the prophet Nathan, the prophesies of Ahijah the Shilonite and the visions of the prophet Iddo that concern Jeroboam son of Nebat. 30Solomon ruled over Israel in Jerusalem forty years. 31He joined his ancestors in death and was buried in the city of his father David. His son Rehoboam succeeded him.
(Compare 1 Kings 10)
1-4: The location of 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.
5-9: She is impressed by all she sees and pronounces Solomon to be even more wise and wealthy than she had heard. More importantly she now has respect for Israel’s God. She gives Solomon gold, spices, and precious stones.
10-11: 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.
12: A tantalizing verse, leading us to speculate about the extent of her desires. In any case it appears that she returns home with more than she brought.
13-21: Solomon’s wealth is enormous by any standards. His kingdom is largely at peace during his reign, 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 I don’t know anybody who has as much gold as Solomon. 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 and southern France, bringing a wide variety of goods to Solomon.
22-28: For all his pomp, Solomon is regarded for his scholarship as much as for his wealth. Still, his kingdom is large, and he maintains a large military machine to keep it together.
The Chronicles leaves out the report in 1 Kings about the mistakes Solomon made and the enemies he had (1 Kings 11:1-40), including one Jeroboam whom we shall meet again in the next chapter.
29-31: Solomon’s rule, according to the chronicler, is peaceful and long. It is interesting that the sources cited – Nathan and Ahijah and Iddo – are not the sources claimed in 1 Kings 11:41. Perhaps that accounts for some of the differences between the books of Kings and the books of Chronicles. Solomon dies and is buried beside his father David. He is succeeded by his son Rehoboam, of whom we have been told nothing.
“Wealthy and wise” sums up the reign of Solomon in 2 Chronicles. He is squeaky clean. No dirt clings to the son of David. The territory he rules, from the Egyptian border to the Euphrates, was established by David, and Solomon apparently had little opposition from enemies. He was born to royalty, and he elevated it to heights never seen before. Also never seen thereafter. His son Rehoboam, who hasn’t been mentioned before, will turn out to be incapable of holding the kingdom together. 2 Chronicles never mentions Solomon falling into the worship of other gods as we read in 1 Kings 11. In 1 Kings that is the reason God allowed the kingdom to splinter when Solomon departed.