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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

1 Kings 10

 

 

Verses 1-13

FOURTH SECTION

The Fame And The Magnificence Of Solomon

1 Kings 10

A.—The Visit of the Queen of Sheba

1 Kings 10:1-13

1And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning[FN1] thename of the Lord [Jehovah], she came to prove him with hard questions 2 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[FN2] Song of Solomon, shecommuned with him of all that was in her heart 3 And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not any thing [a question[FN3]] hid from the king, whichhe told her not 4 And when the queen of Sheba had seen all[FN4] Solomon’s Wisdom of Solomon,and the house that he had built, 5and the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their[FN5] apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent[FN6] by which he went up unto the house of the Lord6[Jehovah]; there was no more spirit in her. And she said to the king, It was a true report[FN7] that I heard in mine own land of thy Acts 7 and of thy Wisdom of Solomon 7 Howbeit I believed not the words,7 until I came, and mine eyes had seen it; and behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth 8 the fame which I heard. Happy are thy men,[FN8] happy are these thy servants,which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy Wisdom of Solomon 9 Blessed be the Lord [Jehovah] thy God, which delighted in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because the Lord [Jehovah] loved Israel forever, therefore made he theeking, to do judgment and justice 10 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 gaveto king Solomon; 11And the navy also of Hiram, that brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug[FN9] trees, and precious stones 12 And the king made of the almug trees pillars for the house of the Lord [Jehovah], and for the king’s house, harps also and psalteries for singers: therecame no such almug trees, nor were seen unto this day 13 And king Solomon gave unto the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatsoever she asked, besides that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty.[FN10] So she turned and went to her own country, she and her servants.

Exegetical and Critical

1 Kings 10:1-3. And when the queen of Sheba.Cf. 2 Chronicles 9:1-12. The name of Solomon became famous far and near, through the trading ships that were mentioned in 1 Kings 9:26 sq. A proof is here given. שְׁבָא, Sheba, is a country in Arabia Felix (not to be confounded with סְבָא, i. e, Meroë in Ethiopia, as Josephus has it), on the Red Sea, rich in spices, frankincense, gold, and precious stones ( Jeremiah 6:20; Ezekiel 27:22; Isaiah 60:6; Psalm 72:15). “The Sabæans, whose capital city was Sheba, had become, through their extensive commerce, the richest nation among the Arabians” (Winer, R-W-B. II. s. 405; Duncker, Gesch. des Alterth. I. s. 140 sq.). The Queen of this country, who visited Song of Solomon, was certainly the reigning one; according to Claudian in Eutrop. i132, the Sabæans were generally governed by queens, but this has no historical foundation. Whether she were widowed or unmarried Isaiah, like her name, uncertain. Her fame spread with and through that of Song of Solomon, who was the beau-ideal of a king throughout the East, for even the Koran mentions her visit to Solomon (Sur27), and there are many legends about it among the Arabians and Abyssinians. The former name her Balkis, and the latter Maqueda, and even say that she had a son by Song of Solomon, named Menihelek (or Melimelek),[FN11] who was the ancestor of the Abyssinian kings (comp. Winer). These fables of after-times need no refutation. The words לְשֵׁם יְהוָֹה, which are wanting in Chron, are by no means unsuitable or superfluous (Movers); they exist in all the old translations, but have been very differently understood. Propter nomen Jeh. (Le Clerc) is least like it; neither is De Wette right: to Jehovah’s honor; nor this, “the fame of what Solomon had become by Jehovah’s favor” (Gesenius); nor, the fame “that Solomon had acquired through the glory of his God” (Ewald); nor yet, “which he had attained, by Jehovah glorifying himself so in him” (Weil). The expression involuntarily reminds us of the לְשֵׁם יְהוָֹה 3:2; 5:17, 19; 8:17, 18, 19, 20, 44, 48; 2 Samuel 7:13. The house built to Jehovah’s name was the first and principal reason of Solomon’s fame; and was what the Queen had chiefly heard of, in which she had seen, like Hiram, an evidence of wisdom. This she desired to prove for herself.

To prove him with hard questions. To clothe wisdom in the form of Proverbs, which were often dark and enigmatical on account of their brevity, is a primitive custom of the East, especially among the Arabians, who are very rich in proverbs; the collection of the Meidani, for instance, which contains6,000 Proverbs, and the Makami of the Hariri show this. 1 Kings 4:32 says that3,000 are by Solomon; and those in his name, that are now extant, include many that are enigmatical. We do not mean enigmas in the sense of those that used to be propounded at meals or otherwise (cf. Rosenmüller A. u. N. Morgenland with Judges 14:12); the Queen did not want any trial of skill in enigmas with Song of Solomon, but wished to propound important and difficult questions to him. Solomon did not fail in a single answer (הִגִּיר 1 Kings 10:3 is solving riddles in Judges 14:19, and interpreting dreams in Genesis 41:24; Daniel 5:12).

1 Kings 10:4-8. And when the Queen had seen all Solomon’s wisdom. Solomon’s wisdom was shown, not only in his answers and discourses ( 1 Kings 10:3), but in all his arrangements, in the whole constitution of the court, and manner of his government; whithersoever the Queen looked, she beheld evidence of his wonderful gifts and powers of thought. The “house” is not the Temple, but the royal palace, as the following words concerning the court-appointments show. “The meat of his table” is the royal table, the splendor of which is especially described. The sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, means “the civil officers who sat at the royal table, and the servants, among whom were the “cup-bearers,” in attendance upon them (Bertheau). These three descriptions have nothing to do with localities, with the ministers’ seats, the place where the servants stood, nor the preparations for the cup-bearing (Weil); nor the order of the offices, and the rooms of the lower servants (Thenius); for the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 9:4 shows that מַשְׁקָיו are persons. It is more doubtful how we are to understand the following words וְעֹלָתוֹ, &c.; Chron. has עֲלִיָּתוֹ instead. All the translations give for both passages: “and the burnt-offerings, which he offered in Jehovah’s house;” this would mean the solemn and magnificent rites of the Temple worship. But it would not agree with the description just preceding, of the royal table and court appointments, the servants and cup-bearers; and above all, the splendid Temple building would have deserved mention; it would be necessary, too, to alter the text in both places; and וְעֹלֹתָו should be read, yet we have no grounds for doing this. If this were the right reading, the Chronicler, who was so partial to the details concerning the worship, would not have taken עֲלִיָּתוֹ instead. Most modern translators (Keil, Winer, Ewald), therefore, give ascent for עֹלָתוֹ; meaning the particular ascent of steps that led from the palace to the Temple; and עֹלָה, Ezekiel 40:26 has the same signification. This ascent of steps belonged to the palace, and very likely struck the eye, as it is here expressly mentioned; it also appears from 2 Kings 16:18 that the king had a peculiar entrance of that kind to the Temple. The concluding words of 1 Kings 10:5 are literally, and there was no more breath in her; as the breath goes in terror ( Joshua 2:11; Joshua 5:1), so it also goes in cases of extreme astonishment.

1 Kings 10:9-10. Blessed be the Lord thy God. We cannot conclude from these words that the Queen had formally confessed the One God of Israel, but rather that it meant what we have already remarked of a similar expression of Hiram, 1 Kings 5:7. What she saw and heard excited her wonder to such a degree, that it seemed to her directly imparted by the God Solomon adored, and for whom she became filled with reverence. The presents which the Queen, according to custom, made, consisted of those articles in which her land most abounded, and for which it was most famous. The spices were principally the famous Arabian balm, which was largely exported; according to Josephus (Ant.8, 6, 6) the balm-shrub was introduced into Palestine by the Queen of Sheba (Winer, R-W-B. I. s. 132).

1 Kings 10:11-13. And the navy also of Hiram, &c. The mention of the costly presents leads the author to the remark, 1 Kings 10:11-12, which may be regarded as a parenthesis, that such articles of luxury were introduced in abundance into Jerusalem by commerce; and the (fragrant) spices reminded him of the equally great quantities of sandal-wood that Solomon received through Hiram’s ships. This wood, which is indigenous to India, “was highly prized throughout the East for its fragrance, and partly was carved into images, partly used for fine utensils, and partly used for incense-burning” (Winer, II. s. 379). מִסְעָד ( 1 Kings 10:12) only occurs here, and its meaning is not quite certain. The root סָעַד means, to support, make sure. Thenius calls it “supports of the resting,” i.e, seats made by Solomon on the walls of a palace or Temple room; but we do not find the slightest mention of such a Temple room anywhere. As Chron. has מְסִלּוֹת (from סָלַל, to prepare the way, Psalm 68; Psalm 5) instead of our word, Bertheau thinks that סעד like צעד is to advance, so that both expressions really denote the same thing; i.e, the “way of entrance, ascent.” Jarchi gives מסעד by רצפהi.e, wainscoting on the floor (tessellated pavements); and this seems the best. The translation, steps with banisters (Keil), has no authority. כִּנּוֹר and נֶבֶל must be stringed instruments with sounding-boards; they are mentioned together in Psalm 71:22; Psalm 108:3; Psalm 150:3; we know nothing certain of their natures. Which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty ( 1 Kings 10:13), i.e, besides the things he presented her with according to the custom of kings, he gave her everything else she desired. We can scarcely think this included, as the other translators think, any literary productions. It is very doubtful whether the Ethiopian Christians “concluded rightly from these words that their Queen had a son by Solomon” (Bertheau).

Historical and Ethical

1. The section before us does not, by any means, contain a story accidentally and arbitrarily inserted here, which, however beautiful it may be, might be left out without doing harm, because it does not bear upon the history of the Israelite kings. How high the significance which has always been attached to the event recorded Isaiah, is shown by the fact that the remembrance of it has been preserved outside of Palestine for thousands of years, and that two ancient peoples, the Arabians and Abyssinians, revered the Queen of Sheba as the mother of their line of kings; the Abyssinian tradition making the son she bore to Solomon the founder of the ancient Ethiopian kingdom. And when the Lord, from out the treasure of the Old Testament history, chooses this narrative, and presents it for the shaming of his contemporaries, this presupposes that it was known to and specially esteemed by all other nations. It Isaiah, therefore, something more than an ordinary visit of royal etiquette. Sabæa was reckoned to be the richest, most highly favored and glorious land in the ancient world, and therefore was given the unique name of “The Happy.” Agatharchides names the Sabæans γένος παντοίας κύριον εὐδαιμονίας. Now when the Queen came with a splendid retinue to visit this distant land, and from no political design, but merely to see and hear the famous king; and when she, the sovereign of the most fortunate country in the world, declared that what she had seen and heard exceeded all her expectations; this surely was the greatest homage Solomon could have met, homage that no king had ever yet received; and the result was that Solomon was regarded as the ideal of a wise, great, and happy king, throughout the Eastern world. The visit of the Queen of Sheba marks, then, the splendor and climax of the Old Testament Kingdom, and marks an essential moment in the history of the covenant as well as of Solomon. This story is therefore in its right place, following, as it does, the account of the great and glorious works Solomon made for his country and which acquired for him so much fame.

2. The context explains the kind of “wisdom” that the Queen sought and found in Solomon. It was not much learning; neither were the “riddles” that Solomon solved metaphysical problems, nor mere conversation and play of wit. Besides the answers he gave to her questions, his works, appointments, and arrangements convinced the Queen of his great Wisdom of Solomon, in which she recognized the working of a peculiar power and grace imparted by God. It was also a practical or life- Wisdom of Solomon, such as Solomon himself describes, “a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her, length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honor. The merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her,” Proverbs 3:14-18. But this wisdom rests upon the foundation of the knowledge and fear of God (comp. 1 Kings 10:1 and Proverbs 2:4-6), and the whole reign of Solomon is the result of the same (see Historical and Ethical on 1 Kings 4:29). “O! happy time, when mighty princes visited each other in the midst of their lands, made tranquil by a holy fear of God, so to vie with each other in wisdom and what is still better, the search after wisdom” (Ewald).

3. When the Lord says in Matthew 12:42 and Luke 11:31 : “The Queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation and shall condemn it; for she came from the uttermost part of the earth to hear the Wisdom of Solomon, and behold a greater than Solomon is here,” he recognizes the prophetical and typical meaning of our narrative, as is the case generally with the kingdom of Solomon. It is said in the prophetical descriptions of the peaceful kingdom of Messiah, “the Kings of Sheba and Seba (Meroë) shall offer gifts; yea, all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him” ( Psalm 72:10-11); and “all they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense, and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord” ( Isaiah 60:6). The Queen of Sheba, who came from far, out of the happiest, country of the world, to Song of Solomon, brought him presents, and received all she wished from him, is a type of the kings who with their people shall come from far and near to the everlasting Prince of peace, the King of kings, and shall do him homage. Her visit is an historical prophecy of the true and eternal kingdom of peace. It is just this prophetical and typical character of the story that gives such emphasis to our Lord’s reproof of the hardened Israelites of His time.

Homiletical and Practical

1 Kings 10:1-13. The queen of Sheba comes to Solomon. (a) She comes in order to hear the wisdom of Solomon. (b) She finds more than she expected. (c) She worships and praises the Lord for what she has seen and heard, (d) She returns home in peace, with rich gifts.—Solomon receiving the Queen of Sheba a type of Christ ( Matthew 22:42). (a) He did not reject her who sought him, but raised her up ( John 6:37). (b) He solved her questions, and showed her his glory ( John 1:9; John 1:14; 22:46; 6:68). (c) He accepted her gifts, and gave her much more in return, even all that she desired and requested. ( John 10:11; John 10:28; John 16:24; John 4:13 sq.). 1 Kings 10:1-3. The Queen of Sheba had everything that pertains to temporal prosperity and good fortune, high rank, power and honor, health and wealth; but all these satisfied not her soul; she sought the solution of the enigma of life, and when she heard of Song of Solomon, and of the name of the Lord, she spared no expense or trouble, neither regarded the scorn and contempt of the world, in order to satisfy the longing of her soul for the word of life. She said not: I am rich, and have an abundance, and need nothing; but she felt that she still needed the highest and the best. How superior is this heathen woman to so many Christians, who hunger and thirst after all possible things, but never after a knowledge of truth and Wisdom of Solomon, after the word of life. We do not need to journey to Jerusalem, to find him who is greater than Song of Solomon, for he has promised: “I am with you forever, until the end of the world,” and can be found everywhere, if men seek him earnestly.—God is not without a witness in the midst of the heathen, whereby they may feel and recognize Him, for He wills that all men shall be aided to come to a knowledge of the truth. The same God who gave Solomon the wise heart for which he prayed, revealed to the inquiring spirit of the heathen queen what she most desired.

1 Kings 10:3. One receives with readiness and alacrity the soul which longs after the truth of God; such souls faithfully apply the same, they do not weary—and the counsel of God unto salvation is not withheld from them ( Acts 20:27, and James 5:19-20).

1 Kings 10:4-9. The acknowledgment of the Queen of Sheba, when she beheld the works of Solomon. (a) It is true … I would not believe it until I, &c, 1 Kings 10:6-7 ( John 10:35; John 10:38; John 14:11). (b) Thy wisdom has exceeded, &c, 1 Kings 10:7 ( John 6:68 sq.). (c) Happy are thy men, &c, 1 Kings 10:8 ( Luke 10:23). (d) Praised be the Lord, &c, 1 Kings 10:9 ( Ephesians 1:3).

1 Kings 10:4. Words must be followed by works; the beholding with her own eyes, and her very own experience, must be added to the rumors she has heard. Nathaniel, when he heard of Jesus, the Messiah, spoke doubtingly at first: Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? But when he came and saw he joyfully exclaimed: Thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel ( John 1:45-49).

1 Kings 10:5. Great palaces, brilliant arrangements, &c, are objects worthy of real admiration if they are not evidently mere works to gratify the lust of the eye and the pride of life, but rather proofs of Wisdom of Solomon, of spiritual elevation, and of love of art.

1 Kings 10:7. As in order to form a just conception of visible things we must see them with our own eyes—so also with invisible and divine things: rightly to recognize them as such, we must feel and taste their strength in our own hearts, and not merely hear of them from others ( 1 Peter 2:3; Psalm 34:9).

1 Kings 10:8. Not because of their fine clothes, of their high position, of their splendid possessions, did the Queen regard the people and the servants of Solomon as blessed and happy, but because they could always listen to his wisdom. How much the more are those to be esteemed blessed, who, sitting at His feet, who Himself contains all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge, can hear the word of everlasting life from His mouth ( Luke 10:23 sq). 1 Kings 10:9. It is proof of a good and noble heart, when a man gives thanks to God for the gifts which he bestows upon other men. Cramer: Upon the land which God will bless He bestows good and wise rulers; but if He will to punish a country, he does the opposite ( Isaiah 3:4; Ecclesiastes 10:16-17). If the Queen, in God’s gift of a Solomon to Israel, recognized a singular proof of God’s love to this nation, and exclaimed: Blessed be, &c, how can we thank and praise God enough for the love which sent his only begotten Son into the world, to save us from utter darkness, and to place us in the kingdom of His dear Son (Cor1:13; Ephesians 1:3).—Osiander: Rulers are given their high position by God, not simply to enjoy the pleasures of life, and to see good days, but to administer justice to their subjects, and care for their temporal and eternal welfare.

1 Kings 10:10-13. The interchange of gifts between the Queen and Song of Solomon, (a) The Queen is not content with words of praise and thanks; she testifies her gratitude by means of great and royal gifts. Of what avail is all mere verbal thanks and praise, if the life be devoid of lovely deeds, and of cheerful gifts, for the acknowledgment of God’s kingdom? (b) Solomon needed not the gifts; he had more than she could give him ( 1 Kings 10:11-12); he gave her all that heart could desire. What are all our gifts in comparison with those which we receive from the Lord,—those which are immeasurably beyond what we ask and seek ( Ephesians 3:20), and where it is more blessed to give than to receive ( Acts 20:35)? 1 Kings 10:11-12. As God bestows various gifts upon individual men, so He also blesses different countries with varied products, not that nations should covet and contest the same, but that they should serve and mutually benefit each other.

1 Kings 10:13. With a treasure incomparable in value to gold and jewels, the Queen joyfully went her way, like the Eunuch of Ethiopia.

How many are there who return from far journeys into distant lands, rich in gold and substance, but poor in faith and knowledge of the truth. They have lost more than they have won; the Queen gained more than she lost.—The generation of the present day in comparison with the Queen of Sheba; its satiety and indifference, its unbelief and its guilt ( Matthew 12:42).

Footnotes:

FN#1 - The Sept. and Syr. render this very difficult expression, אֵת־שֵׁמַע שְׁלֹמֹה לְשֵׁם יְהוָֹה (See Exeg.Com.), “heard the name of Solomon and the name of the Lord,” and the Arab. the same except in retaining fame in the first clause.

FN#2 - Many MSS. editions, and the Vulg. and Syr, insert king before Solomon.

FN#3 - There seems no sufficient reason for varying the translation of דָבָר occurring twice in such close proximity. The same variation is observed in the Chald. and Syr, but the Sept. have λόγος in both cases.

FN#4 - Several MSS. followed by the Arab. omit “all.”

FN#5 - The Sept, quite without authority, put the pronoun in the singular as referring to Solomon’s apparel.

FN#6 - All the ancient versions render “the burnt-offerings which he offered” (see Exeg. Com.) and must therefore have read עלותו instead of עלתו, but without reason. See Exeg. Com.

FN#7 - The Heb. for report and Acts, 1 Kings 10:6, and words, 1 Kings 10:7, is the same דְבָרִים,דָבָר and this sameness is preserved in the Sept, although hardly possible in English.

FN#8 - The Sept. curiously enough render “happy are the women.

FN#9 - Almug is not a translation, but only a putting into English letters of the Heb. אַלְמֻגִּים. The versions render:—Vulg. thyina; Sept. πελεκητά (Alex. ἀπελέκητα); Arab. colored wood, i.e. that kind of wood naturally painted with various colors. The sense as now generally understood is sandal-wood. See Exeg. Com.

FN#10 - Lit. gave her as from the hand of king Solomon.—F. G.]

FN#11 - See the graceful account of the legends, in Stanley’s Jewish church, Second Series, p259–262.—E. H.


Verses 14-29

B.—The Wealth, Splendor, and Power of Solomon’s Kingdom

1 Kings 10:14-29 ( 2 Chronicles 9:13-28)

14Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred 15 threescore and six talents of gold, Besides that he had of the merchantmen,[FN12] and of the traffick of the spice [omit spice] merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia,[FN13] and of the governors of the country.

16And king Solomon made two hundred targets [i.e. large shields] of beaten 17 gold; six hundred shekels of gold went to one target. And he made three hundred shields of beaten gold; three pounds [manehs[FN14]] of gold went to one shield: and the king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon.

18Moreover, the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the best gold 19 The throne had six steps, and the top of the throne was round behind: and there were stays [arms[FN15]] on either side on the place of the seat, and two lions stood beside the stays [arms]. 20And 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.

21And all king Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure[FN16] gold; none were of silver: it was nothing accounted of in the days of Song of Solomon 22For the king had at sea a navy[FN17] 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.[FN18] 23So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom.

24And all the earth sought to Song of Solomon, to hear his Wisdom of Solomon, which God had put in his heart 25 And they brought every man his present, vessels of silver, and vessels of gold, and garments, and armor,[FN19] and spices, horses, and mules, a rate year by year.

26And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen[FN20]: 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 27 And the king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones, and cedars made he to be as the sycamore [mulberry[FN21]] trees that are in the vale, for abundance.

28And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt, and linen yarn [a troop[FN22]]: the king’s merchants received the linen yarn [troop] at a price 29 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.

Exegetical and Critical

1 Kings 10:14-15. Now the weight of gold, &c. The666 talents have been very differently computed. According to Exodus 38:25 there are3,000 shekels in one talent, but Thenius reckons the shekel at10 Thalers, so that the whole sum would amount to “nearly20 millions of Thalers in gold.” Keil, who had formerly reckoned it at1,900,875 Marks, calculates it now at “over17 millions of Thalers,” which plainly is too high. According to this, the golden crown which David took from the head of the Ammonite king, and which weighed a talent, not reckoning the precious stones in it ( 2 Samuel 12:30), must have weighed83½ Dresden pounds, and a talent was about30,000 Thalers, which is simply impossible. We prefer to reckon the talent at2,618 Thalers[FN23] at present, as Winer (R-W-B. II. s. 562) and Bunsen (Bibelwerk I. Einl. s. 377) think; this makes666 talents equal to1,743,588 Thalers, a still considerable sum. We cannot see why the number666 should be an “invented” one, in which tradition betrays itself (Thenius). There Isaiah, in any event, no allusion in Revelation 13:18 to this passage, and this number has no particular signification anywhere else. It only expresses the simple sum of the various receipts. In one year, i.e, per annos singulos (Vulgate); this suits our calculation very well, but not the20,000,000 Thalers [or $15,000,000]. Keil, without any reason, doubts the correctness of this translation, in which all old translators have agreed; for if, as he supposes, the freight of the Ophir fleet, which returned only once in three years, brought the666 talents, it must mean in every third year. The666 talents were the regular yearly income; but we must not necessarily suppose, with Thenius, that they were “the income of taxes laid on the Israelites themselves;” for there is no mention anywhere made of a yearly income tax. 1 Kings 10:15 tells of other less defined additions to the regular revenue. The Sept. renders the difficult expression אַנְשֵׁי הַתָּרִים by (χωρὶς) τῶν φόρων τῶν ὑποτεταγμένων; it appears also to have read differently. Thenius therefore conjectures it to be מֵעָנְשֵי הָרְדוּיִם, and translates: “from the contributions of the subjugated;” but in opposition to this, Bertheau remarks rightly, “הרדוים occurs nowhere else, and ענש (ζημία) can scarcely mean a tribute laid on the conquered lands in David’s time, and as such raised by Solomon.” The expression is generally understood to mean travelling tradespeople, and as רֹכְלִים, i.e, merchants, follows, the latter “merchants” must mean “the pedlers or inferior shop-keepers” (Keil). But this distinction is destitute of proof. The word תוּר is never used for trading; הַתָּרִים in Numbers 14:6 (13:16, 17) means the men that Moses sent out to view and report upon the land. The Vulgate translates the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 9:14; legati diversarum gentium. So also Bertheau, “the ambassadors” by whom the presents of other kings were brought. It is impossible to ascertain the exact income Solomon received from the traffic of the merchants; but there could scarcely have been a regular commercial tax (Thenius), and custom duties are still less to be supposed. The kingsהָעֶרֶב are not “kings of the mixed tribes” (Keil), but could only have been Arabian tributary kings, who were subject to Solomon; probably they belonged to the desert Arabia, or at least to a part of it, which joined the Israelitish territory (Thenius). Cf. Jeremiah 25:20; Ezekiel 30:5. The governors are no doubt the same as those mentioned in 1 Kings 4:7-19. The revenue-sources named in 1 Kings 10:15 were plainly not gold, but in various kinds of produce.

1 Kings 10:16-17. And king Solomon made two hundred targets, &c. צִנָּה is the large square shield, rounded down upon its length, covering the whole body. It was usually made of wood covered with leather, but these were overlaid with gold. מָגֵן is a smaller shield, either quite round or oval, also of wood or leather covered with gold. The latter was שָׁחוּט, i.e, not: mixed with another metal, nor pure; but: stretched, hammered broad. The word shekel is left out in giving the weight, as often happens ( Genesis 10:16; Genesis 24:22; Genesis 37:28). The600 shekels for each large shield should come to5233/5 Thalers [$392–3]. If a talent is reckoned at3,000 shekels, and the talent be equal to2,618 Thalers [see note above], the 3 pounds for each smaller shield would be261½ Thalers, as 3 pounds are=300 shekels, according to 2 Chronicles 9:16. This calculation appears far more probable than that17½ pounds of gold, worth6,000 Thalers, were used for each shield (Thenius); or that the gold-plating of a large shield did not weigh quite9 pounds, and that of a small one nearly4½ pounds (Keil). These shields were borne, as 1 Kings 14:27 tells us, by the body-guard; but were used probably only on special occasions, for they were more for show than for ordinary use, and served also to adorn the house of the forest of Lebanon (for which see above in 1 Kings 7:2). Golden shields are also mentioned in 1 Maccabees 6:39, and were used also by the Carthaginians (Plin. Hist. Nat, xxxv4).

1 Kings 10:18-20. Moreover, the king made a great throne, &c. The throne was not entirely made of ivory, any more than the palaces mentioned in 1 Kings 22:39; Psalm 45:9; Amos 3:15, but was only inlaid with it, decorated. The wood of which it was made was overlaid with gold, and between, ivory was inserted. 2 Chronicles 9:17 gives טָהוֹר, pure, for מוּפָן, i.e, purified. Round behind can scarcely be that “it had an arched or rounded back” (Keil); or, “it terminated in a round crown” (Ewald), but means rather that “it had a round covering attached to the back” (Thenius). Most probably the lions as well as the throne itself to which they belonged were made of wood overlaid with gold, as images of gods were made ( Jeremiah 10:3 sq.). There was not a “lion on each of the arms” of the throne (Ewald), but on each side of it (אֵצֶל); the twelve others stood on the six steps leading to the throne, each one facing another. The remark, there was not the like made, &c, has reference to the artistic merit of the work as well as its costliness; the statues were at least as large as life. “On the ancient Assyrian monuments there are representations of high chairs with arms and backs, also such, the backs of which were supported by figures of animals (cf. Layard, Nineveh, s. 344 sq.), but none of these chairs are like that of Solomon. Later ages only can produce more splendid thrones. Cf. Rosenmüller, Altes und Neues Morgenland, III. s. 176 sq.” (Keil).

1 Kings 10:21. And all king Solomon’s drinking vessels, &c. The account of the great quantity of gold and silver in Solomon’s time does not appear in the least exaggerated when we compare those of other ancient writers about the amount of precious metal in the ancient East. Sardanapalus, for instance, had, when Nineveh was besieged, 150 golden bedsteads, 150 golden tables, a million talents of gold, ten times as much silver, and3,000 talents had been previously divided by him among his sons (Ktesias by Athenæus, xii. p529). No less than7,170 talents of gold were used for the statues and vessels of the Temple of Bel in Babylon (Münter, Rel. der Babyl, s. 51, where the passages of the ancients that refer to it are given). Alexander’s pillage of Ecbatana was valued at120,000 talents of gold (Diodor. Sicul. Bibl. 17). Cyrus’ pillage was34,000 pounds of gold and500,000 pounds of silver, besides an immense number of golden vessels (Pliny, Hist. Nat. xxvii3; cf. Symbol. des Mos. Kult. I. s. 259 sq.).

1 Kings 10:22. For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish, &c. תַּרְשִׁישׁ, the ancient Phœnician emporium, Tartessus, on the far side of the pillars of Hercules in south-western Spain; it is described as lying in a district which was rich in silver. Its situation has been much disputed, but the above may be taken as the correct account (see the opinions in Winer, R-W-B. II. s. 603). (Cf. Ezekiel 38:13; Jeremiah 10:9; Isaiah 23:10.) That, however, אֳנִי תַּרְשִׁישׁ does not here denote ships going to Tharshish, is evident from the passage, 1 Kings 22:48, “Jehoshaphat made ships of Tharshish to go to Ophir for gold (i.e, to fetch gold); but they went not, for the ships were broken at Ezion-geber (i.e, on the Arabian gulf).” Wheresoever we may look for Ophir, it was certainly not in Spain, as every one knows, but in the East, that Isaiah, in the opposite direction. The ships that Solomon and Hiram had built ( 1 Kings 9:28) in Ezion-geber were also destined to go to Ophir, therefore could not possibly have been intended for a voyage to Spain (which was reached by the Mediterranean sea), because the way around South Africa was then unknown. The productions, too, which 1 Kings 10:22 tells us the Tharshish ships brought, show beyond dispute that the voyage was not to Tharshish, for though there was plenty of silver in Tharshish, in Spain, there was no gold, and very few apes or peacocks, and but little ivory. Keil now admits this, though he once held the far-fetched idea that Jehoshaphat brought the ships built at Ezion-geber across the isthmus of Suez, transported also over land, to sail thence to Spain. The ships with which the Phœnicians used to go to the distant Tharshish were very large and strong, perhaps the largest trading vessels; and as large ships now that go far are named after the lands they sail to, for instance East-Indiamen, Greenlanders, so in Solomon’s time or that of our author, the Phœnicians called large trading vessels Tharshish ships; it had become a regular name, as the following passages show: Isaiah 2:16; Psalm 48:8. Taking everything into the account then, we can regard the formula: ships went to Tarshish ( 2 Chronicles 9:21) as only a mistaken interpretation of the expression: Tharshish fleet—a mistake that is easily accounted for, as at the time Chronicles was written the voyages of Tyrians as well as of Israelites to Ophir and Tharshish had long ceased, and the geographical position of both places was forgotten by the Jews (Keil). Though the passage under consideration does not say expressly whither the Tharshish fleet was going, 1 Kings 9:28; 1 Kings 22:49 show that Ophir must have been its destination. But much has been written about the situation of Ophir which has been greatly, and is still, disputed (cf. Winer, R-W-B. II. s. 183 sq.; Herzog, Real-Encykl. on the word). This much, however, has been settled by recent researches, that we are to look for it either in India or in South Arabia. In support of India the products named in 1 Kings 10:22, and which are indigenous thereto, have been urged, and appeal has been made to the fact that the ships returned only every three years, which suggests a greater distance than Southern Arabia. But the chief import, gold, which must have been plentiful in Ophir, is not found on the Indian coast, but is met with, first, north of Cashmere. South Arabia, on the contrary, was famed for its abundance of gold, and Asia Minor imported its gold chiefly thence. The תֻכִּיִּים, rendered peacocks by all the old translations, seem even more than the קֹפִים, i.e, apes, to point to India, for they originally came from there (Oken, Naturgesch. der Vögel, s. 625); the ivory too, which is in other places simply expressed by שֵׁן reminds us of India. But as Ophir certainly cannot mean India, we decide, with Ewald and Keil, for South Arabia. The former supposes that Ophir, situated on the south-eastern coast of Arabia, since people made voyages thence to India, included, in common parlance, this latter land, just as the name Havilah, Genesis 10:7; Genesis 10:29, denoted lands that lay still farther east. Probably Solomon’s and Hiram’s ships first went to the original Ophir itself ( 1 Kings 9:27), but later larger ships went farther, and besides the gold of Ophir brought apes, peacocks, and ivory, i.e, Indian products and articles of luxury. We may also suppose that there was even then some commerce between India and South Arabia, and that Indian products reached Ophir, whence the Ophir voyagers brought them to Palestine. This is much more probable than Keil’s supposition, which is that the products in question were African, being brought over to Ophir in the trading which took place between Arabia and the opposite coast of Ethiopia. Though there was a “species of tailed ape” in Ethiopia, there were no peacocks and no sandal-wood. Thenius very unnecessarily supposes that the same writer who wrote 1 Kings 9:27 sq. could not have written this passage, because each passage speaks of the voyage to Ophir in a different manner; whence again the compilatory character of our books must follow. The first account is of the first voyage, and the second account of the later and more extended one.

1 Kings 10:23-27. So king Solomon exceeded, &c. From 1 Kings 10:23-29, by way of conclusion, everything that was to be said of the glory of Solomon is summed up, and at the same time some things not yet mentioned are added. For 1 Kings 10:23-24 cf. 1 Kings 4:29-34. According to the universal custom in the East all, who came to see and hear Solomon brought him presents, and this was repeated “year by year,” so highly had he risen everywhere in consideration. For 1 Kings 10:26 cf. 1 Kings 4:26, and 1 Kings 9:19. In 1 Kings 10:27 silver only is mentioned and not gold (which the Sept. unjustifiably adds here from 2 Chronicles 1:15), because enough had been said already about gold. The great quantity of silver does not necessarily show that there was a silver trade with Tharshish which was rich in that metal, for there was a great deal of silver in Asia: Sardanapalus in Nineveh (see above on 1 Kings 10:21), rich as he was in gold, had ten times as much silver, which he certainly did not get from Spain. The cedar-wood which came from Lebanon was as plentiful there in Jerusalem as common building timber, which was taken from sycamores ( Isaiah 9:10), which did not grow on high mountains but very often in the lowlands of Palestine (Winer, R-W-B. II. s. 62 sq.), and were therefore cheap and easy to be had. The mode of expression is hyperbolical and Oriental, and cannot be taken literally any more than 1 Kings 4:20.

1 Kings 10:28-29. And Solomon had horses brought, &c. Verses28,29 contain supplementary remarks to the account given in 1 Kings 10:26 of Solomon’s war-forces, explaining how he acquired the latter, namely, by sending special merchants to trade with Egypt, which was famous for its breed of horses, and was the country of “horses and chariots” ( Exodus 14:6 sq.;15:1; 2 Kings 18:24; Isaiah 31:1; Jeremiah 46:2; Jeremiah 46:4; Deuteronomy 17:16). מִקְוֶה, which occurs twice in 1 Kings 10:28, is difficult; but it can only mean collection, collexio, multitude ( Genesis 1:9-10; Exodus 7:19; Jeremiah 3:17). If we adhere to the masoretic punctuation we must render it as Gesenius does: “And a number of royal merchants fetched a number of the same (horses) for money;” the passage would thus contain “a kind of play on the word,” which would be here without design or meaning. The Sept. and the Vulgate regard מקוה as denoting locality, and connect it with טמצרים; the departure of horses from Egypt and from Coa (ἐκ Θεκουὲde Coa); but neither the Bible nor any ancient translator mentions a country or town named Coa or Cawe, and yet as a place of trade it could not have been insignificant or unknown. Thenius arbitrarily and incorrectly changes the first מקוה into מִתְּקוֹעַ; Thekoa, some miles from Jerusalem, was not a trading town but a small place situated on a height and inhabited by shepherds (Winer, s. 606). The translation “remainder” (or surplusage) (Ewald) is no better than that given by some Rabbins, woven texture. The second מקוה can have no other meaning than that of the first; it means “collection” each time, i. e, collection of horses, and the passage becomes quite clear, if, leaving the masoretic punctuation, we join the first מקוה to the preceding words, making one sentence of them: “Concerning the bringing of horses out of Egypt, and their collection, the merchants of the king made a collection of them for a certain price.” This shows that the horses were not brought up one by one, but in droves each time. When600 shekels were given for a chariot and150 for a horse, the first price of course included that of the harness for two horses belonging to the chariot, and also that of a reserved horse (see above on 1 Kings 4:26). The single horses at150 shekels must have been riding-horses. We cannot tell the exact amount of this price in our money, as the value of the shekel is not fixed. If, like Winer and others, we compute it at26 silver groschen, 150 shekels would be equal to130 Thlr. [$9750]; Keil agrees with this, but formerly thought, with others, that it only amounted to65 or66 Thlr.; Thenius gives it at100 Thlr. The traders were called “king’s merchants,” not because they had to give an account of their dealings to the king (Bertheau) but “because they traded for the king” (Keil); as such they were respected, and distant kings employed them in procuring horses. The Hittites are not the same as those named in 1 Kings 9:20, but were an independent tribe, probably in the neighborhood of Syria, as 2 Kings 7:6 mentions them as in alliance with the Syrians.

Historical and Ethical

1. In the section before us the delineation of Solomon’s glory reaches its climax. No other king’s reign is treated at such length in our books as that of Song of Solomon, which alone occupies 11 chapters. But this whole historical representation has the same end in view that this section, referring to the promise, 1 Kings 3:13, expresses in the words: “King Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for Wisdom of Solomon,i.e, all conceivable greatness, might, riches, dignity, fame, and splendor were united to such a degree in Solomon (which never happened to any king before or after), that he was looked on as the very ideal of a king throughout the East; and his “glory” became proverbial ( Matthew 6:29; Luke 12:26). The reason that this glory, which here reaches its highest point, is depicted just before the account of his deep fall (chap11), is to be found in the theocratic view of the historian, and Isaiah, in an historicoredemptive relation, of high significance. In the divine economy the Old-Testament kingdom was destined to reach its culminating point in David’s son; but as the old covenant moved generally in the form and covering of bodiliness, visibility, and outwardness, described as σάρξ by the New Testament; so the glory of the Old-Testament kingdom was a visible and external one; its highest point was determined by riches, power, fame, dignity, and splendor. Corresponding with the kingdom of Israel κατὰ σάρκα, it can be but a glory κατὰ σάρκα, i.e, a visible, external, and therefore temporal and perishable, which, like the old covenant, pointed beyond itself, to an invisible, spiritual, and therefore imperishable, eternal glory. The same Old Testament king, under whom the kingdom reached its greatest degree of glory, prepared the way for its gradual decline, and no one preached more powerfully the vanity and nothingness of all temporal splendor than he when proclaiming, it is all vanity ( Ecclesiastes 1:2)! In complete contrast with the Old-Testament glory of Solomon we see the New-Testament glory of the son of David, in the most eminent sense, the true Prince of peace, who had not where to lay his head, and was crowned with praise and honor, not through riches, power, dignity, or splendor, but by the suffering of death; who became perfect through self-abnegation and obedience unto the death on the cross, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of Majesty; Whose Kingdom is everlasting and his glory imperishable ( Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 5:9; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 12:2; Luke 1:33).

2. Among the things related to show the splendor of Solomon’s reign, special mention is made of the throne as the symbol of royal majesty, and at the same time the centre or seat of this glory; and it is expressly added that there was not the like in any kingdom, which no doubt refers principally to the lions. The number of these lions, twelve, has reference, indisputably, to the number of the tribes of Israel above which the king was elevated and over which he reigned, and for that reason the lions stood below him on the steps of the throne. Ewald gives the following as the reason for this symbol, “indisputably because the lion was the standard of Judah.” This, however, does not appear to be so from Genesis 49:9, nor from Isaiah 29:1 and Ezekiel 19:2; and besides, all the twelve tribes could not be ranged under the particular banner of the tribe of Judah. Thenius thinks that the two lions next the throne were “rather the guardians of it,” and the twelve others on the steps represented “the power of the twelve tribes united in one throne.” But the lion is never mentioned as “keeping watch,” and moreover, the signification of those beside the throne could not differ from that of those before and below it. All nations have, from time immemorial, regarded the lion as the king of beasts (cf. the numerous passages of the ancients on this subject, in Bochart, Hieroz. I. ii1), and is therefore a fitting symbol of monarchy, which consists in “reigning and ruling” (see above on 1 Kings 3:9). The lion “is the strongest among beasts” ( Proverbs 30:30-31), and his roaring announces the coming of judgment ( Amos 3:8; Amos 1:2; Revelation 10:3). The two lions at the right and left of the king as he sat on the throne, denote his twofold office of governing and judging. If, then, the entire people are symbolized by the twelve lions, the meaning must be that Israel was the royal people among nations; just as the twelve oxen that bare up the molten sea signified that Israel was the nation of priests (see above in 1 Kings 7:25). The people chosen by God from among all people are a nation of kings and priests ( Exodus 19:6; Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10); just as it culminates, as a priestly nation, in the high-priest, so it does also, as a royal one, in its king. Here we think involuntarily of the throne of Him who is both lamb and lion ( Revelation 5:5-6), who is the Prince of earthly kings, and has made us kings and priests to His Father, God ( Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:6; Revelation 7:10; Revelation 7:17). His people number twelve times twelve thousand (= 144,000), and these are represented by the twice twelve of the elders who stand before his throne ( Revelation 4:4; Revelation 4:10; Revelation 7:4; Revelation 14:1).

Homiletical and Practical

1 Kings 10:14. (a) The glory of Solomon. Wherein it lay (Power, dominion, pomp, splendor, glory, and honor, everything that men wish or desire in this world—all these we see before us in the life of this one man. But the glory of man is as the grass of the field, which fades and withers; truly, the lilies of the field exceed it in glory, for even, &c.—and Solomon himself confessed: All is vanity; I have seen all the works, &c, Ecclesiastes 1:2; Ecclesiastes 2:11; Psalm 49:17-18. The world passes away, &c.). (b) Its significance for us (that we should seek after that other and imperishable glory, prepared for us by him who is greater than Song of Solomon, John 17:24. Scarcely one of many thousands can attain to the glory of Song of Solomon, but to the glory of God we are all called, 1 Thessalonians 2:12; if our life be hidden with Christ in God, then “shall we when Christ,” &c, Colossians 3:3-4. Therefore shall we rejoice in the hope of future glory, and not only Song of Solomon, but in tribulations also ( Romans 5:2-3) for our “light affliction, which is but for a moment,” &c, 2 Corinthians 4:17-18).—Power and dominion. (a) The responsibility involved therein (“to whom much is given, of him shall much be required, and to whom men,” &c, Luke 12:48; singular endowments bring with them singular requirements—authority is power given for the use and benefit of inferiors—wealth is bestowed upon the rich that they may relieve necessity according to their means). (b) The perils connected with it (pride and haughtiness, forgetfulness of God, and unbelief), Psalm 62:11; Psalm 52:9; 1 Timothy 6:9; Matthew 16:26. Therefore envy not the rich and powerful, for they are exposed to many temptations. But godliness with contentment, &c, 1 Timothy 6:6. Würt. Summ.: Devout Christians may have and hold gold and silver, lands and possessions, cattle, in short everything, and with a good conscience, if only they do not misuse them by idle pomp or for the oppression of their fellow-creatures; for they are gifts and favors of God, which he lends them. The silver and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts ( Haggai 2:8; Psalm 50:10). The throne of Song of Solomon, stately and magnificent as it was, is long since crumbled to dust, but His Throne, before whose judgment-seat we must all appear, endures to all eternity.—The man to whom God has given great wealth and high position in the world may indeed dwell in splendor; but every man sins whose expenses exceed his income, or are greater than his position in the world requires. Golden vessels are not necessaries of life, nor do they conduce to greater happiness or content than do earthen and wooden ones. It is the duty and right of a prince to bring an armed force to the defence of the country against her enemies, but prince and people must ever remember what the mighty Solomon himself says: The horse is prepared against the day of battle, but safety is of the Lord ( Proverbs 21:31; cf. Psalm 33:16-19; Isaiah 31:1).

Footnotes:

FN#12 - מֵאַנְשֵׁי הַתָּרִים, on the meaning of this difficult expression, see Exeg. Com. The versions render as follows: Vulg, the men who were over the tribute; Sept, the tribute of those subject; Chald, the wages of the artisans; Syr, simply from the artisans; and so the Arab.]

FN#13 - The ancient versions generally sustain this rendering. The Chald. alone has מַלְכֵי סוּמְכְוָתָא “kings of auxiliary or allied nations,” which must be wrong. The Heb. word עֶרֶב is used Exodus 12:38, Nehemiah 13:3, generally of “a mixed multitude” of aliens attaching themselves to the Israelites; and Jeremiah 25:24, specifically of the mixed races of Arabia Deserta. Hence in the parallel place 2 Chronicles 9:14 we have עֲרָב.]

FN#14 - The Maneh = 100 shekels.]

FN#15 - The Heb. יָדוֹת undoubtedly means arms, and is so rendered by the Syr. The Chald. and Arab. give the sense of the A. V, while the Vulg. and Sept. render literally, hands.]

FN#16 - The ancient version gives without doubt the true sense; so the Vulg, Chald, and Syr. The word סָגוּר is the part. pass. from סָגַר to shut, close, and hence the Sept. version χρυσίῳ συγκεκλεισμένα.]

FN#17 - The Sept. and Chald. adopt the single instead of the collective meaning of אֳנִי and render “a ship.”]

FN#18 - The other ancient versions (except that the Syr. and Arab. has elephants instead of ivory) concur in the sense of these words given in the ancient version; but the Vat. Sept. has instead λίθων τορευτῶν καὶ πελεκητῶν, stones cut and graved. The Vat. Sept. also here inserts the passage omitted in Chap9.]

FN#19 - Ver, 25. [The Sept. render נֵשֶׁק (=armour) by στἀκτήν, oil of myrrh.]

FN#20 - The Vat. Sept. omits the first clause of 1 Kings 10:26, and both recensions add to the verse the first part of4:21. Also instead of1,400 chariots they read4,000 (Alex40,000) mares.]

FN#21 - שִׁקְמִים = συκόμορος, συκάμινος, the mulberry-tree, now rare, but anciently very common in the low-lands of Palestine.]

FN#22 - On the meaning of מִקְוֶה, here translated “linen yarn,” see Exeg. Com. The Sept. and Vulg. have taken it as a proper name.—F. G.]

FN#23 - If we reckon the Thaler at75 cents, 10 Thalers, of course, are $750, and20 millions of Thalers, are $15,000,000. And taking the author’s estimate of values, i.e, supposing the talent to be equal to2,618 Thalers, the666 talents in the text would be equal to $1,306,691.—E. H.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 Kings 10:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/1-kings-10.html. 1857-84.

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