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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

1 Kings 10

 

 

Verse 1

1 Kings 10:1. The queen of Sheba — Probably of that part of Arabia called Sabæa, which bordered upon the Red sea, Hence our Lord terms her the queen of the south, and says she came from the uttermost parts of the earth, (Matthew 12:42,) which answers exactly to Arabia Felix, for it lies south of Judea, is at a great distance from it, and is limited by the ocean. Add to this, that it abounded in all the commodities which she brought, gold, precious stones, and all kinds of spices and fine perfumes, more than Ethiopia, (from whence some have thought she came,) or any country thereabouts. Heard of the fame of Solomon — Probably she heard of his fame by the ships that went to Ophir, for they sailed by her coast, and, in all likelihood, spread his fame there and in all other places where they touched, proclaiming his magnificence, and especially his wisdom, and the glorious temple which he had built, or was building, for the worship of his God, whose praise they set forth as far above all gods. Concerning the name of the Lord — That is, concerning God, the name of God being often put for God; concerning Solomon’s deep knowledge in the things of God. For it is very probable she had, as had divers other heathen, some knowledge of the true God, and an earnest desire to know more concerning him. Indeed, if she came from Arabia, as we see there is reason to think she did, it is not improbable but she was a descendant of Abraham by his wife Keturah, one of whose sons begat Sheba, who seems to have been the first planter of this country. If so, “she might,” as Dr. Dodd observes, “have some knowledge of revealed religion, by tradition at least, from her pious ancestors. And this verse seems more than to intimate that the design of her visit to Solomon was not so much to gratify her curiosity, as to inform her understanding in matters relating to piety and divine worship. And what our Saviour speaks respecting her rising in judgment against the men of that generation, seems plainly to intimate that the wisdom she came to hear was of a much more important kind than that of merely enigmatical questions.” See Calmet’s Comment. and Dict. on the word Sheba, and Saurin’s Discourses, vol. 5. p. 261. She came to prove him with hard questions — Concerning natural, and civil, and especially divine things, that she might not only try whether he was as wise as report made him, but might receive instruction from him.


Verse 2-3

1 Kings 10:2-3. She communed with him of all that was in her heart — Of all the doubts and difficulties wherewith her mind was perplexed. She had liberty to propound whatsoever she desired to be resolved about. Solomon told her all her questions — Answered them to her satisfaction. There was not any thing — which he told her not — There was nothing concerning which she inquired, however difficult, which be did not reveal to her.


Verse 4-5

1 Kings 10:4-5. When the queen — had seen all Solomon’s wisdom — Had fully discovered the wonderful variety of knowledge wherewith he was endowed. And the house that he had built — Or, the houses, the temple and the king’s house, in both which there were evidences of singular wisdom. The sitting of his servants — The order and manner in which his courtiers, or other subjects, (who all were his servants in a general sense,) sat down at meals, at several tables in his court. The attendance of his ministers — Who waited on him at his table, in his chamber, and in his court; as also when he went abroad to the temple or other places. And their apparel — The costliness, and especially the agreeableness of it to their several places and offices. The ascent by which, &c. — The state, pomp, and solemnity with which he went up to the house of the Lord. But the ancients, and some others, translate the words thus: and the burnt-offerings which he offered up in the house of the Lord; under which, as the chief, all other sacrifices are understood. When she saw the manner of his offering sacrifices to the Lord, which doubtless she would not neglect to see, and in the ordering of which she might discern many characters of excellent wisdom, especially when she had so excellent an interpreter as Solomon was, to inform her of the reasons of all the circumstances of that service; there was no more spirit in her — She was perfectly astonished, and could scarcely determine whether she really saw these things, or whether it was only a pleasant dream. Or it may be rendered, There was no more pride, or high-mindedness in her; that is, she was humbled under a consciousness that the riches of her own dominions, and the magnificence in which she herself lived, were not comparable to those of Solomon.


Verse 7-8

1 Kings 10:7-8. I believed not the words — Which were told me concerning thee: they seemed incredible, and above the perfection of human nature. Thy wisdom and prosperity — Hebrew, ושׂוב, vatob, and goodness, may be intended to signify either happiness or virtue. Exceeded the fame which I heard — This was remarkable, for people commonly find things to fall far short of their expectations. Happy are thy men — Thy subjects, especially those that are about thy person, and minister unto thee; who have an opportunity every day of hearing thy wise sayings and discourses. With much more reason may we say this of Christ’s servants: Blessed are they that dwell in thy house; they will be always praising thee.


Verse 9

1 Kings 10:9. Blessed be the Lord thy God — All blessing and praise are due to him, for delighting to honour and advance so worthy a person. To set thee on the throne of Israel — It was God’s special act to make him king rather than his elder brother. To do judgment and justice — To execute just judgment among them, to govern them according to right and equity. Thus she tacitly admonishes Solomon that he was not made king that he might live in ease, and pleasure, and splendour, but for the good of his people. Such views even the wise heathen had, considering civil government as appointed of God, not for the emolument or aggrandizement of the governor, but for the good of society. Thus Aristotle, in a letter to Alexander, exhorts him to keep in mind, that his kingdom was given him by God for the sake of mankind, that he might do them good, and not tyrannise over them.


Verse 10

1 Kings 10:10. She gave the king a hundred and twenty talents of gold, &c. — These magnificent presents show that this queen was exceeding rich: her country, without doubt, abounded in gold at that time, as well as in cinnamon, myrrh, and frankincense, in vast plenty. There came no more such abundance of spices, &c. — For, it seems, the Jews maintained no trade with this country.


Verse 11-12

1 Kings 10:11-12. The navy of Hiram — brought great plenty of almug-trees It is very uncertain what these almug-trees were, or algum-trees, as they are termed 2 Chronicles 2:8, by a transposition of letters. Dr. Waterland renders the expression gum-trees, and Houbigant ligna citra, citron-wood. But Dr. Castell thinks it was the wood called sanctulum, which is proper for all the uses mentioned in the next verse, and is still in India. The king made of the almug-trees pillars for the house — There is nothing said from whence we can form any conjecture what is meant by these pillars or props, or how or where they were applied.


Verse 13

1 Kings 10:13. Solomon gave unto the queen all her desire — By their mutual presents they testified their friendship to each other; wishing by these things to be remembered. Whatsoever she asked, besides what Solomon gave her of his royal bounty — He desired to know what things would be acceptable to her among all the rarities she had seen, and those he bestowed upon her: besides which he added other things of value, which, it is likely, she had not in her own country. Thus they who apply to our Lord Jesus will find him not only greater and wiser than Solomon, but more kind. Whatsoever we ask, it shall be done for us; nay, he will, out of his divine bounty, which infinitely excels royal bounty, even that of Solomon, do for us more than we are able to ask or think. Reader, hast thou no wants? no desires? Wilt thou not apply to him? Ask, and it shall be given thee.


Verse 14

1 Kings 10:14. Now the weight of gold, &c. — The history of the queen of Sheba being ended, the writer returns to give an account of Solomon’s riches and magnificence, which he had begun to set forth before. And first he relates what a vast quantity of gold was brought into his kingdom every year, not only from Ophir, but from other countries, into which, perhaps, the queen of Sheba opened him a way, and particularly from Arabia and Ethiopia, which then were replenished with gold, though exhausted by the insatiable avarice of succeeding ages. Six hundred threescore and six talents — Which amount to about three millions of our money.


Verse 15

1 Kings 10:15. Besides that he had of the merchant-men — Who paid custom for the goods they brought from divers countries. Hebrew, מאנשׁי התרים, meanshee hattarim, from the men, the searchers. Merchants may be so called, because they search for commodities and articles of traffic. Or rather, the gatherers of the king’s revenues are intended, who used to search narrowly into all wares, that the king might not be defrauded of his rights. Of the traffic of the spice-merchants — Or rather, of the merchants in general, as the word רכלים, rochelim, is continually used; for there is no reason why it should be confined to those that traded in spices. Of all the kings of Arabia — Who sent him presents. We must not suppose that these in general were kings of large dominions; most of them were only rulers of cities, and the territories belonging to them, such as were formerly in Canaan, and were anciently called kings. And of the governors of the country — Or, of the land, namely, the land of Arabia; some parts of which were so far conquered, that he had governors of his own placed over them, each of whom was to take care of the king’s revenue in his jurisdiction; and some parts only so far, that they still had kings of their own, but such as were tributaries to him.


Verse 16-17

1 Kings 10:16-17. Solomon made two hundred targets of beaten gold — For pomp and magnificence, and to be carried before him by his guard when he went abroad. The Roman magistrates had rods and axes carried before them, in token of their power to correct the bad; but Solomon shields and targets, to show he took more pleasure in his power to defend and protect the good. Three hundred shields — Smaller than targets. The king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon — Where, it is likely, he kept his most precious treasures.


Verses 18-20

1 Kings 10:18-20. The king made a great throne of ivory — We never read of ivory till about Solomon’s time; who, perhaps, brought elephants out of India, or at least took care to have a great deal of ivory imported from thence; for we read of ivory palaces Psalms 45:9, whose walls were overlaid with ivory; which was more precious than gold in ancient times, as Pliny tells us in many places. And overlaid it with the best gold — Not entirely, so as to cover the ivory, for in that case it might as well have been made of wood; but here and there, and with curious ornaments. Thus, the throne appeared the more beautiful by this mixture of gold and ivory, with which, at due distances, it was studded. It was in the form of a niche, and the top of it was round behind — Making a half circle over his head. It was placed in the porch, mentioned 1 Kings 7:7, which was very magnificent, being both the king’s seat of judgment, and the public audience, where he showed himself either to the nobles, or to the strangers that resorted to him. Here it stood “in the midst of a flight of rich pillars of cedar, curiously carved and covered, or rather inlaid, with gold. The ascent to it was by six steps, each step being supported, on either side, by a small lion, and the arms of the seat with two large ones, as big as life. All these, and even the steps themselves, were covered with ivory and gold.” — Dodd. There was not the like made in any kingdom — That is, in those times there was none to be compared to it: but in after ages there were, perhaps, some equally glorious. For Alhæneus says, “The throne of the Parthian kings was of gold, encompassed with four golden pillars, adorned with precious stones; and that the Persian kings sat in judgment under a golden vine, and other trees of gold, the bunches of whose grapes were made of several sorts of precious stones.”


Verse 21

1 Kings 10:21. It was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon — Comparatively, and about his palace; for it is not to be supposed that all his subjects had so much gold as to make no account of silver. But if gold in abundance would make silver seem so despicable, shall not wisdom and grace, and the foretastes of heaven, make gold seem much more so?


Verse 22

1 Kings 10:22. For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish — Ships that went to Tharshish. For Tharshish was the name of a place, upon the sea, famous for its traffic with merchants, and a place very remote from Judea, as appears from the three years usually spent in that voyage. But whether it was Spain, where in those times there was abundance of gold and silver, as Strabo and others affirm; or some place in the Indies, it is as needless as it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine. These words are here added to give a further account how Solomon came to have gold in such abundance: he trafficked for it in another fleet, besides that which went to Ophir. Once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold, &c. — It is likely a great part of this time was spent in digging for the gold, or in hunting the elephants, apes, and peacocks, and in other transactions of commerce. And apes — The Hebrew word קפים, kophim, is both by the ancients and moderns translated apes; which creature Pliny calls cephus, and says they were seen but once at Rome in his days, and that they came from Ethiopia. And peacocks — These, being so beautiful a bird, might very probably be brought from foreign countries into Judea as a great rarity, there being none there before.


Verses 23-25

1 Kings 10:23-25. For riches and for wisdom — The latter of which he asked of God, who graciously promised to add the former, and did so to a great degree. But what is here said is not to be taken in too strict a sense, but only as intending that he was richer than the kings of the earth in general were at that time. And all the earth sought to Solomon, &c. — That is, all the kings of the earth, as it is expressed 2 Chronicles 9:23; namely, of those parts of the earth, or of the neighbouring countries, and the great men thereof. They came, as the queen of Sheba did, to be acquainted with his wisdom, which the heard was a supernatural gift, and to receive an increase of knowledge thereby. They brought every man his present — a rate year by year — By this conclusion it seems as if the persons here spoken of were tributary to him.


Verse 26

1 Kings 10:26. Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen — Ah! what availed thy boasted wisdom, Solomon, when thou forsookest the only true wisdom, obedience to the commandment of the Lord! Ah! what availed it that thou wast wiser than all the children of the east; that thou couldst speak of trees, from the cedar-tree that was in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop — and of beasts, and of fowls, and of creeping things; when thou forgottest the beginning and the end of wisdom, the fear of the Lord? God had commanded that the kings of Israel should not multiply horses, (Deuteronomy 17:16,) and here we find the wisest of their kings multiplying them to a vast extent! Nor did he stop here, but having disobeyed in one point, he soon proceeded to transgress in another. Contrary to the divine prohibition, he also multiplied wives, and the consequence was, as the Lord predicted it would be in such a case, his wives turned away his heart after their gods. And, shameful to tell! the wise Solomon, who not long before had professed that there was no god in heaven above or in the earth beneath, but the God of Israel, is persuaded by his wives to erect altars to Ashtaroth, to Milcom, to Chemosh, and to Molech, and other abominable idols of the heathen, and that even in the hill before Jerusalem, the city of God, the holy city, joining the altars of devils to the altars of the TRUE and ONLY GOD! O sad change! and shameful stupidity! O shocking blindness! and this found in one of the wisest men! Alas! what is man! and what his best wisdom, when he forsakes the word of the Lord! Jeremiah 8:9. What a striking example have we here, that a wilful departing from the commandments of God even in the smallest point at the beginning, may, and probably will, by degrees, lead into the greatest errors, the foulest crimes, and consequently the greatest misery!


Verse 27-28

1 Kings 10:27-28. The king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones — An hyperbolical expression, signifying a great plenty of it. Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt, and linen yarn — The two chief commodities of Egypt. The king’s merchants received the linen yarn at a price — Agreed on between Pharaoh and Solomon, who gave this privilege to his merchants for a tribute to be paid out of this commodity. Most think byssus, fine linen, is here meant, one of the principal of the Egyptian merchandises.


Verse 29

1 Kings 10:29. A chariot came up — out of Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, &c. — Egypt being then the most famous country in the world for horses and chariots, and all Asia being supplied from thence, Solomon, who possessed, as it were, the gate of Egypt, by being master of that one only passage, the distance between the Red and the Mediterranean sea, took, it seems, an advantage of this, to lay an excessive high tribute on all that were brought out of Egypt that way, to supply Asia and the neighbouring nations; and perhaps he fixed this tribute so high, not only for the sake of gain, but to be a means of preventing the neighbouring nations from increasing their cavalry and chariots of war to too formidable a degree. Poole, however, thinks that this great price is not to be understood as paid for the chariots and horses themselves, but for the lading of the chariots and horses, which, consisting of fine linen and silk, was of great value: and that the king’s custom, together with the charges of the journey, amounted to these sums. And so for all the kings of the Hittites — A people dwelling principally in the northern and eastern parts of Canaan, (Joshua 1:4) the posterity of those Hittites who were driven out by the Israelites, and who afterward increased and grew potent, and, it may be, sent out colonies, after the manner of ancient times, into some parts of Syria and Arabia.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Kings 10:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-kings-10.html. 1857.

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