1 Kings 10: Solomon's Glory
Solomon's palace was very rich and beautiful. Gold was plentiful in Jerusalem in those days. The dishes on the king's table were of gold. Choice wood was brought from distant countries and ivory and also strange things - apes and peacocks. The fame of Solomon's glory and his wisdom spread to all lands.
The queen of Sheba was one of those who heard of Solomon, and she came to see his glory and to ask him hard questions. She came from the south, from a part of Arabia famous for its gold, and she brought to the king gold and a great abundance of spices. She came with her servants and a caravan of camels. At Jerusalem she saw all the beauty of the king's palace and his servants and the way by which he went up to the house of the Lord. It was far more beautiful than she expected. She asked the king hard questions, and he answered them all. She was overcome with wonder; the half had not been told her. And she went back to her own country with rich gifts from the king.
How did Solomon get all these beautiful and costly things? He had made ships on the Red Sea where it reaches up toward Palestine on the south, and Hiram, king of Tyre, sent with Solomon's men some of his ship-men who had knowledge of the sea. They brought gold and choice wood and precious stones. There were also large ships called "ships of Tharshish," which came once in three years with choice things. Rulers of other countries brought Solomon presents or tribute year by year - silver and gold, garments and armor, and spices, horses and mules. Solomon's merchants traded also with Egypt. Many horses came from there, some for Solomon and some to be sold to kings farther to the north and east. In all these ways Solomon gathered riches.
We are told of one very beautiful thing which Solomon made, a great throne of ivory and gold. A throne, you know, is a beautiful chair in which a king sits. Solomon's throne was such a chair with arms, and a back that probably was high and arched over the king's head. There were six steps to the throne; and lions standing by the chair, and on each step at either side. In parts the white ivory showed and in parts it was covered by the yellow gold. There was no throne like it in any kingdom. You will remember what we have learned today about the richness of Solomon's palace and his kingdom, and about his beautiful throne, and the visit of the queen of Sheba, when you hear the Lord's words about "Solomon in all his glory."
A chapter which we have passed over (1 Kings 7) tells us how besides the temple King Solomon built a beautiful palace for himself and "the house of the forest of Lebanon," which was probably so called from its many cedar pillars, and was perhaps an armory adjoining the palace. Hiram, king of Tyre, with his skillful workers, helped Solomon in all his building and also on the sea.
Verses 26-28 of chapter 9 and verses 11 and 22 of chapter 10 tell of the ships which brought Solomon gold and treasure. He made a navy of ships in Ezion-geber, at the head of the eastern arm of the Red Sea, and Hiram's sailors sailed in the ships with Solomon's. Look on your map and see where these ships would go, to Arabian ports and perhaps to the coasts of Africa and India. They brought gold from Ophir, which was probably in Arabia, and "almug trees," which were some choice wood, perhaps sandal wood, and precious stones. There was also "a navy of Tharshish," which means large ships such as the Tyrians used in their long voyages to Tharshish in Spain. These large ships sailed far on the southern seas and brought once in three years gold, silver, and ivory, and apes and peacocks to enrich and beautify Solomon's palace and city.
Our chapter tells us also of Solomon's merchants who traded in spices, and of tribute which the king received from governors of the country, and from kings of neighboring countries (verses 15, 25); it tells especially of the trade with Egypt, from which country great numbers of horses were brought. They came in droves. We might say "strings of horses," but the word is wrongly translated "linen yarn." They came to the king's merchants at a wholesale price, and the merchants supplied the kings of the Hittites to the far north and the kings of Syria to the northeast. From all this traffic much money came to Solomon. Notice especially what is said in our chapter about the abundance of gold. It is mentioned several times, especially the shields of beaten gold which the king hung in the house of the forest of Lebanon and the drinking vessels and other vessels of gold.
Verses 18-20 describe a beautiful throne that Solomon made. Read the description carefully. It is called "a great throne of ivory, and overlaid with the best gold." It was a kind of work which the Greeks also made, the gold decorating the white ivory and covering it only in part. The chair of the throne was raised upon six steps. The throne had stays, in Hebrew hands, in English arms. Figures of lions stood at either side by the arms of the throne and upon the steps. "The top of the throne was round behind," apparently arching overhead.
We have learned enough to see how the fame of Solomon's
riches and wisdom must have gone abroad, and we know something of the
glory which the queen of Sheba saw when she came to visit Solomon. She is
called "the queen of the south." (Matt. 12:42) Her country,
Sheba, was a part of Arabia, famous for its gold. See Ps. 72:15 and Isa.
60:6. Read how the king answered her hard questions, and of her wonder at
all that she saw, and of the presents which she gave to Solomon and which
Solomon gave to her when she went back to her home.
1. What things helped to make the kingdom of Solomon glorious?
2. What treasures came in Solomon's ships? What precious thing was most of all abundant?
3. What queen came as a visitor to Solomon? By what name did the Lord call her? Why did she come? What did she bring?
4. Tell me about Solomon's throne.
Much is said about gold in this story of Solomon. Gold represents the purest, the most precious love for the Lord and for one another, such as existed in the Golden Age, and such as is commanded by the Golden Rule. The state of life represented by Solomon and his kingdom is a state that is full of love for the Lord and for His commandments. The stage is passed when right is done as a hard duty or with only intellectual interest. Intelligence in regard to heavenly things might be represented by silver, but love for them by gold. In Solomon's time gold was abundant and silver was nothing accounted of. (A. 5658; E. 70; H. 115)
We have thought of the Tyrians and other neighboring nations who were helpful to Solomon as representing natural states and faculties that are useful to heavenly life. The queen of Sheba represents such a natural faculty; a natural affection for truth. The Lord called her "the queen of the south," and the south is the quarter in heaven associated with intelligence. He made her a type of those of simple heart who listened gladly to His teaching. The queen of Sheba came with camels, and camels represent understanding of a natural, external kind. She brought gifts to Solomon, representing the contributions of the natural mind to heavenly wisdom. The spices in particular represent the graces of gratitude and humility that give an outward sweetness to heavenly life. The hard questions which the queen brought to Solomon suggest the many questions which cannot be answered by the natural understanding, but are made plain by heavenly wisdom. (A. 3048, and about spices 1171, 10199, 10254)
The wonder of the queen of Sheba at the glory and the wisdom of Solomon pictures the wonder of a natural mind as it opens to the glory and wisdom of spiritual life. It suggests the glad wonder which all persons of good heart must feel when they come into the other world and into the glory and blessedness of heaven. Those who know the most about spiritual things in this world will then say, as the queen of Sheba said, "It was a true report that I heard in mine own land. . . . Howbeit I believed not the words until I came and mine eyes had seen it; and, behold, the half was not told me." (H. 169, 270, 314)
The throne is plainly an emblem of the king's rule. The yellow gold is an emblem of love in perfect rule; the white ivory is its truth and rightness. Teeth with which we examine our food represent principles of right that we accept as standards by which we test what we are asked to believe. The tusks of the elephant represent such principles strongly developed and used to expose evil and to defend the right. Truth is joined with love in perfect rule, especially in the Lord's Divine rule, which Solomon's throne in its highest sense represents. "Justice [which in the Bible sense means love] and judgment are the habitation of Thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before Thy face." (Ps. 89:14; 97:2; E. 297) The lions at the sides and on the steps of the throne are plainly emblems of the Lord's Divine power to carry out the purposes of His love and truth. (A. 5313; E. 253)