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The writer is about to take his leave of Solomon and the glowing memories of his golden reign; and, whether he designed it or not, he has done so in a most dramatically successful manner in this chapter, and especially in the episode, that narrates the ever-memorable visit of the Queen of Sheba, contained in the first twelve verses of this chapter (parallel, 1 Kings 10:1-13).
2 Chronicles 9:1
The parallel shows very little variation on this narrative. In its first verse it adds the words (Authorized Version), "concerning the Name of the Lord" (i.e. "to the glory of God"), after the words, the fame of Solomon. Sheba. This was the name of a descendant of Cush, a Hamite (Genesis 10:7; 1 Chronicles 1:9); also of a son of Joktan, a Shemite (Genesis 10:28; Genesis 1:0 Chronicles h 22); also of a son of Jokshan, Abraham's son by Keturah (Genesis 25:3; 1 Chronicles 1:32). It is quite uncertain who of these constituted, or preponderated in, the country of Sheba here referred to. This is probably Saba, the capital of Yemen, an important province of Arabia, west of the Red Sea, north of the Indian Ocean, and extending upward nearly to Idumaea. The city was reputed splendid, the country wealthy, and long as the most southerly inhabited part of the world. If it were, as is believed, first occupied by Cushites it was afterwards peopled also by Joktanites and Jokahanites, as above. In addition- to the two celebrated allusions to it, ever memorable, see as other references, Job 6:19; Psalms 72:10, Psalms 72:15; Isaiah 60:6; Jeremiah 6:20; Ezekiel 27:22, Ezekiel 27:23; Ezekiel 38:18; Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31. The hard questions consisted in riddles (Judges 14:2) and enigmas and primitive casuistry, in which the Arabians found some considerable portion of their mental gymnastics These, no doubt, bore some mild cousinly relationship to the proverbs and songs of Solomon, and his treasures of botanical and natural history facts (1 Kings 4:29-32). Spices; Hebrew, בְּשָׂמִים, here as also in the parallel. This word is used twenty-one times, and in a slightly varied form (as in the ninth verse of this same chapter) nine more times. It is almost always translated (Authorized Version) by this same word "spice" or "spices" (except Exodus 30:23; 2 Chronicles 16:14; Esther 2:12; Isaiah 3:24). There are other Hebrew words for "spices," such as נְכוֹת (Genesis 37:25; Genesis 43:11), סַמִים (Exodus 30:7), רֶקַח (So Luke 8:2; Ezekiel 24:10); but the "spice" or "spices" designated by our present word, and the exact name or nature of which cannot be certainly pronounced upon, was in great request for domestic, ecclesiastical, funeral (2 Chronicles 16:14), and other purposes, and was a chief export from Arabia, Syria, and Persia. Gold in abundance. Of course, it is not necessary to suppose that the gold that came either now from Sheba, or even from Ophir, was obtained from the immediate region; as seen before, there may have been a special market or emporium for them there. Precious stones. These were used for sacred purposes, and for domestic and dress ornaments, and were graven upon in early times by the Hebrews The chief of those mentioned in the Old Testament are the carbuncle, sardius, topaz (Exodus 39:10; Ezekiel 28:13), diamond, emerald, sapphire (Exodus 39:11); Ezekiel 28:13), agate, amethyst, ligure (Exodus 39:12), beryl, jasper, onyx (Genesis 2:12; Exodus 39:6, Exodus 39:13; Ezekiel 28:13), ruby (Job 28:18; Proverbs 3:15), chrysolite, chrysoprasus (Ezekiel 28:13). The precious stones which the queen brought are likely enough, however, to have comprised other varieties (including the pearl from the Persian Gulf), such as Pliny describes; and see in particular 1 Chronicles 29:2; Ezekiel 27:16; and the art. "Stones, Precious," in Smith's 'Bible Dictionary,' 3.1382. All that was in her heart. The expression simply means all that she had so desired to get information upon, since she had heard of the fame of Solomon.
2 Chronicles 9:2
Nothing hid from Solomon; i.e. nothing obscure to him—no question knotty for Solomon.
2 Chronicles 9:4
The meat of his table (see 1 Kings 4:22, 1 Kings 4:23). Translating our thoughts rather violently into modern language, we might picture the queen inspecting the kitchens of the palace, and remember that the kitchens of an Oriental court did the work, not of an individual "table," but of those of a very large domestic and official retinue; much more these of Solomon now. Keil and Bertheau, however, with others, refer this expression to the set-out of one meal-table (as e.g. that of a modern banquet, wedding breakfast, or the like), where both the abounding lading of the table and the ample variety of the courses, and the rich foreign or home fruits, in season or out of season, and the furnishing and decorating of the table, all come in to add their contribution of effect; and they quote not inaptly our 2 Chronicles 9:20, elucidated by 1 Kings 10:21. This was a daily glory with Solomon's palace-establishment. The immediate connection and the contents of this verse, though difficult, favour this direction of explanation, as will be seen in the succeeding clauses. The sitting of his servants. The word here used (מוֹשָׁב) occurs forty-three times, and is rendered in the Authorized Version thirty-two of these times as "habitation" or "dwelling." Of the remaining eleven times, one or other of those words would be almost the synonym of the word used, and in every ease the rendering "dwelling," if kept to the general idea of a dwelling or resting-place more or less temporary, would not be inappropriate or inconsistent with the evident drift of the connection; only here and in the parallel is the inconvenient rendering "sitting" adopted by the Authorized Version. Hence we disagree with Professor Dr. Murphy's explanation, the sitting, i.e. "in council of his chief officers." What the nature of the location (to use a term least specific) of the servants pointed to here is, nevertheless, still not quite clear. It is evidently placed in some antithesis with the standing (i.e. the standing-place) here rendered 'inadequately or incorrectly, the attendance of his ministers. The attendance, i.e. "the station (מַעֲמָד) (see the four other occurrences of this' word: 1 Kings 10:5; 1Ch 23:28; 2 Chronicles 35:15; Isaiah 22:19). Of his ministers; Hebrew, מְשָׁרְתָיו, participle of a piel verb, שָׁרֵת. This word, in an amazing majority of the hundred occurrences of it, expresses ministry of sacred service of some kind. It may, indeed, be said that the present passage, with only one or two others, are doubtful in this meaning or character of explanation. To our next clause, referring to their apparel, we find in the parallel mention, as here, of the cupbearers, though the matter of their apparel is not included as it is here. Part of the difficulty of the verse arises from the consideration that up to this point the contents of the successive clauses of it may compose possibly enough a sharp graphic description of the daily banquet scene. An apt reference to similar description of Arabian banquets is given in the 'Speaker's Commentary ' as to be found in vol. it. pp. 213-215 of 'Ancient Monarchies.' Our next clause, however, brings us back into difficulty by its reference to Solomon's ascent by which he went up into the house of the Lord (1 Chronicles 26:16 with our Exposition, 'Pulpit Commentary'), apparently so unseasonably; nor are we much helped by reading, with the Septuagint, "the burnt offerings which he offered at the house of the Lord." The obscurity and lack of coherence are not formidable, indeed, and perhaps may be with moderate satisfaction set down again to the account of the occasionally careless selection of the compilers from the material of the older work. Possibly the allusion in our 1 Kings 10:11 to the terraces, or stairs, or highways to "the house of the Lord," and to the king's palace, may hold some clue to the ascent being adverted to here.
2 Chronicles 9:8
The abstinence on the part of the queen in her mention of the Lord God of Israel, and of the Lord thy God, of any indication of a desire that he should become her God, is as suggestive as it is noticeable (compare Hiram's language in 2 Chronicles 2:12).
2 Chronicles 9:9
An hundred and twenty talents of gold. Putting the value of gold at £4 per ounce, the value of one talent would be £5476, making a total of £657,120. Poole makes it £1,250,000; S. Clarke, f720,000. From our 2 Chronicles 9:13, 2 Chronicles 9:14 we learn that in one year Solomon received 666 talents, beside what merchants brought. Any such spice. The parallel has "no more such abundance of spices," and "of spices very great store." The Arabian spices, and their land and even sea borne fragrance, as also the very lucrative trade they created, are often alluded to by historians (see, among many others, Herod; 3.113; Diod; 3.46; Strabo, 16.4, § 19). Much of all this so-termed giving was evidently matter of exchange. The queen got quid pro quo, while 2 Chronicles 9:13 of the parallel (1 Kings 10:1-29.) seems to speak of the other truer giving.
2 Chronicles 9:10, 2 Chronicles 9:11
Either these two verses are misplaced (with their parallel, 1 Kings 10:11, 1 Kings 10:12), or they ought to have, though unstated, some occult bearing on the queen. There are some slight indications pointing to this, and the meaning is perhaps that the terraces, balustrades, stairs (which possibly is the idea in the "ascent," 2 Chronicles 9:4), pillars, etc; made of the wood which Hiram's and Solomon's servants had formerly brought with gold, were the artificial-work wonders which helped to astound the queen. Terraces to the house of the Lord, and to the king's palace. These so rendered terraces were probably stairs, and, as already intimated, may have composed the "ascent" (2 Chronicles 9:4), and explain the mention of it in 2 Chronicles 9:4. The algum trees. This is the Hebrew text order of the lamed and gimel alphabet characters, as the Authorized Version order in the parallel almug is also the order of its Hebrew. The tree is mentioned only six times—three times in Chronicles (2 Chronicles 2:8; 2 Chronicles 9:10,2 Chronicles 9:11) and three times in Kings (1 Kings 10:11, 1 Kings 10:12). Apparently this wood did grow in Lebanon (2 Chronicles 2:8), though we think this not certain. Kimchi thinks it was the bukkum (Arabic word), which Europeans call Brazil wood, and which (Keil) was found in Ethiopia, as well as India. Some think it the sandal-wood of Malabar. Whatever it was, it no doubt was to be purchased at the emporium of Ophir. The intrinsic nature of the wood, and its intrinsically valuable nature, may easily be inferred from its use for the woodwork and sounding-board woodwork of musical instruments like the harp and psaltery. This fact would much incline to the view that the red sandal-wood is what is here called algum. The 'Speaker's Commentary' quotes Max Muller for the statement that the vernacular for this wood in India is valguka. Harps … psalteries
left both here and in the parallel, before the words "men of," etc; in the compound English word chapmen (Authorized Version), shows clearly the construction of this and the following sentence; from the previous verse needs to come the words, after our "beside," "the weight of gold which came," etc. This gold probably came by way of tax payments from the merchant travellers, and as tribute money from the kings of the part of Arabia where the blood was mingled, Jewish and Arabian, and not exclusively and independently Arabian (see the word used in place of our Arabian in the parallel, and Jeremiah 25:24), and from those governors (perhaps in some cases superseding older kings) of adjacent countries, that had become in some part tributary to Solomon. Governors. For this unusual and un-Hebrew word (פַחוֹת) see Ezra 5:6; Haggai 1:1; Nehemiah 5:14. Gesenius mentions Turkish, Persian, and Sanscrit derivations that would well suit it. It is very noticeable that it is employed also by the writer of Kings. It is used of a ruler in the Assyrian empire (2 Kings 18:24; Isaiah 36:9), in the Chaldean (Ezekiel 23:6, Ezekiel 23:23; Jeremiah 51:23), in the Persian (Esther 8:9; Esther 9:3), specially of the Persian governor of Judaea (Haggai 1:1, Haggai 1:14; Haggai 2:2, Haggai 2:21; Nehemiah 5:14, Nehemiah 5:18; Nehemiah 12:26; Malachi 1:8); while Gesenius reads this passage in our present text and its parallel, to speak of governors of Judaea (the country). See also 1 Kings 20:24, where the word is translated (Authorized Version) "captains," and is in the Syrian king's mouth. The word is not used before Kings. It is used by the writer of Kings three times; of Chronicles, once; by Ezra, six times; in Nehemiah, eight times; in Esther, three times; in Daniel, four times; and in the remaining prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Haggai, Malachi, ten times in all. The Authorized Version, out of the whole number of these occurrences of the word, has rendered it "captains" thirteen times; "deputies," twice; and "governors," twenty times.
2 Chronicles 9:15, 2 Chronicles 9:16
Targets … shields. The Authorized Version "target" is unfortunate, though it may with somewhat grim truth represent fact. It was a very large solid shield, originally made of some common material, as basketwork or wood, and covered with leather; these with a plate of gold. The absence of the word "shekel" in each clause, both here and in Kings, leaves it open to us to suppose that the beka, or half-shekel, may be the right word. Now, the maneh (see 1 Kings 10:17), or pound, meant 100 bekas, i.e. 50 shekels. Thus the targets, or shields, had six manehs of gold to their plating each, and the lesser bucklers three manehs each. On the estimate that the shekel weighed 9 dwt. 3 gr; since the maneh weighed fifty shekels, the gold to a shield (target) may be put at something over 11 lbs. troy. The house of the forest of Lebanon; i.e. an armoury (see 1 Kings 7:2-5; 2 Samuel 8:7; Song of Solomon 4:4; Isaiah 22:8). Shishak took these when he conquered Jerusalem (1 Kings 14:26).
2 Chronicles 9:17-19
It is not necessary to suppose that the throne was made of solid ivory (Psalms 45:9; Amos 3:15; Amos 6:4), or that the overlaying gold concealed the ivory, whether more or less of it. The parallel adds that "the top of the throne was round behind" (1 Kings 10:19). Comparing also the two accounts, it would appear that there were twelve lions on each side of the throne, i.e. two to each step. When it is said that there were two lions standing by the stays (or, arms) on each side of the sitting-place, we may easily imagine, from ancient modelled thrones, that of them the arms were themselves "no small part." It is remarkable that the parallel does not take cognizance of the footstool. The lion is, of course, as natural a symbol as it is an old one of sovereign power and place; and the use of the lion and the number of them, reminding of the tribes of Israel, were specifically justified to the people, whose oracles contained such words as those in Genesis 49:9; Numbers 23:24; Numbers 24:9. Josephus tells us that a golden bull supported the seat of the throne. If so, it is remarkable that the statement should be omitted in both of our Old Testament narrations. The dimensions of the throne we might have looked for, but they are not given. That they were well proportioned to the height, marked by six steps, may be taken for granted.
2 Chronicles 9:20
The house of the forest of Lebanon, The circumstance of the vessels of this house being mentioned in such close connection with the drinking-vessels of Solomon, is another indication of the close connection of the buildings themselves (1 Kings 7:1, 1Ki 7:2-5, 1 Kings 7:6, etc.); also that these" vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon" were like Solomon s drinking-vessels, infers the use of the apartments of the house for social or, at any rate, state occasions.
2 Chronicles 9:21
To Tarshish. The parallel has, in both clauses of its verse (1 Kings 10:22), "ships of Tarshish." The order of the words in the former clause of our present verse, that compels us to read, "going to Tarshish," certifies the correct meaning. The word "Tarshish" (the subsequent Tartessus) covered a district in South Spain, as well as named a town and river, and stretched opposite the coast of Africa. Both coasts were beneath Phoenician rule, and a voyage to Tarshish would most naturally mean calling at many a port, and many an African port, from one and another of which all the imports here spoken of would be obtainable. The meaning of the Hebrew root of Tarshish is "to subjugate." The town lay between the two mouths of the river Baetis, now Guadal-quiver. Gesenius thinks that the writer of Chronicles says, in ignorance, "to Tarshish." and that the ships went to Ophir! These passages do not say that the voyage, whatever it was, took three years; much less that that length of time was necessary. Whether voyages were in Solomon's time made from the Red Sea, circumnavigating Africa, into the Mediterranean, is not certain. If they were such voyages, taken at a sauntering pace, with calls at many ports and easygoing delays, they may easily have consumed as long a space of time as three years! The theory that Tarshish was Tarsus in Cilicia is easily and conclusively negatived. The names in Hebrew of "ivory, apes, and peacocks" have been said to be of Indian origin. This is far from proved, and, as regards the first two, may be said to be sufficiently disproved. But if it all were so, still the fact that the Hebrew names were of an Indian language derivation would go very short way to prove that the Hebrew people got the things represented by them direct, or at all, from India. Ivory; Hebrew, שֶׁנְחַבִּים. The Authorized Version rendering "ivory" occurs ten times in the Old Testament, having for its original the Hebrew שֵׁן (1 Kings 10:18; 1Ki 22:39; 2 Chronicles 9:17; Psalms 45:8; So 5:14; Psalms 7:4; Ezekiel 27:6, Ezekiel 27:15; Amos 3:15; Amos 6:4). In all these cases, two of them being in closest juxtaposition with the present and its parallel occasion, the word speaks of ivory that is being used, i.e. as though it were manufactured material or ready for manufacture. But in our passage and its parallel, where the different word given above is found, it is manifest that it speaks of the material, so to say, in the rough, as just "tooth or tusk of—;" but, further, what the חַבִּים is is not yet ascertained. It is not a word known in the Hebrew vocabulary. Gesenius finds the Sanscrit ibhas, which signifies an "elephant;" Canon Rawlinsen finds in some Assyrian inscriptions a word habba, used of both elephant and camel, but probably having for its generic signification "a great animal;" Keil (on the parallel) finds a Coptic word, eboy, the Latin elephas, to which he prefixes the Hebrew article ה. The Targum Jonathan shows at once שֵׁן־דּפִיל. Gesenius, in his 'Thesaurus,' calls also timely attention to Ezekiel 27:15, where we read, "They brought thee a present, horns of ivory and ebony" (Hebrew, Chethiv, וְהָובְנִים; Keri, קַרְנוֹת שֵׁן וְהָבְנִים). But no use of "ebony" happens to be mentioned in the connection of our present passages or subject. Thus it will be seen that no little ingenuity has been employed to hunt down this little word, though as yet not quite successfully. More may be seen in Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible,' 1.906. Apes; Hebrew, קופִים. Conder says, "This word is identical with the name of the monkey in Tamil." Keil connects it with the Sanscrit kapi, but does not believe, with Gesenius, that the animal came from India, but Ethiopia. In a valuable note in the' Speaker's Commentary' we read, "It is found" (not stated where) "that the word was an Egyptian word, signifying a kind of monkey, in use in the time of Thothmes II; i.e. about the time of the Israelites' exodus." (For Herodotus's testimony respecting ivory and apes in North Africa, see his 'Hist.,' 4.91.) Peacocks; Hebrew, תֻּכִּיִּים. Conder says a Tamil word, tokei, means "peacock." Keil proposes to consider it one of the later Romans' luxurious delicacies, aves Numidicae, from Tuoca, a town in Mauretania or Numi-alia. Some translate it "guinea-fowl," and some "parrots." The peacock did not belong to Africa, yet still it may have been purchaseable at some port there.
2 Chronicles 9:22, 2 Chronicles 9:23
All the kings of the earth; i.e. of the laud of tributary sovereignties, from Euphrates to the borders of Egypt, and to the Philistines (1 Kings 4:21; also note Genesis 15:18; Exodus 23:31; Numbers 22:5; Joshua 1:4; 2 Samuel 10:16).
2 Chronicles 9:24
Every man his present; Hebrew, מִנְחָתי; which word represents the treats, paid partly in money, partly in kind (2Sa 8:2; 2 Kings 17:3, 2 Kings 17:4; and the parallel). A rate year by year; Hebrew, דְּבַר־שָׁנָח; which might be simply rendered, "a yearly thing."
2 Chronicles 9:25
Four thousand stalls. Not forty thousand, as by error in 1 Kings 4:26. The parallel mentions one thousand four hundred as the number of the chariots (2 Chronicles 1:14). Both agree in twelve thousand as the number of horsemen. Chariot cities (1 Kings 9:19; 2 Chronicles 1:14). Some of the horse and chariot depots were kept near the king, but the rest in those specially chosen and prepared cities, which might be nearest or fittest against time of war-need.
2 Chronicles 9:27
The foundations of the evil of exceeding metropolitan centralization were being too surely laid now. Silver … sycomore trees (see 1 Chronicles 27:28; 2 Chronicles 1:16).
2 Chronicles 9:28
The parallel mentions horses from Egypt only, but adds that "linen yarn" was brought. The all lands alluded to with us, would manifestly include Armenia (Ezekiel 27:14) and Arabia. The parallel also, in its 2 Chronicles 9:29, states the prices of a chariot from Egypt as "six hundred shekels [qu. bekas] of silver" (i.e. about either £90 or £45); and of a horse for the cavalry, perhaps, not for the chariot, as "one hundred and fifty shekels [qu. bekas] of silver" (i.e. £22 10s. or £11 5s; estimating the shekel as worth three shillings with us). Other estimates (see 2 Chronicles 1:17) would make the prices £70 and £17 (see our Exposition, 2 Chronicles 1:15-17).
2 Chronicles 9:29
Nathan the prophet … Ahijah the Shilonite … Iddo the seer. For these original authorities of the history, see our Introduction. The present quotation of the name of Ahijah in connection with his work, and the brief allusion to himself in our 2 Chronicles 10:15, are the only appearances of Ahijah in Chronicles. He and the importance of his work are clear enough from 1 Kings 11:28-40; 1 Kings 14:1-20. As the compiler of Chronicles evidently by a law omits any even reference to the defection of Solomon, it is natural that the name and special ministry of Ahijah should fall into the shade with him. Uniformly it is observable in Chronicles that the personal is not enlarged upon where it is not directly and indispensably ancillary to the ecclesiastical and national history. On the other hand, the writer of Kings does not once mention Iddo the seer, whereas we read of him again twice in Chronicles (2 Chronicles 12:15; 2 Chronicles 13:22).
2 Chronicles 9:1-31
A study in the matter of fame.
The first twelve verses of this chapter—a chapter which otherwise offers little homiletic matter—put before us a very favourable instance of the legitimate operation of a great force in this world, the force called fame. It may sometimes be more pleasantly viewed under the description and title of an attraction, but it is a force under any circumstances, and often a very great one. The instance before us is a "favourable" one, because it is exhibited and it is occupied in matter which we are glad to think of, and to think of as availing itself of whatever advantage may lie within reach. And its "operation" is "legitimate," because there is nothing in the motives and methods brought into play in the effective short history on the page but what we readily sympathize with. These even add interest to the main subject. The instances of the action of fame in unfavourable matter may perhaps seem to preponderate; but perhaps, also, this may rather seem to be the case than really be so. Notice—
I. SOME GENERAL FACTS CHARACTERIZING THE ACTION OF FAME.
1. It is in fame to travel the longest distances.
2. It travels at no appreciable expense.
3. The greater distance absolutely lends generally the greater bulk.
4. The travel is swift, silent, and very difficult to track.
5. It may serve great and useful ends, as in the present instance, and in the greater instance involved in the history of the Wise Men of the East.
6. The fame of a person or of some exploit travels and spreads in obedience to what seem to be almost principles in human nature—the love to hear and to tell in proportion to the novelty and the strikingness for any reason of the tidings in question.
II. THE PARTICULAR FACTS THAT CHARACTERIZED THIS INSTANCE OF FAME.
1. It was the fame of wisdom. The picture suggested to our mental vision is most interesting and most unusual. For a moment the Solomon of Scripture is the Socrates of Greece. For great stress is laid on the queen's communing with Solomon of the things in her heart, and questioning him on them. The wonders of human life individually and of human history may have been debated. The casuistry of those days may have been very real and perplexing, even though to our day it should seem trifling and simple. It is emphatically said that the queen laid herself out to prove Solomon with hard questions.
2. The fame was also that of knowledge and what we might call learning. Elsewhere we read of Solomon's knowledge of natural history, and of his amazing command by memory of proverbs.
3. It was the fame of wealth, splendour, magnificence; and these not lavished altogether upon himself.
4. And not least, it was the fame of one on whom rested supereminently the blessing of the Lord his God. The queen, by whatsoever means, and these are not altogether hard to imagine, had learnt of the delight that God took in Solomon and his throne and his people, inextricably and prophetically one. Whether she knew more or less, much or but very, very little, of the relation of earth to heaven, of the dependence of man on God, and of the practice of a reasonable, intelligent, and acceptable worship of him, it is evident that she recognized and rejoiced in the fact that she had come to see a man on whom the Spirit of God rested.
III. THE CHARACTER, AT LEAST IN SOME FEATURES OF IT, ON WHICH THE FAME OF SOLOMON TOOK SUCH EFFECT.
1. The Queen of Sheba was one of those who have an ear to hear. This does not mean an ear to hear necessarily everything. It does not mean an ear to hear the loudest sound or the nearest sound. It does mean an ear opened to hear the most important sounds, though they may be very distant, or very high, or from deepest depth. It means a discerning, instinctively selecting, discriminating ear.
2. She had an earnestly inquiring disposition. Suggestions are often the best of thoughts, as sketches are often the best of pictures, and as seeds have all growth, flower, fruit, concealed in them. We can follow here the birth from a suggestion of thought, resolve, patient, long expectation, faith in her journey's reward, and all the final realization vouchsafed to her enterprise. How many sounds enter the ear which might well waken us I How many suggestions proffer activity for the powers and fruit for the life within us, and fall like chilled flowers, withered fruit-settings, because of the barren nature, the absolute uninquiringness of our disposition I The best seed asks soil, and good soil; the highest thoughts ask prepared minds; and the purest truth, pure hearts.
3. The queen was willing to expend labour, to endure fatigue, to exercise long patience, in order to satisfy herself as to the trustworthiness and the very facts of the fame of Solomon. Labour, fatigue, and patience were all worthily encountered. The object was worth them, even though it were no greater and higher than it was. It was far greater and higher than the objects which often exert far greater attraction for men, when for them, being things destitute of any heavenward aspect whatsoever, they will rise up early, go to rest late, and eat the bread of sorrow continually.
4. When the queen had seen and heard Solomon, and had satisfied herself of all, she feels no envy, seeks no points of detraction, suspects no dements of weakness, but gives to all the display her heartiest, most unaffected praise and congratulation. She can make the prosperity and blessedness of others joy and matter of thanksgiving for her own heart. She can genuinely rejoice with those who rejoice—that rarer thing, even, than to weep with those who weep! And, after bestowing her lavish Eastern gifts, can return to her home, alike wiser and happier. Amid all the dim light of knowledge, and dimmer light of religion, of faith, and of love, we cannot doubt that we have an example in this woman of some of the best qualities possible to human nature; of a large mind, a noble and pure heart, of generous apprehensions of faith and love, and of—in one word—a graciousness that cometh only from above.
IV. THE CHIEF LESSONS OF THIS HISTORY FOR OURSELVES. The history is referred to by our supreme Teacher himself (Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31). His powerful reference to it is to point us to a lesson for good and timely example and imitation.
1. We are to seek; to seek earnestly; to seek simply, purely, and without envy; to seek with labour and fatigue, with patience and faith, with strong expectation and love unfeigned; and to seek, with full, ungrudging gift, his wisdom, his knowledge, his surpassing and most real splendour, and his solution of all our hard questions. The very existence of the example declares and pronounces its claim upon us. Its look, its tone, its matter, all speak forth its meaning.
2. But we are pointed, not merely to a kindly lesson and attractive example, but to a forcible warning. For if we will not follow, do not follow, the Queen of Sheba, her example will follow us, even to the pursuing of us, to the great judgment! She will condemn us, whose expectation, and effort, and interest, and liberal generosity were all inflamed by the fame of Solomon, while all the fame of Christ fails to waken our zeal. Hearts are cold. Effort is feebleness itself, or even as nought. Patience is intolerable. Fatigue cannot be contemplated. Gold must be hoarded, and Christ and heaven must be lost; while she, of dim ages and dim knowledge, and but most broken rays of revelation, shall, because she used them to the best, rise up in the judgment and condemn those whose privileges and opportunities were immense, immeasurable! Warning and lesson both are pressed upon us by the "Greater than Solomon," the infinitely greater! Who will not wish to eschew the condemnation of which he is here warned? Who will not be guided and attracted by the lesson which is here offered to him?
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
2 Chronicles 9:1-12
Solomon in all his glory.
Nothing so strikingly illustrated the glory of Solomon as the visit of the Queen of Sheba, coming from "the uttermost parts of the earth to hear his wisdom," conferring great gifts upon him and receiving valuable presents in return (see Matthew 12:42). We have, among many things—
I. ISRAEL FULFILLING ITS FUNCTION, viz. magnifying the Name of the Lord. One great end, the great end of its existence as a nation, was to bear witness to the Name and character of Jehovah. By the wisdom and the energy combined with the piety of Solomon, this was being accomplished. The works of the Lord were known and celebrated even in remotest lands.
II. GOD FULFILLING HIS WORD TO HIS SERVANT SOLOMON. He promised him wealth and honor, inasmuch as he had asked for something better than these (see 2 Chronicles 1:11, 2 Chronicles 1:12). In this most gratifying episode Solomon must have felt that the promise made him at Gibeon was graciously redeemed. So shall we find also. To those that seek first the kingdom of God he ensures all needful earthly good, and they may count confidently that he will make good his word (see Matthew 6:33).
III. THE TRUE BLESSEDNESS OF POSSESSION—TO COMMUNICATE. Solomon had great knowledge, large faculty, much penetration, as well as extensive worldly wealth. He probably had some enjoyment in the consciousness of their possession. But he found a better and wiser use of them in communicating to others. When he enlightened the mind (2 Chronicles 9:2) and enriched the hands (2 Chronicles 9:12) of the queen, he was then and thus experiencing the true excellency of possession. It is not as we are able to retain, but as we succeed in employing and in imparting our wealth, whether of truth or treasures, that we are really and truly rich (Acts 20:35).
IV. THE WORTH OF WISDOM. The queen was no doubt partly prompted by curiosity to see the magnificence of Solomon; but what largely induced her to take that long, tedious, expensive journey was her desire to learn what "the wise man" could teach her. She desired "to commune with him of all that was in her heart" (2 Chronicles 9:1), and she did so; and she gathered from him a great store of knowledge and of truth. She doubtless learned for the first time the fundamental truths of religion—perhaps also the elements of pure morality. It is probable that she went back to her own country mentally and even spiritually enriched far beyond her highest expectations. As she crossed the desert a second time she would feel that she had been repaid a thousand times for all her toil and outlay. Wisdom is always worth our purchase, whatever we may expend upon it. "Buy the truth," even though it cost much in travel, in money, in patient laborious study, even in fellowship and friendship. It is well worth while to "sell all that we have" in order to become possessed of "the pearl of great price," heavenly wisdom, the knowledge which is eternal life (Matthew 13:46; John 17:3). Many earnest pilgrims have traversed land and sea, many anxious students have searched books and inquired of sacred teachers, many hungering and thirsting souls have wrought and wrestled in thought and prayer for many years, that they might find rest in truth, that they might find a home for themselves in the knowledge of the living God. And when they have found what they sought (see Matthew 7:7, Matthew 7:8), they have gladly and gratefully acknowledged that the blessedness of acquiring heavenly wisdom is a most ample recompense for all they have expended in its pursuit. Wisdom is more precious than rubies; it is the absolutely incomparable good (Proverbs 3:15).—C.
2 Chronicles 9:4-6
The Queen of Sheba was completely overwhelmed by what she saw at the court of Jerusalem. When she had seen and heard everything there was to see and hear, "there was no more spirit in her." She was "astonished with a great astonishment." She had not credited what she had been told (2 Chronicles 9:6); but she found that there was a great deal more to find than anything that had been described. What she realized altogether surpassed her anticipation. Her experience was very remarkable of its kind, but in this particular it was by no means exceptional. We have much to do with the unimaginable. It meets us or awaits us in—
I. THE MATERIAL CREATION. What wholly unanticipated wonders have been disclosed by the advance of human science! The men of remote generations had not the faintest notion of the powers we have discovered to reside in the material universe. And what still undiscovered forces await our inquiry and investigation as we patiently plod on in the paths of knowledge! Surely one-half hath not been told us or imagined by us.
II. OUR HUMAN EXPERIENCE. We have our expectation concerning the life that is before us; but it is very little like the reality, as experience will prove. Many things we may picture to ourselves which will find no fulfilment; but many other things there are, of which we have no discernment, that will find their place on the page of our biography. Of these some are unexpected sorrows—losses, disappointments, separations, struggles—of which we can form no idea; others are unanticipated blessings-comforts, relationships, joys, triumphs—exceeding and excelling our hopes. We do not anticipate, for good or evil, one-half of the bright or dark reality.
III. THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD. "Eye had not seen, nor ear heard, nor had it entered into man's heart to conceive" one-half of "what God had prepared for them that love him." No man could or did imagine that such wealth of grace and goodness as that which the gospel of Christ contains would be brought to us by the Anointed of God, would be purchased for us by a Saviour's sacrifice, would be pressed upon us by a heavenly Father's urgent and persistent love.
IV. THE GLORY WHICH IS TO BE REVEALED. In that "land of great distances' we are one day to traverse, in that home of love in which we are soon to dwell, what unimaginable good is in reserve! What joy and what glory; what rest and what activity; what realization and what hope; what knowledge of God and what pursuit of that knowledge; what royalty and what service; what purity and what progress; what unanticipated and inconceivable blessedness to satisfy but not satiate the soul!—C.
2 Chronicles 9:13-20, 2 Chronicles 9:27
Gold and silver.
The chronicler who records these events of Solomon's reign dwells upon the abundance of gold and silver as one who takes a delight in his story. And there was something in which to triumph, if not to rejoice; for it spoke of a certain excellency and strength which has its own value. But what was (or is) the value of it? We may consider the extent to which the plentifulness of silver and gold is—
I. A SOURCE OF PRESENT GRATIFICATION. Undoubtedly Solomon, his courtiers, and his subjects did find a pleasure in the fact that all these objects were "of beaten gold," that gold and silver met their eye everywhere. At first that pleasure may have been keen enough. But it was one of those joys that pall and pass with time; familiarity with it made it to lose its charm; it must have become less delightful as it became more common, until it became literally true that "it was not anything accounted of" (2 Chronicles 9:20). Splendid surroundings are pleasurable enough at first, but their virtue fades with the passing years and even with the fleeting months; and it is not long before that which seemed so brilliant and promised so much enjoyment is "not accounted of" at all.
II. A LASTING ENRICHMENT. Abundance of material wealth often proves a transient good. In the nation it becomes a prey for the spoiler, a temptation to the neighbouring power that can come up with a victorious army and go back with a well-stored treasury (see 1 Kings 14:25, 1 Kings 14:26). In the man it often allures the fraudulent adventurer and becomes his possession. No one can be sure that he will hold what he has gained. "Securities" are excellent things in their way, but they go down before some of the forces which no finite power can control.
III. A REAL ENLARGEMENT. Great wealth does not go far to enrich a nation when it does nothing more for it than provide targets and shields, drinking-vessels and ivory thrones overlaid with gold with golden footstools:—nothing more than multiply splendours about the royal palace. When it promotes healthful and remunerative activities among the people, when it facilitates and quickens the expenditure of profitable labour in agriculture, in seamanship, in manufacture, in art, in literature, in worship, then it is really and truly serviceable. So with individual men. Wealth that only ministers to luxury does very little good to its owner. But when it enables a man to put forth mental and physical powers that otherwise would slumber for lack of opportunity, when it stimulates to worthy and elevating enterprise, when it opens the door of usefulness and helpfulness, then it is a blessing indeed, a real and true enlargement.
IV. A SPIRITUAL PERIL. Serious and strong indeed are the Master's words (Mark 10:23-25). But they are amply verified by human history, both national and individual. Wealth tends to luxury; luxury to indulgence; indulgence to deterioration; deterioration to ruin. Much gold and silver may be attractive enough; but they need to be well fortified with sacred principles who would stand the test of them, and be quite unscathed by them.
V. PICTORIAL OF A WEALTH THAT IS TRUER AND BETTER. ][t is possible to be endowed with those resources that make rich and that add no sorrow thereto; it is possible to be "rich toward God;" to have treasures within our keeping which the strong thief of time has no power to steal. These are to be had of the ascended Lord. He counsels us to buy of himself "gold tried in the fire, that we may be rich." Of him we may gain the riches of a reverence that ennobles, a faith that saves, a love that blesses and beautifies, a hope that strengthens and sustains, a joy that "satisfies and sanctifies" the soul.—C.
2 Chronicles 9:21-31
Grandeur without godliness.
These words and those that precede them are as suggestive by reason of what is absent from them as by that which is contained in them. They are significant of—
I. GRANDEUR WITHOUT GODLINESS. The historian is drawing his records of the reign of Solomon to a close; and, in taking his view (or his review) of it, he has much to say of the splendours of his throne and of his surroundings; of the multitude of his horses and chariots, with their stalls and stables; of his store of gold and silver; of his apes and peacocks; of his ships and his cedars; but he says nothing of his service of Jehovah; nothing of the gratitude he showed to God for the very bountiful blessings he had bestowed upon him, and the high estate to which he had raised him, and the special gifts of mind with which he had endowed him. Hem there is a painful absence, a silence that speaks only too forcibly. When Solomon came to review his own life and to examine his own career in the light of early influence and special privilege, he must have felt constrained to be silent, or, if he spoke at all, to use the language of confession. There had been much grandeur but little godliness in his reign. And what had been the proved value of it?
1. The delight it had ministered to him had been of a less noble and less elevating kind, if not actually ignoble and injurious.
2. It bad led his mind away from sources of joy which would have been far worthier in themselves and far more beneficial in their influence.
3. It had raised a standard of excellency before the eyes of his subjects which can have had no enlarging and elevating effect upon their minds.
4. It must have awakened the cupidity of surrounding sovereigns and the envy of many among his subjects.
5. It must have been in painful, not to say guilty, contrast with much poverty in many hundreds of Hebrew homes.
6. It entailed a heavy penalty on the people in the shape of burdensome taxes. Grandeur without godliness is a serious sin and a profound mistake. It is as guilty as it is foolish. And so we find the man who "passed all the kings of the earth" in wealth and in a certain order of wisdom (2 Chronicles 9:22), going down into fault and failure because he lost that "fear of God" which he ought to have understood was "the beginning of wisdom." Unfaithfulness to the principles he learned in youth sent him down into his grave "prematurely old," his kingdom weakened, his character corrupted, his reputation bearing upon its face a dark and ineffaceable stain. How unspeakably preferable is—
II. SIMPLICITY AND SACRED SERVICE. Rather than have grandeur without godliness, who would not live in obscurity with a name that does not travel beyond his "native hills," in a home unfamiliar with ivory and gold, living on homeliest fare and dressed in plainest raiment, with the love of the heavenly Father in the heart, the sense of his abiding favour in the soul, Christ's happy and holy service for the heritage of the life, and his nearer presence the promise of the future? Before honour is humility, before grandeur is godliness, before gold and silver is a noble and a useful life.—C.
HOMILIES BY T. WHITELAW
2 Chronicles 9:1-12
Solomon's queenly visitor.
I. HER JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM. (2 Chronicles 9:1.)
1. The country whence she came. Sheba. Not Meroe, or Ethiopia, as Josephus ('Ant.,' 8.6. 5), Grotius, and others say, following Abyssinian legend; but Sabaa, a country in Arabia Felix. Its capital Saba, or Mariaba, still exists under the name Marib, six days east of Sanaa. The district was extremely fertile, and abounded in frankincense, gold, and precious stones (Jeremiah 6:20; Ezekiel 27:22; Isaiah 60:6; Psalms 72:15). Its inhabitants had become, through extensive commerce, among the most prosperous of Arabian tribes. The caravans of Sheba brought costly products to the markets of the world—to Tyre, Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia (Job 6:19; Ezekiel 27:22). That a high degree of civilization prevailed from an early period in South Arabia is attested, not only by the so-called Himarytic inscriptions found in that region, in which the name Sheba frequently occurs, but by the above-mentioned ruins of Marib, which, according to Arab tradition, was destroyed, probably in the second century after Christ, by the bursting of a great dam in the upper part of the valley (Ritter). Arabian tradition, more communicative than Scripture concerning this queen, names her Balkis, and makes her a wife of Solomon (Koran, 'Sur.,' 27).
2. The occasion of her journey. The fame of Solomon. In 1 Kings 10:1-29. i the words, "concerning the Name of Jehovah," are added; but whether inserted by the author of Kings or omitted by the Chronicler cannot be determined. If the latter, they were probably intended to suggest that Solomon's fame rested chiefly on his temple-building for the Name of Jehovah (2 Chronicles 6:10), which showed him to be pre-eminently endowed with wisdom (2 Chronicles 2:12). (For other explanations, see Exposition.) There is reason in the conjecture that Solomon's voyages to Ophir were, in part at least, the means of extending Solomon's fame and bringing it to the ears of the queen.
3. The object of her visit. "To prove Solomon with hard questions." It is hardly supposable that the queen simply aimed at a trial of wit between herself and Solomon in propounding riddles, resolving enigmas, and untying word-puzzles, such as, according to Menander and Dins (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 8.5. 3), Solomon once had with Hiram, and such as in ancient times formed a common pastime with the Arabs. The "hard questions" doubtless related to deep and important problems in religion and life. The serious words addressed by her to Solomon (1 Kings 10:7, 1 Kings 10:8) make this the most plausible hypothesis. Great, rich, cultured, and powerful as she was, she was obviously troubled at heart about the solemn mystery of existence, and wished to have her doubts resolved, her questions answered, and her anxieties allayed by one who seemed specially upraised as an embodiment and teacher of wisdom.
4. The grandeur of her train. Attended by "a great company" of followers, courtiers, and servants, as well as by a numerous cavalcade of camels bearing the products of her country—gold, spices, and precious stones—intended for presents to Solomon (cf. Genesis 43:11), this royal lady, setting forth in search of wisdom, accomplished her long and painful journey, and eventually reached Jerusalem.
II. HER INTERVIEW WITH SOLOMON. (1 Kings 10:2-8.)
1. The wisdom she heard. "Of all that was in her heart she communed with Solomon; and Solomon told her all her questions." If these did not include gravissimas et sacras quaestiones, i.e. questions relating to the mysteries of religion and the worship of God, one fails to see why they should exclude these, as has been suggested (Keil). That they concerned not metaphysical problems may be conceded. The story bears upon its surface that the wisdom she chiefly inquired after and Solomon principally discoursed about was that whose beginning is the fear of the Lord, and whose end is the keeping of his commandments (Psalms 111:10; Proverbs 1:7)—that which concerned the dignity and glory of human life, and promoted the attainment of human happiness (Proverbs 2:2-12; Proverbs 3:13-18; Proverbs 4:5-13; Proverbs 9:9-12). But whatever her queries were, they were all answered. None were too abstruse or recondite for this Heaven-endowed king to explain.
2. The splendour she beheld. She saw the wisdom of Solomon embodied in his works as well as heard it distilling from his lips. "The house that he had built"—not the temple, but the palace, which had occupied thirteen years in construction, and upon which he had lavished all that the architectural and decorating arts of the time, assisted by his enormous wealth, could procure—this royal residence which, in magnificence, rivalled, if it did not eclipse, the dwelling of Jehovah, was locked upon with wonder and astonishment. In particular she was fascinated by the splendour of the royal table.
(1) "The meat of his table," i.e. the variety and sumptuousness of the fare, perhaps also including the costliness and beauty of the vessels in which it was served (1 Kings 10:20; cf. 1 Kings 10:20); "the sitting of his servants," i.e. of his high officials at the royal table (Bertheau, Bahr)," or "the places, appointed in the palace for the ministers of the king" (Keil); "the attendance of his ministers, either the standing, i.e. waiting, of his servants at the table (Bertheau, Bahr), or, as above, the places appointed for them in the palace (Thenius, Keil); the apparel of his attendants, which would no doubt be distinguished for its splendour; "the cupbearers also," whose office was to pour out wine for the king (Genesis 40:11; Nehemiah 1:11; Xen; 'Cyrop.,' 1.3, 8, 9), "and their apparel," which would be correspondingly resplendent;—all these left upon her mind an impression, not so much of Solomon's wealth and power as of his transcendent wisdom. A second thing she witnessed confirmed this, viz.
(2) the stair which led from the palace to the temple. The old translators (the Chaldee, the Syriac, and the Latin as well as the Greek) thought the words in the Hebrew referred to the burnt offerings which ha offered in the house of Jehovah—an opinion in which they have been followed by some modern interpreters (Luther, A. Clarke, Bertheau). These, however, he would hardly have shown to one not a proselyte. Besides, had she beheld the magnificence of the temple service, some allusion to this in her address to Solomon would most likely have appeared. Hence the opinion is to be preferred that the reference is to the arched viaduct which led from his palace to the temple (Keil, Bahr, Winer, Ewald, Jamieson), the remains of which, recently discovered, show it to have been, "for boldness of conception, for structure and magnificence, one of the greatest wonders in Jerusalem." That such a communication between the palace on Zion and the temple on Moriah existed seems hinted at in 2 Kings 16:18 and in 2 Kings 23:20; while Josephus speaks of a passage from the temple to the king's palace which led over the intermediate valley ('Ant.,' 15.11. 5). If the ruins described by Robinson are those of this bridge, it must have contained five arches, each sixty feet wide and a hundred and thirty feet high. "The whole structure," says Isaac Taylor, "when seen from the southern extremity of the Tyropoeon, must have had an aspect of grandeur, especially as connected with the lofty and sumptuous edifices of the temple and of Zion to the right and to the left" (quoted by Jamieson, in loc.).
3. The admiration she felt. Sincere and intense. Solomon's wisdom had been
(1) in complete accordance with the report she had heard of it in her own country (2 Kings 23:5)—rumour had not lied;
(2) it had equalled her expectations—fancy had not deceived;
(3) it had far exceeded both the report of it and her own expectations regarding it (2 Kings 23:6)—her sense of wonder was more than satisfied;
(4) it was so overpowering that it left no spirit in her (2 Kings 23:4)—her hope of rivalling it was gone.
4. The sentiments she expressed.
(1) She pronounced happy Solomon's courtiers and attendants because of their proximity to his throne and person, which enabled them to hear his wisdom. In so doing she took for granted both that Solomon would never discourse otherwise than wisely, and that Solomon's servants and ministers would always feel disposed to listen to and profit by their master's speech; in both of which she reckoned before the mark.
(2) She praised Jehovah for his goodness to Solomon in giving him such a throne, i.e. for making Solomon his vicegerent in Israel, and for his favour to Israel in furnishing them with such a king—in her eyes a proof that Jehovah loved them and purposed to establish them for ever (2 Kings 23:8). In neither of these utterances did she err. Stable thrones and good kings are of God's making.
(3) She instructed Solomon as to the kingly work such a one as he was raised up to do, viz. to execute judgment and justice (Psalms 72:2). If from these utterances it cannot be inferred that she was either assisted by inspiration or converted to Jehovah's religion, it is open to conclude she was a deeply reflecting and far-seeing woman, second only to Solomon in wisdom and sagacity.
5. The presents she made.
(1) "A hundred and twenty talents of gold "—equivalent to £657,000, valuing the talent at £5475.
(2) "Spices in great abundance," and of unsurpassed excellence, the principal of which was probably the Arabic balsam Josephus ('Ant.,' 8.6. 6) says his countrymen derived from this queen.
(3) "Precious stones," the names unknown.
6. The gifts she received. Besides the solution of her questions, she obtained handsome and valuable presents from Solomon, partly in compliance with her own request (2 Kings 23:12), partly in payment of the costly gifts brought to him by her, and partly over and above out of his own royal liberality (1 Kings 10:13).
III. HER RETURN TO SHEBA. (2 Kings 23:12.)
1. The termination of her visit. How long this visit continued is not recorded, but at length the queen departed on her homeward journey, attended by her servants and accompanied by her train of camels.
2. The spoils of bet visit. Besides carrying home the presents given by Solomon, she bore with her, what was of greater moment for herself and her subjects, the impressions she had received upon her travels and the lessons of earthly and heavenly wisdom she had derived from her interview with the king.
3. The historicity of her visit, That the preceding narrative is no fable is guaranteed by Christ's use of it in the First Gospel (Matthew 12:42), and by recent archaeological research.
1. The privilege of Christians in having as King a greater than Solomon—him "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3).
2. The obligation of the world to hear the wisdom of him who, besides being greater, is also nearer to them than was he to the Queen of Sheba (Matthew 12:42).
3. The blessedness of such as hear Christ's wisdom, waiting at his throne and standing in his presence, first on earth and afterwards in heaven (Proverbs 8:34).
4. The certainty that Christ will give to them who seek his wisdom all that they ask and more of his royal bounty (Ephesians 3:17).
5. The duty of those who come to know Christ's wisdom to carry the tidings of it back to their own country (Matthew 5:19, Matthew 5:20).—W.
2 Chronicles 9:13-31
The glory of Solomon.
I. THE VASTNESS OF HIS WEALTH. (2 Chronicles 9:13, 2 Chronicles 9:14, 2Ch 9:21, 2 Chronicles 9:24.)
1. Its sources.
(1) The contributions of merchants and traders towards the imperial revenues (2 Chronicles 9:14);
(2) the presents of kings and governors in Arabia and elsewhere; and
(3) the cargoes brought by his fleets from Ophir yearly (2 Chronicles 9:10), and from Tartessus, or Tarsus, in Spain, every three years (2 Chronicles 9:21).
2. Its amount. 666 talents of gold per annum, not reckoning the silver as abundant as stones (2 Chronicles 9:27). Estimating a talent at £5475 sterling, the gold would reach the immense total of £3,646,350 sterling per annum.
3. Its use. It was employed:
(1) In making state shields—200 larger, to each of which 600 shekels of gold were devoted; and 300 smaller, to each of which 300 shekels were assigned. The shields, probably made of wood and covered with gold instead of leather, were hung in Solomon's palace, "the house of the forest of Lebanon" (1 Kings 7:2), where they remained until plundered by Shishak (2 Chronicles 12:9; 1 Kings 14:26).
(2) In fashioning a state throne, made of ivory and overlaid with pure gold (2 Chronicles 9:17); i.e. the woodwork, not the ivory, was covered with the metal. The throne had six steps and a golden footstool (2 Chronicles 9:18); each step had on either side a lion, probably of cast metal gilded. On each side of the seat was an arm or stay, beside which sat another lion. Thus there were in all fourteen gilt lions. No wonder the historian adds, "there was nothing like it in any kingdom." Yet many modern thrones surpass it in splendour.
(3) In constructing state cups or drinking-vessels for the palace. All were made of pure gold—gold of Ophir, Tarshish, or Parvaim; "not one of silver, which was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon."
4. Its credibility. The above account is rendered trustworthy by comparing it with well-known recorded facts. "When Nineveh was besieged, Sardanapalus had 150 golden bedsteads, 150 golden tables, 1,000,000 talents of gold, ten times as much silver, while 3000 talents had been previously distributed among his sons. No less than 7170 talents of gold were used for the statues and vessels of the temple of Bel in Babylon. Alexander's pillage of Ecbatana was valued at 120,000 talents of gold; Cyrus's pillage was 34,000 pounds of gold and 500,000 petards of silver, besides an immense number of golden vessels" (Bahr, in loco, Lange's series).
II. THE EXCELLENCE OF HIS WISDOM. (2 Chronicles 9:22, 2 Chronicles 9:23.) Solomon's wisdom was excellent in respect of:
1. Origin. It was God-inspired. All wisdom proceeds from the same source (Job 32:8), and "a man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven" (John 3:27); but in Solomon's case wisdom was a special endowment (2 Chronicles 1:12).
2. Measure. Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in the quantity as well as quality of his wisdom—not easy to do. The Queen of Sheba was a proof that royal personages in that era were not fools; while the monumental histories of Egypt and Assyria have revealed the existence of wise and powerful princes long before Solomon. There were brave men before Agamemnon.
3. Manifestation. Solomon's wisdom expressed itself in a variety of ways: in temple-building and other architectural undertakings; in the pronouncing of judgments and the utterance of apothegms; in the acquisition of knowledge, and more especially of natural history; and in literary compositions both prosaic and poetical (1 Kings 4:29-33).
4. Fame. It spread abroad through all countries, and attracted kings and queens to his court to hear his oracular utterances and make trial of his insight, as well as to gaze upon the splendour of his court and the magnificence of his person (1 Kings 4:34).
III. THE EXTENT OF HIS EMPIRE. (2 Chronicles 9:26.)
1. Its eastern boundary—the Syrian desert, in which Tadmor or Palmyra was situated.
2. Its western—the Mediterranean, or, more correctly, Phoenicia and the country of the Philistines, with the strip of Mediterranean coast between.
3. Its northern—the river—the Euphrates, in its upper reaches, from Tiphsah, or Thapsacus, a large and populous town on the west bank, a place where armies crossed over the stream, and where was a quay for landing and shipping wares coming from or going to Babylon.
4. Its southern—the border of Egypt (1 Kings 4:24). Within these limits he either exercised sovereign power directly, as over his own subjects in Palestine, or indirectly through receiving tribute from the reigning kings who expressed their fealty to him by bringing, year by year, every man his present—vessels of silver and vessels of gold and raiment, harness and spices, horses and mules (2 Chronicles 9:24).
IV. THE DURATION OF HIS REIGN. (2 Chronicles 9:30.) Forty years.
1. A great privilege. Long life a mark of special favour under the old dispensation (Proverbs 3:16); under the new, a valuable blessing to those who enjoy it (Ephesians 6:2).
2. A large opportunity. Life not for personal enjoyment merely, but for religious and philanthropic activity. A long life means a long time for doing good. What benefits Solomon might have conferred upon his people during that extended period!
3. A high responsibility. "To whomsoever much is given," etc. That Solomon did less than he might with his great wisdom, vast riches, immense power, extended fame, and protracted life, entailed upon him deeper guilt.
4. An evident mercy. Considering the bad use Solomon made of his numerous years, declining in his old age through love of women into debasing idolatries (1 Kings 11:1-8), it was a proof of the Divine patience and long-suffering that he was not earlier cut off.
V. THE CLOSE OF HIS CAREER. (2 Chronicles 9:29, 2 Chronicles 9:31.)
1. His biography was written by the hand of prophets. (2 Chronicles 9:29.) Nathan the prophet, who bad announced his birth to David (2 Samuel 7:12-14; 1 Chronicles 17:11), and who had called him, when a child, Jedidiah, "Beloved of the Lord" (2 Samuel 12:25), in all probability began it; Ahijah the Shilonite (i.e. inhabitant of, or prophet from, Shilo, an Ephraimite town), who predicted the division of the kingdom (1 Kings 11:29), it may be supposed, carried it on; and Iddo the seer, a contemporary of Rehoboam and Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 12:15 and 2 Chronicles 13:22), finished it. Being prophets of the Lord, these writers would "nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice," but would deliver "a plain unvarnished tale" of the great monarch's acts and words, of his wise speeches and foolish deeds.
2. His corpse was buried in the tomb of his father. (2 Chronicles 9:31.) It was well that he had a tomb to lie in; better men than he have had none. He had sat upon his father's throne, worn his father's crown, extended his father's kingdom, improved upon his father's vices, declined from his father's piety; now his lifeless dust was consigned to rest in his father's sepulchre.
3. His throne was filled by his own son. No man likes to be succeeded by a stranger. It must have been a comfort to the old monarch that Rehoboam was to wear his crown.
1. The vanity of earthly glory—the magnificence of Solomon unequal to the raiment of a lily (Matthew 6:29).
2. The worthlessness of all earthly things without religion: Solomon had everything that could satisfy ambition, and yet he declined from the worship of Jehovah (Matthew 19:20);
3. The certainty of death: if a Solomon could not evade the king of terrors, how shall common men? (Ecclesiastes 8:8).—W.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 9". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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