2 Chronicles 9 – More Achievements of Solomon
A. Solomon hosts the queen of Sheba.
1. (1-4) The queen of Sheba comes to Jerusalem.
Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, she came to Jerusalem to test Solomon with hard questions, having a very great retinue, camels that bore spices, gold in abundance, and precious stones; and when she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart. So Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing so difficult for Solomon that he could not explain it to her. And when the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his servants, the service of his waiters and their apparel, his cupbearers and their apparel, and his entryway by which he went up to the house of the LORD, there was no more spirit in her.
a. The queen of Sheba: Sheba (also known as Sabea) was where modern-day Yemen is today (Southern Arabia). We know from geography this was a wealthy kingdom, with much gold, spices, and precious woods. History also tells us that they were known to have queens as well as kings.
i. This was a long trip – up to about 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers). She probably came as part of a trade delegation (1 Kings 10:2-5), but there is no doubt that she was highly motivated to see Solomon and his kingdom.
b. To test Solomon with hard questions: Because Solomon was internationally famous for his wisdom, the queen of Sheba came to test this great wisdom.
c. Having a very great retinue: This queen traveled in the manner of queens – with a large royal procession, heavily laden with gifts and goods for trade.
d. When she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart: Solomon’s kingdom was famous not only for its material prosperity but also for his great wisdom. The queen of Sheba had great, and seemingly difficult, questions and Solomon answered all her questions.
i. “The hard questions were not just riddles, but included difficult diplomatic and ethical questions…. The test was not an academic exercise but to see if he would be a trustworthy business party and a reliable ally capable of giving help.” (Wiseman)
ii. “Bring your hard questions to Christ; He is greater than Solomon.” (Meyer)
d. When the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food on his table…there was no more spirit in her: This queen was obviously familiar with the world of royal splendor and luxury. Yet she was completely overwhelmed by the wisdom of Solomon and the glory of his kingdom.
i. “What happened to the queen of Sheba is a natural and not an uncommon effect which will be produced in a delicate sensible mind at the sight of rare and extraordinary productions of art.” (Clarke)
2. (5-8) The reaction of the queen of Sheba.
Then she said to the king: “It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. However I did not believe their words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me. You exceed the fame of which I heard. Happy are your men and happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the LORD your God, who delighted in you, setting you on His throne to be king for the LORD your God! Because your God has loved Israel, to establish them forever, therefore He made you king over them, to do justice and righteousness.”
a. Indeed the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me: The queen of Sheba heard wonderful things about Solomon and his kingdom, but upon seeing it with her own eyes she realized it was far greater than she had heard.
b. Happy are your men and happy are these your servants: It is a joyful thing to serve a great, wise, and rich king. If it was a happy thing to serve Solomon, it is a much happier thing to serve Jesus.
c. Blessed be the LORD your God, who delighted in you: This is an example of what God wanted to do for Israel under the promises of the Old Covenant. God promised Israel that if they obeyed under the Old Covenant, He would bless them so tremendously that the world would notice and give glory to the Lord GOD of Israel.
i. Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth…. Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you. (Deuteronomy 28:1, 10)
ii. God wanted to reach the nations through an obedient and blessed Israel. If Israel did not obey, then God would speak to the nations through a thoroughly disciplined Israel.
d. Blessed be the LORD your God: It is fair to ask if this was a true confession of faith, expressing allegiance to the God of Israel. Taken in their context, these words may not be more than the queen’s response to the astonishing blessing evident in Solomon’s Jerusalem.
i. “Her statement about the blessings of the Lord on Israel and Solomon in verse 8 were no more than a polite reference to Solomon’s God…. There is no record that she accepted Solomon’s God, who was so majestically edified by the temple.” (Dilday)
ii. “Praise to the LORD implies recognition of Israel’s national God and need not necessarily be an expression of personal faith.” (Wiseman)
iii. If we take the queen of Sheba as an example of a seeker, we see that Solomon impressed her with his wealth and splendor, and also impressed her personally. But she returned home without an evident expression of faith in the God of Israel. This shows that impressing seekers with facilities and programs and organization and professionalism isn’t enough.
iv. Regardless of the result of her search, we can admire her seeking.
· She came from a great distance.
· She came with gifts to offer.
· She came to question and to learn.
· She came and saw the riches of the king.
· She came for an extended period.
· She came telling all that was on her heart.
v. Jesus used the queen of Sheba as an example of a seeker: The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. (Matthew 12:42) If the queen of Sheba sought Solomon and the splendor of his kingdom so diligently, how much more should people today seek Jesus and the glory of His Kingdom. She will certainly also rise up in judgment with this generation.
e. Because your God has loved Israel forever…therefore He made you king over them: This statement is especially meaningful because Solomon was not necessarily the most logical successor of his father David. There were several sons of David born before Solomon. “It was God’s special act to make him king rather than his elder brother.” (Poole)
3. (9-12) An exchange of gifts.
And she gave the king one hundred and twenty talents of gold, spices in great abundance, and precious stones; there never were any spices such as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon. Also, the servants of Hiram and the servants of Solomon, who brought gold from Ophir, brought algum wood and precious stones. And the king made walkways of the algum wood for the house of the LORD and for the king’s house, also harps and stringed instruments for singers; and there were none such as these seen before in the land of Judah. Now King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all she desired, whatever she asked, much more than she had brought to the king. So she turned and went to her own country, she and her servants.
a. There never were any spices such as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon: She came from a region rich in spices and skilled in the processing of spices.
b. Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all she desired: Solomon would not allow the queen of Sheba to give him more than he gave back to her. This description of Solomon’s measure of generosity to the queen of Sheba also describes the measure of God’s generosity towards us.
i. According to tradition – fanciful stories, perhaps – the queen of Sheba wanted a son by Solomon, and he obliged her. Her child was named Menilek, and he became the ancestor of all subsequent Ethiopian monarchs.
B. Solomon’s great wealth.
1. (13-14) Solomon’s yearly income.
The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold, besides what the traveling merchants and traders brought. And all the kings of Arabia and governors of the country brought gold and silver to Solomon.
a. Six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold: This is a vast amount of gold, which came to Solomon yearly. One commentator sets the value of the 666 talents of gold at $281,318,400. According to the 2016 price of gold ($1269 an ounce) the value would be $1,019,565,360. This speaks not only to the great wealth of Solomon, but it also makes him one of the only two people in the Bible associated with the number 666.
i. The other Biblical connection to 666 is the end-times world dictator and opponent of God and His people often known as the Antichrist (Revelation 13:18). In fact, the Revelation passage specifically says that the number 666 is the number of a man, and the man may be Solomon.
ii. This isn’t to say that Solomon was the Antichrist or that the coming Antichrist will be some weird reincarnation of Solomon. But it may indicate that the Antichrist may not be someone purely evil from the very beginning. Instead, he may be like Solomon – a good man corrupted.
b. Besides what the traveling merchants and traders brought: Solomon received more than 666 talents of gold a year. The amount of 666 talents was just his beginning or base salary.
i. The writer of Chronicles gave a subtle warning signal here. He assumed his readers knew the instructions for future kings of Israel in Deuteronomy 17:14-20. He assumed we know verse 17 of that passage, which says: nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself. God blessed Solomon with great riches, but Solomon allowed that blessing to turn into a danger because he disobediently multiplied silver and gold for himself.
2. (15-28) Examples of Solomon’s wealth and prosperity.
And King Solomon made two hundred large shields of hammered gold; six hundred shekels of hammered gold went into each shield. He also made three hundred shields of hammered gold; three hundred shekels of gold went into each shield. The king put them in the House of the Forest of Lebanon. Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with pure gold. The throne had six steps, with a footstool of gold, which were fastened to the throne; there were armrests on either side of the place of the seat, and two lions stood beside the armrests. Twelve lions stood there, one on each side of the six steps; nothing like this had been made for any other kingdom. All King Solomon’s drinking vessels were gold, and all the vessels of the House of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold. Not one was silver, for this was accounted as nothing in the days of Solomon. For the king’s ships went to Tarshish with the servants of Hiram. Once every three years the merchant ships came, bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and monkeys. So King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart. Each man brought his present: articles of silver and gold, garments, armor, spices, horses, and mules, at a set rate year by year. Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king at Jerusalem. So he reigned over all the kings from the River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and he made cedar trees as abundant as the sycamores which are in the lowland. And they brought horses to Solomon from Egypt and from all lands.
a. Two hundred large shields of hammered gold.… three hundred shields of hammered gold: These shields made beautiful displays in the House of the Forest of Lebanon (1 Kings 10:17), but they were of no use in battle. Gold was too heavy and too soft to be used as a metal for effective shields. This shows Solomon had the image of a warrior king, but without the substance.
i. According to Dilday, each large shield was worth about $120,000. The smaller shields were worth $30,000. $33 million was invested in gold ceremonial shields. According to 2016 prices ($1269 an ounce) and assuming a 75-pound talent, the larger shields were worth $152,280, the smaller shields worth $76,140, and the total invested in ceremonial shields was more than $53 million.
b. Not one was silver, for this was accounted as nothing in the days of Solomon: This was a statement of wealth. If taken seriously, it shows the tremendous abundance of Solomon’s kingdom. Truly, King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom, and the promises of Deuteronomy 28:1-14 were fulfilled in his reign: The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. (Deuteronomy 28:12)
c. All the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart: This was another fulfillment of the promises of Deuteronomy 28: And the LORD will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 28:13)
d. The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones: When we think of Solomon’s great wealth, we also consider that he originally did not set his heart upon riches. He deliberately asked for wisdom to lead the people of God instead of riches or fame. God promised to also give Solomon riches and fame, and God fulfilled His promise.
i. We also consider that Solomon gave an eloquent testimony to the vanity of riches as the preacher in the Book of Ecclesiastes. He powerfully showed that there was no ultimate satisfaction through materialism. We don’t have to be as rich as Solomon to learn the same lesson.
e. They brought horses to Solomon from Egypt and from all lands: At the end of this great description of Solomon’s wealth and splendor, we have the sound of this dark note. This was in direct disobedience to Deuteronomy 17:16, which said to the kings of Israel: But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the LORD has said to you, “You shall not return that way again.”
4. (29-31) The end of Solomon’s reign.
Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, first and last, are they not written in the book of Nathan the prophet, in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and in the visions of Iddo the seer concerning Jeroboam the son of Nebat? Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years. Then Solomon rested with his fathers, and was buried in the City of David his father. And Rehoboam his son reigned in his place.
a. Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years: Many commentators believe that Solomon began his reign when he was about 20 years old. This means that Solomon did not live a particularly long life and the promise made in 1 Kings 3:14 was not fulfilled for Solomon, because of his disobedience.
i. So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days. (1 Kings 3:14)
ii. “When we consider the excess in which he lived, and the criminal passions which he must have indulged among his thousand wives, and their idolatrous and impure worship, this life was as long as could be reasonably expected.” (Clarke)
b. Then Solomon rested with his fathers: This does not necessarily mean that Solomon died a saved man. It is a familiar phrase used in 1 and 2 Kings (used 25 times) and was used of such wicked kings as Ahab (1 Kings 22:40). It simply means that Solomon passed to the world beyond. We cannot say with certainty that he is in heaven.
i. “Yielding to certain lower things of his nature, he became a slave to them, and dragged down his nation with him. So long as he remained on the throne, the people were solaced and drugged by the material magnificence; but underneath, the spirit of rebellion and revolt was at work, ready to break out into open manifestation directly he was removed.” (Morgan)
ii. “The story is perhaps one of the most striking illustrations of the fact that opportunity and privilege, even God bestowed, are not enough in themselves to assure full realisation.” (Morgan)