Still Solomon looks great, and every thing in this chapter adds to his
magnificence. We read nothing indeed of his charity, of no hospitals he
built, or alms-houses; he made his kingdom so rich that it did not need
them; yet, no question, many poor were relieved from the abundance of
his table. A church he had built, never to be equalled; schools or
colleges he need not build any, his own palace is an academy, and his
court a rendezvous of wise and learned men, as well as the centre of
all the circulating riches of that part of the world.
I. What abundance of wisdom there was there appears from the
application the queen of Sheba made to him, and the great satisfaction
she had in her entertainment there
(1 Kings 10:1-13),
and others likewise,
1 Kings 10:24.
II. What abundance of wealth there was there appears here by the gold
imported, with other things, yearly
(1 Kings 10:14,15),
and in a triennial return,
1 Kings 10:22.
(1 Kings 10:25),
and gold used in targets and shields
(1 Kings 10:16,17),
1 Kings 10:21.
A stately throne made,
1 Kings 10:18-20.
His chariots and horsemen,
1 Kings 10:26.
His trade with Egypt,
1 Kings 10:28,29.
And the great plenty of silver and cedars among his people,
1 Kings 10:27.
So that, putting all together, it must be owned, as it is here said
(1 Kings 10:23),
that "king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches, and
for wisdom." Yet what was he to the King of kings? Where Christ is, by
his word and Spirit, "Behold, a greater than Solomon is there."
Visit of the Queen of Sheba.
B. C. 990.
1 And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon
concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard
2 And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with
camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones:
and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all
that was in her heart.
3 And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not any
thing hid from the king, which he told her not.
4 And when the queen of Sheba had seen all Solomon's wisdom,
and the house that he had built,
5 And the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants,
and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his
cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up unto the house of
the LORD; there was no more spirit in her.
6 And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard
in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom.
7 Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes
had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom
and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard.
8 Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which
stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom.
9 Blessed be the LORD thy God, which delighted in thee, to set
thee on the throne of Israel: because the LORD loved Israel for
ever, therefore made he thee king, to do judgment and justice.
10 And she gave the king a hundred and twenty talents of gold,
and of spices very great store, and precious stones: there came
no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of
Sheba gave to king Solomon.
11 And the navy also of Hiram, that brought gold from Ophir,
brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug trees, and precious
12 And the king made of the almug trees pillars for the house
of the LORD, and for the king's house, harps also and psalteries
for singers: there came no such almug trees, nor were seen unto
13 And king Solomon gave unto the queen of Sheba all her
desire, whatsoever she asked, beside that which Solomon gave
her of his royal bounty. So she turned and went to her own
country, she and her servants.
We have here an account of the visit which the queen of Sheba made to
Solomon, no doubt when he was in the height of his piety and
prosperity. Our Saviour calls her the queen of the south, for
Sheba lay south of Canaan. The common opinion is that it was in Africa;
and the Christians in Ethiopia, to this day, are confident that she
came from their country, and that Candace was her successor, who is
But it is more probable that she came from the south part of Arabia the
happy. It should seem she was a queen regent, sovereign of her country.
Many a kingdom would have been deprived of its greatest blessings if a
Salique law had been admitted into its constitution. Observe,
I. On what errand the queen of Sheba came--not to treat of trade or
commerce, to adjust the limits of their dominions, to court his
alliance for their mutual strength or his assistance against some
common enemy, which are the common occasions of the congress of crowned
heads and their interviews, but she came,
1. To satisfy her curiosity; for she had heard of his fame, especially
for wisdom, and she came to prove him, whether he was so great a man as
he was reported to be,
1 Kings 10:1.
Solomon's fleet sailed near the coast of her country, and probably
might put in there for fresh water; perhaps it was thus that she
heard of the fame of Solomon, that he excelled in wisdom all the
children of the east, and nothing would serve her but she would go
herself and know the truth of the report.
2. To receive instruction from him. She came to hear his wisdom,
and thereby to improve her own
that she might be the better able to govern her own kingdom by his
maxims of policy. Those whom God has called to any public employment,
particularly in the magistracy and ministry, should, by all means
possible, be still improving themselves in that knowledge which will
more and more qualify them for it, and enable them to discharge their
trust well. But, it should seem, that which she chiefly aimed at was to
be instructed in the things of God. She was religiously inclined, and
had heard not only of the fame of Solomon, but concerning the name
of the Lord
(1 Kings 10:1),
the great name of that God whom Solomon worshipped and from whom he
received his wisdom, and with this God she desired to be better
acquainted. Therefore does our Saviour mention her enquiries after God,
by Solomon, as an aggravation of the stupidity of those who enquire not
after God by our Lord Jesus Christ, though he, having lain in his
bosom, was much better able to instruct them.
II. With what equipage she came, with a very great retinue, agreeable
to her rank, intending to try Solomon's wealth and generosity, as well
as his wisdom, what entertainment he could and would give to a royal
1 Kings 10:2.
Yet she came not as one begging, but brought enough to bear her
charges, and abundantly to recompense Solomon for his attention to her,
nothing mean or common, but gold, and precious stones, and spices,
because she came to trade for wisdom, which she would purchase at any
III. What entertainment Solomon gave her. He despised not the weakness
of her sex, blamed her not for leaving her own business at home to come
so long a journey, and put herself and him to so much trouble and
expense merely to satisfy her curiosity; but he made her welcome and
all her train, gave her liberty to put all her questions, though some
perhaps were frivolous, some captious, and some over-curious; he
allowed her to commune with him of all that was in her heart
(1 Kings 10:2)
and gave her a satisfactory answer to all her questions
(1 Kings 10:3),
whether natural, moral, political, or divine. Were they designed to try
him? he gave them such turns as abundantly satisfied her of his
uncommon knowledge. Were they designed for her own instruction? (as we
suppose most of them were), she received abundant instruction from him,
and he made things surprisingly easy which she apprehended insuperably
difficult, and satisfied her that there was a divine sentence in the
lips of this king. But he informed her no doubt, with
particular care, concerning God, and his law and instituted worship. He
had taken it for granted
(1 Kings 8:42)
that strangers would hear of his great name, and would come
thither to enquire after him; and now that so great a stranger came we
may be sure he was not wanting to assist and encourage her enquiries,
and give her a description of the temple, and the officers and services
of it, that she might be persuaded to serve the Lord whom she now
IV. How she was affected with what she saw and heard in Solomon's
court. Divers things are here mentioned which she admired, the
buildings and furniture of his palace, the provision that was made very
day for his table (when she saw that perhaps she wondered where there
were mouths for all that meat, but when she saw the multitude of his
attendants and guests she was as ready to wonder where was the meat for
all those mouths), the orderly sitting of his servants, every one in
his place, and the ready attendance of his ministers, without any
confusion, their rich liveries, and the propriety with which his
cup-bearers waited at his table. These things she admired, as adding
much to his magnificence. But, above all these, the first thing
mentioned (which contained all) is his wisdom
(1 Kings 10:4),
of the transcendency of which she now had incontestable proofs: and the
last thing mentioned, which crowned all, is his piety, the ascent by
which he went up to the house of the Lord, with what gravity and
seriousness, and an air of devotion in his countenance, he appeared,
when he went to the temple to worship God, with as much humility then
as majesty at other times. Many of the ancient versions read it, The
burnt-offerings which he offered in the house of the Lord; she
observed with what a generous bounty he brought his sacrifices, and
with what a pious fervour he attended the offering of them; never did
she see so much goodness with so much greatness. Every thing was so
surprising that there was no more spirit in her, but she stood amazed;
she had never seen the like.
V. How she expressed herself upon this occasion.
1. She owned her expectation far out-done, though it was highly raised
by the report she heard,
1 Kings 10:6,7.
She is far from repenting her journey or calling herself a fool
for undertaking it, but acknowledges it was well worth her while to
come so far for the sight of that which she could not believe the
report of. Usually things are represented to us, both by common fame
and by our own imagination, much greater than we find them when we come
to examine them; but here the truth exceeded both fame and fancy. Those
who, through grace, are brought to experience the delights of communion
with God will say that the one-half was not told them of the pleasures
of Wisdom's ways and the advantages of her gates. Glorified saints,
much more, will say that it was a true report which they heard of the
happiness of heaven, but that the thousandth part was not told them,
1 Corinthians 2:9.
2. She pronounced those happy that constantly attended him, and waited
on him at table: "Happy are thy men, happy are these thy
(1 Kings 10:8);
they may improve their own wisdom by hearing thine." She was tempted to
envy them and to which herself one of them. Note, It is a great
advantage to be in good families, and to have opportunity of frequent
converse with those that are wise, and good, and communicative. Many
have this happiness who know not how to value it. With much more reason
may we say this of Christ's servants, Blessed are those that dwell
in his house, they will be still praising him.
3. She blessed God, the giver of Solomon's wisdom and wealth, and the
author of his advancement, who had made him king,
(1.) In kindness to him, that he might have the larger opportunity of
doing good with his wisdom: He delighted in thee, to set thee on the
throne of Israel,
1 Kings 10:9.
Solomon's preferment began in the prophet's calling him Jedidiah,
because the Lord loved him,
2 Samuel 12:25.
It more than doubles our comforts if we have reason to hope they come
from God's delight in us. It was his pleasure concerning thee
(so it may be read) to set thee on the throne, not for thy
merit's sake, but because it so seemed good unto him.
(2.) In kindness to the people, because the Lord loved Israel for
ever, designed them a lasting bliss, long to survive him that laid
the foundations of it. "He has made thee king, not that thou mayest
live in pomp and pleasure, and do what thou wilt, but to do judgment
and justice." This she kindly reminded Solomon of, and no doubt he
took it kindly. Both magistrates and ministers must be more solicitous
to do the duty of their places than to secure the honours and profits
of them. To this she attributes his prosperity, not to his wisdom, for
bread is not always to the wise
but whoso doeth judgment and justice, it shall be well with
Thus giving of thanks must be made for kings, for good
kings, for such kings; they are what God makes them to be.
VI. How they parted.
1. She made a noble present to Solomon of gold and spices,
1 Kings 10:10.
David had foretold concerning Solomon that to him should be given of
the gold of Sheba,
The present of gold and spices which the wise men of the east brought
to Christ was signified by this,
Thus she paid for the wisdom she had learned and did not think she
bought it dearly. Let those that are taught of God give him their
hearts, and the present will be more acceptable than this of gold and
spices. Mention is made of the great abundance Solomon had of his own,
notwithstanding she presented and he accepted this gold. What we
present to Christ he needs not, but will have us so to express our
gratitude. The almug-trees are here spoken of
(1 Kings 10:11,12)
as extraordinary, because perhaps much admired by the queen of Sheba.
2. Solomon was not behind-hand with her: He gave her whatsoever,
she asked, patterns, we may suppose, of those things that were
curious, by which she might make the like; or perhaps he gave her his
precepts of wisdom and piety in writing, besides that which he gave
her of his royal bounty,
1 Kings 10:13.
Thus those who apply to our Lord Jesus will find him not only greater
than Solomon, and wiser, but more kind; whatsoever we ask, it shall be
done for us; nay, he will, out of his divine bounty, which infinitely
exceeds royal bounty, even Solomon's, do for us more than we are
able to ask or think.
B. C. 990.
14 Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was
six hundred threescore and six talents of gold,
15 Beside that he had of the merchantmen, and of the traffick
of the spice merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia, and of
the governors of the country.
16 And king Solomon made two hundred targets of beaten gold:
six hundred shekels of gold went to one target.
17 And he made three hundred shields of beaten gold; three
pound of gold went to one shield: and the king put them in the
house of the forest of Lebanon.
18 Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid
it with the best gold.
19 The throne had six steps, and the top of the throne was
round behind: and there were stays on either side on the place
of the seat, and two lions stood beside the stays.
20 And twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the
other upon the six steps: there was not the like made in any
21 And all king Solomon's drinking vessels were of gold, and
all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of
pure gold; none were of silver: it was nothing accounted of in
the days of Solomon.
22 For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish with the navy of
Hiram: once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing
gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.
23 So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for
riches and for wisdom.
24 And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom,
which God had put in his heart.
25 And they brought every man his present, vessels of silver,
and vessels of gold, and garments, and armour, and spices,
horses, and mules, a rate year by year.
26 And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen: and he
had a thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand
horsemen, whom he bestowed in the cities for chariots, and with
the king at Jerusalem.
27 And the king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones, and
cedars made he to be as the sycamore trees that are in the
vale, for abundance.
28 And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt, and linen yarn:
the king's merchants received the linen yarn at a price.
29 And a chariot came up and went out of Egypt for six hundred
shekels of silver, and a horse for a hundred and fifty: and
so for all the kings of the Hittites, and for the kings of Syria,
did they bring them out by their means.
We have here a further account of Solomon's prosperity.
I. How he increased his wealth. Though he had much, he still coveted to
have more, being willing to try the utmost the things of this world
could do to make men happy.
1. Besides the gold that came from Ophir
(1 Kings 9:28),
he brought so much into his country from other places that the whole
amounted, every year, to 666 talents
(1 Kings 10:14),
an ominous number, compare
2. He received a great deal in customs from the merchants, and in
land-taxes from the countries his father had conquered and made
tributaries to Israel,
1 Kings 10:15.
3. He was Hiram's partner in a Tharshish fleet, of and for Tyre, which
imported once in three years, not only gold, and silver, and ivory,
substantial goods and serviceable, but apes to play with and peacocks
to please the eye with their feathers,
1 Kings 10:22.
I wish this may not be an evidence that Solomon and his people, being
overcharged with prosperity, by this time grew childish and wanton.
4. He had presents made him, every year, from the neighbouring princes
and great men, to engage the continuance of his friendship, not so much
because they feared him or were jealous of him as because they loved
him and admired his wisdom, had often occasion to consult him as an
oracle, and sent him these presents by way of recompence for his advice
in politics, and (whether it became his grandeur and generosity or no
we will not enquire) he took all that came, even garments and spices,
horses and mules,
1 Kings 10:24,25.
5. He traded to Egypt for horses and linen-yarn (or, as some read it,
linen-cloth), the staple commodities of that country, and had
his own merchants or factors whom he employed in this traffic and who
were accountable to him,
1 Kings 10:28,29.
The custom to be paid to the king of Egypt for exported chariots and
horses out of Egypt was very high, but (as bishop Patrick understands
it) Solomon, having married his daughter, got him to compound for the
customs, so that he could bring them up cheaper than his neighbours,
which obliged them to buy them of him, which he was wise enough no
doubt to make his advantage of. This puts an honour upon the trading
part of a nation, and sets a tradesman not so much below a gentleman as
some place him, that Solomon, one of the greatest men that ever was,
thought it no disparagement to him to deal in trade. In all labour
there is profit.
II. What use he made of his wealth. He did not hoard it up in his
coffers, that he might have it to look upon and leave behind him. He
has, in his Ecclesiastes, so much exposed the folly of hoarding that we
cannot suppose he would himself be guilty of it. No, God that had given
him riches, and wealth, and honour, gave him also power to eat thereof,
and to take his portion,
1. He laid out his gold in fine things for himself, which he might the
better be allowed to do when he had before laid out so much in fine
things for the house of God.
(1.) He made 200 targets, and 300 shields, of beaten gold
(1 Kings 10:16,17),
not for service, but for state, to be carried before him when he
appeared in pomp. With us, magistrates have swords and
maces carried before them, as the Romans had their rods
and axes, in token of their power to correct and punish the bad,
to whom they are to be a terror. But Solomon had shields and
targets carried before him, to signify that he took more
pleasure in using his power for the defence and protection of the good,
to whom he would be a praise. Magistrates are shields of the
(2.) He made a stately throne, on which he sat, to give laws to his
subjects, audience to ambassadors, and judgment upon appeals,
1 Kings 10:18-20.
It was made of ivory, or elephants' teeth, which was very rich; and
yet, as if he had so much gold that he knew not what to do with it, he
overlaid that with gold, the best gold. Yet some think he did
not cover the ivory all over, but here and there. He rolled it,
flowered it, or inlaid it, with gold. The stays or arms of this stately
chair were supported by the images of lions in gold; so were the steps
and paces by which he went up to it, to be a memorandum to him of that
courage and resolution wherewith he ought to execute judgment, not
fearing the face of man. The righteous, in that post, is bold
as a lion.
(3.) He made all his drinking vessels, and all the furniture of his
table, even at his country seat, of pure gold,
1 Kings 10:21.
He did not grudge himself what he had, but took the credit and comfort
of it, such as it was. That is good that does us good.
2. He made it circulate among his subjects, so that the kingdom was as
rich as the king; for he had no separate interests of his own to
consult, but sought the welfare of his people. Those princes are not
governed by Solomon's maxims who think it policy to keep their subjects
poor. Solomon was herein a type of Christ, who is not only rich
himself, but enriches all that are his. Solomon was instrumental to
bring so much gold into the country, and disperse it, that silver
was nothing accounted of,
1 Kings 10:21.
There was such plenty of it in Jerusalem that it was as the stones; and
cedars, that used to be great rarities, were as common as sycamore
1 Kings 10:27.
Such is the nature of worldly wealth, plenty of it makes it the less
valuable; much more should the enjoyment of spiritual riches lessen our
esteem of all earthly possessions. If gold in abundance would
make silver to seem so despicable, shall not wisdom, and grace, and the
foretastes of heaven, which are far better than gold, make earthly
wealth seem much more despicable?
Lastly, Well, thus rich, thus great, was Solomon, and thus did
he exceed all the kings of the earth,
1 Kings 10:23.
Now let us remember,
1. That this was he who, when he was setting out in the world,
did not ask for the wealth and honour of it, but asked for a wise
and understanding heart. The more moderate our desires are towards
earthly things the better qualified we are for the enjoyment of them
and the more likely to have them. See, in Solomon's greatness, the
performance of God's promise
(1 Kings 3:13),
and let it encourage us to seek first the righteousness of God's
2. That this was he who, having tasted all these enjoyments, wrote a
whole book to show the vanity of all worldly things and the vexation of
spirit that attends them, their insufficiency to make us happy and the
folly of setting our hearts upon them, and to recommend to us the
practice of serious godliness, as that which is the whole of man, and
will do infinitely more towards the making of us easy and happy than
all the wealth and power that he was master of, and which, through the
grace of God, is within our reach, when the thousandth part of
Solomon's greatness is a thousand times more than we can ever be so
vain as to promise ourselves in this world.
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for '1 Kings' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".