1 Kings 10
Sheba’s queen meets Israel’s king
Sheba’s IQ test for Solomon1The queen of Sheba  heard King Solomon had become famous. And she heard that more people were learning about the LORD because of him. So, she wanted to see for herself if he was as smart as people were saying. So, she went to test him with hard problems. 2She brought with her a huge entourage of guards and servants. The long caravan included camels loaded with spices, gold, and jewels. She asked Solomon every question she had for him. 3Solomon gave her a solid answer every time. He didn’t say “pass” on any of them.
4The queen studied the king and the way he ran his kingdom. Firsthand, the queen saw how he handled tough questions. She toured the palace he built. 5She ate the food he served. She saw the officials who ate with him. She even noticed his well-dressed servants. She went with him to the Temple of the LORD, which he built, and she watched him sacrifice animals as burnt offerings.  She took it all in and it took her breath away.
Solomon passes Sheba’s test6She told the king, “I’ve got to tell you, everything I heard about your wisdom and your accomplishments is true. 7I didn’t believe it. So, I came to see for myself. And I can tell you now that you’re twice the king I heard about. Your insights and prosperity are more than I could have imagined. 8Your wives are happy. Even your servants are happy to work for you and to learn from your wisdom. This is a happy house.
9What a wonderful God your LORD is to you. Clearly, he put you on this throne and he’s glad he did. The LORD has a deep love for Israel. That’s why he put you on this throne. He wants you to show these people what goodness and justice look like.”
Solomon and the queen do business, part 110The queen gave Solomon two and a half tons  of gold and jewels. And she gave him more spices than Solomon or any other king of Israel ever got or would ever get again in one huge shipment.
Ships bring rare wood and gold11Hiram’s fleet of ships came home from the land of Ophir,  loaded with gold, gemstones, and a lot of almug  wood.  12Solomon used some of the wood to make steps for the Temple and his palace. And he used some to make harps and lyres for the Temple musicians.
Solomon and the queen do business, part 213King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba everything she said she wanted,  with royal gifts on top of it. Then he sent her on her way back home.
Solomon’s income14In a single year, Solomon took in about 25 tons  of gold. 15Solomon also got gold from trading and business ventures, along with gifts from Arabian kings and Israel’s district governors.
Solomon’s royal decor16King Solomon ordered 200 large shields, each hammered from 15 pounds  of gold. 17He ordered 300 smaller shields, each hammered from four pounds  of gold. The king put the shields on display in the Home of the Lebanon Forest, the largest room in the palace complex.
18The king also ordered a huge ivory throne overlaid with the finest gold. 19There was no throne on earth like this one. Rounded in the back. Armrests on both sides, with two lions standing beside each armrest. 20And six steps to the top, with one lion at the end of each step. This was a one-of-a-kind original work of art. No other king sat on a throne like this one.
21All of Solomon’s drinking cups and dishes were made from gold. No silver at all. Same for the large room called Home of the Lebanon Forest. In those days, Solomon’s gold dishes were no big deal.
22Solomon had an ongoing trade expedition with Tarshish.  He sent a fleet of ships there with Hiram’s fleet. And every three years the fleet came back loaded with gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks.
Solomon, international superstar23King Solomon was wiser and richer than any king on earth. 24People from all over the world wanted to hear his insights from God. 25So, they came to see him. They brought gifts: silver, gold, clothing, weapons, spices, horses, and mules. This went on year after year.
Solomon’s chariot corps26Solomon established Israel’s cavalry and chariot corps. He had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horses. He stationed them in Jerusalem and in towns scattered around the nation.
27For people visiting Jerusalem, silver seemed as common as stone. And imported cedar from Lebanon seemed as common as sycamore from the local Judean foothills. 28Solomon bought imported Turkish horses from the regions of Musri and Kue.  29His merchants were able to buy a chariot imported from Egypt for 15 pounds of silver. And they could buy a horse for about 4 pounds of silver.  Then they resold some of these to Hittite and Syrian kings.
No one seems to know where the land of Sheba was. A popular guess is Yemen, in southern Arabia, parked at the corner of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Another common guess is across the Red Sea, somewhere on the Horn of Africa, in Somalia, Ethiopia, or another neighboring nation.
These were offerings for sin, the most common offering in Israel. Worshipers burned the entire animal, which could have been a bull or a sheep—or in Solomon’s case, many of them.
That’s 9,000 pounds or 4,000 kilograms. In Hebrew measurement, 120 talents.
Like Sheba, no one seem sure of where Ophir was. And, like Sheba, popular guesses are southern Arabia and the eastern coast of Africa. The phrase “gold of Ophir” shows up on a broken piece of pottery found in the ruins of Tell Qasile, in what is now Tel Aviv: “gold of Ophir for Beth-Horan…30 shekels.” Tell Qasile was an ancient town destroyed by Egyptian Pharaoh Shishak in 924 BC, a few years after Solomon’s reign. Solomon ruled Israel from about 970-931.
There’s no such wood today. The most common guess is that almug wood is today’s sandalwood, which is about the most expensive wood on the market. It’s fine-grained and good for building and carving. But it’s also fragrant, with an oil that produces a long-lasting scent. Some people describe the smell as calming, sensual, or woodsy. Africa has several kinds of sandalwood, but not from the same family as the hardwood trees.
Verses 11-12 are an odd interruption to the story of Solomon and the queen of Sheba. It feels like the editor or compiler knew it needed to go somewhere, but that his wife said supper was on, so he had better hurry. So, he dropped it in here. That’s likely not what happened. But that’s how intrusive it reads, interrupting the story.
This could read like it’s a gift exchange, but it may have been a financial transaction with gifts on top of it. The queen may have come with a shopping list and a supply of goods to use in trade.
That’s 23 metric tons and 666 talents, in ancient Hebrew measurement. There’s no indication of how he got it. Perhaps in mining expeditions or in taxes collected by the non-Israelite nations he dominated.
Seven kilograms, or 600 shekels in ancient Hebrew weight.
Two kilograms, or three minas in Hebrew weight.
Location of Tarshish is unknown. But wherever it was, it was west of the Jewish homeland of Israel. Scholars often guess that it was a city in Spain or somewhere else at the opposite end of the Mediterranean Sea from the Jewish homeland. Some say it was a Phoenician colony called Tartessus, in Spain. Phoenicians were native to what is now Lebanon, but their merchant ships sailed through the Mediterranean Sea.
The kingdom of Musri and the city of Kue were both in what is now central and southern Turkey. Kue was near the Apostle Paul’s hometown of Tarsus. Some ancient Bible versions say the horses came from Egypt and Kue.
That’s about seven kilograms and 1.7 kilograms of silver for a chariot and a horse. It was 600 shekels and 150 shekels in Hebrew weight. Shekels came in different kinds of metal and different weights. There was a heavy shekel that weighed about 11.5 grams or .4 ounces. This was sometimes called the King’s Shekel or the Royal Shekel. That’s the measure we use here. Some scholars say this was also the weight used in the Israelite worship center and later in the Jerusalem Temple. The lighter shekel weighed about 9.5 grams or .33 ounces. Some scholars say this was probably the shekel accepted at the worship center.
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