Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jun 4 2019 - 1 Kings 10 – The Queen of Sheba

Solomon's fame as a man of exceptional wisdom had spread far and wide, particularly to those areas with which Solomon, along with Hiram (see verses 11-12), had established trade routes. We don't know exactly where Sheba may have been, it has variously been identified as being in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula, in modern day Yemen, or in Ethiopia. Whatever the case, it is clear that the queen of Sheba was keen to travel a long distance from her home to Jerusalem to meet with Solomon and check whether what she had heard about him could possibly be true.

But the queen came not only because of Solomon's wisdom, she came also because she had heard of his relationship with the Lord, with Yahweh, the God of Abraham and of Israel. She had heard that Solomon's wisdom was not due to his natural ability or his studies of nature but was a gift bestowed on him by God. In coming to see Solomon she wanted to learn more of the living God.

The queen came armed with a set of difficult questions to put to Solomon. These may have been riddles such as those mentioned in Proverbs 1:6 or the one posed by Samson in Judges 14:12–14. These were commonly used as tests of wisdom. In posing these to Solomon she was seeking to engage in more than a battle of wits, she is seeking spiritual insight from one famed for possessing the Lord’s wisdom. And she would seem to have been well satisfied with Solomon's responses, for he, "answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her" (v.3).

The queen of Sheba seems to have been deeply impressed by all that she heard from Solomon and saw in Jerusalem. In vv.6-9 we read that not only does she praise Solomon for his wisdom and wealth and the wise way he rules over his people but she also praises the Lord who has given Solomon such wisdom. She concludes by saying, "Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness" (v.9).

The latter half of this chapter lists the riches and extravagance which characterised Solomon's reign. He seems to have imported fabulous quantities of gold (we probably should not see anything sinister in the statement he received 666 talents of gold yearly). Gold and ivory were used to decorate his royal palace and impressive throne. He had such a surfeit of gold that, "Nothing was made of silver, because silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s days" (v. 21, see also v. 27). He also built up a collection of, "fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses, which he kept in the chariot cities and also with him in Jerusalem" (v.26).

All of this extravagance came at great cost; cost not to Solomon personally but to the people he governed. They were required to pay taxes and provide labour to support the king in the lifestyle he thought appropriate to a king of his day. Samuel had warned the people what their request for a king might cost them (see 1 Samuel 8:10-18). But the people had taken no notice of his warning insisting that they wanted a king like the nations around them. That is what they now have and they are learning the consequences the hard way. As we shall see, after Solomon's death the nation splits apart with revolt caused by such extravagant kingship.

We have in the Lord Jesus a King who is wiser and more glorious than Solomon. But the splendour and glory of King Jesus is not supported at our expense. On the contrary, he gave himself for us: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9). His kingdom is secure for all eternity since he is the righteous one. We also are secure for all eternity in him.

Lord Jesus, we delight in your wisdom and glory, but we delight even more in the riches of your grace. As the Queen of the South came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, so we pray that all the world may hear of your fame and come to bow the knee to you.

Peter Misselbrook