Solomon’s Listening Heart: The Queen of Sheba.* 1a The queen of Sheba,* having heard a report of Solomon’s fame, came to test him with subtle questions. 2She arrived in Jerusalem with a very numerous retinue, and with camels bearing spices, a large amount of gold, and precious stones. She came to Solomon and spoke to him about everything that she had on her mind. 3King Solomon explained everything she asked about, and there was nothing so obscure that the king could not explain it to her. 4When the queen of Sheba witnessed Solomon’s great wisdom, the house he had built, 5the food at his table, the seating of his ministers, the attendance and dress of his waiters, his servers, and the burnt offerings he offered in the house of the LORD, it took her breath away. 6“The report I heard in my country about your deeds and your wisdom is true,” she told the king. 7“I did not believe the report until I came and saw with my own eyes that not even the half had been told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report I heard. 8Happy are your servants, happy these ministers of yours, who stand before you always and listen to your wisdom. 9Blessed be the LORD, your God, who has been pleased to place you on the throne of Israel. In his enduring love for Israel, the LORD has made you king to carry out judgment and justice.” 10Then she gave the king one hundred and twenty gold talents, a very large quantity of spices, and precious stones. Never again did anyone bring such an abundance of spices as the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.
11Hiram’s fleet, which used to bring gold from Ophir, also brought from there a very large quantity of almug* wood and precious stones. 12With this wood the king made supports for the house of the LORD and for the house of the king, and harps and lyres for the singers. Never again was any such almug wood brought or seen to the present day.
Solomon’s Riches: Domestic Affairs.* 14b The gold that came to Solomon in one year weighed six hundred and sixty-six gold talents, 15in addition to what came from the tolls on travelers, from the traffic of merchants, and from all the kings of Arabia and the governors of the country. 16c King Solomon made two hundred shields of beaten gold (six hundred shekels of gold went into each shield) 17and three hundred bucklers of beaten gold (three minas of gold went into each buckler); and the king put them in the house of the Forest of Lebanon. 18The king made a large ivory throne, and overlaid it with refined gold. 19The throne had six steps, a back with a round top, and an arm on each side of the seat, with two lions standing next to the arms, 20and twelve other lions standing there on the steps, two to a step, one on either side of each step. Nothing like this was made in any other kingdom. 21All King Solomon’s drinking vessels were gold, and all the utensils in the house of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold. There was no silver, for in Solomon’s time silver was reckoned as nothing. 22For the king had a fleet of Tarshish ships* at sea with Hiram’s fleet. Once every three years the fleet of Tarshish ships would come with a cargo of gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks.
Solomon’s Renown. 23Thus King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. 24And the whole world sought audience with Solomon, to hear the wisdom God had put into his heart. 25They all brought their yearly tribute: vessels of silver and gold, garments, weapons, spices, horses and mules—what was due each year.
Solomon’s Riches: Chariots and Horses. 26d Solomon amassed chariots and horses; he had one thousand four hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses; these he allocated among the chariot cities and to the king’s service in Jerusalem. 27e The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedars as numerous as the sycamores of the Shephelah. 28Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt and from Cilicia, where the king’s merchants purchased them. 29A chariot imported from Egypt cost six hundred shekels of silver, a horse one hundred and fifty shekels; they were exported at these rates to all the Hittite and Aramean kings.
* [10:1–13] The sub-unit on Solomon’s wisdom contrasts with 3:16–28. There Solomon’s gifts led him to listen to the humblest of his subjects; he accomplished justice and was revered by all his people. Here the emphasis is on his clever speech to a foreign monarch. She is duly impressed by the glory of his court, but it is she, not Solomon, who recalls the monarch’s duty of establishing justice (v. 9). The unit is interrupted briefly by a remark about Solomon’s maritime commerce (10:11–12).
* [10:1] Queen of Sheba: women rulers among the Arabs are recorded in eighth-century B.C. Assyrian inscriptions. Sheba was for centuries the leading principality in what is now Yemen.
* [10:14–29] The material on Solomon’s riches, like that in 4:1–5:8, is organized around domestic affairs, international affairs, and chariots and horses (see note on 4:1–5:8), but contrasts with that earlier passage. There, Solomon’s domestic administration produced prosperity for all Judah and Israel (4:20); here the focus is on the wealth and luxury of Solomon’s own palace (10:14–21). There his international hegemony assured peace for all Judah and Israel (5:5); here his maritime ventures simply bring him more and more wealth (9:26–28; 10:11–12, 22). There even his livestock benefited from his prudent administration; here chariotry and horses are just another commodity to be traded (10:26–29).
* [10:22] Tarshish ships: large, strong vessels for long voyages. Tarshish was probably the ancient Tartessus, a Phoenician colony in southern Spain. Ivory, apes, and peacocks: the Hebrew words are obscure and the translations conjectural; however, the reference is certainly to exotic luxury items.