© 2003, J.W. Carter
If one is to mention King Solomon, what first comes to mind? Most people, if
they have heard of him at all, would probably first mention wisdom, wealth,
and maybe women. Where did Solomon get these possessions from?
Earlier in 1 Kings 3:1-15, as Solomon was deeply concerned with the upcoming
task of serving as Israel's king, he experienced his first theophany at Gibeon.
In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.
6And Solomon said, Thou hast showed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
7And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
8And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
9Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?
10And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.
11And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;
12Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.
13And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.
14And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.
15And Solomon awoke; and, behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and offered up burnt offerings, and offered peace offerings, and made a feast to all his servants.
(1 Kings 3:5-14)
In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee. 6And Solomon said, Thou hast showed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. 7And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. 8And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. 9Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? 10And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. 11And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; 12Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. 13And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. 14And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days. 15And Solomon awoke; and, behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and offered up burnt offerings, and offered peace offerings, and made a feast to all his servants. (1 Kings 3:5-14)
What offer did God make to Solomon? God told Solomon that he could have anything he wished. What did Solomon ask for? Rather than ask for worldly possessions, Solomon asked for a discerning heart, so that he could wisely administer the office he was called to . What was God's response? Since his wish was not selfish, God had granted it, plus He gave Solomon the worldly possessions that he did not ask for.
Think for a moment what your response would be if God would grant any wish. What would it be? To ask for wisdom might be a paradox, since to ask such a request requires great wisdom in the first place. It is certainly apparent that Solomon's gift of a discerning heart was given to him before this encounter with God. What would the average person typically ask for? The average person on the street would usually think first of great wealth, personal health, and health among their loved ones. Who has not dreamed of winning a huge lottery game?
Now, consider the spiritual context of the request. What would you ask for? If God presented Himself to us in a theophany such as that experienced by Solomon, surely we would respond to the question quite differently than in an informal Bible Study session. It would seem that our answer would be motivated by our acknowledgment of God, and the spiritual context of the situation. Few would probably ask for wealth. .I made such a request many years ago following a Bible study on the gifts of the Spirit, and have made only one such request. I asked God for a gift of discernment to understand the scriptures so I can be used to teach them to others. I would suppose the jury is still out on whether that gift was actually granted!
At the time of Solomon's second theophany he had completed the building of the temple, the King's palace, and three other major buildings in the complex, a judicial chamber, an armory, and a palace for his favored wife, the daughter of the Pharaoh of Egypt. He had also built three important military centers. Never in the history of Israel had such a building project taken place. Solomon conscripted the Canaanites as laborers and used drafted Israelites as supervisors and officers. Ultimately, this conscription was a heavy burden on the people.
And it came to pass, when Solomon had finished the building of the house of the LORD, and the kingís house, and all Solomonís desire which he was pleased to do, 2That the LORD appeared to Solomon the second time, as he had appeared unto him at Gibeon. 3And the LORD said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.
It was David's desire to build the temple that would replace the tent of the tabernacle where the Holy of Holies was located for over 500 years. His purpose was to honor God, based upon his feeling that his palace was a more honorable facade than that of the tent. Though God was satisfied with the use of the tent to contain this worship center, God honored David's wish through his son, Solomon. Solomon spent many years building the temple, and upon its completion God again spoke to Solomon a second time. This word from God had to have been a tremendous encouragement, as God stated that He would, indeed, use this facility as a replacement for the tent of meeting in response to Solomon's previous prayer (recorded in the previous chapter.)
God stated that He had "hallowed" or "consecrated" this house. What does this mean? To consecrate something means to make it holy, to set it apart for God's purpose and His alone. We usually consider Christian worship centers to be consecrated in this same way. Also, we use the same concept when we "consecrate our hearts," though in reality few are probably successful on following through on this promise. God demonstrated his presence in the consecrated temple of Israel. In the same manner, God has put the Holy Spirit in the heart of every true believer, and by doing so, the heart is now the temple that is to be consecrated to God. Therefore, what does it mean to have a heart that is consecrated to God? It means that one is giving his/her heart as a tabernacle for God's continued presence. If one has given their heart to God, there is no room for ungodliness in their nature. This is a difficult and honorable task, a task that comes with some responsibility.
And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments: 5Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel.
In this second theophany, God reminds and reassures Solomon of the importance of continuing his obedience in walking with God, promising his blessing as long as Solomon stays true. Ultimately, God's promise of an eternal Israeli kingdom is true, as Jesus fulfills the promise as the eternal king. Still the responsibility for walking with God remains with Solomon. What does it mean to "walk with God?" Are Christians expected by God to do this? A Christian becomes a Christian by giving their heart to God. With a heart given to Him in this way, walking with God is a natural and Spirit-led response. Though God has promised to never leave us, we can still turn our back on Him. We can choose to no longer walk with God where He is going, and take our own path, separate from Him. There are consequences to such a decision. Though God will not leave us entirely alone, there is a response:
But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them: 7Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people: 8And at this house, which is high, every one that passeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss; and they shall say, Why hath the LORD done thus unto this land, and to this house? 9And they shall answer, Because they forsook the LORD their God, who brought forth their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and have taken hold upon other gods, and have worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath the LORD brought upon them all this evil.
What is God's promise to Israel if they should fail to walk with Him? He will "cut off Israel out of the land" and they will become a "proverb." That is, they will not be maintained by God in the land of the promise, and will cease to exist as a nation, becoming only a proverb, a note in a history book. We saw the nation of Israel disbanded by the Romans about 40 years after Jesus' crucifixion. They gathered themselves together again in the mid 1900s to reform the nation of Israel. During that 2000-year period, no nation claimed the promised land. It was the only ungoverned land on the planet, preserved even yet for Israel.
And it came to pass at the end of twenty years, when Solomon had built the two houses, the house of the LORD, and the kingís house, 11(Now Hiram the king of Tyre had furnished Solomon with cedar trees and fir trees, and with gold, according to all his desire,) that then king Solomon gave Hiram twenty cities in the land of Galilee. 12And Hiram came out from Tyre to see the cities which Solomon had given him; and they pleased him not. 13And he said, What cities are these which thou hast given me, my brother? And he called them the land of Cabul unto this day. 14And Hiram sent to the king sixscore talents of gold..
We see here the beginning of some errors on Solomon's part as he was aggressively working to build even more structures after the completion of the temple. It is 20 years into Solomon's 40-year reign and for this period he has been purchasing building materials and expertise from Hiram, the king of Phoenicia, a Greek kingdom North and West of Israel. As rich as Solomon was, he overextended himself and for some reason could not, or would not, pay Hiram in cash or commodities. Instead he offered 10 small border towns in western Galilee. This introduces a conceptual problem, and probably a point of disobedience on Solomon's part. The land was given to Israel by God. Was it Solomon's place to give it to a pagan nation? Still, God was faithful to his original promise. The land was not worth much to Solomon, and upon inspection, was not worth much to Hiram either. These poor towns were not likely to provide Hiram with much tribute. Hiram refused the gift, and the land stayed in the possession of Israel. :One of the towns in the area did come to be named Cabul, which means "nothing." Solomon had been paying Hiram in grain and oil.
Hiram gave Solomon 120 talents of gold. (A talent is roughly 70 - 100 pounds, the common burden of an adult man, or the amount that an adult man could easily carry.) At best, 120 talents are 12000 pounds, or 192,000 ounces. At $400/oz, that is $76.8 Million in today's gold values. A better estimate might be $20/oz, the world standard at the turn of the 20th century, or $3.8 Million. Why would Solomon need money? At this point, it is apparent that Solomon did not maintain his assets in a liquid form, and could not pay workers a wage, so he started conscripting labor.
And this is the reason of the levy which king Solomon raised; for to build the house of the LORD, and his own house, and Millo, and the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, and Megiddo, and Gezer. 16For Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up, and taken Gezer, and burnt it with fire, and slain the Canaanites that dwelt in the city, and given it for a present unto his daughter, Solomonís wife. 17And Solomon built Gezer, and Bethhoron the nether, 18And Baalath, and Tadmor in the wilderness, in the land, 19And all the cities of store that Solomon had, and cities for his chariots, and cities for his horsemen, and that which Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, and in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion. 20And all the people that were left of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, which were not of the children of Israel, 21Their children that were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel also were not able utterly to destroy, upon those did Solomon levy a tribute of bondservice unto this day. 22But of the children of Israel did Solomon make no bondmen: but they were men of war, and his servants, and his princes, and his captains, and rulers of his chariots, and his horsemen. 23These were the chief of the officers that were over Solomonís work, five hundred and fifty, which bare rule over the people that wrought in the work. 24But Pharaohís daughter came up out of the city of David unto her house which Solomon had built for her: then did he build Millo.
Solomon took his love for building to the extreme. Not only did he build the temple, his palaces, and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, he used his great wealth to rebuild and renovate many different cities. Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer were major points along the trade routes that had been destroyed by previous battles. Solomon rebuilt these in order to establish secure positions along these routes. He also rebuilt Baalath and Tadmor, examples of Canaanite cities that were not of such importance. It is interesting that in this rebuilding, Solomon did not openly change the names of these cities, as they kept the names of their pagan gods. This again may show the change in direction that was taking place in Solomon's purpose. Solomon then worked on rebuilding all of the cities that housed his stores. This huge building project was like nothing anyone had ever seen before and was taking all of the resources that Solomon could muster.
What was happening to Solomon? His purpose had been to walk with God. Where was Solomon expending his energy and resources? He was allowing his penchant for rebuilding the cities to overwhelm his promise to follow God. Certainly rebuilding the cities was a good thing to do. However, was it what God wanted him to be doing? All of this rebuilding served only to strengthen his position as King, and did nothing to communicate God's purposes to the people.
Many times Christians find themselves similarly distracted from God's purpose in their lives. There are always many good things to be doing, and these good things can overwhelm us and take us away from our time with God, or using our resources for the Godly purposes that He would intend. There is little doubt that Solomon thought that what he was doing was good, and he thoroughly enjoyed doing it, giving all he had to the rebuilding of Israel. At the same time, however, was he walking in a path that God had not intended? We see is overextension illustrated by the cash gift from his contractor, Hiram, and the conscription of forced labor, and act that would later come back to destabilize the nations. The Canaanites resented this forced slavery, and would later revolt.
Even the Israelites were conscripted into labor, though these had positions of authority in the workplace. Still, there was a resentment. In response to their desire for a King, Samuel had prophesied that such a king would enslave them. Solomon was only the third king in succession, and the enslavement had begun.
And three times in a year did Solomon offer burnt offerings and peace offerings upon the altar which he built unto the LORD, and he burnt incense upon the altar that was before the LORD. So he finished the house.
What had happened to Solomon's walk with God? We see here that he continued to offer burnt offerings and peace offerings three times a year on the alter that he had built. He had also kept incense burning there. By doing this, Solomon was keeping to the letter of the law. His worship seems to have become ritual. Like many Christians who see the demonstration of their faith defined as attendance in a once-per week service, Solomon had become to see his defined as attendance to the three days of sacrifice. What was he doing for the other 363-1/4 days of each year? He was working on his building projects, strengthening his military and economic stability. For him, his work had become worldly. That is, his worldly work had now become so pervasive as to overwhelm his walk with God. This also happens to Christians who overextend themselves by putting too much priority into worldly things. They become Christian Schizophrenics with one foot in heaven and one in the world, a slave to two masters. Solomon was falling into this trap.
And king Solomon made a navy of ships in Eziongeber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red sea, in the land of Edom. 27And Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipmen that had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon. 28And they came to Ophir, and fetched from thence gold, four hundred and twenty talents, and brought it to king Solomon.
Solomon had now become a master businessman, working with Hiram to make a major change in the way in which Israel would do business. Tyre of Phoenecia was a major seaport, and Hiram led most of the sea commerce. At the same time, Israel had most of the control of the land commerce. So, Solomon struck a deal with the pagan king to establish a Navy of Israel. In exchange for access to trade in the Mediterranean Sea, Hiram would have access to the land trade routes. Though there is nothing intrisically wrong with establishing trade on the seas, the way that Solomon came about doing so is unfortunate as he is becoming more and more involved with this pagan king, blurring the lines of distinction between Israel and the pagan nation, sharing authorities, sharing lands and resources, and ultimately, they would share Canaanite religion, ending Solomon's reign.
Solomon is heading down a slippery slope of demise without realizing it at all. Everything he is doing seems to make sense to him as he is building Israel into a major world power. If his design had continued for many more years, Israel's influence would have been as great as any of the world dominions of the age. However, this was not God's plan for Israel. God did not want Israel to be a nation of power. He wanted Israel to be a nation of priests, serving as His children who would spread the knowledge of Him to the world. Even with Solomon's wisdom, the nation of Israel still moved further and further away from God's purpose for the nation.
1And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions.
Realize that in order for the queen of Sheba to visit Solomon, she had to travel 1500 miles through the desert. She brought with her a great caravan. This was no little undertaking. Why did she do this? She could not believe what she was hearing about Solomon's wisdom and wealth and his building of such a nation. If Israel were to become a world power, she would want Israel in the proper place in her kingdom also. So, she wanted to see this for herself and test Solomon. She also wanted her questions answered, but the context of scripture reveals that she was very skeptical in his wisdom, more interested in the impact that this growing nation of Israel would have on her own nation and her own power.
2And 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. 3And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not any thing hid from the king, which he told her not. 4And when the queen of Sheba had seen all Solomonís wisdom, and the house that he had built, 5And 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. 6And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom. 7Howbeit 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.
How did the Queen's opinion of Solomon change? She felt that people had underrated him.. What were some of the things that impressed her? She had witnessed for herself Solomon's wisdom, buildings, food, servants, minister's performance and clothing, and worship. She recognized in Solomon the nature of a true world leader, one with whom she must have a good relationship. This nation had been rebuilt far beyond what she had been told. Israel had its borders fully stabilized and a merchant navy was now on the seas. Israel would spread its influence around the region. Still, as Solomon kept up the temple worship, and as he utilized the temple as the center of Hebrew worship, he attributed all of this success and growth to God. As he was taking Israel in a direction of his own choice, he attributed its true power to that of God, a non-uncommon trait of many who share such beliefs today. We can get so caught up in the good of what we are doing that we are convinced that it is God's will, give God the credit for the work done. However, when the work is not of God, and if failure should be experienced, we are confused, disillusioned, and may even blame God. As sincere as Solomon was, he was still sincerely wrong. We see no evidence that Solomon spent time with God asking whether or not this direction was of God's choice? He simply applied his power and resources to what he felt was a godly task.
8Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom. 9Blessed 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.
Certainly, the queen of Sheba was impressed. Many around us might be impressed by the things that we do in God's name. However, who is it that needs to be impressed by what we do? All we do should be not only to honor God, but be those things that God wants us to do. Rather than build great things, God would certainly have desired that Solomon spend time with Him in prayer. Likewise, as we live our lives, how much time do we really spend with God to discern His will for our lives? Are we walking with Him in the direction of His choosing, going with Him on His path, or are we expecting God to follow us on the pathway of our own choosing? If someone as wise as Solomon can make this mistake, we certainly can also.
And she gave the king an 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. 11And the navy also of Hiram, that brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug trees, and precious stones. 12And the king made of the almug trees pillars for the house of the LORD, and for the kingís house, harps also and psalteries for singers: there came no such almug trees, nor were seen unto this day. 13And 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.
The tribute to Solomon that the queen of Sheba brought was absolutely huge. $76.8 Billion in gold alone by today's standard using the calculation above. Solomon also returned great gifts to her for her return trip. As Solomon had made alliance with Hiram, he also made alliance with Sheba. It was Solomon's method to use his great wealth and growth to develop mutual alliances with all of the pagan nations around him. We might recall that God's purpose for the nation was to remain pure and make no such alliances. By doing so, Solomon further introduced the mixing of the cultures together and led the nation of Israel away from the purity that the Lord had desired for them. From the very moment that Israel crossed into the Canaan land, they refused to maintain their cultural purity, desiring instead to mix with the nations, and then to become more like them, having their own king, their own palaces, and their own worldly influence.
Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold, 15Beside that he had of the merchantmen, and of the traffic of the spice merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia, and of the governors of the country. 16And king Solomon made two hundred targets of beaten gold: six hundred shekels of gold went to one target. 17And 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. 18Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the best gold. 19The 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. 20And twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the other upon the six steps: there was not the like made in any kingdom. 21And all king Solomonís 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. 22For 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.
The gross national product of Israel had risen to 666 talents of gold, or about $450 billion by today's gold value. This is a curious number, referred to in the Revelation as the mark of the beast. The number 6 is used to represent coming short of perfection, the number 7. Repeated three times, it refers to total depravity, the total disregard for truth. Based upon this numerology, we might be able to infer that, though Solomon had build Israel into a great world nation, this was not the nation that God had intended. He had taken it to a point of his own choosing.
What distracted Solomon from his original purpose? What caused Solomon to remain blind to God's plan for Israel? Solomon had become so consumed by his kingship that he forgot who's kingdom he was serving. He became so absorbed by his success he never took the time to ask of God if this was the nature of the success that God had desired.
As we look at what Solomon was doing, we can look to our own hearts and see if we are making the same mistake, a mistake made by the wisest of men. To avoid this we must stop and re-evaluate what God's pathway is, and ask if we are on that pathway or on one of our own. Have we been distracted by things of this world? Have we been distracted by busy engagement in "good" things, but not those things that God would prefer?
If Christians were able to refrain from this mistake of Solomon, it would be taken in the direction of God's choosing, and the whole world would be saved through the work of the Holy Spirit in a nation of priests. Instead, the church is stalled. It is time to do such an evaluation.
Patterson, R.D., and Austel, Hermann J. (1988). 1 & 2 Kings. The Expositor's Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. pp. 92-103.