1 - 12 The Queen of Sheba
1 Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, she came to Jerusalem to test Solomon with difficult questions. She had a very large retinue, with camels carrying spices and a large amount of gold and precious stones; and when she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was on her heart. 2 Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was hidden from Solomon which he did not explain to her. 3 When the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, the house which he had built, 4 the food at his table, the seating of his servants, the attendance of his ministers and their attire, his cupbearers and their attire, and his stairway by which he went up to the house of the LORD, she was breathless. 5 Then she said to the king, “It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. 6 Nevertheless I did not believe their reports until I came and my eyes had seen it. And behold, the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me. You surpass the report that I heard. 7 How blessed are your men, how blessed are these your servants who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom. 8 Blessed be the LORD your God who delighted in you, setting you on His throne as king for the LORD your God; because your God loved Israel establishing them forever, therefore He made you king over them, to do justice and righteousness.” 9 Then she gave the king one hundred and twenty talents of gold and a very great [amount of] spices and precious stones; there had never been spice like that which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon. 10 The servants of Huram and the servants of Solomon who brought gold from Ophir, also brought algum trees and precious stones. 11 From the algum trees the king made steps for the house of the LORD and for the king’s palace, and lyres and harps for the singers; and none like that was seen before in the land of Judah. 12 King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all her desire which she requested besides [a return for] what she had brought to the king. Then she turned and went to her own land with her servants.
In this chapter we see, in the words of the Lord Jesus, “Solomon in all his glory” (Mt 6:29). All the kings of the earth come to Solomon to bring their treasures to him (verses 23-24). An example of this we see in the queen of Sheba. Like them, in the kingdom of peace in the future all kings will contribute to the glory of the King Who is chosen by God (Isa 66:18b-19).
The queen of Sheba comes because of the fame of Solomon’s glory has gone out. She leaves her land and comes to the house of God, Jerusalem. She comes to Solomon with questions and with wealth. The difficult questions she has are the difficult questions of life; they deal with the deepest questions of life. It seems that she has not yet received a satisfactory answer to her questions from anyone. Now she comes to put Solomon to the test. She wants to know if he really is as wise as is claimed of him. She talks to him about everything she has on her heart.
Only the wisdom of God, who is in Solomon, has an answer to her difficult questions and to what she has on her heart. Thus we see in the Gospels that the Lord Jesus, with perfect wisdom, is able to answer all the questions that are asked of Him, including trick questions (Mt 22:15). He hid nothing from them (Jn 18:20; cf. Acts 20:27).
There follows a sevenfold enumeration of the glory of Solomon which the queen sees and of which she is deeply impressed (verses 3-4). She realizes that the source of all that glory is God Himself. So today we may see and admire our Lord Jesus. The queen of Sheba sees:
1. “The wisdom of Solomon” (verse 3). We see Christ, Who for us is God’s wisdom in connection with the cross (1Cor 1:24,30). For the church “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are hidden in Christ (Col 2:3). The church shows Christ as the manifold wisdom of God (Eph 3:10); He is the wisdom from above (Jam 3:15,17).
2. “The house he had built” (verse 3). We see the church as the temple, the dwelling-place of God in the present time and forever (Eph 2:21-22; Heb 3:6). It is God’s intention that we show and tell about this house (cf. Eze 43:10).
3. ‘The food at his table’ (verse 4). The table is a picture of the place of fellowship with Him and what can be enjoyed in it. Food is a picture of Christ (Jn 6:35).
4. “The seating of his servants” (verse 4). This concerns his ministers, the highest civil officials, sitting at his table with him. An example we see at Mephibosheth at the table with David. Mephibosheth was not a minister, but still enjoyed the great privilege of being at that place to share the meal with David (2Sam 9:10b,13). For us it is about fellowship with the Father and the Son (1Jn 1:3).
5. “The attendance of his ministers and their attire” (verse 4). Thus we must stand ready to minister the Lord Jesus. That is what we are called to do. We may do the ministry with what He has entrusted to us. That we may minister Him is something to be grateful for. He gives each of His own tasks to perform for Him.
His wealth is also reflected in the clothing of the minister. He who does the humblest ministry, he who does the simplest work, is dressed like a prince. Clothing means that we have put on Christ and show Him in our conduct (Lk 3:27; Eph 4:24).
6. “His cupbearers and their attire” (verse 4). The cupbearer serves the king directly. It represents the joy that we as believers are before the Lord when we serve Him (Isa 65:19; Zep 3:17). This is also linked to our dignity, which is expressed in our clothing (see the previous point).
7. “His stairway by which he went up to the house of the LORD” (verse 4) to bring there his burnt offerings. Solomon is the priest of his people. The Lord Jesus is in the midst of the church not only to receive our worship, but He Himself raises the song of praise to the glory of God (Psa 22:23; Heb 2:12b). He sings praises to God in the midst of the church, He is the great Priest (Heb 10:21), He is the mouth of the church that has come together. We bring our sacrifices through Him to God, He leads the worship.
She has seen with her eyes what she had heard in her land. We can, like them, hear “a report” through what we are told and impressed by it. But when we see it in reality, it surpasses everything we’ve heard. Also, a real appreciation is only possible after we have got to know from close by what we have heard about and thus get a share in it. The words she heard could not contain all the glory she sees now. After hearing comes seeing, that is growth. We see this growth in the queen of Sheba (verses 5-6). We also have to hear, come and see (Jn 1:40).
She is also a good observer with good judgment. In verse 7, she speaks of “men” and “servants”. ‘Men’ indicates adulthood, mature in insight; ‘servants’ indicates submission.
After speaking of Solomon’s men and servants, she speaks of the LORD Himself (verse 8). She notices that the LORD has put him on His throne as king because of His pleasure in Solomon. Solomon’s throne is the throne of the LORD. She also notes that God’s love for His people is expressed in the fact that He gave a king like Solomon to His people. Thus, the reign of the Lord Jesus over Israel will be a special proof of God’s love for His earthly people. At the same time this is a beautiful picture of God’s love for the church. God so loves the church that He gave the Lord Jesus, in His capacity as Head over all things, to her (Eph 1:22).
The Queen of Sheba gives Solomon a huge gift of gold and precious stones, as well as very rare spices that represent an enormous value (verse 9). These are types of the appreciation that someone has for the Lord Jesus, after he has seen and been deeply impressed by His great glory. The heart is completely overwhelmed by it and will express it. The spices represent the unique scent of Christ spread by believers for whom Christ is everything.
Other gifts are added to the gifts of the queen (verse 10), which are brought by “the servants of Huram and the servants of Solomon” (cf. Rev 21:24,26). Of the added gifts Solomon uses the algum trees to make “steps” out of it both for the house of the LORD and for his own house. This indicates the application of possibilities to ascend to the higher things, the things of heaven, of Christ and of God. In this context, a study of the ‘songs of degrees’, or ‘songs of steps’, also called ‘songs of ascents’, Psalms 121-134, will also fit well.
Making these steps suggests that we are helped to search for the things that are above and to think of them, because Christ is there (Col 3:1-2). This help is given to us through the gifts the Lord has given to His church. If we use them, it will give us instruments in our hands and make us singers, so that we can sing about the fame of Christ in sonorous sounds. That will not be a mere repetition of what others have said, but will be unique in its expression and experience, something that is “never seen before”. As we continually seek the things that are above, we will see more and more of the glory of Christ and express it in our thanksgiving.
The queen of Sheba gets everything she asks for from Solomon. What she gets is more than what she gave Solomon. So does the Lord also with us. If we give to Him what we have seen in Him, He will bless us even more abundantly. After receiving all the riches of Solomon, she returns to her country. There she can tell what she saw and show what she got. That also applies to us. Richly blessed we may enter the world and tell there about the Lord Jesus and how rich we have become in Him.
13 - 28 Wealth of Solomon
13 Now the weight of gold which came to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold, 14 besides that which the traders and merchants brought; and all the kings of Arabia and the governors of the country brought gold and silver to Solomon. 15 King Solomon made 200 large shields of beaten gold, using 600 [shekels of] beaten gold on each large shield. 16 [He made] 300 shields of beaten gold, using three hundred shekels of gold on each shield, and the king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon. 17 Moreover, the king made a great throne of ivory and overlaid it with pure gold. 18 [There were] six steps to the throne and a footstool in gold attached to the throne, and arms on each side of the seat, and two lions standing beside the arms. 19 Twelve lions were standing there on the six steps on the one side and on the other; nothing like [it] was made for any [other] kingdom. 20 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; silver was not considered valuable in the days of Solomon. 21 For the king had ships which went to Tarshish with the servants of Huram; once every three years the ships of Tarshish came bringing gold and silver, ivory and apes and peacocks. 22 So King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. 23 And all the kings of the earth were seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart. 24 They brought every man his gift, articles of silver and gold, garments, weapons, spices, horses and mules, so much year by year. 25 Now Solomon had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots and 12,000 horsemen, and he stationed them in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem. 26 He was the ruler over all the kings from the Euphrates River even to the land of the Philistines, and as far as the border of Egypt. 27 The king made silver [as common] as stones in Jerusalem, and he made cedars as plentiful as sycamore trees that are in the lowland. 28 And they were bringing horses for Solomon from Egypt and from all countries.
Every year, Solomon receives no less than 666 talents of gold (verse 13). In addition, he also has income from trade and income from gifts of “all the kings of Arabia” (verse 14). Also governors contribute to the income of Solomon. The wealth of Solomon is enormous, but not complete. This can be deduced from the weight of gold that comes in for him in one year, namely 666 talents. This number “is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six” (Rev 13:18) and indicates weakness, while the number seven indicates perfection.
From the gold Solomon makes large and small shields (verses 15-16). The large shields protect the whole body, the small shields are supposed to serve as status symbols. In total, he makes five hundred shields with a combined weight of approximately twenty-four hundred kilos of gold. Solomon put all the shields “in the house of the forest of Lebanon”, transforming that house into a fortress (cf. Isa 22:8).
We can say that the throne is the climax of the whole description of Solomon’s glory (verses 17-19). It is an impressive throne. There is a six-fold ascent, with the throne on the seventh step. The lions symbolize his royal majesty.
The word translated with “footstool” (verse 18) is a difficult word to translate. The word probably refers to something that has to do with the sheep or the lamb. That connects the lamb with the lion. This leads to the thought that we also find in Revelation 5. There the gaze of John of the Lion (Rev 5:5) is directed to the Lamb (Rev 5:6a). The Lamb shows the way along which He came to the throne: through the way of death.
The six steps represent the way the Lamb has gone to take His place on the throne. The seventh step is His taking place on the throne. We can think of the following ‘steps’:
1. The way of the Lamb has begun in the counsel of God to come to the kingdom of God.
2. The second step to the throne is His incarnation and the way He has gone as Man on earth.
3. The third step is His death. That step also had to be climbed.
4. The fourth step is His resurrection.
5. The fifth step is His exaltation at the right hand of God.
6. The sixth step is His return to the earth, to
7. take there the seventh step and sit down on the throne of His glory.
To describe the immense proverbial wealth of Solomon, the chronicler points to the drinking vessels of gold and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon of pure gold (verse 20). That there is nothing of silver, that silver even was not considered valuable, increases the picture of Solomon’s wealth. A lot of wealth comes from Tarsis (verse 21).
Besides being rich in gold, Solomon is also rich in wisdom. This combination makes him “greater than all the kings of the earth” (verse 22). All kings seek him also because of his wisdom (verse 23). They do not come empty-handed (verse 24). Their gifts make him still richer.
Solomon also has a large number of stalls for his many horses (verse 25). He also has chariots and 12,000 horsemen. He stations these reinforcements in chariot cities and also with himself in Jerusalem. The extent of his kingdom, according to the promise made to Abraham (Gen 15:18), is mentioned (verse 26). With other examples Solomon’s great wealth is emphasized (verse 27), while pointing out that the horses for Solomon’s army are brought in from Egypt “and from all countries” (verse 28). It shows his supremacy over all kingdoms. The great empires of the world have, as it were, become provinces in his empire.
The fact that Solomon has so many gold and horses seems to be contrary to the warning in the royal law that the king should not take much gold and should not buy many horses (Deu 17:16-17). There is also warned against taking many wives. The latter is not found here, but in 1 Kings. Here in 2 Chronicles we should not see the multiplication of gold and horses as something repulsive, but as a sign of his wealth and power.
29 - 31 The Death of Solomon
29 Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, from first to last, are they not written in the records of Nathan the prophet, and in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and in the visions of Iddo the seer concerning Jeroboam the son of Nebat? 30 Solomon reigned forty years in Jerusalem over all Israel. 31 And Solomon slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of his father David; and his son Rehoboam reigned in his place.
“The rest” (verse 29) is not a general expression in the sense of a remainder, but indicates a ‘holy rest’, which is left over and deserves attention. That rest is not included in God’s Word, but is documented by God’s prophets. They are prophets who have accompanied him in the Name of God and who now, as it were, lead him out of his earthly existence.
We know Nathan as the man who accompanied David and also confronted him with his sin (2Sam 7:1-5; 12:1-14). Ahijah announced in the later days of Solomon the tearing of the empire and announced Jeroboam the kingship over ten tribes (1Kgs 11:29-39). According to what the chronicler says here, Iddo has also spoken about Jeroboam. Thus, the mention of these prophets at the end of Solomon’s life indicates in veiled terms his unfaithfulness.
Yet the end of Solomon’s reign is described without any direct reference to the decline of his reign and his personal failure. This is in accordance with the intention of the inspired chronicler who always shows the side of God’s grace.