1 Kings 10 (New International Version)
The Queen of Sheba Visits Solomon
1 When the queen of Sheba
Ancient Sabea is modern-day Yemen.
heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the LORD, she came to test Solomon with hard questions. 2 Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—
HERE is “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” from the oratorio Solomon (written in 1749) by George Frideric Handel.
she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. 3 Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her.
“The hard questions were not just riddles, but included difficult diplomatic and ethical questions . . . The test was not an academic exercise but to see if he would be a trustworthy business party and a reliable ally capable of giving help.”
–Donald J. Wiseman
4 When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, 5 the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the LORD, she was overwhelmed.
Solomon and the Bees
by John Godfrey Saxe
When Solomon was reigning in his glory,
Unto his throne the Queen of Sheba came;
(So in the Talmud you may read the story)
Drawn by the magic of the monarch’s fame,
To see the splendours of his court, and bring
Some fitting tribute to the mighty King.
Nor this alone: much had Her Highness heard
What flowers of learning graced the royal speech;
What gems of wisdom dropped with every word;
What wholesome lessons he was wont to teach
In pleasing proverbs; and she wished in sooth
To know if rumor spake the simple truth.
Besides, the Queen had heard (which piqued her most)
How through the deepest riddle he could spy;
How all the curious arts which women boast
Were quite transparent to his piercing eye;
And so the Queen had come—a royal guest—
To put the Sage’s cunning to the test.
And straight she held before the monarch’s view
In either hand a radiant wealth of flowers;
The one, bedeckt with every charming hue,
Was newly culled from Nature’s choicest bowers.
The other, no less fair in every part,
Was the rare product of divinest art.
“Which is the true, and which the false?” she said.
Great Solomon was silent. All amazed,
Each wondering courtier shook his puzzled head;
While at the garlands long the Monarch gazed,
As one who sees a miracle, and fain,
For very rapture ne’er would speak again.
“Which is the true?” Once more the woman asked,
Pleased at the fond amazement of the King;
“So wise a head is scarcely to be tasked,
Most learned Liege, with such a trivial thing!”
But still the Sage was silent; it was plain
A deep’ning doubt perplexed his royal brain.
While thus he pondered, presently he sees,
Close by the casement—so the story goes—
A little band of busy bustling bees,
Hunting for honey in a withered rose.
The monarch smiled, and raised his royal head:
“Open the window!”—that was all he said.
The window opened at the King’s command.
Within the room the eager insects flew
And sought the flowers in Sheba’s out-stretched hand;
And so the King and all the courtiers knew
That wreath was Nature’s—and the baffled Queen
Returned to tell the wonders she had seen.
My story teaches (every tale should bear
A fitting moral) that the wise may find,
In trifles light as atoms of the air,
Some useful lesson to enrich the mind—
Some truth designed to profit or to please—
As Israel’s King learned wisdom from the bees.
* * *
6 She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. 7 But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. 8 How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! 9 Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the LORD’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness.”
10 And she gave the king 120 talents (that is, four and a half tons) of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones. Never again were so many spices brought in as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.
Isaiah 60:5-7 (NLT)
Your eyes will shine,
and your heart will thrill with joy,
for merchants from around the world will come to you.
They will bring you the wealth of many lands.
Vast caravans of camels will converge on you,
the camels of Midian and Ephah.
The people of Sheba will bring gold and frankincense
and will come worshiping the Lord.
The flocks of Kedar will be given to you,
and the rams of Nebaioth will be brought for my altars.
I will accept their offerings,
and I will make my Temple glorious.
In Christian iconography, Solomon represents Jesus and Sheba represents the gentile Church. Thus Sheba’s meeting with Solomon bearing rich gifts foreshadows the adoration of the Magi.
11 (Hiram’s ships brought gold from Ophir; and from there they brought great cargoes of almugwood and precious stones. 12 The king used the almugwood to make supports for the temple of the LORD and for the royal palace, and to make harps and lyres for the musicians. So much almugwood has never been imported or seen since that day.)
13 King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for, besides what he had given her out of his royal bounty. Then she left and returned with her retinue to her own country.
Many traditions point to the Queen of Sheba as a black woman.
And here is another interesting tradition! A large part of the history of Ethiopia is centered on the legend of the Queen of Sheba of Ethiopia and King Solomon of Israel. Many Ethiopians believe that the relationship between Sheba and Solomon resulted to a son who founded the Solomonic Dynasty in Aksum. Read more HERE.
14 The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents (that is 25 tons), 15 not including the revenues from merchants and traders and from all the Arabian kings and the governors of the territories.
16 King Solomon made two hundred large shields of hammered gold; six hundred shekels (that is, 15 tons) of gold went into each shield. 17 He also made three hundred small shields of hammered gold, with three minas (that is, three and three-fourth pounds) of gold in each shield. The king put them in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon.
These were display models only. Gold is too heavy and too soft to be useful as a shield in battle.
18 Then the king made a great throne covered with ivory and overlaid with fine gold. 19 The throne had six steps, and its back had a rounded top. On both sides of the seat were armrests, with a lion standing beside each of them. 20 Twelve lions stood on the six steps, one at either end of each step. Nothing like it had ever been made for any other kingdom. 21 All King Solomon’s goblets were gold, and all the household articles in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold. Nothing was made of silver, because silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s days. 22 The king had a fleet of trading ships at sea along with the ships of Hiram. Once every three years it returned, carrying gold, silver and ivory, and apes and baboons.
23 King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. 24 The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart. 25 Year after year, everyone who came brought a gift—articles of silver and gold, robes, weapons and spices, and horses and mules.
26 Solomon accumulated chariots and horses; he had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses, which he kept in the chariot cities and also with him in Jerusalem. 27 The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills. 28 Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt and from Kue—the royal merchants purchased them from Kue at the current price. 29 They imported a chariot from Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse for a hundred and fifty (that is, three and three-fourth pounds). They also exported them to all the kings of the Hittites and of the Arameans.
When we think of Solomon’s great wealth, we also consider that he originally did not set his heart upon riches. He deliberately asked for wisdom to lead the people of God instead of riches or fame. God promised to also give Solomon riches and fame, and God fulfilled His promise.
We also consider that Solomon gave an eloquent testimony to the vanity of riches as the preacher in the Book of Ecclesiastes. He powerfully showed that there was no ultimate satisfaction through materialism. We don’t have to be as rich as Solomon to learn the same lesson.