“Solomon and the Queen of Sheba” by Giovanni Demin (1789-1859)
2 Chronicles 9 (New Living Translation)
Visit of the Queen of Sheba
1 When the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame, she came to Jerusalem to test him with hard questions.
“Hard questions” may refer to riddles, which were a popular part of the entertainment at feasts and special occasions in the ancient world. We remember that Samson, in Judges 14, presented a riddle to his Philistine guests at his wedding; only his wife’s betrayal enabled them to guess the correct answer.
Here are two more ancient riddles. Can you guess them? Answers are at the end of this blog entry!
1) “At night they come without being fetched,
And by day they are lost without being stolen.”
2) “I never was, am always to be,
No one ever saw me, nor ever will,
And yet I am the confidence of all
Who live and breathe on this terrestrial ball.”
She arrived with a large group of attendants and a great caravan of camels loaded with spices, large quantities of gold, and precious jewels.
“In 1931 Italian composer Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) began the composition of the music for the epic-ballet Belkis, Regina di Saba. One of his most ambitious stage works, it employed an enormous orchestra including such unconventional instruments as sitars and wind-machines, off-stage brass, a chorus, several vocal soloists and a narrator who related the legendary story in verse. The exoticism of the biblical legend of Solomon and Sheba greatly appealed to Respighi. He emulated the melodic characteristics of ancient Hebrew songs; and stressed oriental rhythms with a vast assortment of native percussion instruments.
“The ballet tells of the journey undertaken in the year 1000 B.C. by Belkis, Queen of Sheba, in response to an imperial message from Solomon, the King of Israel. The birds and the winds had told him that he is loved from afar by this beautiful young Queen of the South so he sends for her so that he may render her great honour and homage. Belkis travels across the desert in a huge treasure-laden caravan with warriors and slaves, elephants and camels, and her union with Solomon is celebrated by tumultuous rejoicing.
“Two years later Respighi preserved the best of his opulent 80-minute score in an orchestral suite of four movements. The first movement, ‘Dream of Solomon,’ is set in Solomon’s torch-lit harem in Jerusalem. The opening music broods as he gazes at the starry skies. A solemn march, with heavy bass tread and magisterial brass and vivid oriental colouring follows. The beautiful King enters, his bearing religious and majestic, lost in profound thoughts.
“The next movement is ‘The Dance of Belkis at Dawn.’ It represents Respighi’s music at its most sensual and voluptuous — an erotic picture of Belkis, as first seen in the ballet, reclining on a ruby-studded divan of green malachite watched over by four black slaves, in the luxuriant hanging gardens of Kitor. Belkis awakens, and raising her hands to salute the light of the world, dances in barefoot honour of the newly risen sun.”
HERE is Movement 1 — The Dream of Solomon.
HERE is Movement 2– The Dance of Belkis at Dawn.
When she met with Solomon, she talked with him about everything she had on her mind. 2 Solomon had answers for all her questions; nothing was too hard for him to explain to her. 3 When the queen of Sheba realized how wise Solomon was, and when she saw the palace he had built, 4she was overwhelmed.
“Meeting between the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon,” by Piero della Francesca, 1460 (Basilica di San Francesco, Arezzo, Italy)
The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now one greater than Solomon is here.
She was also amazed at the food on his tables, the organization of his officials and their splendid clothing, the cup-bearers and their robes, and the burnt offerings Solomon made at the Temple of the Lord.
5 She exclaimed to the king, “Everything I heard in my country about your achievements and wisdom is true! 6 I didn’t believe what was said until I arrived here and saw it with my own eyes. In fact, I had not heard the half of your great wisdom! It is far beyond what I was told. 7 How happy your people must be! What a privilege for your officials to stand here day after day, listening to your wisdom! 8 Praise the Lord your God, who delights in you and has placed you on the throne as king to rule for him. Because God loves Israel and desires this kingdom to last forever, he has made you king over them so you can rule with justice and righteousness.”
This Queen of Sheba doll features authentic Ethiopian fabric and jewelry designs.
9 Then she gave the king a gift of 9,000 pounds of gold, great quantities of spices, and precious jewels. Never before had there been spices as fine as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.
10 (In addition, the crews of Hiram and Solomon brought gold from Ophir, and they also brought red sandalwood and precious jewels. 11 The king used the sandalwood to make steps for the Temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and to construct lyres and harps for the musicians. Never before had such beautiful things been seen in Judah.)
12 King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba whatever she asked for—gifts of greater value than the gifts she had given him. Then she and all her attendants returned to their own land.
“Solomon and the Queen of Sheba,” by Konrad Witz, 1434 (Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, Switzerland)
Solomon’s Wealth and Splendor
13 Each year Solomon received about 25 tons of gold.
2 Chronicles 9:13 (English Standard Version)
Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold.
This is a vast amount of gold, which came to Solomon yearly. One commentator sets the value of the 666 talents of gold at $281,318,400. This speaks not only to the great wealth of Solomon, but it also makes him the only other person in the Bible associated with the number 666.
The other Biblical connection to 666 is the end-times world dictator and opponent of God and His people often known as the Antichrist (Revelation 13:18). In fact, the Revelation passage specifically says that the number 666 is the number of a man, and the man may be Solomon.
This isn’t to say that Solomon was the Antichrist or that the coming Antichrist will be some weird reincarnation of Solomon. But it may indicate that the Antichrist may not be someone purely evil from the very beginning. Instead, he may be like Solomon — a good man corrupted.
14This did not include the additional revenue he received from merchants and traders. All the kings of Arabia and the governors of the provinces also brought gold and silver to Solomon.
15 King Solomon made 200 large shields of hammered gold, each weighing more than 15 pounds. 16 He also made 300 smaller shields of hammered gold, each weighing more than 7½ pounds. The king placed these shields in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon.
A model of the ceremonial gold shield of Achilles, the Greek hero of the Trojan War and the central character in Homer’s “Iliad.” Beautiful! — but only for show. Gold is too heavy and too soft to be useful as a shield in battle.
17 Then the king made a huge throne, decorated with ivory and overlaid with pure gold. 18 The throne had six steps, with a footstool of gold. There were armrests on both sides of the seat, and the figure of a lion stood on each side of the throne. 19 There were also twelve other lions, one standing on each end of the six steps. No other throne in all the world could be compared with it!
20 All of King Solomon’s drinking cups were solid gold, as were all the utensils in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon. They were not made of silver, for silver was considered worthless in Solomon’s day!
21 The king had a fleet of trading ships manned by the sailors sent by Hiram. Once every three years the ships returned, loaded with gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks.
Do you remember the first time you saw a real live peacock fan its tail feathers? Imagine that moment for Solomon and the other Israelites!
22 So King Solomon became richer and wiser than any other king on earth. 23 Kings from every nation came to consult him and to hear the wisdom God had given him. 24 Year after year everyone who visited brought him gifts of silver and gold, clothing, weapons, spices, horses, and mules.
25 Solomon had 4,000 stalls for his horses and chariots, and he had 12,000 horses. He stationed some of them in the chariot cities, and some near him in Jerusalem. 26 He ruled over all the kings from the Euphrates River in the north to the land of the Philistines and the border of Egypt in the south. 27 The king made silver as plentiful in Jerusalem as stone. And valuable cedar timber was as common as the sycamore-fig trees that grow in the foothills of Judah. 28 Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt and many other countries.
King Solomon: Wealthy? Yes. Important? Yes. Obedient to God? No.
Deuteronomy 17:14-20 (NIV)
When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” be sure to appoint over you the king the LORD your God chooses. He must be from among your own people. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite. The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.
When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.
Summary of Solomon’s Reign
29 The rest of the events of Solomon’s reign, from beginning to end, are recorded in The Record of Nathan the Prophet, and The Prophecy of Ahijah from Shiloh, and also in The Visions of Iddo the Seer, concerning Jeroboam son of Nebat. 30 Solomon ruled in Jerusalem over all Israel for forty years. 31 When he died, he was buried in the City of David, named for his father. Then his son Rehoboam became the next king.
Riddles: 1) stars and 2) tomorrow.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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