The Queen of Sheba Visits Solomon (10:1–13)
14–25 In this section the writer describes some of Solomon’s riches. He starts by mentioning that Solomon’s personal annual income was twenty-three tone of gold,49 not to mention other sources of revenue! (verses 14–15). Solomon made ceremonial gold shields50 (verses 16–17) and a magnificent throne (verses 18–20). Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth (verse 23). The whole world came to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart (verse 24). God had truly answered Solomon’s prayer that all the peoples of the earth might come to know the God of Israel (1 Kings 8:60).
26–29 These verses mention the horses and chariots Solomon acquired. The writer also notes that Solomon made silver in Jerusalem as common as stones (verse 27).
What are we to make of Solomon’s riches and splendor? Jesus taught that the lilies of the field were dressed more splendidly than Solomon was (Matthew 6:28). He also taught that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24). Jesus did not seem to think much of Solomon’s riches!
Neither would Moses have thought much of them; he had expressly forbidden kings to acquire great numbers of horses or accumulate large amounts of silver and gold51 (Deuteronomy 17:16–17). So, between Jesus and Moses, Solomon does not appear in a very good light!
However, there are things we must say on Solomon’s side. First, God Himself promised to give Solomon both riches and honor (1 Kings 3:13)—in part because Solomon had not asked for them. Solomon’s fantastic riches were a gift from God, not to be rejected. We are free to receive all of God’s gifts with rejoicing and thanksgiving.
The key point is this: we must not love riches, we must not seek riches. Simply having riches is not wrong; it is our hearts and motives that God looks at. Our riches belong to God; they are not given to us for the end of his life. And that, together with our own self-centered purposes, but rather are to be used in God’s service. If we can hold our riches in this way, there is nothing wrong with being rich.
However, with great riches comes great temptation. It is very hard not to begin to love one’s riches, and this happens slowly and subtly. It’s hard to believe that Solomon didn’t begin to love his riches toward the end of his life. And that, together with loving his many wives, turned out to be his downfall.52
For most of us, it is better not to have riches. Paul wrote to Timothy: godliness with contentment is great gain . . . if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that . . . For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:6-10).