1 Kings 10 Study Notes

10:1-29 This chapter deals with Solomon’s wealth, his international reputation, and his trade practices.


Hebrew pronunciation [sha MAH]
CSB translation hear, listen, obey
Uses in 1 Kings 60
Uses in the OT 1,165
Focus passage 1 Kings 10:1,6-8,24

Shama‘ denotes hearing (Gn 3:8) or listening (Gn 3:17). Listening may imply agreeing (1Sm 30:24) or discerning (2Sm 14:17). God’s hearing may involve being a witness (Jdg 11:10). Shama‘ suggests responding to evidence (Ex 4:8). “Listen to my voice” is an idiom for obey me (Ex 4:1). The imperative shema‘ calls people to listen and obey (Dt 6:4). News can reach (Gn 45:16). Intensive forms imply carefully obeying (Dt 11:13) or paying close attention (Jb 21:2). A “hearing ear” is receptive (Pr 25:12). Passively, shama‘ suggests resound (Jr 6:7) or become public knowledge (Est 2:8); something is reported (Neh 6:6), overheard (1Sm 17:31), or heeded (Ec 9:16). Shama‘ in causative forms means proclaim (Is 48:20), summon (1Sm 23:8), tell (Is 41:22), or reveal (1Sm 9:27). It can mean sing, sound, predict, announce, or pronounce. Permissively, it is allow to be heard, let experience, or enable to hear.

10:1 The author begins with the queen of Sheba (Sabea in the southwestern corner of Arabia) investigating Solomon’s rumored wisdom. Perhaps other political and economic interests motivated her visit as well.

10:2 Since the land routes were more convenient for traveling from southern Arabia, and perhaps because Solomon’s fleets had cut her off from sea travel, the queen came with a camel caravan loaded with the luxury goods that made her land wealthy and famous. She and Hiram (9:10-14), in their dealings with Solomon, demonstrated one of the models for international commerce: that international trade could be conducted as gifts between heads of state. The gifts were delivered with all the generous appearances of real gifts, but the business managers probably were there to evaluate the real value of the exchanges. And, if an exchange was not fair, one of the partners could complain, as Hiram did (9:13).

10:3-5 These verses demonstrate the moral complexity and depth of the Bible writer’s vision. As a manifestation of God’s good gifts to Solomon, all this luxury was God-given. However, being abused in practice, this luxury also demonstrated the sinful excess that burdened the people and helped to bring down Solomon’s empire.

10:6-9 There were two sides to the queen’s glowing report of Solomon’s greatness and the blissfulness of his servants. On the good side, it showed both God’s glory and Solomon’s glory and his capacity for producing wealth. It also showed the short-sighted, luxurious misuse of those gifts.

10:10 Sheba was famous for spice production and probably also had its own maritime trade with points further east. The gold that the queen brought was probably in payment for goods that Solomon was shipping south.

10:11-12 The location of Ophir is unknown. Almug wood is probably a variety of aromatic sandalwood or red sandalwood from India.

10:13 Again, these gifts probably involved some business-like bargaining.

10:14-15 These verses give a broader perspective on the wealth, trading partners, and tributary areas of Solomon’s empire.

10:16-17 This hammered gold probably utilized a technology in which soft, nearly pure gold was hammered into thin sheets. Then this foil, because of its malleability, could be applied to almost any surface. This kind of fragile decoration was intended for purely ceremonial use. The large shields were modeled after the large rectangular shields more useful for heavy infantry lined up in formation in battle. The circular prototypes of the small shields were better suited for more mobile, light-armed infantry.

10:18 Like other luxurious trappings of glory already noted, this throne was decorated with ivory inlay and hammered gold overlay.

10:19 Lions were a common motif associated with royalty in ancient times. For instance, the palaces of pagan kings often included carved lions representing supernatural beings who were thought to guard the king and his palaces. In Hebrew apocalyptic imagery, such creatures were more symbolic of God’s glory. Thus they may here symbolize the king’s glory, which ultimately derived from God’s glory. Two lions here are described as beside the armrests. In some similar ancient thrones, the backs of the lions were the armrests, while the legs of the lions formed the legs of the throne.

10:20 This description closes with the writer’s boast about the uniqueness of Solomon’s throne and dais—an expression more properly taken to indicate the king’s unique glory rather than the purported uniqueness of structures related to his throne.

10:21-22 That the mercantile expeditions were undertaken every three years indicates that they were far-reaching, perhaps even bypassing the seafaring interests of possible allies such as Sheba. The expeditions also imply the existence of firm alliances with distant trading partners since the fleets had to have access to friendly harbors during the annual monsoon winds. Tarshish was likely in Spain. The Hebrew word translated peacocks is difficult to interpret. In light of the close diplomatic and cultural connections between Solomon and Egypt, the word may actually refer to a type of baboon native to Egypt.

10:23-25 All God’s promises to Solomon had come true. Delaying mention of the problems in the empire, the author gives a preliminary sketch of the Messianic kingdom that could have been.

10:26 In light of the data describing Solomon’s imperial influence, this figure for a chariot army, 1,400, seems appropriate or slightly on the low side. About a century later, Assyrian documents assert that Ahab of Israel could mobilize 2,000 chariots. The 12,000 horsemen probably included the human handlers, trainers, other support personnel for the chariot horses, and the chariot warriors themselves.

10:27 This paragraph celebrates wealth and power. Compare v. 21 on the abundance of silver.

10:28-29 An important part of Solomon’s trade and commerce was his trade in chariots and chariot horses. The best chariots were made in Egypt. One of the major suppliers of horses was a place in northern Egypt known as Mitsri. This indicates that Solomon had established himself as the middleman for much of the north-south arms trade of his day.

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