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Sermon preached on 1 Kings 10 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 10/13/2019 in Novato, CA.
Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
1 Kings 10
Because the LORD Loved Israel Forever
Back in chapter 4 we mentioned that if any time in history was a golden age for the church, then the time of King Solomon would make a strong candidate. We noted that early in his reign there in chapter 4. Not only was the kingdom glorious and well organized, but Solomon showed himself such a wise and prosperous king. In many ways he had shown himself as not only a model king but a model human being. His life seemed to be a picture of what Adam, the first man, could have, should have, attained. If that was true back in chapter 4 early on in his reign, there are so many ways here and now in this chapter it becomes further illustrated later in his reign. In many ways today’s passage parallels and advances what we saw in chapter 4 in terms of a candidate for a golden age and for an ideal king. We ultimately will look beyond Solomon to Jesus as we consider Solomon’s golden age traits.
In our first point then for today, let’s observe Solomon’s wisdom and prosperity from the testimony of the inspired narrator of 1 Kings. This is primarily the last half of our passage, verses 14-29, though also verses 11-12. Then we’ll go in our second point to see how the Queen of Sheba testifies to this. The narrator’s overall summary is there starting in verse 23. “Thus, King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. And the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind.” There we see those two main aspects being highlighted: wisdom and riches. The author specifically credits God there for Solomon’s wisdom. Though we should certainly glorify God for both, since we can remember that back in chapter 3 God promised to King Solomon that he would excel in both. So, this is the starting place. Recognize Solomon’s tremendous wisdom and wealth and glorify God for it.
In terms of his wisdom, the narrator explains here in verse 24 that it had an international draw. We already knew that the people of Israel benefited from his wisdom – like we saw back in chapter 4 with the two women over the disputed boy. But here we see people from all over came to Solomon to hear and learn from him and his wisdom. The narrator certainly draws a connection between his wisdom and his wealth. Surely, it’s implied that his ordinary operations that brought in such wealth was a function of his wisdom at work. But it’s also noted explicitly there in verse 25 that when people from all over came to hear his wisdom, they brought great gifts to Solomon. Such gifts only further added to his financial position.
And then notice how much detail the narrator tells us of Solomon’s wealth and riches and prosperity. The high-level summary of his gold income is stated in verse 14. He had an annual income of 666 talents of gold. That’s like 50,000 pounds of gold. If my math is right, in current gold prices that’s like a billion US dollars worth of income in gold alone each year. And that doesn’t include the gold from the other miscellaneous sources mentioned in verse 15. Some of this gold came from his fleet of ships. We see in verses 11 and 22 that his fleets brought in various goods, not only of basic treasures like gold and silver, but also rare treasures like that almug wood. (We don’t know what kind of wood this was, by the way.)
Then we have the various items in his palace mentioned – everything golden! Gold shields of multiple sizes to fill the House of the Forest of Lebanon – remember that was a huge structure that was part of his palace complex, possibly used in part for military purposes. His throne was amazing – so much gold and so much intricate design – as it says in verse 20, there was nothing like it anywhere. Even all Solomon’s cups he used for drinking were made of gold – not just his own personal ones, but even all that was in that House of the Forest of Lebanon.
Then we see some of the details of the strength of his military starting in verse 26. This is put particularly in terms of his horses and chariots. 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen is a huge number. But we see that he not only had a lot for himself, but he had access to so many that he was also in the business of importing then exporting them for international trade.
So then, this summary by the narrator of our passage is wonderfully complemented by the account of the visit of the Queen of Sheba. This now is our second point for today – to look at the Queen of Sheba’s testimony to his wisdom and prosperity. She herself is an example of the sort of international visits that Solomon received – Sheba is generally understood to be a prosperous kingdom in the south Arabian Peninsula in present-day Yemen. Though, certainly her visit was especially noteworthy which is why it’s so highlighted not only here, but also written about in other extrabiblical texts as well. We learn then the reason for her visit in verse 1 and also in verse 6. She had heard of the fame of Solomon. She had learned of his wisdom and the prosperity of his kingdom. Notably, verse 1 puts this in the context of the LORD. She heard of Solomon’s fame as it concerned the name of the LORD. Her words to Solomon definitely recognized the connection between Solomon’s wisdom and prosperity with the actions of the LORD God.
So then, notice why she came to visit Solomon based on that context. It was to see for herself if such amazing reports were true. It’s like the reports were so amazing, so extraordinary, she really didn’t believe they could actually be true. The reports must have seen exaggerated and embellished to her. So, she wanted to see for herself, and part of how she went about seeing for herself was to put Solomon to the test. She asked him hard questions, verse 1. She brought whatever sort of riddle or question of wisdom she could think of. She put those before King Solomon and he answered here. Verse 3 says that nothing was hidden from the king that he could not explain to her. In other words, she couldn’t stump him. Rather, she came away with her every question answered with glorious wisdom. But her inquiry was not only to quiz Solomon. It’s clear here that she was given the grand tour and allowed to see how Solomon organized his house and his servants and officials and even how the worship of the LORD was conducted. She was given a grand and glorious tour.
And so, after having taken all that in, her conclusion is clear and definitive. Look at the end of verse 4 – “there was no more breath in her.” Everything overwhelmed her in amazement. Her soul was in great awe of it all. I love what she says in verse 6. She says that instead of coming and finding out the rumors were exaggerated, she found that they were actually understated. Instead of finding that the reports about Solomon to be embellished, she found that they didn’t go far enough in describing his wisdom and prosperity. Her praise for the situation included noting how Solomon’s leadership affected his servants and his people. In verse 8 she exclaims, “Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!” That’s the same way Psalm 1 starts out in noting how happy or blessed is the man who delights in the law of the Lord. Likewise, how happy and blessed to be a man under the wisdom and leadership of King Solomon, to serve him and his kingdom!
But the climax of her positive response to Solomon and his kingdom comes in verse 9. There she blesses the LORD – Yahweh. “Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the LORD loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.” So, here, the climax of the response of this Gentile queen is to praise the one true God! That’s the direction forward for redemptive history. That’s the direction Solomon’s own song in Psalm 72 says. It’s what various prophets will go on to foretell. The kings of the earth coming to the Lord’s Christ and serving him, and giving gifts to him, and ultimately acknowledging the LORD. Here the Queen of Sheba reaches that point. And it’s a typological picture of the future glory that will come for God’s people and their Christ.
Along these lines, we might lastly note that the Queen of Sheba also came bringing great gifts for the king. Not meager gifts. She brought extraordinary gifts to him. Not only a tremendous amount of gold – like 20% of what Solomon would have ordinarily acquired in a whole year – but such a noteworthy amount of spices and precious stones – more than ever would come to the kingdom again! Realize how that only further shows the great wealth and prosperity of Solomon. If she was able to supply such amazing gifts, then she was not a queen of some poor meager kingdom with little means. She was a queen of riches upon riches herself to be able to give such gifts. So, for such a person to be so impressed with Solomon and his kingdom only further shows how prosperous Solomon really was. It surely doesn’t take too much extravagance to impress a poor person. But to impress a wealthy person you got to have some serious means. And yet after all her great gifts to Solomon, verse 13 mentions that he also blessed her with gifts. He bestowed upon her gifts of his royal bounty and whatever she desired.
Let’s turn now to our third and final point today and consider Solomon as a type of Christ in this passage. This is really our climactic point for today. Let me begin by saying that whenever we describe a figure in the Old Testament as a type of Christ it means that there are things in that person that are like what the Christ would be. They show certain qualities or achievements that look forward to what Christ will be or do. Yet, whenever we talk about a type of Christ it means that they are not the Christ. And so, when we recognize certain Christ-like traits in someone, we inherently recognize certain things that are not Christ-like. Let me begin then with that with Solomon here.
You see, we’ve been talking along the way in our studying of Solomon that later in life he will have a major failing. He will acquire many pagan wives who lead his heart astray and he’ll begin to worship their idols. That was exactly what God warned the people against in terms of marrying foreign women. Solomon will finally get there next chapter. And so along the way we’ve kept observing subtle things in the text where we’ve wondered if they were signs of Solomon already beginning to go astray. So far, we’ve asked those questions but have not been able to definitively say one way or another, especially since the text hasn’t condemned him yet for those actions. Next chapter, with regard to the pagan wives and the idolatry, the text will explicitly condemn him. But here, at the end of this passage, we can and should point out a clear problem that we find reported in this passage.
What I mean is I point us again to the requirements for a king in Deuteronomy 17. That was the passage that we’ve referred to repeatedly with Solomon when dealing with these questions. That’s the passage that said, for example, that the king must not acquire for himself excessive silver and gold. By the way, it’s hard to not see excessive silver and gold in this passage when silver had become so common that it lost its value and gold was so common for Solomon that he seems to have covered virtually everything in his palace with it, but I digress. But here’s the clear violation. In Deuteronomy 17 it gives this requirement for the king in Deut. 17:16. “He must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’” And so, while it may be a question we can’t answer to know if Solomon had acquired too much gold or silver – this question is not hard to answer. Did he acquire too many horses from Egypt? Yes, because even one horse from Egypt was one too many.
This might seem like such a trivial requirement for the king of God’s people. But the explanation in Deuteronomy explains the point. To go back to Egypt in any fashion is to go the wrong direction of redemptive history. We talked a moment ago about heading the right direction in redemptive history. That’s the kings of the earth coming to the king of God’s people with gifts and blessings and allegiance. But God’s people weren’t to go back to Egypt – Egypt who had been their former savior – a savior that ended up enslaving them. God redeemed them out of Egypt so that they would never have to end back up in a situation like that again.
And so, in these last few verses, we see a failing of Solomon. While it is only written descriptively here, the narrative will then immediately turn in the next chapter to speak explicitly against Solomon’s greater infraction of idolatry through his pagan wives. All this drives home the point – while Solomon looks very Christ-like again in this passage and very glorious – his moral failings show that he is not the ultimate Christ. There would need to be one greater than Solomon to come – one even more wise than Solomon. Think about that. The text paints Solomon at the height of his wisdom when he begins his moral failings. It’s not that he had abandoned wisdom when he fell into such sin. Yet, doesn’t that make his sin all the worse? His sin was not done out of foolishness or ignorance. With much wisdom and knowledge comes much responsibility and accountability. Solomon was not a fool making a mistake. It wasn’t that Solomon did his sin when he should have known better. It was that Solomon did know better. That’s why Solomon wasn’t the Christ. One greater and better than Solomon has now come in Jesus Christ.
So then, think of how so many positive references here in this passage do look forward to how they are ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. The Queen of Sheba’s blessings of the LORD find their climax in Jesus. She said that God gave his people such a king for two reasons. One, because God so delighted in the king. Two, because God so loved the people to give them such a king. That was true to a degree for Solomon. It’s true in the fullest sense for Jesus. Oh, how God the Father delighted in Jesus, saying, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” And how it was God’s love for us that he would give us such a king!
Think then of the way the Queen of Sheba examined and tested Solomon to prove his worth and wisdom. Isn’t this akin to how the religious leaders during Jesus’ earthly ministry came and tested him? They repeatedly tried to put hard questions before him – like the test of whether they should pay taxes to Caesar or not. But time and again Jesus answered there every question with amazing wisdom. Jesus passed there every test. Yet, still, so many of those religious leaders rejected Jesus. That’s why Jesus rightly said that the Queen of Sheba would rise up at the final day of judgment and speak against such people who rejected Jesus, “for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here” (Matt. 12:42). The problem with those religious leaders was their stubborn, hard hearts. They refused to belief in Jesus even though he answered their every test. But the application comes to us today. Have you come and inquired of Jesus and rightly praised God for the glory of his wisdom? And for the beauty of the riches he has and offers? And for the wonder of his house and people and kingdom? Or, have you remained stubborn? Has your heart remained hardened against Jesus despite the fact that he has repeatedly shown himself and his way to be the most wise?
Think as well then about this reference of the Queen giving such gifts to Solomon. That is akin to what the magi did for Jesus at his birth. The nations rightly ought to have come and given gifts to Jesus. Yet, we know that the magi’s actions were not the norm during Jesus’ first coming. Rather, he came to us from afar to give to mankind out of his royal bounty. Jesus, as a servant to the elect, desired to lead the way in giving gifts to men. That’s what his incarnation was about. That’s what the cross was about. That’s and even what the ascension was about too – as even now from on high he gives gifts to men of his Spirit. So then, as Gentiles who’ve received such blessing, do you come in homage to king Jesus and bring him gifts? The gift of your heart, and your loyalty, and your trust? The gift of your praise and your service and your worship? Let us gladly respond to all that he has done for us and given to us by giving even ourselves as a gift back to him.
Trinity Presbyterian Church, today’s passage as it looks beyond Solomon to King Jesus is ultimately a gospel call. To those who find themselves as fools – see and find the greatest wisdom and bounty in Jesus. To those who think themselves wise – put your wisdom to use to come to Jesus and praise him and be his servant.
And for all of us who have put their allegiance in Jesus, think of what it means. We who have come from the nations to kiss the hand of King Jesus – think of what we get to do now. We get to stay with King Jesus and be his people and his subjects and his servant. Think about it. The Queen of Sheba had to go back home afterwards. We can stay and be with King Jesus forever! She said happy and blessed are King Solomon’s peoples. Do you have this perspective as a servant of Jesus? Sometimes we need an outsider to remind us of it! Be reminded today of how happy and blessed we are as King Jesus’ people. That Christ’s wisdom and bounty is put to such proper ends: the glory of God and the good of us his people. Amen.
Copyright © 2019 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.