Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, she came to prove Solomon with hard questions at Jerusalem, with a very great company, and camels that bare spices, and gold in abundance, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart.IX.
(ii) SOLOMON’S WISDOM, WEALTH, AND GLORY. HIS DEATH.
(a) THE VISIT OF THE QUEEN OF SHEBA (2Chronicles 9:1-12).
Comp. 1Kings 10:1-13.
The Hebrew text coincides with Kings, allowing for a few characteristic alterations, the chief of which will be noticed.
(1) And when the queen of Sheba heard.—Now the queen of Sheba had heard. Kings, was hearing.
The fame of Solomon.—Kings, adds a difficult phrase (“as to the name of Jehovah”) which the chronicler omits.
Hard questions.—Riddles, enigmas. LXX., αἰνίγμασιν (Judges 14:12).
At Jerusalem.—An abridgment but not an improvement of Kings. The Syr. agrees with the latter.
Gold in abundance.—The chronicler has substituted a favourite expression for the “very much gold” of Kings.
And the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel; his cupbearers also, and their apparel; and his ascent by which he went up into the house of the LORD; there was no more spirit in her.(4) And his ascent by which he went up into the house of the Lord.—Kings, “And his burnt offering which he offered in the house of the Lord.” The LXX., Syr., and Vulg. here agree with Kings; and the Arab. reads, “the altar on which he offered.” In all other passages, the word used in our text (‘alîyāh) means not ascent, but upper chamber; it is likely, therefore, that in the present instance it is merely an error of transcription for the term occurring in Kings (‘ôlāh, “burnt-offering”).
And she said to the king, It was a true report which I heard in mine own land of thine acts, and of thy wisdom:(5) Of thine acts.—Literally, words. LXX., περὶ τῶν λόγων σου. We might render matters, affairs.
Howbeit I believed not their words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the one half of the greatness of thy wisdom was not told me: for thou exceedest the fame that I heard.(6) The one half of the greatness of thy wisdom.—Kings has simply, “the half was not told me.” The chronicler has made an explanatory addition. (See 1Chronicles 12:29, and 2Chronicles 30:18, for the word marbith, “increase,” “multitude,” which occurs thrice in the Chronicles and twice elsewhere.)
Thou exceedest the fame.—Literally, Thou kast added to the report. Kings, more fully, “Thou hast added wisdom and weal to the report.”
Happy are thy men, and happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and hear thy wisdom.(7) And happy . . . and hear.—The conjunctions weaken the rhetorical effect of the verse, and are not read in Kings.
Blessed be the LORD thy God, which delighted in thee to set thee on his throne, to be king for the LORD thy God: because thy God loved Israel, to establish them for ever, therefore made he thee king over them, to do judgment and justice.(8) On his throne—i.e., Jehovah’s throne. (Comp. 1Chronicles 28:5.) Kings has, “on the throne of Israel.”
To be king for the Lord thy God.—A further insistance on the idea that Solomon was but the vicegerent of Jehovah. The clause is added by the chronicler, but need not be called “an evidently wilful alteration” (Thenius).
To establish.—This phrase is wanting in the Hebrew of Kings, but is probably original, as the LXX. there has it.
And she gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices great abundance, and precious stones: neither was there any such spice as the queen of Sheba gave king Solomon.(9) Spices.—B’sāmîm, from which come our words balsam and balm.
Great abundance.—See Note on 2Chronicles 9:1. Here lārōb is substituted for the ancient harbēh.
Neither was there any such spice.—Or, there had not been such spicery, i.e., in Jerusalem. A defect in the chronicler’s MS. authority probably occasioned this deviation from the phrase which we find in the older text, “There came no more such abundance of spicery” (1Kings 10:10).
And the servants also of Huram, and the servants of Solomon, which brought gold from Ophir, brought algum trees and precious stones.(10) And the servants also of Huram, and the servants of Solomon.—Kings, “And the fleet also of Huram which carried gold from Ophir.” The phrase is altered here to correspond with 2Chronicles 8:18.
Brought algum trees.—See 2Chronicles 2:8. LXX., ξύλα πεύκιυα; Vulg., “ligna thyina;” Syriac, “acacia (?) wood” (’eshkor‘ō); Kings, “brought from Ophir almug trees in great abundance.” In the Mishna ’almûg is “coral;” and the Rabbis ascribe a red colour to the algum wood. The Pterocarpus Santalinus has blood-red wood with black streaks, is fragrant, and is used in works of art, as well as for burning. The tree called Valgu or Valgum is the Santalum album, which produces white and yellow sandalwood. Thenius doubts whether the algum wood of Solomon was not the teak (Cytharexylon Tectona), which abounds in East India, and is a hard, yellow-streaked, strongly-scented wood, used in India for temple building.
And the king made of the algum trees terraces to the house of the LORD, and to the king's palace, and harps and psalteries for singers: and there were none such seen before in the land of Judah.(11) Terraces.—M’sillôth, which usually means highways, that is, raised paths. The word is an interpretation of mis‘ād, which only occurs in 1Kings 11:12. LXX., ἀναβάσεις; Vulg., “gradus;” Arabic, “pillars.”
And there were none such seen before in the land of Judah.—A shortened paraphrase of, “There came no such almug trees, nor were seen unto this day” (Kings). “The land of Judah” is a phrase which indicates how utterly the northern kingdom was excluded from the redactor’s thought.
And king Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatsoever she asked, beside that which she had brought unto the king. So she turned, and went away to her own land, she and her servants.(12) Beside that which she had brought unto the king.—It can hardly be meant that Solomon returned her own presents. If the reading be sound, we may understand return presents, i.e., gifts equal in value to those which she had bestowed. Or better, we may regard the clause as a parenthetic note of the chronicler’s, to the effect that the giving of presents was not all on one side. Solomon showed himself as royally generous as his visitor. Putting the clause first would make this meaning clearer: “And quite apart from what she brought the king, Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all her desire.” Bertheau, however, proposes a slight change in the Hebrew text, so as to get the sense, “beside what the king had brought for her.” 1Kings 10:13 is much clearer: “besides what he had given her, according to the hand of king Solomon.” LXX. translates, “besides all that she brought to king Solomon;” the Vulg., “and far more than she had brought him,” which may be a trace of the original reading; the Syriac, “besides what he had given her.” Syriac and Arabic add, “and he revealed to her all that was in her heart.”
She turned.—Hāphak, for pānāh of Kings, which is more usual in this sense.
Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred and threescore and six talents of gold;(b) SOLOMON’S INCOME, SPLENDOUR, AND DOMINION—(2Chronicles 9:13-28). Comp. 1Kings 10:14-29, and 1Kings 4:26-27.
(13) Now the weight of gold.—See 1Kings 10:14, with which this verse coincides.
Beside that which chapmen and merchants brought. And all the kings of Arabia and governors of the country brought gold and silver to Solomon.(14) Besides that which chapmen and merchants brought.—The Hebrew is difficult, and probably corrupt. Literally it seems to run, besides the men of the itinerants (a strange phrase), and that which the merchants were bringing; or, perhaps, apart from the men of the itinerants and the merchants bringing. The last word may be a clerical error, as it occurs again directly. The conjecture of Thenius on 1Kings 10:15 seems to be borne out by the ancient Versions. He would read instead of ’anshê ha-tārîm, “men of the travellers,” ‘onshê ha-r’dûyîm, “fines or tributes of the subjects.” The Syriac of Chronicles has “tributes of the cities.” Perhaps, therefore, the true original reading was ‘onshê he‘arîm. The Vulg. renders “envoys of divers peoples;” but the LXX., “men of the subjected (states).”
For the second half of the phrase Kings has, “and the merchandise of the pedlars.”
The kings of Arabia.—Kings, “the kings of the mixed tribes;” that is, the Bêdâwîs, bordering on and mingling with Israel. (Comp. Exodus 12:38.) The difference depends on the vowel pointing only. (Comp. Jeremiah 25:24, where both words occur; and Ezekiel 30:5.)
Governors.—Pachôth, i.e., pashas. Thenius is wrong in supposing this word to be a token of the “later composition of the section.” (See Note on 2Kings 18:24.)
Brought.—Were bringing = used to bring. (Comp. 2Chronicles 9:23-24.)
And king Solomon made two hundred targets of beaten gold: six hundred shekels of beaten gold went to one target.(15) And king Solomon made.—Word for word as 1Kings 10:16.
Beaten gold.—Rather, according to Gesenius, mixed or alloyed gold. But the word (shahût, i.e., shatûah) seems to mean gold beaten out, gold-leaf. So LXX., ἐλατούς.
And three hundred shields made he of beaten gold: three hundred shekels of gold went to one shield. And the king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon.(16) Shields.—Maginnîm. The māgēn was a rouud or oval shield, about half the size of the “target” (çinnah), with which it is often contrasted; e.g., Psalm 35:2; LXX., ἀσπίδα.
Three hundred shekels of gold.—Kings, three manehs of gold. The maneh or mina (Assyrian, mana), was 1-60th part of a talent, and was equivalent to fifty or sixty shekels. Either the reading of our text is an error of transcription (sh’losh mē’ôth for sh’losheth manîm), or the word shekels is wrongly supplied in our version, and we ought rather to read drachms (100 drachms = 1 mina). The Syriac reads, “And three minas of gold wrought on the handle of one shield;” so also the Arabic.
Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with pure gold.(17) Pure.—Tahôr, a common word, for the once occurring mûphaz of Kings.
And there were six steps to the throne, with a footstool of gold, which were fastened to the throne, and stays on each side of the sitting place, and two lions standing by the stays:(18) With a footstool of gold, which were fastened to the throne.—Instead of this Kings has, And the throne had a rounded top behind. Although the footstool is a prominent object in Oriental representations of thrones, it is quite possible that our text is due to a corruption of that which appears in Kings, and with which the Syriac here agrees. The LXX. renders, “and six steps to the throne, fastened with gold,” omitting the footstool. The Heb. is at all events suspiciously awkward.
And all the drinking vessels of king Solomon were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold: none were of silver; it was not any thing accounted of in the days of Solomon.(20) None were of silver; it was not anything accounted of.—The not appears to be rightly supplied by our version; comp. 1Kings 10:21, with which the verse otherwise entirely agrees.
For the king's ships went to Tarshish with the servants of Huram: every three years once came the ships of Tarshish bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.(21) For the king’s ships went to Tarshish.—1Kings 10:22, “For the king had a Tarshish fleet on the sea, with the fleet of Hiram.” It is generally assumed that the words of the chronicler are an erroneous paraphrase of the expression, “Tarshish fleet,” i.e., a fleet of ships fitted for long voyages. (Comp. Isaiah 2:16.) The identity of the present fleet with that mentioned above in 2Chronicles 9:10 is not evident. Solomon may have had a fleet in the Mediterranean (“the sea” of 1Kings 10:22) trading westward, as well as in the Red Sea, trading south and east. Some have identified Tarshish with Cape Tarsis in the Persian Gulf. (See Note on 2Chronicles 20:36.)
And king Solomon passed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom.(22) And king Solomon.—See 1Kings 10:23.
Passed all.—Was great above all.
And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom, that God had put in his heart.(23) All the kings of the earth.—Explanatory of “all the earth were seeking” (Kings). The earth, an expression defined in 2Chronicles 9:26.
And they brought every man his present, vessels of silver, and vessels of gold, and raiment, harness, and spices, horses, and mules, a rate year by year.(24) And they brought.—Used to bring. (Comp. 2Chronicles 9:14.)
Harness—i.e., weapons and armour. Compare Macbeth’s
“At least we’ll die with harness on our back.”
A rate year by year.—Literally, a year’s matter in a year. Solomon’s vassal kings are intended.
And Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen; whom he bestowed in the chariot cities, and with the king at Jerusalem.(25) And Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen.—See 1Kings 4:26 (where the number of stalls is erroneously stated at 40,000).
The remainder of the verse coincides with 1Kings 10:26.
Having already given an account of Solomon’s chariots and horses, and his importation of the latter from Egypt, in 2Chronicles 1:14-17, an account which is identical with 1Kings 10:26-29, the chronicler naturally avoids mere repetition of that passage in 2Chronicles 9:25-28.
And he reigned over all the kings from the river even unto the land of the Philistines, and to the border of Egypt.(26) And he reigned over all the kings.—This verse corresponds to 1Kings 4:21.
And the king made silver in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar trees made he as the sycomore trees that are in the low plains in abundance.(27) And the king made silver.—Identical with 1Kings 10:27. On this and the following verse, comp. the prohibitions of Deuteronomy 17:16-17.
And they brought unto Solomon horses out of Egypt, and out of all lands.(28) And they brought.—Used to bring. The verse summarises 1Kings 10:28-29 (=2Chronicles 1:16-17), and adds that Solomon imported horses “out of all the lands,” as well as from Egypt.
Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, first and last, are they not written in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and in the visions of Iddo the seer against Jeroboam the son of Nebat?(c) REFERENCE TO DOCUMENTS.—CLOSE OF THE REIGN (2Chronicles 9:29-31). (Comp. 1Kings 11:41-43.)
(29) Now the rest of the acts of Solomon.—Or, story, history; literally, words. (Comp. 1Chronicles 29:29.)
First and last.—Or, the former and the latter. Instead of this, Kings has, “and all that he did, and his wisdom.”
In the book.—Or, history. For the sources named here, see the Introduction. Kings has simply, “are they not written in the book of the history of Solomon? “His name conveyed the idea of peace to the Hebrew ear. But there is no doubt that it was originally identical with Shalman (Assyrian Salmânu), the name of a god. Tiglath-pileser II. mentions a Salamânu king of Moab. This name exactly corresponds to Solomon.
And Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years.(30) And Solomon reigned.—So 1Kings 11:42, “And the days that Solomon reigned,” etc., as here.
Over all Israel—i.e., the undivided nation.
And Solomon slept with his fathers, and he was buried in the city of David his father: and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead.(31) Slept.—Literally, lay down.
He was buried.—They buried him. Kings has, “he was buried.” The two texts are otherwise identical.