1 Kings 10
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
This incident is remarkable as the only one in the reign of Solomon to which reference is made in the New Testament. Solomon is twice spoken of by our Lord in His recorded discourses. In one case his royal magnificence is declared inferior to the beauty with which God has clothed the "lilies of the field." "Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these" (Matthew 6:29). Art can never vie with nature. What loveliness of form or hue that human skill can produce is comparable with that of the petals of a flower? What is all the glory with which man may robe himself to that which is the product of the creative finger of God? In the other case, it is the wisdom of Solomon that our Lord refers to, as having its widespread fame illustrated by the visit of the Queen of Sheba, and as being surpassed by the higher revelation of truth in Himself. "The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment," etc. (Matthew 12:42). The interest and importance of this incident is greatly heightened by its thus finding a place in the discourses of Christ. In itself there is no very deep meaning in it. It supplies few materials for high moral or spiritual teaching. The interchange of civilities between two Oriental monarchs is related by the historian with innocent pride, as setting forth the surpassing grandeur of the king whose reign was to him the golden age of his own nation's life. There is something of a romantic charm in it, too, that naturally gave rise to fanciful traditions being added to the biblical story. But beyond this it is an event of no great moment. This use of it, however, by our Lord lifts it out of the region of the commonplace, gives it other than a mere secular meaning, makes it an important channel of Divine instruction. Every name is honoured by association with His. Every incident becomes clothed with sacred interest when made to illustrate the relation of human souls to Him. Let us look at these two persons, then, in the light of the New Testament reference to their interview.

I. SOLOMON, IN HIS WISDOM, A TYPE OF THE "GREATER" CHRIST. The distinctive personal characteristic of Solomon was his "wisdom." The fame of it is regarded by some as marking the uprising of a new and hitherto unknown power in Israel. Whence came this new phenomenon? We trace it to a Divine source. "The Lord gave unto David this wise son" (1 Kings 5:7). "God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much" (1 Kings 4:29). No doubt the extended intercourse with surrounding nations that he established was the beginning of a new life to Israel, bringing in a flood of new ideas and interests. This supplied materials for his wisdom but did not create it. It was not learnt from Egypt, or the "children of the East." It was a Divine gift, that came in response to his own prayer (1 Kings 3:9).

1. One broad feature that strikes us in Solomon's wisdom is its remarkable versatility, the variety of its phases, the way in which its light played freely on all sorts of subjects. It dealt with the objects and processes of nature. It was a kind of natural science. He has been called "the founder of Hebrew science," the "first of the world's great naturalists." "He spake of trees, from the cedar tree," etc. (1 Kings 4:33). One would like to know what the range and quality of his science really was; but the Bible, existing as it does for far other than scientific purposes, does not satisfy our curiosity in this respect. It dealt with moral facts and problems - a true practical philosophy of life; its proper ends and aims, its governing principles, the meaning of its experiences, its besetting dangers and possible rewards. It dealt with the administration of national affairs. This is seen in his assertion of the principle of eternal righteousness as the law by which the ruler of men must himself be ruled. His wisdom lay in the gift of "an understanding heart to judge the people and discern between good and evil," and the people "feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment" (1 Kings 4:29). We are thus reminded of the unity of nature and of human life. Truth is one, whether in thought, feeling, or conduct, in things private or public, secular or spiritual. Wisdom is the power that discerns and utilizes the innermost truth of all things, finds out and practically applies whatever is essentially Divine.

2. Solomon's wisdom assumed various forms of expression: the Proverbial form, as in the "Book of Proverbs;" the Poetic form, as in his "Songs" and "Psalms;" the Socratic form, by question and answer, riddles - "dark sayings" - and the interpretation thereof. It is in this latter form that his wisdom here appears. Tradition says that Hiram engaged with him in this "cross questioning," and was worsted in the encounter; so here the queen of Sheba came "to prove him with hard questions," and "communing with him of all that was in her heart she found that he could tell her all her questions," etc. By all this we are led to think of "One greater than Solomon."

(1) "Greater," inasmuch as He leads men to wisdom of a higher order. Solomon is the most secular of the inspired writers of the Old Testament. Divine things are approached by him, as it were, on the lower, earthly side. A prudential tone is given to the counsels of religion, and vice is set forth not so much as wickedness but as "folly." Think of the marked difference between the utterances of Solomon's wisdom and the sublime spiritual elevation of David's psalms. And when we come to Christ's teaching, what immeasurably loftier heights and deeper depths of Divine truth are here! Redemption, holiness, immortality, are His themes - the deeper "mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; .... in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:8).

(2) "Greater," inasmuch as the Divine fount of wisdom must needs be infinitely superior to any mere human channel through which it flows. Solomon was after all but a learner, not a master. His were but guesses at truth. Christ's were the authoritative utterances of the incarnate "Word." Solomon spoke according to the limited measure of the spirit of truth in him. Christ spoke out of His own infinite fulness. "God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him" (John 3:34). Whence, indeed, did Solomon's wisdom come but from Him, the true fontal "Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world"? The words that the wise in every age have spoken were but dim, dawning rays of the light that broke in a glorious day upon the world when He, the Sun of Righteousness, arose.

II. THE QUEEN OF SHEBA, IN HER SEARCH AFTER WISDOM, AS AN EXAMPLE FOR OURSELVES. All the motives that actuated herin this long pilgrimage from the far off corner of Arabia we know not. Mere curiosity, commercial interest, personal vanity may have had something to do with it. But the words of the narrative suggest that it was mainly an honest thirst for knowledge, and specially for clearer light on highest matters of human interest. Learn

(1) The nobility of a simple, earnest, restless search after truth.

(2) The grateful respect which a teachable spirit will feel towards one who can unveil the truth to it.

(3) The joyous satisfaction of soul that springs from the discovery of the highest truth. How much does such an example as this in the realms of heathen darkness rebuke the spiritual dulness and indifference of those who with the Light of Life shining gloriously upon them in the person of Christ refuse to welcome it, and walk in it! "Many shall come from the east and the west," etc. (Matthew 8:11, 12). - W.

The suggestiveness of Solomon's intercourse with surrounding nations. His magnanimity was as remarkable as his magnificence. His broad policy stood out in striking contrast with the narrowness of some of his contemporaries and successors. It was one evidence of his divinely inspired wisdom. In some respects his enlightenment puts to shame modern diplomacy. Trace his relations with the king of Tyre and the queen of Sheba. These were not exceptionally treated by the wise-hearted ruler. His country was open to the commerce of surrounding peoples, and his court free to all who would live in amity with him. Indicate the typical nature of his kingdom - the golden age of God's people. Apply to the reign of Him who said, "A greater than Solomon is here!" Remarks on the position and the commerce of the land from which this great queen came. Her conduct is full of suggestions for us -

I. HER COMING SHOWS THE PAINS THOSE SHOULD TAKE WHO ARE SEARCHING FOR TRUE WISDOM. The journey was long, arduous, costly. It may have raised opposition amongst the people she ruled. In spite of all she came. Give examples of men who in old time travelled far in search of wisdom, visiting schools of philosophy, astrologers, and sages, consulting oracles like that at Delphi. Not less is demanded of men in our days who investigate natural phenomena. Instances abound of travellers who have laid down life, as did Franklin and Livingstone, in journeys of discovery; of surgeons and physicians who have run personal risk to learn by crucial experiment a means of cure; of scientific discoverers who have sacrificed time and effort to make sure of one fact, or establish one law, etc. In contrast with all this how small the effort to win true riches, to know essential truth. Many are content with hearsay evidence. The queen of Sheba was not. At any cost she would see and know for herself. Perhaps it was with some remembrance of her visit that Solomon wrote Proverbs 2:8-5: "If thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then thou shalt understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God." Compare this with tMatthew 13:45, 46). See also Colossians 2:8.

II. HER CONFESSION EXPRESSES THE FEELING OF THOSE WHO HAVE COME TO ONE GREATER THAN SOLOMON. "The half was not told me" (vers. 6, 7). St. Paul speaks of "the unsearchable riches of Christ;" of "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ," etc. In proportion as men really know Him, and live near Him, does He appear more winsome and worthy. Cite the utterances of such men as Bernard, Wesley, etc. Their words fall from our lips in song, yet they seem extravagant to us on our low level of religious life, and at our sad distance from Christ. Such bursts of praise we may use as tests of our devotion. Christ has not changed, but too often His people see Him from afar. Any one who is living near the Lord can say, "The half was not told me" of Thy love and glory.

III. HER OFFERING SUGGESTS THE PRESENTATION WE SHOULD MAKE TO OUR KING Read verse 10. Draw out the parallel between this and the coming of the Magi (Matthew 2.), when they fell down and worshipped the child Jesus, and opened their treasures and presented to Him gifts - gold and frankincense and myrrh.

"Say, shall we yield Him, in costly devotion,
Odours of Edom and offerings Divine;
Gems of the mountain, and pearls of the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest, or gold from the mine?

"Vainly we offer each ample oblation;
Vainly with gifts would his favour secure;
Richer, by far, is the heart's adoration;
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor." See Isaiah 1:12; Psalm 40:6, etc.


1. Like Solomon (ver. 3) Christ answers our questions. He knew His disciples "were desirous to ask Him," so they needed not even to frame their questions. Unspoken prayers are heard.

2. Like Solomon (ver. 5) Christ reveals His glory. The transfiguration, the last talk with the apostles, the apocalypse, etc.

3. Like Solomon (ver. 13) Christ loads us with benefits. Pardon, peace, strength, joy, etc. - of greater worth than gold and precious stones. These material, those imperishable. Let the earnestness of this queen rebuke own sloth and unbelief. "The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, a greater than Solomon is here" (Matthew 12:42). - A.R.

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