Solomon's Queenly Visitor
2 Chronicles 9:1-12
And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, she came to prove Solomon with hard questions at Jerusalem…


1. The country whence she came. Sheba. Not Meroe, or Ethiopia, as Josephus ('Ant.,' 8:6. 5), Grotius, and others say, following Abyssinian legend; but Sabaa, a country in Arabia Felix. Its capital Saba, or Mariaba, still exists under the name Marib, six days east of Sanaa. The district was extremely fertile, and abounded in frankincense, gold, and precious stones (Jeremiah 6:20; Ezekiel 27:22; Isaiah 60:6; Psalm 72:15). Its inhabitants had become, through extensive commerce, among the most prosperous of Arabian tribes. The caravans of Sheba brought costly products to the markets of the world - to Tyre, Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia (Job 6:19; Ezekiel 27:22). That a high degree of civilization prevailed from an early period in South Arabia is attested, not only by the so-called Himarytic inscriptions found in that region, in which the name Sheba frequently occurs, but by the above-mentioned ruins of Marib, which, according to Arab tradition, was destroyed, probably in the second century after Christ, by the bursting of a great dam in the upper part of the valley (Ritter). Arabian tradition, more communicative than Scripture concerning this queen, names her Balkis, and makes her a wife of Solomon (Koran, 'Sur.,' 27).

2. The occasion of her journey. The fame of Solomon. In 1 Kings 10. i the words, "concerning the Name of Jehovah," are added; but whether inserted by the author of Kings or omitted by the Chronicler cannot be determined. If the latter, they were probably intended to suggest that Solomon's fame rested chiefly on his temple-building for the Name of Jehovah (2 Chronicles 6:10), which showed him to be pre-eminently endowed with wisdom (2 Chronicles 2:12). (For other explanations, see Exposition.) There is reason in the conjecture that Solomon's voyages to Ophir were, in part at least, the means of extending Solomon's fame and bringing it to the ears of the queen.

3. The object of her visit. "To prove Solomon with hard questions." It is hardly supposable that the queen simply aimed at a trial of wit between herself and Solomon in propounding riddles, resolving enigmas, and untying word-puzzles, such as, according to Menander and Dins (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 8:5. 3), Solomon once had with Hiram, and such as in ancient times formed a common pastime with the Arabs. The "hard questions" doubtless related to deep and important problems in religion and life. The serious words addressed by her to Solomon (vers. 7, 8) make this the most plausible hypothesis. Great, rich, cultured, and powerful as she was, she was obviously troubled at heart about the solemn mystery of existence, and wished to have her doubts resolved, her questions answered, and her anxieties allayed by one who seemed specially upraised as an embodiment and teacher of wisdom.

4. The grandeur of her train. Attended by "a great company" of followers, courtiers, and servants, as well as by a numerous cavalcade of camels bearing the products of her country - gold, spices, and precious stones - intended for presents to Solomon (cf. Genesis 43:11), this royal lady, setting forth in search of wisdom, accomplished her long and painful journey, and eventually reached Jerusalem.


1. The wisdom she heard. "Of all that was in her heart she communed with Solomon; and Solomon told her all her questions." If these did not include gravissimas et sacras quaestiones, i.e. questions relating to the mysteries of religion and the worship of God, one fails to see why they should exclude these, as has been suggested (Keil). That they concerned not metaphysical problems may be conceded. The story bears upon its surface that the wisdom she chiefly inquired after and Solomon principally discoursed about was that whose beginning is the fear of the Lord, and whose end is the keeping of his commandments (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7) - that which concerned the dignity and glory of human life, and promoted the attainment of human happiness (Proverbs 2:2-12; Proverbs 3:13-18; Proverbs 4:5-13; Proverbs 9:9-12). But whatever her queries were, they were all answered. None were too abstruse or recondite for this Heaven-endowed king to explain.

2. The splendour she beheld. She saw the wisdom of Solomon embodied in his works as well as heard it distilling from his lips. "The house that he had built" - not the temple, but the palace, which had occupied thirteen years in construction, and upon which he had lavished all that the architectural and decorating arts of the time, assisted by his enormous wealth, could procure - this royal residence which, in magnificence, rivalled, if it did not eclipse, the dwelling of Jehovah, was locked upon with wonder and astonishment. In particular she was fascinated by the splendour of the royal table.

(1) "The meat of his table," i.e. the variety and sumptuousness of the fare, perhaps also including the costliness and beauty of the vessels in which it was served (ver. 20; cf. 1 Kings 10:20); "the sitting of his servants," i.e. of his high officials at the royal table (Bertheau, Bahr)," or "the places, appointed in the palace for the ministers of the king" (Keil); "the attendance of his ministers, either the standing, i.e. waiting, of his servants at the table (Bertheau, Bahr), or, as above, the places appointed for them in the palace (Thenius, Keil); the apparel of his attendants, which would no doubt be distinguished for its splendour; "the cupbearers also," whose office was to pour out wine for the king (Genesis 40:11; Nehemiah 1:11; Xen., 'Cyrop.,' 1:3, 8, 9), "and their apparel," which would be correspondingly resplendent; - all these left upon her mind an impression, not so much of Solomon's wealth and power as of his transcendent wisdom. A second thing she witnessed confirmed this, viz.

(2) the stair which led from the palace to the temple. The old translators (the Chaldee, the Syriac, and the Latin as well as the Greek) thought the words in the Hebrew referred to the burnt offerings which ha offered in the house of Jehovah - an opinion in which they have been followed by some modern interpreters (Luther, A. Clarke, Bertheau). These, however, he would hardly have shown to one not a proselyte. Besides, had she beheld the magnificence of the temple service, some allusion to this in her address to Solomon would most likely have appeared. Hence the opinion is to be preferred that the reference is to the arched viaduct which led from his palace to the temple (Keil, Bahr, Winer, Ewald, Jamieson), the remains of which, recently discovered, show it to have been, "for boldness of conception, for structure and magnificence, one of the greatest wonders in Jerusalem." That such a communication between the palace on Zion and the temple on Moriah existed seems hinted at in 2 Kings 16:18 and in ch. 23. 20; while Josephus speaks of a passage from the temple to the king's palace which led over the intermediate valley ('Ant.,' 15:11. 5). If the ruins described by Robinson are those of this bridge, it must have contained five arches, each sixty feet wide and a hundred and thirty feet high. "The whole structure," says Isaac Taylor, "when seen from the southern extremity of the Tyropoeon, must have had an aspect of grandeur, especially as connected with the lofty and sumptuous edifices of the temple and of Zion to the right and to the left" (quoted by Jamieson, in loc.).

3. The admiration she felt. Sincere and intense. Solomon's wisdom had been

(1) in complete accordance with the report she had heard of it in her own country (ver. 5) - rumour had not lied;

(2) it had equalled her expectations - fancy had not deceived;

(3) it had far exceeded both the report of it and her own expectations regarding it (ver. 6) - her sense of wonder was more than satisfied;

(4) it was so overpowering that it left no spirit in her (ver. 4) - her hope of rivalling it was gone.

4. The sentiments she expressed.

(1) She pronounced happy Solomon's courtiers and attendants because of their proximity to his throne and person, which enabled them to hear his wisdom. In so doing she took for granted both that Solomon would never discourse otherwise than wisely, and that Solomon's servants and ministers would always feel disposed to listen to and profit by their master's speech; in both of which she reckoned before the mark.

(2) She praised Jehovah for his goodness to Solomon in giving him such a throne, i.e. for making Solomon his vicegerent in Israel, and for his favour to Israel in furnishing them with such a king - in her eyes a proof that Jehovah loved them and purposed to establish them for ever (ver. 8). In neither of these utterances did she err. Stable thrones and good kings are of God's making.

(3) She instructed Solomon as to the kingly work such a one as he was raised up to do, viz. to execute judgment and justice (Psalm 72:2). If from these utterances it cannot be inferred that she was either assisted by inspiration or converted to Jehovah's religion, it is open to conclude she was a deeply reflecting and far-seeing woman, second only to Solomon in wisdom and sagacity.

5. The presents she made.

(1) "A hundred and twenty talents of gold " - equivalent to £657,000, valuing the talent at £5475.

(2) "Spices in great abundance," and of unsurpassed excellence, the principal of which was probably the Arabic balsam Josephus ('Ant.,' 8:6. 6) says his countrymen derived from this queen.

(3) "Precious stones," the names unknown.

6. The gifts she received. Besides the solution of her questions, she obtained handsome and valuable presents from Solomon, partly in compliance with her own request (ver. 12), partly in payment of the costly gifts brought to him by her, and partly over and above out of his own royal liberality (1 Kings 10:13).


1. The termination of her visit. How long this visit continued is not recorded, but at length the queen departed on her homeward journey, attended by her servants and accompanied by her train of camels.

2. The spoils of bet visit. Besides carrying home the presents given by Solomon, she bore with her, what was of greater moment for herself and her subjects, the impressions she had received upon her travels and the lessons of earthly and heavenly wisdom she had derived from her interview with the king.

3. The historicity of her visit, That the preceding narrative is no fable is guaranteed by Christ's use of it in the First Gospel (Matthew 12:42), and by recent archaeological research (see 'Ancient Arabia,' by Professor Sayce, in Contemporary Review, December, 1889).


1. The privilege of Christians in having as King a greater than Solomon - him "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3).

2. The obligation of the world to hear the wisdom of him who, besides being greater, is also nearer to them than was he to the Queen of Sheba (Matthew 12:42).

3. The blessedness of such as hear Christ's wisdom, waiting at his throne and standing in his presence, first on earth and afterwards in heaven (Proverbs 8:34).

4. The certainty that Christ will give to them who seek his wisdom all that they ask and more of his royal bounty (Ephesians 3:17).

5. The duty of those who come to know Christ's wisdom to carry the tidings of it back to their own country (Matthew 5:19, 20). - W.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: 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 train, and camels that bore spices, and gold in abundance, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she talked with him of all that was in her heart.

Heart Communing
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