The First Merchant-Ships
2 Chronicles 8:17, 18
Then went Solomon to Eziongeber, and to Eloth, at the sea side in the land of Edom.…


1. Solomon - who constructed a navy of ships (1 Kings 9:26). The first mention of ship-building by the Israelites. An advance in civilization, it is doubtful whether this was in harmony with the calling of the Israelites as a theocratic people, whose business it was to keep themselves distinct from other nations.

2. Hiram - who sent the Israelitish monarch ships by the hands of his servants. Either Hiram sent to Eloth ship-carpenters, who built ships for Solomon (Bahr), or he built ships at Tyre, and sent them by the hands of sailors to join in Solomon's expedition (Bertheau). If the latter, they must either have rounded the continent of Africa (Bertheau), or been carried by land transport across the Isthmus of Suez (Keil). The former would not have been impossible had the circumnavigation of Africa been at that time known. This, however, is doubtful, as Herodotus (4:42) mentions Pharaoh Necho of the twenty-sixth dynasty ( B.C. 612) as the first to prove that Africa was entirely surrounded by water, with the exception of the small isthmus connecting it with Asia. This he did by sending Phoenician seamen in ships from the Arabian Gulf to seek their way to Egypt through the Pillars of Hercules and the Mediterranean Sea. Hence the latter method was more probably adopted for conveying Hiram's ships to the Gulf of Arabia - a method of transporting vessels known to the ancients. Herodotus (7:24) states that, while Xerxes cut a passage through the Isthmus of Mount Athos, he need not have done so, since without difficulty he might have carried his ships across the land. Thucydides (4:8) mentions that in this way the Peloponnesians conveyed eighty ships across the Leucadia-isthmus. (For additional examples, see Exposition.)


1. Ezion-geber, a camping-station on the desert march of Israel (Numbers 33:35; Deuteronomy 2:8); afterwards the place where Jehoshaphat's ships were wrecked (1 Kings 22:48). When the town was built is unknown. Its name imports "the backbone of a man" (Gesenius); the Greeks called it Berenice (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 8:6. 4).

2. Near Eloth, the Ailane of Josephus, the Ailath of the Greeks, and the Elana of the Romans, the modern Akaba, on the eastern bay of the Gulf of Akabah. Whether Ezion-geber was also on the east side of the gulf or on the west is uncertain, as no trace of it now exists.

3. On the shore of the Red Sea. The Yam Suf was the eastern arm of the Arabian Gulf, or the Gulf of Akabah. At the present day navigation is perilous in the vicinity of Elath in consequence of the sharp and rocky coast and the easily excited storms.

4. In the land of Edom. Mount Seir, Edom, Idumaea, the Mount of Esau (Deuteronomy 2:5; Joel 3:19; Isaiah 24:5; Obadiah 1:21); in the Assyrian inscriptions, Udumu or Udumi (Schrader, 'Die Keilinsehriften,' p. 149); a desolate region extending from the head of the Elanitic Gulf to the foot of the Dead Sea, described by Robinson as "a rolling desert, the surface [of which] was in general loose gravel and stones, everywhere furrowed and torn with the beds of torrents ... now and then a lone shrub of the ghudah [being] almost the only trace of vegetation" ('Biblical Researches,' 2:502, 551).

III. THE SAILORS BY WHOM THEY WERE MANNED. Servants of Hiram, who had knowledge of the sea. The Phoenicians the earliest navigators of the ocean. An inscription of Queen Hatasu, of the eighteenth Egyptian dynasty, queen regnant first with Thothmes II. and afterwards with Thothmes III., has preserved a record of the construction by that royal lady of a navy on the Red Sea, and of a voyage of discovery to the land of Arabia in vessels manned by Phoenician seamen (Brugsch, 'Egypt,' 1:351, etc.; 'Records of the Past,' 10:11, etc.).

IV. THE COUNTRY TO WHICH THEY STEERED. Ophir. By eminent authorities (Lassen, Ritter, Bertheau) located in India, this gold-producing region was probably in Arabia (Knobel, Keil, Ewald, Bahr) - the land of Pun, to which the ships of Hatasu sailed for costly treasures.


1. Gold. Whether the four hundred and fifty talents were the cargo of one voyage or of all the voyages cannot be determined. Reckoning a talent at £5475 sterling, the amount would be £2,463,750, or nearly two and a half millions. This precious metal was amongst the treasures fetched from the land of Pun by Hatasu's fleet.

2. Precious stones. Learnt from a later statement (2 Chronicles 9:10). These also were obtainable in the land of Pun.

3. Algum trees. (2 Chronicles 9:10). What these were is unknown; probably they corresponded with the balsam-wood or "incense trees" brought from Pun by Hatasu's ships. It was manifestly rare and costly, as Solomon made of it "terraces to the house of the Lord and the king's palace, as well as harps and psalteries for singers;" "and there were none such seen before in the land of Judah." So said Hatasu's scribes of her cargo. "Never has such a convoy [been made] like this one by any king since the creation of the world." Learn:

1. Man's dominion over nature - he can affront the perils of the sea.

2. The advantages (from a secular point of view) of navigation - in increasing the world's wealth and comfort, in extending man's knowledge and power, and in binding the nations into a mutually dependent and helpful brotherhood.

3. The dangers (from a spiritual point of view) of foreign exploration, in fostering the lust of conquest and possession, and in bringing God's people into contact with heathen nations. - W.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then went Solomon to Eziongeber, and to Eloth, at the sea side in the land of Edom.

WEB: Then went Solomon to Ezion Geber, and to Eloth, on the seashore in the land of Edom.

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