THE QUEEN WHO CAME FOR A VISIT

1 Kings 10:1—13

The story of the Queen of Sheba’s visit to Israel is important on many different levels.  The last sentences of the previous chapter explain how it all came about:

King Solomon also built ships at Ezion Geber, which is near Elath in Edom, on the shore of the Red Sea. And Hiram sent his servants—sailors who knew the sea—to serve in the fleet with Solomon’s servants. They sailed to Ophir and brought back 420 talents of gold, which they delivered to King Solomon.  (1 Kings 9:26—28)

News travels quickly in any age.  They may not have had the Internet, satellite radio and TV in Solomon’s day, but they did have word-of-mouth and the fame of Solomon’s great wealth spread far and wide and it attracted the attention of this particular queen.

It is almost certain that the elements of this story—a foreign dignitary or leader comes to visit Solomon—were repeated again and again during Solomon’s reign.  Many, many people came to Jerusalem, curious about this man and his famed wisdom and wealth.  In fact, a great many legends have grown around Solomon’s wealth to the point where fables like “King Solomon’s Mines” have been more or less accepted as fact.  History has never known a ruler like Solomon; he had no equal and never will have an equal among men.  The wisdom of Solomon was, in reality, the wisdom of God, which is perfect in every way.  No wonder this king was so famous and what is so interesting is that this fame, an apparent byproduct of his wisdom, was yet another promise from God—

I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.  (1 Kings 3:12)

On another level, however, this story reminds us that One greater than Solomon will come and reign, also from Jerusalem and His influence will not be dissimilar to that of Solomon—

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.  Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.  (Isaiah 60:1—3)

This passage, of course, refers to the reign of Jesus Christ during the Millennium, the character of which is foreshadowed in the story before us.

1.  Who is this Queen of Sheba?

When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the LORD, she came to test Solomon with hard questions.  (verse 1)

Sheba doesn’t exist any longer, but scholars suggest Sheba was located in southwest Arabia, present day Yemen.  The Queen of Sheba was no slouch, though she did not have the divine wisdom of Solomon.  Under her rule, Sheba had become a trading giant of her day.  Securely located in the famous Fertile Crescent, it had a strong agrarian economy resulting from an intricate and extensive irrigation system throughout the kingdom.  Sheba had become known for its trade in perfumes, incense, gold and other very precious gems.

Often overlooked by secular historians is the fact that it wasn’t just wealth and wisdom Solomon was famous for.  His incredible fame was associated with “his relationship with the Lord.” This suggests that Solomon was an effective witness for the Lord among the heathen nations around him.  He didn’t just trade with them.  He didn’t just have political relationships with them.  The king shared his faith with them, and the Queen of Sheba made the journey specifically to find out about this faith, by asking Solomon “hard questions.”

King Solomon, then, was the perfect Jew and sets an example for modern Christians to follow.  The entire nation of Israel was to be a witness for Jehovah.  Christ gave us His “great commission” to “go into all the world,” sharing our faith with the lost.  The nations around Israel knew of Solomon’s relationship with Jehovah, and clearly the people of the kingdom at this time rose to the King’s example, and their faith was seen by others.  The question becomes obvious:  do your neighbors know about your faith?  Do your co-workers know about your faith?  In how you live your life; in how you speak and the places you go, is your faith obvious to those around you?

Jesus Himself mentions the Queen of Sheba as a warning and example to those who hear the Word of the Lord yet do nothing with it—

The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.  (Matthew 12:42)

What were these “hard questions” she had for Solomon?  The Hebrew is usually translated as “riddles.”  We should not assume she was toying with him or trying to trick him.  These “riddles” were “enigmatic sayings or questions that cloaked a deeper philosophical, practical, or theological truth” (Patterson).  From this passage, we can see that this woman was genuinely seeking more knowledge of God from Solomon.

Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind.  (verse 2)

The phrase “all that she had on her mind” may also be translated “all that she had in her heart.”  The Queen of Sheba took Solomon’s faith seriously.  She did not come all this way to make fun of it.  She was an honest seeker.

2.  Solomon’s response

Verse 3 is telling—

Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her.

She was not asking for political advice.  She was asking the King about his faith, and “nothing was too hard for him to explain to her.” Can you say the same?  Are you able to explain your faith and beliefs to somebody who comes to you?  It’s easy to use the excuse that Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived.  However, you have something that he never had:  the Holy Spirit.

Before we claim our faith is too hard to understand or explain to others, consider—

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.  (John 16:13)

The underlying principle of this verse is sound and life-changing.  No believer needs a theology degree to share his faith with others.  Nothing about God or His Word is too hard for you to understand if you tap into the divine wisdom inside of you.  God will honor your study of His Word by bringing back what you read and studied and even revealing to you what it means.  We ought never to disappoint an honest inquirer with the response, “I don’t know.”  We owe the sinner something; we owe them a reason for why we believe.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  (1 Peter 3:15)

Not only was Solomon able to “give the reason for the hope” he had, he was not ashamed to worship Jehovah in front of her—

When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the LORD, she was overwhelmed.  (verses 4, 5)

She not only witnessed the blessings of God upon Solomon, she witnessed the exercise of his faith; he took her into the Temple.  The last phrase of verse 5 literally means, “there was no more spirit in her.”  This is a Hebraism indicating “great emotion.”  The phrase is seen elsewhere in the Old Testament always in connection with the glory of God.  She was literally overcome with the glory of God revealed in Solomon’s life.  It was not just the blessings of God that impressed her; it was his open, bold faith.  He was not ashamed; his faith was not a private matter.

She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true.  But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard.  (verses 6, 7)

The Queen thought the rumors about Solomon had been exaggerated; no man could have achieved as much or be as great as Solomon was.  However, she found they were all true.

3.  The Queen’s response

Verse 8 indicates how greatly impressed she was with Solomon, the man—

How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!

She had seen and heard Solomon’s testimony, now we get to read her testimony.  The word “happy” also means “blessed.”  The Queen recognized what some in the King’s court may have taken for granted:  God had blessed Solomon with incredible wealth and wisdom, and those associated with him were the beneficiaries of the abundance or overflow of that blessing.

A good and wise king or leader is always a blessing to all his people, and the fact that God chose Solomon as king was an indication of His great love and favor for all Israel.

The Queen was so impressed, we read this—

Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the LORD’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness.”  (verse 9)

Solomon’s wisdom and grandeur combined with his very public faith in Jehovah were a striking testimony to God, and all this caused a heathen Queen to give praise or recognition to Jehovah.  She could not deny the reality of Jehovah or the special relationship Jehovah had with both Solomon and the people of Israel.

This is truly amazing, and her testimony in verse 9 and her subsequent gifts to the King have led some scholars to conclude that she became a believer that day; that verse 9 is really her confession of faith.  This may very well be, however, the point of the story is the power of Solomon’s testimony, for it led to hers.

In keeping with court courtesy, the Queen came to visit bearing precious gifts—

And she gave the king 120 talents of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones. Never again were so many spices brought in as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon. (verse 10)

None of that was unusual.  However, not to be outdone, we read this—

King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for, besides what he had given her out of his royal bounty. Then she left and returned with her retinue to her own country.  (verse 13)

Remember, Sheba was known as a nation of shrewd traders.  Solomon gave the Queen “all she asked for.”  What does this mean?  In all probability she gave Solomon certain goods and she (and her people) expected something from him in return.  This was a common trading practice.  In addition to giving her the prescribed items, he blessed her out of the abundance of his blessing.  He demonstrated the generosity that ought characterize all of God’s people.

God’s people should never be stingy; not with their finances or their joy, or their wisdom or with any good thing God has given them.

This story of this Queen’s visit to Israel is just one example of the multitudes who came to know the God of Israel during Solomon’s tenure as King.  We can never understate the importance of a good reputation and a good testimony in building the Kingdom of God.

(c)  2010 WitzEnd

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