1 Kings 10


The queen of Sheba visits Solomon, and brings rich presents;

and tries him by hard questions, which he readily solves, 1-3.

She expresses great surprise at his wisdom, his buildings, his

court, &c.; and praises God for placing him on the Jewish

throne, 4-9.

She gives him rich presents, 10.

What the navy of Hiram brought from Ophir, 11, 12.

The queen of Sheba returns, 13.

Solomon's annual revenue, 14, 15.

He makes two hundred targets and three hundred shields of

gold, 16, 17.

His magnificent ivory throne, 18-20.

His drinking vessels all of gold, 21.

What the navy of Tharshish brought every three years to Solomon,


His great riches, numerous chariots, and horsemen, 23-27.

He brings chariots and horses out of Egypt, 28, 29.


Verse 1. When the queen of Sheba heard] As our Lord calls her

queen of the south, (Mt 12:42), it is likely the name should be

written Saba, Azab, or Azaba, all of which signify the south.

She is called Balkis by the Arabians, but by the Abyssinians

Maqueda. See the account at the end of this chapter.

See Clarke on 1Ki 10:29.

With hard questions.] bechidoth; Septuagint, εν

αινιγμασι, riddles. With parables and riddles, says the Arabic.

Verse 2. She came to Jerusalem with-spices, &c.] Those who

contend that she was queen of the Sabaeans, a people of Arabia

Felix, towards the southern extremity of the Red Sea, find several

proofs of their opinion: 1. That the Sabaeans abounded in riches

and spices.

India mittit ebur, molles sua thura Sabaei

"India furnishes ivory, and the effeminate

Sabaeans their frankincense."

VIRG. Geor. i., ver. 57.

And again:-

Divisae arboribus patriae: sola India nigrum

Fert ebenum; solis est thurea virga Sabaeis.

Geor. ii., ver. 116.

All sorts of trees their several countries know:

Black ebon only will in India grow;

And odorous frankincense on the Sabaean bough.


______ Ubi templum illi centumque Sabaeo

Thure calent arae.

Where to her fame a hundred altars rise,

And pour Sabaean odours to the skies.

PLINY (Hist. Nat. lib. xii., c. 17) observes, Non alia ligni

genera in usu sunt quam odorata; cibosque Sabaei coquunt thuris

ligno; alii myrrhae. "The Sabaeans use odorous wood only, and

even use the incense tree and myrrh to cook their victuals."

2. All ancient authors speak, not only of their odoriferous

woods, but of their rich gold and silver mines, and of their

precious stones. See Pliny, Hist. Nat. lib. xxxvii., c. 6, &c.

3. It is also well known that the Sabaeans had queens for their

sovereigns, and not kings. So Claudian, in Eutrop. lib. i.

_____ Medis levibusque Sabaeis

Imperat hic sexus, reginarumque sub armis

Barbariae pars magna jacet.

By this is meant, says Mr. Bruce, the country between the tropic

and mountains of Abyssinia, the country of shepherds, from berber,

a shepherd. And he contends that these Sabaeans were a distinct

people from the Ethiopians and the Arabs, and that SABA was a

distinct state.

Verse 3. Solomon told her all her questions] Riddles, problems,

fables, apologues, &c., formed the principal part of the wisdom of

the East; indeed they use and delight in them to the present day.

See the case of Samson and his friends, Jud 14:12, 14, and the

notes there.

Verse 4. Had seen all Solomon's wisdom] By the answers which he

gave to her subtle questions.

And the house that he had built] Most probably his own house.

Verse 5. The meat of his table] The immense supply of all kinds

of food daily necessary for the many thousands which were fed at

and from his table. See 1Ki 4:22, 23, and the notes there.

And the sitting of his servants] The various orders and

distinctions of his officers.

The attendance of his ministers] See the account of these and

their attendance, 1Ki 4:1, &c.

And their apparel] The peculiarity of their robes, and their

splendour and costliness.

And his cup-bearers] The original mashkaiv may as well

be applied to his beverage, or to his drinking utensils, as to his


And his ascent by which he went up] It seems very strange that

the steps to the temple should be such a separate matter of

astonishment. The original is which all

the versions have translated, And the holocausts which he offered

in the house of the Lord. The Vulgate, Septuagint, Chaldee,

Syriac, and Arabic, all express this sense: so does the German

translation of Luther, from which, in this place, we have most

pitifully departed: And seine Brandopfer, die er in dem Hause des

Herrn opferte; "And his burnt-offering which he offered in the

house of the Lord."

There was no more spirit in her.] She was overpowered with

astonishment; she fainted. I have seen precisely the same effect

produced; a lady who was herself an artist, viewing some

exquisitely finished oriental paintings, was so struck with

astonishment that she twice nearly fainted, and was obliged to

leave the room. What happened to the queen of Sheba is a natural

and not an uncommon effect which will be produced in a delicate

sensible mind at the sight of rare and extraordinary productions

of art.

Of the profusion of Solomon's sacrifices we have already had

proof, 1Ki 8:63; 9:25.

Verse 8. Happy are thy men] All these are very natural

expressions from a person in her state of mind.

Verse 10. A hundred and twenty talents of gold] The worth of

these one hundred and twenty talents of gold, according to Mr.

Reynolds, is equal to 843,905. 10s. 4 3/4d. of our British

sterling. But the spices and precious stones might have been yet

of more value. After this verse the 13th should be read, which is

here most evidently misplaced; and then the account of the queen

of Sheba will be concluded, and that of Solomon's revenue will

stand without interruption.

Verse 11. Great plenty of almug trees] In the parallel place,

2Ch 9:10, 11, these are called

algum trees, the mem and the gimel being transposed;

probably the latter is the more correct orthography. What the

algum trees were we do not exactly know. The Vulgate calls it

ligna thyina, the thya or lignum vitae wood; and Mr. Parkhurst

thinks that the original algumim, comes from al,

not, and gem, to fill; because the lignum vitae is of so close

a texture that it can imbibe no water, and cannot be affected by

wet weather. The Septuagint translate it ξυλαπυκινα, pine

timber; the Syriac [Syriac] kaise dakisotho, probably cypress

wood, or what the translators render ligna brasilica; the Arabic

translates coloured wood, and subjoins a paraphrase, for that wood

was by nature painted with various colours. Perhaps the Arabic

comesnearest the truth; wood shaded of different colours, such as

the rose wood and such like, which are brought to us from various

parts of the East Indies. The whole passage as it stands in the

Arabic is this: "And the ships of Hiram brought gold from the land

of Hind, (India,) and they carried also much coloured wood, (but

this wood is naturally painted of various colours,) and very

precious jewels. And Solomon put some of that same painted wood

which was brought to him in the house of the Lord, and in his own

house; and with it he adorned them." And for inlaying and

veneering nothing can be finer than this wood.

Verse 13. All her desire whatsoever she asked] Some imagine she

desired progeny from the wise king of Israel; and all the

traditions concerning her state that she had a son by Solomon

called Menilek, who was brought up at the Israelitish court,

succeeded his mother in the kingdom of Saba, and introduced among

his subjects the Jewish religion. See at the end of the chapter.

See Clarke on 1Ki 10:29.

Verse 14. The weight of gold-was six hundred threescore and six

talents] This would amount in our money to 4,683,675 12s.

8 1/2d. sterling. This seems to be what he got annually of

bullion; but independently of this, he had tribute of all the

kings of Arabia, duties from merchantmen, and the traffic of spice

merchants; see 1Ki 10:25.

Verse 16. Solomon made two hundred targets of beaten gold] I

have already conjectured that the tsinnah might resemble the

Highland targe or target, with a dagger projecting from the UMBO

or centre.

Verse 17. He made three hundred shields] The magen was a

large shield by which the whole body was protected.

Mr. Reynolds computes that the two hundred targets, on each of

which were employed three hundred shekels of gold, were worth

28,131 16s. 9 1/2d.

And the three hundred shields, in forming each of which three

pounds of gold were employed, were worth 210,976 7s. 7d.

Verse 19. The throne was round behind: and there were stays on

either side] This description seems to indicate that the throne

was in the form of one of our ancient round-topped, two-armed

chairs. This throne or chair of state was raised on a platform,

the ascent to which consisted of six steps. What we call stays is

in the Hebrew yadoth, hands, which serves to confirm the

conjecture above.

Verse 22. A navy of Tharshish] For probable conjectures

concerning this place, and the three years' voyage, see at the end

of this and the preceding chapter.

See Clarke on 1Ki 10:29; "1Ki 9:28".

Apes] kophim; probably a species of monkey rather

than ape.

Verse 23. Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for

riches] Mr. Reynolds, stating the yearly tribute of Solomon, 666

talents of gold, at about four times as much as his father left

him, hence reckons that he had 4,909,371 8s. 8d. each year,

94,410 19s. 9 1/4d. per week, �13,487 5s. 8d. per day,

taking each day, week, and year, one with another.

Verse 25. They brought every man his present] This means

tribute; and it shows us of what sort that tribute was, viz.,

vessels of gold and silver, probably ingots; garments of

very rich stuffs; armour, for little of this kind was ever made in

Judea; spices, which doubtless sold well in that country; horses,

which were very rare; and mules, the most necessary animal for all

the purposes of life.

Verse 26. He had a thousand and four hundred chariots]

See Clarke on 1Ki 4:26.

Verse 27. Made silver-as stones] He destroyed its value by

making it so exceedingly plenty.

As the sycamore trees] He planted many cedars, and doubtless had

much cedar wood imported; so that it became as common as the

sycamore trees, which appear to have grown there in great

abundance. This is considered to be a tree that partakes of the

nature of the fig tree, and of the mulberry. Of the former it has

the fruit, and of the latter the leaves; that is, the fruit had a

considerable resemblance to the fig, and the leaf to that of the

mulberry tree: hence its name sycamore, from the Greek συκον, a

fig, and μορεα, a mulberry tree.

Verse 28. Horses brought out of Egypt] It is thought that the

first people who used horses in war were the Egyptians; and it is

well known that the nations who knew the use of this creature in

battle had greatly the advantage of those who did not. God had

absolutely prohibited horses to be imported or used; but in many

things Solomon paid little attention to the Divine command.

And linen yarn] The original word, mikveh, is hard to be

understood, if it be not indeed a corruption.

The versions are all puzzled with it: the Vulgate and Septuagint

make it a proper name: "And Solomon had horses brought out of

Egypt, and from Coa, or Tekoa." Some think it signifies a

tribute, thus Bochart: "They brought horses to Solomon out of

Egypt; and as to the tribute, the farmers of this prince received

it at a price." They farmed the tribute, gave so much annually for

it, taking the different kinds to themselves, and giving a round

sum for the whole.

Some suppose that MIKVEH signifies the string or cord by which

one horse's head is tied to the tail of another; and that the

meaning is, Solomon brought droves of horses, thus tied, out of


Rabbi Solomon Jarchi, in his comment on the parallel place,

2Ch 1:14, says that

mikveh signifies a collection or drove of horses, or what

the Germans call stutte, a stud. He observes on that place,

"That he has heard that there was a company of merchants in Egypt,

who bought horses from the Egyptians at a certain price, on

condition that no person should be permitted to bring a horse out

of Egypt but through them."

Houbigant supposes the place to be corrupt, and that for

mikveh we should read mercabah, chariots: "And Solomon had

horses brought out of Egypt, and chariots; and the king's

merchants received the chariots at a price: and a chariot came up

and went out of Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver," &c. This

makes a very good and consistent sense; but none of the versions

acknowledged it, nor is there any various reading here in any of

the MSS. yet collated.

If we understand it of thread, it may refer to the byssus or

fine flax for which Egypt was famous; but I do not see on what

authority we translate it linen thread. Bochart's opinion appears

to me the most probable, as the text now stands; but the charge

contended for by Houbigant makes the text far more simple and


Verse 29. A chariot came up-for six hundred shekels] This was

the ordinary price of a chariot, as a hundred and fifty shekels

were for a horse.

Kings of the Hittites] These must have been the remains of the

original inhabitants of Canaan, who had gone to some other

country, probably Syria, and formed themselves into a principality

there. It seems that neither horses nor chariots came out of Egypt

but by means of Solomon's servants.


"WE are not to wonder, if the prodigious hurry and flow of

business, and the immensely valuable transactions they had with

each other, had greatly familiarized the Tyrians and Jews with

their correspondents, the Cushites and shepherds, on the coast of

Africa. This had gone so far as, very naturally, to create a

desire in the queen of Azab, the sovereign of that country, to go

herself and see the application of the immense treasures that had

been exported from her country for a series of years, and the

prince who so magnificently employed them. There can be no doubt

of this expedition; as Pagan, Arab, Moor, Abyssinian, and all the

countries around, vouch for it nearly in the terms of Scripture.

"Her name, the Arabs say, was Belkis; the Abyssinians, Maqueda.

Our Saviour calls her queen of the south, without mentioning any

other name, but gives his sanction to the truth of the voyage.

'The queen of the south (or Saba, or Azab) shall rise up in

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.' No other

particulars, however, are mentioned about her in Scripture; and it

is not probable that our Saviour would have said she came from the

uttermost parts of the earth, if she had been an Arab, and had

near fifty degrees of the continent behind her. But when we

consider that the boundaries of the known land, to the southward,

were at that time Raptum or Prassum, as we have just seen, these,

being the uttermost parts of the known earth, were, with great

propriety, so styled by our Saviour; and of these she was

undoubtedly sovereign. The gold, the myrrh, cassia, and

frankincense were all the produce of her own country.

"Whether she was a Jewess or a pagan is uncertain. Sabaism was

the religion of all the East; it was the constant attendant and

stumbling block of the Jews: but considering the multitude of that

people then trading from Jerusalem, and the long time it

continued, it is not improbable she was a Jewess. 'And when the

queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, concerning the name

of the Lord, she came to prove him with hard questions,'

1Ki 10:1; 2Ch 9:1. Our Saviour moreover speaks of her with

praise, pointing her out as an example to the Jews. And in her

thanksgiving before Solomon, she alludes to God's blessing on the

seed of Israel for ever, which is by no means the language of a

pagan, but of a person skilled in the ancient history of this


"She likewise appears to have been a person of learning, and of

that sort of learning which was then almost peculiar to Palestine,

not to Ethiopia; for we know that one of the reasons of her coming

was to examine whether Solomon was really the learned man he was

said to be. She came to try him in allegories or parables, in

which Nathan had instructed him.

"The annals of the Abyssinians, being very full upon this point,

have taken a middle opinion, and by no means an improbable one.

They say she was a pagan when she left Azab, but, being full of

admiration at Solomon's works, she was converted to Judaism in

Jerusalem, and bore him a son whom he called Menilek, and who was

their first king.

"The Abyssinians, both Jews and Christians, believe the

forty-fifth Psalm to be a prophecy of the queen's voyage to

Jerusalem; that she was attended by a daughter of Hiram's from

Tyre to Jerusalem; and that the last part of it contains a

declaration of her having a son by Solomon, who was to be a king

over a nation of the Gentiles.

"To Saba or Azab, then, she returned with her son Menilek; whom,

after keeping him some years, she sent back to his father to be

instructed. Solomon did not neglect his charge; and he was

anointed and crowned king of Ethiopia in the temple of Jerusalem,

and at his inauguration took the name of David. After this he

returned to Azab, and brought with him a colony of Jews, among

whom were many doctors of the law of Moses, particularly one of

each tribe, to make judges of in his kingdom; from whom the

present umbares, or supreme judges (three of whom always attended

the king) are said and believed to be descended. With these came

also Azarias, the son of Zadok the priest, and brought with him a

Hebrew transcript of the law, which was delivered into his

custody, as he bore the title of nebret, or high priest; and this

charge, though the book itself was burnt with the church of Axum

in the Moorish war of Adel, is still continued, as it is said, in

the lineage of Azarias, who are nebrets, or keepers of the church

of Axum, at this day. All Abyssinia was thereupon converted, and

the government of the church and state modelled according to what

was then in use at Jerusalem.

"By the last act of the queen of Saba's reign, she settled the

mode of succession in her country for the future. First, she

enacted, that the crown should be hereditary in the family of

Solomon for ever. Secondly, that, after her, no woman should be

capable of wearing that crown, or being queen; but that it should

descend to the heir male, however distant, in exclusion of all

heirs female, however near; and that these two articles should be

considered as the fundamental laws of the kingdom, never to be

altered or abolished. And, lastly, that the heirs male of the

royal house should always be sent prisoners to a high mountain,

where they were to continue till their death, or till the

succession should open to them.

"The queen of Saba having made these laws irrevocable by all her

posterity, died after a long reign of forty years, in 986 before

Christ, placing her son Menilek upon the throne, whose posterity,

the annals of Abyssinia would teach us to believe, have ever since

reigned. So far, indeed, we must bear witness to them that this is

no new doctrine, but has been steadfastly and uniformly maintained

from their earliest account of time; first, when Jews, then in

later days, after they had embraced Christianity. We may farther

add, that the testimony of all the neighbouring nations is with

them on this subject, whether friends or enemies. They only differ

in the name of the queen, or in giving her two names.

"I shall therefore now give a list of their kings of the race of

Solomon, descended from the queen of Saba, whose device is a lion

passant, proper, upon a field gules; and their motto, Mo Anbasa am

Nizilet Solomon am Negade Juda; which signifies 'The lion of the

race of Solomon and tribe of Judah hath overcome.'

List of the kings of Abyssinia, from Maqueda,

Queen of Saba, to the Nativity

Reigned yrs. Reigned Yrs.

Menilek, or David I. 4 Katzina. . . . . 9

Hendedya,or Zagdur . 1 Wazeha . . . . . 1

Awida . . . . . 11 Hazer . . . . . 2

Ausyi . . . . . 3 Kalas . . . . . 6

Sawe . . . . . 31 Solaya . . . . . 16

Gesaya . . . . . 15 Falaya . . . . . 26

Katar . . . . . 15 Aglebu . . . . . 3

Mouta . . . . . 20 Asisena. . . . . 1

Bahas . . . . . 9 Brus . . . . . 29

Kawida . . . . . 2 Mohesa . . . . . 1

Kanaza . . . . . 10 Bazen . . . . . 16

Bruce's Travels, vol. ii., p. 395.

Mr. Bruce justly finds fault with this table as being defective;

several kings must necessarily have been lost out of this list. It

is probably a late invention, the genealogical tables having been

lost or destroyed; and no wonder when we consider the numerous

predatory wars in which the people of Abyssinia have been

frequently engaged.

l need scarcely add that the very learned Samuel Bochart has

endeavoured to prove by arguments not to be despised, that the

Scripture Ophir is the island Taprobanes or Serendib, now called

Ceylon. With any other opinions on this subject I think it

unnecessary to trouble the reader. That the voyage which Mr. Bruce

describes would take up three years, I think he has satisfactorily

proved; but on other points and resemblances many readers will

doubtless hesitate, while some may suppose his theory is the most

plausible of any yet offered to the public on this very obscure


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