Friday, February 19, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 19. The Queen Of Sheba

Prophets And Kings
Day 19
The Queen Of Sheba

In Chapter 10 we studies a very mysterious yet famous character of Scripture: the Queen of Sheba. Her comes to hear the wisdom of Solomon.

1 KINGS 10:1-13
Today the Queen of Sheba comes to hear the famed wisdom of Solomon. It is generally thought that she was from an area known as Saba or Sabea, and this would have been located in Southern Arabia where Yemen is today. This could be why the author places the account of her visit right after telling us about the gold from Ophir at the end of Chapter 9. Some Bible historians and scholars believe the gold mines of Ophir were somewhere in Sabea. The Sabeans were important traders of spices and gold in those days and we learned yesterday that Solomon and the king of Tyre had an alliance in which they put together a great navy in order to travel the trade routes of the seas. The journeys to Ophir by the sailors could be how news of Solomon's wisdom reached the queen. 

"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. 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." (1 Kings 10:1-2) The queen must have been a very intelligent woman and she came to Solomon with riddles and difficult cases to see how he would judge them. The text says that she had heard of "his relationship to the Lord" and I believe this means she had heard that Solomon credited the Lord with his special gift of vast wisdom. This piqued her curiosity. What kind of wisdom had God given Solomon? Could she present problems to him that he could not solve? If so, then she would be able to conclude that he possessed only high intelligence and not a special anointing of discernment from the Lord.

"Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to 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." (1 Kings 10:3-5) The nation of Israel was at its most glorious during the reign of Solomon. If a person could choose any time in history to go back and see ancient Israel at its economic finest, this would be the time. An area such as Sabea with its rich trading economy would have been quite wealthy, but evidently it was nothing compared to the glory of Solomon's kingdom. From the king on down to his servants, all were dressed in the finest of robes. The temple gleamed with gold. The palace was a work of art. The food was rich and sumptuous. The offerings to the Lord were extravagant. She had never seen anything like this. She had heard great things but none of what she had heard could fully prepare her for what she would see with her own eyes.

"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. How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!" (1 Kings 10:6-8) She sees that Solomon treats everyone fairly. He is kind to his employees, treating them with respect and honor, providing a good living for them. The economy is good and the people are able to pay their bills and enjoy their lives. More than all this, an intelligent woman like the queen cannot imagine the joy of those who are able to stand every day in Solomon's judgment hall hearing such wisdom. This is a woman who thirsts for knowledge and in our day she would probably hold a PhD. Solomon speaks to her like an equal; they are two heads of state visiting with each other and forming an advantageous trading agreement. 

Because Solomon gives all the credit for his wisdom to God, the queen of Sheba blesses Solomon's God. "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.'" (1 Kings 10:9) Although I doubt the queen converted to the religion of Israel, since she refers to God as "the Lord your God", she accepts Solomon's word that the Lord has made an eternal covenant with the nation. She believes Solomon when he says that the Lord chose him to be king because He knew Solomon would be a good leader of the people, even though he was way down the line of successors to David's throne. The queen accepts that God has the right to choose or reject leaders for His nation. I think this great queen couldn't believe her ears when she heard rumors of the wise king and his wealth and so she had to come and see for herself. When she does, she finds that words don't even begin to describe anything she sees and hears in Israel. It's all true. Israel's God has blessed abundantly. Israel's God has chosen the right king to lead the nation. He has indeed given a wisdom to Solomon that nobody else on earth possesses.

"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 Solomon." (1 Kings 10:10) She is sealing their trade alliance with the best products her country has to offer. In verse 13 we will find that Solomon gives her any products of Israel that her heart desires. This exchange of lavish gifts is proof of their mutual respect and their future business dealings. Both these leaders are happy with the results of their meeting.

"(Hiram's ships brought gold from Ophir; and from there they brought great cargoes of almugwood and precious stones. The king used the almugwood to make supports for the temple of the Lord and for the royal palace, and to make harps and lyres for the musicians. So much almugwood has never been imported or seen since that day.)" (1 Kings 10:11-12) I am not sure why the author inserts this information here unless part of the trading agreement between Solomon and the queen of Sheba includes this highly prized wood. If so, this further shores up the belief that Ophir was located somewhere in the territory of Sabea and that this was the land the queen was from. 

There are unsupported legends about the queen, such as that she and Solomon had an affair and she had a son by him, but there is nothing in the Bible that indicates their relationship was anything other than political. Solomon did love women, which is what led him to have around a thousand wives and concubines, but I doubt he had relations with a woman he wasn't married to. Even a concubine was a legal wife, although of lesser status. We don't know whether the queen had a husband but sleeping with Solomon without being married to him would be committing adultery, since Solomon was married (many times over). At the very least it would be sex outside of marriage and this is forbidden by the word of God. A wise man like Solomon would have lost standing in the queen's eyes if he sinned against the laws of the Lord, the laws he was so faithful to uphold when sitting in the judgment hall. Unfortunately, many people do not believe men and women can be friends. Many people do not believe men and women can relate to each other outside of the bedroom, and I think this is the type of mindset that has led some people to believe Solomon slept with the queen. I can't say for absolute certainty that he didn't, but nothing in our text makes any allusion to such a thing. In my opinion, making a proposition like that to a powerful queen who has come to work out a political alliance and a trade agreement with him would be unseemly, sexist, and insulting. 

"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." (1 Kings 10:13) Solomon was generous with the gifts he gave in return for the generous gifts from the queen.

We may never know exactly who this woman was, but she was wise enough to have been mentioned by the Lord Jesus Christ. In chastising the hard hearts of the Pharisees who were wise in their own eyes, Jesus said, "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 something greater than Solomon is here." (Matthew 12:42) In spite of all that the Pharisees saw and heard, they refused to believe Jesus was who He said He was. In that same chapter of Matthew they had actually accused Him of casting out demons through the power of Satan rather than through the power of God. Jesus says that the queen of Sheba would be appalled at such ignorance. She went to a great deal of trouble and undertook a long journey to hear Solomon speak; how much more would she have desired to hear the Lord speak? This pagan woman knew greatness when she heard and saw it and was sensible enough to believe her own eyes. Yet the Pharisees of Israel had the Lord in their midst and they refused to hear Him, they refused to believe the miracles they saw with their own eyes, and so Jesus says that the queen of Sheba herself will condemn their willful blindness to the truth. 

But what a blessing the Bible has for us who believe, we who did not see Jesus with our own eyes or hear Him with our own ears! When the disciple known as Doubting Thomas believed in the risen Lord after seeing Him with his own eyes, Jesus said, "Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29) It takes more faith to believe in that which we have not seen and so we receive a greater blessing than those who looked the Lord face to face. We didn't hear Him speak but we believe what He said. We didn't see the miracles but we believe they happened. We didn't touch the risen Savior or look on the nail prints in His hands and feet, but our souls rest in the certainty of what our Lord did for us. Blessed are we, for we have not seen, yet we believe.

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