Saturday, February 20, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 20. The Splendor Of Solomon's Kingdom

Prophets And Kings
Day 20
The Splendor Of Solomon's Kingdom

Yesterday we studied the account of the Queen of Sheba comin to visit Solomon, to hear hims wisdom and to see the wealth of hims kingdom. Today we takes a closer look at the splendor of the kingdom during Solomons reign.

1 KINGS 10:14-29
"The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents, not including the revenues from merchants and traders and from all the Arabian kings and the governors of the territory." (1 Kings 10:14-15) In some of my study materials I learned that this would equate to about $1 billion a year in today's currency. And this was just the basic taxes and tributes he received; in addition there was the money made from all his trade agreements and various other governmental fees. 

It's interesting to find the number 666 here and we are reminded of Revelation 13:18, "This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666." This passage of Revelation is one of the most mysterious in the whole Bible and I cannot say whether there is some specific reason the author of 1 Kings chose to separate the 666 talents of Solomon from his other revenues, or whether there is any connection at all with the number 666 in Revelation. One thing we can be certain of is that King Solomon was not the antichrist, nor will he be reincarnated to become the antichrist. It very well may be a complete coincidence that his annual revenue was 666 talents and there may be no importance attached to this number here in 1 Kings. 

But I think there could be a moral and spiritual connection because King Solomon was one of the wealthiest kings ever to sit on a throne and he was living in direct opposition to the word of God which gives rules for the king to live by. In Deuteronomy 17:16-17 we find, "The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, 'You are not to go back that way again.' He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold." We have already seen Solomon break these rules. Today's passage will point out the breaking of these rules. Future passages will show us that he breaks these rules. Solomon's wealth and the number of his wives and the dynasty he fathered through them and the treasures he heaps up for himself on earth are obscene in their vast excess. 

The world leader who will appear at the end times will also be a man of excesses. He will live in direct opposition to God. He will control the world currency system and in doing so will control and oppress the people. The antichrist will put a one world religion in place but his church will serve to satisfy the carnal and mental lusts of man, not to nourish the soul. Wealth and status and sex and possessions and new-age knowledge are what will truly be worshiped in those days. The splendor of the kingdom of the man of sin will rival the splendor of Solomon's kingdom and will likely surpass it, for he will force all nations to pay tribute to him. So although I don't think the Scriptures are comparing the character of Solomon specifically to the character of the antichrist, we see some of the behavior which leads mankind astray in the way Solomon allowed his money to lead him astray. He will allow wealth and power and his weaknesses of the flesh to turn him away from the living God until late in his life when he realizes everything is nothing without the Lord. The antichrist, however, will never have such an epiphany. In contrast to Solomon who I believe repented, the antichrist will go to his doom. For more information on the subject of the number 666 I will include a link at the end of today's blog post to the section of our past study of Revelation which deals with this subject.

Now we continue on with our look at the treasures Solomon built up. "King Solomon made two hundred large shields of hammered gold; six hundred shekels of gold went into each shield. He also made three hundred small shields of hammered gold, with three minas of gold in each shield. The king put them in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon." (1 Kings 10:16-17) These shields were not to be used in battle but were evidently hung as ornaments on the walls of the palace. They were symbolic of Israel's military might but were of no value on the battlefield. A bronze shield was an effective shield on the battlefield, being both lighter and harder than gold. Solomon intends to project a powerful image to visiting dignitaries. He is so wealthy he can afford to make shields that serve no purpose, yet at the same time these shields tell visitors that the armies of Israel are ready to defend the throne. I can't help but wonder what David the warrior would think of this display. It was because of his military prowess that Solomon can sit on the throne in peace and I somehow doubt it ever occurred to David to make symbols of his skill in battle. We know who the shield of David was, for time and again in the psalms we find him declaring that the Lord was his shield. Even when going up against the giant Goliath, David took no shield, and I can't help but feel he'd have no interest in these golden ornaments on the wall. In fact, I think he might find them disturbing, for they make it obvious that Solomon's trust is in his power and wealth and not in the true Shield of Israel.

"Then the king made a great throne covered with ivory and overlaid with fine gold. The throne had six steps, and its back had a rounded top. On both sides of the seat were armrests, with a lion standing beside each of them. Twelve lions stood on the six steps, one at either end of each step. Nothing like it had ever been made for any other kingdom." (1 Kings 10:18-20) Imagine coming in to the throne room of Solomon and seeing this! The Bible says no other king had anything like it. But a kingdom does arise later on with this type of wealth, a kingdom that employs lions in its imagery, and that kingdom is pagan Babylon. A day will come when Israel, like Solomon, falls into idolatry and this other wealthy king whose symbol is a lion will come and drag the people to his nation as slaves, stealing the golden objects of Solomon's temple and placing them in the temple of his pagan god. What use is Israel's wealth then? What use are the heavy golden shields? What does the magnificent throne mean to a king powerful enough to take Israel down? If only Solomon and his nation made God their Shield and King! If they had remained faithful to Him, this calamity would never have come upon them. Lest we feel tempted to shake our heads at Israel's unfaithfulness, let's remember our own. Even after coming to Christ, haven't we made mistakes? Haven't we done things that are out of character for who we profess to be? We can't look down on anyone else; God has been merciful to us in our failures. And God has been merciful to His nation Israel as well, and will continue to be merciful to her.

"All King Solomon's goblets were gold, and all the household articles in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold." (1 Kings 10:21a) Even the tableware and flatware was made of gold. We've heard of people in our day who are so wealthy their toilets are plated with gold. A certain rapper is rumored to have such bathrooms in his house and when hearing this I remarked to my husband that a person has to think quite highly of himself if he can't go to the bathroom on an ordinary toilet. I believe Saddam Hussein also enjoyed taking his bathroom breaks on gold toilets but they were of little use to him when Iraq fell and he was captured. It takes an enormous ego to feel that the ordinary objects in the house need to be plated with gold and I think Solomon has become carried away by his wealth and the ability to own anything his heart desires. This is never good for any of us, in my opinion, but it's especially disastrous when Christ isn't at the center of our lives. If we haven't put Him in His proper place in our hearts, no amount of money or beautiful objects will make us happy.

"Nothing was made of silver, because silver was considered of little value in Solomon's days." (1 Kings 10:21b) Silver was highly valued in ancient times but Solomon is so rich in gold that silver means nothing to him. It's probably used as currency but not for ornamental plating. This reminds me of something that my husband and I still laugh about. We were standing in his cousin's driveway some years back because we were going to take a short road trip in his car. His car was packed so full of stuff like McDonald's bags and laundry and newspapers and whatnot that he had to clean it out before we could get in, so he started throwing things in the garbage without really looking at them. By the time he got down to the level of the floor mats, he was throwing loose change out of the car, slinging pennies into the trash along with the fast food wrappers. My husband pointed out he was throwing money away and his cousin said something like, "Ah, they aren't worth anything. I usually just put them in the trash." At our house we keep change jars so we can roll the change and exchange it for folding money, so it struck us odd that anyone would throw pennies away. One penny might not be worth much but a hundred pennies make a dollar. They add up. The verse about Solomon's disregard for silver reminds me of the pennies in the trash. Solomon considered silver worthless because he had so much gold. If Solomon was cleaning the royal chariot out he probably would have put the silver coins in the garbage just like my husband's cousin put the pennies in the garbage. The author of 1 Kings tells us about this to drive home the point that Solomon was probably the wealthiest man on earth.

"The king had a fleet of trading ships at sea along with the ships of Hiram. Once every three years it returned, carrying gold, silver and ivory, and apes and baboons." (1 Kings 10:22) We don't know for sure why Solomon brought animals in that weren't native to his country. He may have had zoos, as some scholars believe. We know he built beautiful parks and he may have also built nature preserves or zoos or some type of habitats for these exotic animals.

"King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart. Year after year, everyone who came brought a gift---articles of silver and gold, robes, weapons and spices, and horses and mules. Solomon accumulated chariots and horses; he had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses, which he kept in the chariot cities and also with him in Jerusalem. The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills. Solomon's horses were imported from Egypt and from Kue---the royal merchants purchased them from Kue at the current price. They imported a chariot from Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse for a hundred and fifty. They also exported them to all the kings of the Hittites and of the Arameans." (1 Kings 10:26-29) We studied the passage from Deuteronomy today that warns kings not to send to Egypt for horses and not to make any of the people go to Egypt again, but Solomon has disregarded that command. He procures horses and chariots from Egypt for himself and for his allies. In addition, he has gone so far as to marry a princess of Egypt and make her his queen. 

The Lord never intends for us to go backwards. Egypt was a symbol of oppression and slavery and the Lord had delivered Israel from all that. They were not to have business dealings with Egypt or to ally themselves militarily with Egypt. Sitting in the promised land, owning more of it than at any other time, there was no need for Solomon to add to the wealth of Israel's former oppressor by trading with that nation. But money talks, as the saying goes. Money will talk us into doing a lot of things that contradict the word of God if we let it. Jesus preached on the subject of money as much or more than He preached about anything else, and for good reason. The Apostle Paul, once quite well-off himself, said, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1 Timothy 6:10) Money is an inanimate object incapable of plotting evil and in the right hands it can be used to do a great deal of good in the world. Money can be used to get the gospel out. Money can be used to feed the poor and get medicine to the sick. When used for Christ, money can be a wonderful thing. But the love of it, the lust that's never satisfied by any amount of possessions, will come between us and the Lord. Money for its own sake and for what it can do for us will pierce us with many griefs. It will cause us to wander from the faith. That's what happened to Solomon. 

Below is a link to our past blog post dealing with the number 666, written in Belinda's voice, if you'd like to take a look at it.

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