Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. the queen of Sheba--Some think her country was the Sabean kingdom of
Yemen, of which the capital was Saba, in Arabia-Felix; others, that it
was in African Ethiopia, that is, Abyssinia, towards the south of the
Red Sea. The opinions preponderate in favor of the former. This view
harmonizes with the language of our Lord, as Yemen means "South"; and
this country, extending to the shores of the Indian ocean, might in
ancient times be considered "the uttermost parts of the earth."
heard of the fame of Solomon--doubtless by the Ophir fleet.
concerning the name of the Lord--meaning either his great knowledge
of God, or the extraordinary things which God had done for him.
hard questions--enigmas or riddles. The Orientals delight in this
species of intellectual exercise and test wisdom by the power and
readiness to solve them.
2. she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels--A long
train of those beasts of burden forms the common way of travelling in
Arabia; and the presents specified consist of the native produce of
that country. Of course, a royal equipage would be larger and more
imposing than an ordinary caravan.
6. It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and
of thy wisdom--The proofs she obtained of Solomon's wisdom--not from
his conversation only, but also from his works; the splendor of his
palace; the economy of his kitchen and table; the order of his court;
the gradations and gorgeous costume of his servants; above all, the
arched viaduct that led from his palace to the temple
and the remains of which have been recently discovered [ROBINSON]--overwhelmed her with astonishment. [See on
9. Blessed be the Lord thy
It is quite possible, as Jewish writers say, that this queen was
converted, through Solomon's influence, to the worship of the true God.
But there is no record of her making any gift or offering in the
10. she gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of
11. almug trees--Parenthetically, along with the valuable presents of
the queen of Sheba, is mentioned a foreign wood, which was brought in
the Ophir ships. It is thought by some to be the sandalwood; by others,
to be the deodar--a species of fragrant fir, much used in India for
sacred and important works. Solomon used it for stairs in his temple
but chiefly for musical instruments.
13. King Solomon gave unto the queen of Sheba all her desire,
whatsoever she asked, beside--that is, Solomon not only gave his
illustrious guest all the insight and information she wanted; but,
according to the Oriental fashion, he gave her ample remuneration for
the presents she had brought.
14, 15. Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one
year--666 talents, equal to £3,996,000. The sources whence
this was derived are not mentioned; nor was it the full amount of his
revenue; for this was "Beside that he had of the merchantmen, and of
the traffic of the spice merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia, and
of the governors of the country." The great encouragement he gave to
commerce was the means of enriching his royal treasury. By the
fortifications which he erected in various parts of his kingdom,
(particularly at such places as Thapsacus, one of the passages of
Euphrates, and at Tadmor, in the Syrian desert), he gave complete
security to the caravan trade from the depredations of the Arab
marauders; and it was reasonable that, in return for this protection,
he should exact a certain toll or duty for the importation of foreign
goods. A considerable revenue, too, would arise from the use of the
store cities and khans he built; and it is not improbable that those
cities were emporia, where the caravan merchants unloaded their bales
of spices and other commodities and sold them to the king's factors,
who, according to the modern practice in the East, retailed them in the
Western markets at a profit. "The revenue derived from the tributary
kings and from the governors of the country" must have consisted in the
tribute which all inferior magistrates periodically bring to their
sovereigns in the East, in the shape of presents of the produce of
their respective provinces.
16, 17. two hundred targets, six hundred shekels--These
defensive arms were anciently made of wood and covered with leather;
those were covered with fine gold. 600 shekels were used in the gilding
of each target--300 for each shield. They were intended for the state
armory of the palace (see
18-26. a great throne of ivory--It seems to have been made not of
solid ivory, but veneered. It was in the form of an armchair, with a
carved back. The ascent to it was by six steps, on each of which stood
lions, in place of a railing--while a lion, probably of gilt metal,
stood at each side, which, we may suppose from the analogy of other
Oriental thrones, supported a canopy. A golden footstool is mentioned
as attached to this throne, whose magnificence is described as
22. a navy of Tharshish--Tartessus in Spain. There gold, and especially
silver, was obtained, anciently, in so great abundance that it was
nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon. But "Tarshish" came to be
a general term for the West
at sea--on the Mediterranean.
once in three years--that is, every third year. Without the mariner's
compass they had to coast along the shore. The ivory, apes, and
peacocks might have been purchased, on the outward or homeward voyage,
on the north coast of Africa, where the animals were to be found. They
were particularized, probably as being the rarest articles on board.