Sunday School Lesson for March 30, 2003
Background Passage: 1 Kings 9:10-10:29
Focal Teaching Passages
Solomon’s Payment of Twenty Cities (9:10-14)
The story of Solomon’s reign continues with the record of events that transpired following the completion of his twentieth year in power, or what has been referred to as “the mature middle life of Solomon’s forty-year reign” [Nelson, 63]. At this time, Solomon attempted to maintain his relationship with “Hiram king of Tyre” by providing him with “twenty towns in Galilee” (v. 11) for “120 talents of gold” (v. 14). However, this move was an apparent change from their earlier agreement outlined in 5:10-11. Solomon seems to have exchanged these cities, which were deemed by Hiram to be worthless or defective (the literal meaning of the term “Cabul”), for the normal payment of food (v. 13). This change in their agreement displeased Hiram—“What kind of towns are these you have given me, my brother?” It is in this interesting episode that the cunning and craftiness of Solomon is made evident as he “beat at his own game this king of a merchant nation” [Nelson, 64]. This move by Solomon, though it reveals his wisdom and cleverness, does give rise to questions about his character and integrity [House, 157].
Solomon’s Kingdom (9:15-28)
This section details how Solomon carried out several projects by means of “forced labor” (v. 15). Included in this are towns that would be fortified in order to serve as “strategic cities to guard the main approaches to his kingdom” [Wiseman, 126]. His significant building endeavors included the following:
Again, we can surmise that the purpose for the inclusion of this section is to display the wisdom and foresight of Solomon; a wisdom that came graciously from the hand of God.
The Queen of Sheba Visits Solomon (10:1-13)
Here we learn that the “queen of Sheba,” whose kingdom was some 1500 miles away from Jerusalem, paid an official visit to Solomon in order to personally learn of his great wealth and wisdom. House indicates that the purpose for her visit may have been to “explore future trading ventures” . However, the text makes it clear that her primary aim was to verify—“to test him with hard questions”—the “fame of Solomon” and to discover more about “his relation to the name of the Lord” (v. 1). Thus, the queen was attempting to discover for herself whether or not Solomon was a “trustworthy business partner and a reliable ally capable of giving help” [Wiseman, 129].
Verses 2-5 details how the queen, upon her impressive arrival in the city of Jerusalem, presented Solomon with a number of questions and “talked with him about all that she had on her mind” (v. 2). Yet, Solomon experienced no difficulty at all in solving her riddles—“nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her”(v. 3). The initial result of the queen’s conversations with Solomon was that she immediately recognized his divinely granted wisdom and was “overwhelmed” (v. 5).
In verses 6-9, the queen, ironically, praises Solomon’s God—“the Lord your God”— who has worked so wonderfully in his life and in the history of Israel. Note that the queen, though she is not a believer, recognizes and readily admits the gracious nature of Yahweh’s dealings with both Israel and Solomon. She understands that God has “delighted” in Solomon and “placed” him “on the throne of Israel,” and has demonstrated an “eternal love for Israel”(v. 9). She also sees that God’s purpose in bringing Solomon to power was His desire to “maintain justice and righteousness” in the land through him (v. 9).
Solomon’s Great Wealth (10:14-29)
In this section, the author describes Solomon’s impressive wealth. His personal possessions included:
The key passage in this section is found in verses 23-25. Here we have the confirmation that God had, indeed, blessed Solomon just as He had promised earlier. Solomon’s wealth of wisdom and material possessions exceeded that of “all other kings on earth.” In addition, practically “the whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart.”
One: Consider 9:10-14 and the episode with Hiram and the 20 cities. At what point does “wisdom,” even that which is the gift of God, become self-serving and evil in the sight of the Lord?
Two: Look at the tension between 9:24 where Solomon constructed a palace for the daughter of Pharaoh, and 9:25 where Solomon is described as faithfully carrying out the Levitical sacrifices. What does such a picture suggest to you about Solomon? Can you think of a modern parallel to this interesting picture?
Three: In 10:6-9 the queen of Sheba praises the God if the Israelites. There seems to be a profound spiritual lesson here. What is it? Is it possible that this pagan queen had a deeper insight into the ways of God than did king Solomon?
Four: Look up Deuteronomy 17:17 and relate it to the events described in 10:14-29. Do you see any problems with Solomon’s course of action—that is, his accumulation of vast material wealth?