Let’s Just say It's a WomanBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
This chapter details Solomon’s visit from the Queen of Sheba. In our synopsis of I Kings chapter 10, we discuss how the term “malkas shva” may mean that Solomon entertained a delegation from Sheba rather than a woman. (You can read more about that in The Nach Yomi Companion volume 1; here, we’ll just go with “Queen.”)
So, the Queen (maybe) heard about Solomon’s legendary wisdom and she came to see for herself. She brought a large entourage bearing gold, spices and precious gems as gifts. She shared all her problems with him and he was able to solve them all.
The Queen especially noted how brilliantly Solomon’s household was organized. Every aspect of it showed wisdom in its design, from the servants’ uniforms to the passageway the king used to access the Temple. She was completely overwhelmed by what she saw.
She told Solomon that everything she heard about him was true, without exaggeration. If she hadn’t seen it with her own eyes, she wouldn’t have believed it! She said that the Jews were fortunate to have such a wise king and she praised G-d for placing Solomon on his throne; that was clearly a sign of His love for Israel. The Queen of Sheba showered Solomon with riches; the spices alone were in unprecedented quantities.
The servants of Solomon and Hiram who had brought the gold they acquired in Ophir (in the previous chapter) also brought back gems and rare wood. Solomon used this wood to construct the passageway he used to access the Temple, as well as some of the Levites’ instruments.
Solomon not only enlightened the Queen with his wisdom, he gave her gifts of wealth from things that were indigenous to Israel but not Sheba. She then returned to her land.
The chapter ends with a description of the large amounts of gold imported by, or given to, Solomon in the course of a year. Solomon made 200 full-length shields of gold and 300 regular-sized shields. He placed them in his palace, which was called “The Forest of Lebanon.”
Solomon also made a throne of ivory, covered in gold. Six stairs led to the throne, with figures of lions on either side of each step, plus lions next to the armrests of the throne. There was no other throne like it in all the world.
All of the king’s utensils were made of gold; silver wasn’t even worth anything in Solomon’s day. Every three years, the fleet would arrive from Tarshish carrying all sorts of riches, as well as exotic animals and birds. Solomon was both the wisest king in the world and the richest. Other kings constantly sought Solomon out for guidance and they would bring him gifts of the finest things their lands had to offer. Solomon had dominion over lands from the Philistine territories as far as Egypt. The prophets Nathan and Achiya recorded the events of Solomon’s rule, which lasted 40 years. Solomon was succeeded by his son Rechavam (Rehoboam).
When the text mentions the prophets Nathan and Achiya, it also mentions someone named Yedi (or Yedo – it’s a kri/ksiv, in which the text is written one way and pronounced another). We are told that Yedi had a vision about Yeravam (Jeroboam – we’ll meet him in the next chapter). Since Yedi does not appear elsewhere in Scripture, the nature of his vision remains unrevealed.