Have you ever seen something you had previously heard a great deal about, and found it beyond what you imagined? The Book of 1 Kings describes a time when the Queen of Sheba traveled to visit Israe...
Have you ever seen something you had previously heard a great deal about, and found it beyond what you imagined? The Book of 1 Kings describes a time when the Queen of Sheba traveled to visit Israel’s King Solomon, the wisest man in the world. She wanted to see for herself if what she had heard about him was true—and what she observed was far more than she had expected.
In 1 Kings 10:4-5 we read, “And when the queen of Sheba had seen all Solomon’s wisdom, and the house that he had built, And the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up unto the house of the Lord; there was no more spirit in her.”
The queen’s visit can be summarized in a few simple facts: she heard, she came, she saw, she experienced, and she returned again to her home.
The Queen of Sheba had heard about Solomon. The world of that day had heard about Solomon—his greatness was undisputed. The expanse and peace of his kingdom were well known. In 1 Kings 4:20, we read that “Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude.” Solomon’s kingdom extended from the Euphrates River in modern day Iraq to Egypt, perhaps even as far south as the Nile River. And the people lived in peace; they “dwelt safely . . . from Dan even to Beer-sheba,” implying the extent of the kingdom from north to south. The Queen of Sheba heard that.
She heard of Solomon’s wealth, because the kingdom was very prosperous. Solomon had two hundred targets of gold. We are told that “He made three hundred shields of beaten gold; three pound of gold went to one shield” (1 Kings 10:17). Figuring the value of gold at today’s average price of $1,700 per ounce, each shield would have been worth $82,000! Those three hundred shields were kept in his house in the forest in Lebanon. We are not told how many shields he had in his palace in Jerusalem, but three hundred were in his “vacation home.” His drinking vessels there were also of gold. And, he had silver so abundant that “it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon” (1 Kings 10:21). There was plenty! Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and thousands of horsemen as well. Just these few details give us a glimpse into what the Queen of Sheba would have heard about his wealth.
She heard that Solomon had a navy. In 1 Kings 10:22, we learn that those employed in it served in a three-year circuit, and brought back gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks from the lands they visited.
The queen heard of Solomon’s knowledge and creativity as well. He wrote three thousand proverbs, and his songs numbered over a thousand. He was knowledgeable about the natural world; in 1 Kings 4:33 we read, “And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes.” Some people claim to know just about everything, but Solomon did know just about everything! We read in 1 Kings 10:23 that he exceeded all the kingdoms of the earth for riches and wisdom.
The Queen of Sheba wanted to investigate what she had heard, and she traveled from a great distance to do so. When Jesus spoke of her visit to Solomon, He said that the Queen of the South came “from the uttermost part of the earth.” Some think that may indicate south of Saudi Arabia—perhaps from Yemen or across the Red Sea from the area of Ethiopia. Whatever the location of her homeland, it seems she traveled hundreds and hundreds of miles. A distance that great would have taken weeks and possibly even months in her day.
She made the long, hazardous journey to Jerusalem accompanied by a great entourage, but without any of the comforts afforded travelers of our day. She was determined to visit King Solomon no matter what effort was required, so she could find out if what she had heard about him was true.
After she came, she saw. It is one thing to hear about something and another thing to see it with our own eyes. What we hear may not be an accurate assessment of what really exists. However, what the Queen of Sheba saw exceeded her expectations.
She saw dinner—elaborate meals! According to 1 Kings 4:22-23, Solomon’s provision for one day was ten fat oxen and twenty oxen out of the pastures. Provisions at a single meal included one hundred sheep, as well as harts and roebucks, fallow deer, and fatted fowl—what we would describe today as deer and elk and buffalo and turkey and duck and chickens. Clearly, she saw a feast. It would have taken hundreds of servants to serve the hundreds of guests who were present.
She saw the king hold court while seated on a throne of ivory overlaid with gold. In verse 19 we find a description: “The throne had six steps, and top of the throne was round behind: and there were stays on either side on the place of the seat, and two lions stood beside the stays. And twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the other upon the six steps: there was not the like made in any kingdom.” It was an impressive sight.
This reminds me of a time I visited a court in Nigeria. Since I do not normally associate with royalty, I was unsure of what to expect as we entered. A good deal of pomp and circumstance was going on—often a trumpet would sound, flags were flying, and heralds were making pronouncements. There were three thrones on a raised platform, and behind it was a large artistic depiction of a lion. I was escorted to a small throne next to the central throne. After a bit, the king’s assistant entered and sat on the other side. Then trumpets sounded and the king entered and sat down between us.
As I was sitting there, wondering and watching, there was a lull in the activity. Though English is the official language of Nigeria, the proceedings were in one or more of their native languages. But after a bit, the king turned to me and casually inquired in English, “So, how’s it going?” I did not know kings talked like that! My short conversation with him was memorable, partly for its brevity.
We are not told the subject matter or scope of the conversations that took place between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, but we do know that she “came to prove him with hard questions” (1 Kings 10:1). Maybe she brought some of her civic challenges to Solomon. We can imagine her describing a legal problem back in her homeland, hoping that in his well-known wisdom, he would be able to suggest a solution. She may have heard about the time when two women were fighting over one baby, each claiming the child to be their own. Solomon had asked for a sword to be brought to him, and proposed that the baby be divided and one half given to each woman. The women’s reactions clearly revealed which one was the real mother. Since Solomon had resolved that situation so wisely, the queen may have hoped he would advise her about a difficult situation needing her decision.
Perhaps she wondered how Solomon had acquired such amazing wisdom. If she asked, Solomon would have explained that, years before, he had experienced a personal encounter with God. He would have described how God had allowed him to ask for anything he wanted. Rather than requesting personal riches or fame, Solomon had asked for wisdom and discernment to rule God’s people. We read in 1 Kings 3:11-13 that God was pleased with that request. He responded that He would not only give Solomon wisdom, but He would bless him with prosperity as well. And God had done so. To each of the hard questions the Queen of Sheba asked, she received entirely satisfactory answers.
She came; she heard; she experienced. Then she returned home, taking with her far more than what she had brought to Solomon’s court. She had come with a train of camels bearing spices and gold and silver and precious gifts, but she left with more than what she had come with. She came with expectations, and those expectations were more than fulfilled. She said, “Behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard” (1 Kings 10:7).
The account of the Queen of Sheba coming to King Solomon can be paralleled to what happens when an individual comes to investigate the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My own experience illustrates that.
I heard. After I came into the Apostolic Faith Church and was saved, I heard the people in our Roseburg, Oregon, church talk about “camp meeting.” I did not know what a camp meeting was. Would they build a bonfire and have everyone sit around it and sing, “Kum-Ba-Ya”? Would they roast marshmallows and hot dogs? I assumed that must be what camp meeting was. But I was told, “No, it is not at all like that. It is in-depth Bible study. It is a time to learn more of the Word of God.” They invited me to come and see for myself.
I came. I will admit to being nervous at my first camp meeting. I only knew a few people on the campground and was not sure how to conduct myself. My pastor suggested that I sing in the young people’s choir. I did not have a tie, so one of the young men from the Roseburg church, Jack Chasteen, loaned me one and taught me how to tie it. Then he sat with me on the platform during the youth meeting. When the youth choir got up to sing, I mostly just mouthed the words so as not to destroy the sound!
I saw. What I saw was well-groomed young men in the days of hippies, and modest young ladies in the days of immodesty. I saw a choir, an orchestra, singing, preaching, and praying. And my reaction was much the same as the Queen of Sheba’s—I was amazed!
I asked questions. I remember inquiring about those who testified in the services, “Are they appointed to speak?” The response was no, it was spontaneous. I wondered about the musicians and asked if they were on the church payroll. I was told that no, the musicians were volunteers. So I questioned, “How is the work supported?” I was told that it is financed by free-will tithes and offerings—that there was a small, inconspicuous box in the entry of the church where people placed their tithes and offerings as they felt led. They told me there was no solicitation of funds or pleading for money in church services, nor had there been since the organization began.
I returned home. I left that camp meeting a different person than when I came. I never anticipated that my life would be on a different trajectory after I was introduced to the Gospel. It was in this church that I met my future wife. Today, we have two children and eight grandchildren, and we participate together in the service of the Lord. That is what the Gospel does. It exceeds expectations! And it all begins when we come to investigate for ourselves.
After the Queen of Sheba returned home, there is no further mention of her in Scripture until Jesus Christ came to this world. He told a crowd gathered around Him, “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:42).
The One who is “greater than Solomon” is Jesus Christ, and you can experience Him for yourself today. You can hear about what Christ offers, you can come to a church service, you can see evidence of His power, and you can ask questions . . . but that is not enough. You must experience Christ for yourself!
Today, if you do not know that your sins have been forgiven, look Heaven’s way in repentance and faith. Ask to receive what you have seen and heard about. Once you do, you will be a different person than you were before. There will be an assurance that your sins have been forgiven. And you will find that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ will exceed your expectations!
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