International Trade: A Source of Solomon's Wealth

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International Trade

A Source of Solomon's Wealth

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Solomon built many merchant ships manned by both Israelite and Phoenician sailors. The wealth accumulated by this maritime traffic is astounding, even by modern standards.

How far did those fleets travel to amass such wealth? We don’t know, but the Scriptures tell us the sailors sometimes required three years to make a round-trip voyage because the distance was so great. They brought back valuable commodities such as gold, silver and ivory along with exotic curiosities such as apes and monkeys (1 Kings 10:22 1 Kings 10:22For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish with the navy of Hiram: once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.
American King James Version×
).

More than two millennia later Ferdinand Magellan sailed around the world on a voyage that also took three years. The fleets of Solomon and the Phoenicians could sail far and wide over the oceans. The Scriptures note that King Hiram’s mariners “knew the sea” (1 Kings 9:27 1 Kings 9:27And Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipmen that had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon.
American King James Version×
).

Having an international fleet of ships, an alliance with the Phoenicians and control of the major Middle Eastern inland trade routes, Solomon engaged in his own import and export ventures. For example, “Solomon’s import of horses was from Egypt and Kue, and the king’s traders received them from Kue at a price. A chariot could be imported from Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse for one hundred fifty; so through the king’s traders they were exported to all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Aram” (1 Kings 10:28-29 1 Kings 10:28-29 28 And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt, and linen yarn: the king’s merchants received the linen yarn at a price. 29 And a chariot came up and went out of Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and an horse for an hundred and fifty: and so for all the kings of the Hittites, and for the kings of Syria, did they bring them out by their means.
American King James Version×
, NRSV).

The Bible notes that Solomon’s yearly base revenues amounted to 50,000 pounds of gold, not counting the gold he received from gifts and tribute (2 Chronicles 9:13-14 2 Chronicles 9:13-14 13 Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred and three score and six talents of gold; 14 Beside that which chapmen and merchants brought. And all the kings of Arabia and governors of the country brought gold and silver to Solomon.
American King James Version×
). Having access to this vast wealth, Solomon built a magnificent temple for God and a palace complex for himself in Jerusalem.

He covered the inside walls and even the floors of the temple with pure gold. Images of two cherubim, each with two almost eight-foot-wide outstretched wings, overshadowed the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant. Artisans overlaid these likenesses with pure gold. Craftsmen made the seven-branched menorah, table for the showbread, bowls, pans, other lampstands, lamp trimmers, ladles and censers of solid gold (2 Chronicles 9:3-4 2 Chronicles 9:3-4 3 And when the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, and the house that he had built, 4 And the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel; his cupbearers also, and their apparel; and his ascent by which he went up into the house of the LORD; there was no more spirit in her.
American King James Version×
).

Solomon had a large throne of ivory overlaid with gold. He supplied his guards with hundreds of golden ceremonial shields, the large ones made with about 7 1⁄2 pounds of hammered gold. His palace’s dining service included solid-gold cups and plates. The Scriptures note that none of them was made of silver during Solomon’s time because it was considered too ordinary (1 Kings 10:21 1 Kings 10:21And all king Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold; none were of silver: it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon.
American King James Version×
). This was literally Israel’s golden era.

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