The Queen of Sheba visits Solomon / The Council at Jerusalem: June 22nd 2021

1 Kings 9:10-11:13

It had taken twenty years for Solomon to build both the temple of the Lord and his royal palace. His ally, Hiram king of Tyre, had supplied him with materials all this time and so, in return, Solomon gave him twenty towns. However, Hiram was not impressed with the quality of them. He called them the ‘Land of Cabul’ (1 Kings 9:13) which means ‘good for nothing’. Meanwhile, Solomon had rebuilt and built-up selected cities throughout his territory.

Solomon created a huge slave labour force from the remnants of the indigenous Canaanite tribes that the Israelites had not managed to exterminate. Solomon kept to the prescribed schedule for offerings to the Lord. He also built ships, manned by Hiram’s sailors, that travelled to Ophir to bring back gold.

The queen of Sheba heard about Solomon’s fame and came to test him with hard questions. Nothing was too hard for him to explain to her. She was overwhelmed at the opulence of Solomon’s court.  She gave the king gold, precious stones and a huge quantity of spices. She praised God for having placed Solomon on the throne (1 Kings 10:9).

There are a couple of interesting legends about the visit from the queen of Sheba. The first is that Solomon allegedly seduced her (1 Kings 10:13) and she later bore him a son, Menilek, who would eventually take the ark of the Covenant from Jerusalem and take it to Ethiopia ( https://www.britannica.com/place/Aksum-Ethiopia#ref42419). The second legend is that Solomon had tried to incorporate wood from the ‘tree of life’ that had come from Eden into the temple, but it had been too supple. He had used it instead to make a bridge, which the queen of Sheba refused to cross because she prophesied that the wood would bring an end to the Jews. Solomon buried the wood but from this location, the healing spring of Bethesda started and eventually a large plank of wood floated to the top of the healing pool it supplied (John 5:1-2). This wood was used to make Jesus’ cross.

The weight of all the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents (1 Kings 10:14). I wonder whether this number is significant (Revelation 13:17-18). The number 666 may be associated with Solomon’s gradual fall from grace, his accumulation of horses and wealth, his abuse of power, lust for women, and his turning away from true worship of God.

The king made himself a massive throne inlaid with ivory and overlaid with fine gold (1 Kings 10:20). All of his household articles were made from gold. The whole world came to hear the wisdom that God had put into his heart and he was greater in riches than all the other kings of the world.

Solomon accumulated a vast number of chariots and horses, breaking the commandments (Deut. 17:16-17) which forbade the king from accumulating gold, horses (particularly horses from Egypt) and wives.

Solomon was also unfaithful to his wife, Pharaoh’s daughter, not only (allegedly) with the queen of Sheba but also with women from all the nations that God had banned the Israelites from intermarrying. He had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines and his foreign wives lead him astray (1 Kings 11:2-3). It is very easy to be lead astray by those we love and know best.

According to Deuteronomy, the king was meant to write down God’s law on a scroll and read it all the days of his life. Instead, Solomon started to follow heathen gods (1 Kings 11:5-6) doing evil in the eyes of the Lord. This was incredible behaviour when God himself (Jesus) had personally appeared to Solomon twice. He probably became convinced of his own brilliance and was consumed with lust for attractive women – as his father, King David, had illicitly lusted after Bathsheba.

God was justifiably furious and told Solomon that the kingdom would be torn away from him (1 Kings 11:11). For the sake of Solomon’s righteous father, David, this would not happen in Solomon’s lifetime and would leave just a single tribe for the sake of David and Jerusalem.

Hopefully, Solomon was sufficiently mortified by this judgement or did he just revel in his own brilliance, gold, fame, horses and women for the rest of his life? Judging by the book of Ecclesiastes he became clinically depressed (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Considering he was the wisest man in the world, Solomon appeared to have made a very foolish decision. He may have been led astray by his studies of the occult. Solomon was so wise and knowledgeable he studied multiple subjects including the occult. Several spell books that are alleged to have been written by him are still available today with incantations for summoning demons and getting them to do our bidding. Why did the wisest man in the world start to follow other gods and goddesses? There is a veritable list of these gods (with a small g) in 1 Kings 11:5-7. Solomon, as king, could have forced his wives just to worship the one true God but, in his wisdom, he went with their traditions. Michael Heiser in his book ‘The Unseen Realm’ offers an insight into what might have been going on. He postulates that these gods and goddesses were actually real and had been created by God to form a heavenly council before the foundation of the earth. Like the demons, they rebelled against God and ruled the earth badly, so God had to judge them and confine them. Verses that suggest the existence of this heavenly council include Psalm 82:1, Job 38:4-7, and Psalm 89:5-7. Solomon made the mistake of investigating this mythology, possibly thinking it could benefit him. However, we should not let these matters concern us. Our God is above all other ‘small g’ gods as the creator of the universes and everything within it (Exodus 15:11, Deut.3:24, 1 Kings 8:23, Psalm 97:9).   

Let us try not to make the same mistakes as Solomon. We should never let our hearts turn away from God and we should worship the Holy Trinity alone.  

Acts 15:1-21

The apostles had to counter false teaching at ‘The Council at Jerusalem’. Converts from Judah had been preaching that Gentiles had to become circumcised before they could be saved. That would have put a lot of Gentiles off from becoming Christians.

Peter stood up in the church in Jerusalem and pointed out that God had accepted Gentiles just as they were. God had given them the Holy Spirit, just as He had been given to the apostles (Acts 15:8). God knew the heart of these Gentiles and did not care if they were physically circumcised. He had purified their hearts by faith (Acts 15:9).

As the Jews had not been able to fully comply with the law, why should the Gentiles now be saddled with the same impossible task. We are all saved through grace – a free, unearned gift from God (Acts 15:11).

The assembly became silent as they listed to Barnabas and Paul testify about the signs and wonders that God had done among the Gentiles through them.

James (the Lessor) took on the leadership role in the council and made a judgment. Two of the twelve apostles were named James. This one (James the ‘Lessor’) was the Son of Alphaeus and a cousin of Jesus. The other James (‘James the ‘Great’’ – with great meaning older or taller) was the brother of John and had been previously executed by Herod in AD 44 (Acts 12:1-2). James the Great is buried in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. James the Lessor is buried along with his fellow apostle, Saint Philip, in the Basilica dei Santi Apostoli in Rome.

James wisely proclaimed that they should not make it difficult for the Gentiles to turn to God (Acts 15:19). Not only had God demonstrated that uncircumcised Gentiles could receive the Holy Spirit, but also the prophets had predicted that Gentiles would bear Jesus’ name (Acts 15:15). James judged that the Gentiles should only be banned in writing from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood (Acts 15:20). Like Solomon and David before him, millions of Gentile Christians do choose to live in sexual immorality front but God is always willing to forgive and forget if we contritely repent and renounce our sinful activities.

Psalm 77:1-9

I have cried out to God several times over the last few years. God allowed me to endure a couple of major trials to refine me and strengthen me. However, he rescued me each time and much good came out of my tribulations. I am a much better person today thanks to temporary suffering, when my spirit grew faint.

When we cry out and groan to God in distress, he will send people to help us. They may well be active Christians – living in the Spirit – but God also uses worldly people to rescue us. He bends secular people to his will, without them realising it, to deliver salvation on His behalf.

God will not reject us forever or forget to be merciful. He will show us again his unfailing love when the time is right for both Him and us.

Praise and honour to the Lord.

Image: Jacopo Tintoretto, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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