A few helps:
- Sheba (as in “Queen of”) — a kingdom on the southern Arabian penisula, roughly equivalent to modern day Yemen (though probably smaller). It’s location made trade with the riches nations in the world easy. The Queen of Sheba’s trip to visit Solomon probably had commercial motives, having heard of Israel’s wealth.
- Ophir — mentioned twice earlier in the Bible: once as a patriarch of a nation in Gen. 10:29, and then as a source of fine gold in 1 Kings 9:28. Ophir’s specific location remains unknown, but the best guesses are that it may be southern Arabia on the coast of the Red Sea or a city in the middle of what is now the Arabian Desert. This second theory about the location of Ophir comes from a Biblical Archaeology Review article (that I’m having a hard time putting my hands on at the present).
- Shekel — about .025 pounds or 15 grams
- Mina — about 1.25 pounds
- Tarshish — often considered a reference to Spain (since it is located near Gibraltar) or some city in Spain. Recently there has been speculation that Tarshish may be the fabled Atlantis.
- Chemosh and Molech — gods of the Moab and Ammon respectively who sometimes required the burning of children in sacrifice. Milcom is often identified as another pronunciation of Molech.
- Ashtoreth — goddess fertility, sex, and war of the Sidonians; sometimes known as Astarte; she is also the goddess of the moon. She is not to be confused with Asherah, a different goddess.
How blessed — The Queen of Sheba said, “How blessed are your men, how blessed are these your servants who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom.” 1 Kings 10:8, NAS95. How much more blessed are we Christians who stand before our Lord (Solomon’s antitype) continually and hear His wisdom — which surpasses even Solomon’s! But the operative words are “stand before” (to read His word) and “hear” (as in listen, really listen) to His wisdom.
The danger of mixed religious marriage — When it comes to matters of the heart we are often rather closed-minded and a little brain-dead. Our hormones and the natural and normal sexual attraction kick in, and suddenly our truth-o-meter, danger-o-meter, and “is-this-a-good-idea?”-o-meter go non-functional. Fortunately, one of the criteria that God gives us about a good marriage is that it needs to be to someone who’s a faithful worshipper of the one true God — a faithful Israelite in the Old Testament and and faithful Christian in the New Testament. Why? Solomon demonstrates in tragic detail that who you marry will have an influence on you. In Solomon we see someone with great power, wisdom, and spiritual strength, who marries a number of women who were worshippers of other gods. In a matter of a few years, a king who had the prospects of being truly great finished his life for the worse — being the specific reason for the divided kingdom (not really his son Rehoboam, who is commonly credited for making a stupid political move). Be careful who you marry. A wise teacher of mine counseled a class full of potential preachers to be sure to “marry up, spiritually”.
This will certainly mean that you’ll want to date strong Christians, too, since in our culture you marry someone that you date. Don’t make the mistake of falling in love with someone who’s not a Christian and then having to make the heart-rending decision to break things off, because they don’t want to follow Jesus. If you are interested in dating someone who is not a Christian, start the relationship off — yes, start the relationship with this — talking about the Lord.
The real reason for the divided kingdom — As I mentioned earlier, it was really Solomon’s fault for the division of the kingdom, not Rehoboam. No matter how much of a super-star you might be, you don’t get “a pass” with God on worship, loyalty, faithfulness, etc.
Just a few minor tweaks — Jeroboam, the new king of the northern kingdom of Israel, was fearful for his new kingdom. “What if, at the next major festival, the people of the two kingdoms reconcile? They’ll kill me, and make Rehoboam, of the house of David and Solomon, their king!” So, Jeroboam made a few changes in the worship of the one true God to make sure that Israel stayed divided. Some of them were calculated to keep Israel from Judah and some were to make the “new and improved” religion more attractive. Please note in this text that worship continued to be aimed at the same God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, and David. The differences were in details:
- idolatry was added — golden calves were made to represent the true God (see v. 28)
- the place of worship was changed — instead of Jerusalem, you could now conveniently worship at either Dan in the north or Bethel in the south. “It is too much for you to go to Jerusalem” (v. 28, 29)
- he made houses (shrines complete with altars) on high places — although worship on high places were forbidden (Deut. 12:5).
- appointment of priests from among any tribe — it was no longer required that the worship was to be lead or conducted by the Levites
- the “Day of Atonement” and “Feast of Booths” was shifted from the 7th month to the 8th month
These changes became known later in the Old Testament as the infamous “sins of Jeroboam” (e.g., 1 Kings 13:34, 14:16; 15:30; 15:34; 16:2; 16:19; 16:26; 16:31; 21:22; and more). We should take note, shouldn’t we? God isn’t pleased with changing his patterns. Jeroboam and other kings of Israel were deposed by the Lord, because of these sins. Can we change God’s pattern in the New Testament and expect God to be pleased? God is most pleased, when we stick with His pattern — no tweaks necessary or welcome, minor or otherwise.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.