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27 September 2017. 2 Chronicles chapters 8-10
Chapter 9 records the extent to which Solomon became not only wise, but rich and powerful. The written record makes no apologies in explaining that he achieved this at least in part by enslaving the remaining indigenous people in the land, and conquering adjoining territories. The following chapter shows how, soon after his death, most of his own people ‘came out’ to complain about how he had ruled them harshly, too, and they rebelled against the rule of his son Rehoboam who stated his intent to rule even more harshly.
The visit of the Queen of Sheba is an interesting tale. Her name is never given in the few biblical accounts of her visit, but she is apparently also mentioned in the Koran, and it is believed that even if the queen herself is a mythical figure, Sheba may refer to the Sabean kingdom in what is now Yemen (today a very poor country, rather than a rich one).
The royal visit, be it mythical or historical, was for several purposes. The queen is said to have come to test Solomon’s wisdom, and was impressed by it. She was also impressed by his wealth; and yet brought large amounts of gold as a gift, that Solomon certainly did not need, and probably far more even than would have been customary for a state visit. This suggests that she actually feared her country being taken over by the growing kingdom of Israel/Judah, and was actually paying a heavy tribute to avoid this – protection money, you might say.
So although Solomon is remembered mainly as a good and wise ruler, it is clear even from accounts that you might expect to be favourable (having found their way into the Jewish and Christian scriptures) his approach to governing was not welcomed by the people of his day, nor would his actions be seen as acceptable by most people today. His wisdom may have been a gift from God, but he misused it in failing to rule justly.