We had come out of a far country because of the name of Yahweh. We had heard in Sheba about the great house that King Solomon had built for His name. Stories were reaching us that this temple was going to last forever and that Solomon was ruling over his kingdom and prospering as no man had ever done before, as though a god was with him. The only gods we knew in Sheba were the gods of the Sun and Moon. Travellers who had come from Jerusalem told us that the name Yahweh Elohim meant “He will become mighty ones” and showed the purpose of the Israelite god, which was to have other beings like himself. Who had ever heard such a thing? To us the idea that a god should want human beings to be like himself was astounding.

Our queen was a very special woman, who never rested until she had found out the truth of things. I knew this because I was one of her maids. When she heard about Solomon and the name of Yahweh, she began to plan an unprecedented journey. She had decided to travel over a thousand miles [1600km] to Jerusalem to ask Solomon all her “hard questions”.[1] Traders and merchants were used to such vast distances, but it was not done for a queen to endure the hazards involved in such a long journey over deserts, mountains and rivers.

The preparation was immense—we had never seen the likes before. The queen seemed to feel the need to pay homage to Solomon and so prepared a great tribute. She gathered spices out of every corner of her realm and knew exactly which ones she wanted. One hundred and twenty talents of gold were also gathered together—if you consider that each talent was about the weight of a man, this was a huge amount to carry over such a distance. Precious stones were also brought out of the Treasury, their colours reflecting all the colours of the rainbow. This treasure had all to be laden onto camels, who had their own experienced drivers chosen for this quest.

It was a very great company indeed that set off for Jerusalem. The journey was long, especially with so many people to look after. Our arrival in Jerusalem caused quite a stir, although the city’s inhabitants were getting used to seeing visitors from places like Egypt and Lebanon, because of Solomon’s trading activities. Recently, a huge consignment of gold had been brought from Ophir, by Hiram, King of Lebanon. But they had certainly never seen so many spices before. We were used to the strong fragrance which had been with us all the way from Sheba. For them, however, it must have seemed a strange and wonderful thing, when the spice-bearing camels entered the city with our magnificent queen.

The king received the queen’s immediate entourage in the cedar-panelled porch which he had made for his throne. We had never seen the likes before.[2] It had the appearance of being made entirely of the finest gold (although the base was ivory), with six steps leading up to the circular backed seat. The armrests were shaped like claws, with a lion flanking each side of the throne. Each of the six steps were also flanked by lions and on it sat the king, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, whom our queen had come all this way to see and hear. He received the queen’s gifts of gold, spices and precious stones and appeared highly pleased with their appropriateness. As an attentive host, he then had us brought to the old palace of David, where we could refresh ourselves. He kept his father’s old palace for foreign visitors as he had his own new palace adjacent to the Temple Court, on much higher ground. The queen’s meal was served in golden vessels and we also were well looked after

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                                    A reconstruction of Jerusalem in the time of Solomon

from the king’s provision. Our camel-drivers were  delighted with the care given to their animals, which were provided with barley and straw according to

JERUSALEM’S WATER SYSTEM IN THE TIME  OF SOLOMON Archaeologists are tying themselves up in  knots trying to understand how the city’s  water system worked in the time of Solomon,  with the traditional understanding no longer  being accepted. No one is, however, yet ready  to rewrite the text-books, as there are more  questions than answers.The latest ideas are that the Gihon Spring  was protected by a massive 30 ft tall tower (The  Spring Tower), which may have been part of  the city’s gateway or simply part of the city  wall. Water from the spring was shunted into  the nearby pool, protected by two freestanding  towers (the Pool Towers). The Siloam Channel  lay inside an outer city wall and conducted  water to a second pool at the southern end of  the city.

their need. Overwhelmed with the kindness and efficiency of this Judean hospitality and dazzled with the beauty of Jerusalem and its gardens built by the king, we slept the sleep of the exhausted.

What transpired when we were refreshed was truly wonderful. Everything was done in perfect order as though there was a grand purpose to it all. The queen first had opportunity to ask her questions, which were answered with such wisdom from the 3000 proverbs that Solomon had set in order and his 1005 songs. Later on, she was able to teach us the most profound lessons about the trees of the Land, from the cedar trees which were at that time growing in abundance in Jerusalem and the lowly hyssop that grew in pockets of soil in practically every wall of the city. We could never see a spider after that without thinking of the lesson that this tiny creature could teach us, that by taking hold with his hands, he could enter into the king’s palace.

To get to the new quarter that Solomon had built, we had to pass through the gate in the old northern Davidic city wall, which had stood already some 800 years. Passing by some fine Israelite houses on the steep hillside, we marvelled at the “Millo” which

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A reconstruction of the Temple of Solomon, showing the Ark of the Covenant in its emplacement on the Sakhra

                               THE LOCATION OF THE TEMPLE

When the Queen of Sheba was learning the deep things that the Temple of Solomon could teach, she  could not have known that this most sacred of places would endure for only 400 years, when it would  be destroyed by the Babylonians, because Yahweh could not dwell with the people of Israel. As it was  so totally destroyed, with not one stone left upon another, very few archaeologists have attempted to  look for the location of the Temple. A well-known Israeli archaeologist colleague said to us: “It’s an  archaeological problem I avoid like the plague, because of the religious and political connotations.”

It has recently been possible after twenty-two years of research by Leen to trace the negative  impressions of the walls of the Holy of Holies on the Temple Mount. The Dome of the Rock enshrines  the rocky summit of Mount Moriah. Visitors to the Moslem Shrine today can see within the octagonal  building with its magnificent windows and mosaics, the huge mass of es-Sakhra, as the rock is known  in Arabic. Tradition has always held that the Temple was built on the highest point of the mountain.  My previous research which had established the location of the original 500 cubit square Temple  Mount, built, in all probability, by King Hezekiah, had verified this. However, there was a difference  of opinion as to whether it was the Holy of Holies or the Altar that occupied the place of the Sakhra.  With the placing of the Altar over the Sakhra, the problem would be that the Rock which measures  13.11m by 17.07m would have disappeared completely beneath it as the Sakhra is smaller than the  Altar. Another problem with the placing of the Altar over the Sakhra would be that the well-known  cave which lies below the Sakhra and which was supposed to have drained off the blood to the Kedron  Valley, was in the wrong place. According to Middot 3.2, this original drain was located at the southwest  corner of the Altar, while the cave is in the south-east. An additional difficulty would be that if  the Temple was built to the west of the Sakhra, its foundations would need to have been 15m high,  while according to Middot, they were only 6 cubits (3.15m).

Two flat rectangular areas on the southern side of the pitted and scarred surface of the Sakhra  were recognised to have been foundation trenches for a large wall. When the thickness of this wall,  which was over 3m, turned out to coincide with the measurement given in Middot for the walls of the  Temple—6 cubits, the conclusion that here stood the southern wall of the Temple (Holy of Holies)  was inescapable. The western scarp of the Sakhra measures 20 cubits as did each side of the Holy of  Holies. The northern scarp had originally been cut to fit these measurements. The partition between  the Holy of Holies would have stood over the area where the rock slopes to the east and which has  had its level reduced by Crusader quarrying. A completely unforeseen outcome of this research was  the discovery of the former resting-place of the Ark of the Covenant on the Sakhra. Having homed  in from the exterior walls of the Temple Mount onto the interior of the Temple itself, a rectangular  depression was identified right in the centre of the Holy of Holies. The dimensions of this level  basin agree with those of the Ark of the Covenant which were 1.5 cubits (78.8cm x 131cm), with the  longitudinal axis coinciding with that of the Temple. It appears therefore that during the First Temple  period a special place was prepared for the Ark by cutting this flat basin in the rock. It is clear that  without such a flat area the Ark would have wobbled about in an undignified manner, which would  not conceivably have been allowed.

Several texts in 1 Kings 6 and 8 may actually refer to a specially prepared place for the Ark. In  1 Kings 6:19 it says that Solomon prepared the Dvir in the midst of the house from within “to place  there the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord” and in 1 Kings 8:6, “the priests brought in the Ark of the  Covenant of the Lord unto HIS (or ITS) place, into the Dvir of the house, to the most holy, under the  wings of the Cherubim.” This means that a special place was prepared or assigned to the Ark. This is  further emphasised in verses 20,21 of the same chapter, where Solomon says that he has “built an house

for the name of the Lord God of Israel. And I have set there a place for the Ark….” The Hebrew verb  seem which is translated here as “set”, can also mean ‘put’ or ‘make’. In the light of this discovery we  suggest to translate this verse as: “I have made there a place for the Ark”.

 

we heard had been repaired by Solomon.[3] This greatly extended the area it was possible to build on by constructing extensive field-stone terraces on the eastern slope of the city. Then we came to the resplendent new palace complex of Solomon. Going in a northerly direction, it consisted of the House of the Forest of Lebanon, the Hall of Pillars, the Porch of Solomon’s throne, the king’s house and the house of his wife, Pharaoh’s daughter.[4]

Entering into the House of the Forest of Lebanon, Solomon’s Armoury, was like entering the hush of a sylvan grove in mountains far to the north of Judea. There were row upon row of cedar pillars. On the walls, 200 gold targets and 300 shields glinted from the light cast upon them from the three rows of windows, which faced directly opposite each other. Passing through the Hall of Pillars and by the throne, he guided us to his palace.

This surpassed the old palace of David in every respect—it was a palace beyond compare. But it was not the precious materials that were used in Solomon’s house that arrested the Queen‘s attention. No—she looked at the food that was served at his table and saw how it reflected the loving care of Solomon for his subjects, that they would grow and be nourished spiritually. She looked at how his servants sat and comported themselves, as though they fully shared the responsibility of guiding the household, with Solomon as chief ruler. She looked at his ministers, who performed their tasks as though every movement counted. She noted the clothes they wore, which gave them an appearance of being untouched by the corruption of the world. How very different from the dusty clothes we had to put up with on our long journey here. She looked at his cupbearers who carried the contents of their golden vessels as though they were capable of giving life itself.

And then finally, he took her up by the steps

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                                Solomon’s Temple/Palace Complex

by which he went up to the Temple. Later on, she told us, as her beloved servants, of all that she had learnt during this time. One of the things she most admired about Solomon’s way of ruling, was how he spoke words of wisdom to his servants, so that they would also become wise. This is how we came to learn such wonderful things as the meaning of the words which David, Solomon’s father, had spoken to his God concerning the Kingdom which his son would establish: “Thou hast spoken of thy servant’s house for a great while to come and hast caused me to see the law of the ascending Adam, Yahweh Elohim.”[5] So a man would come, who by following, we would be able to ascend to a higher nature, that of mighty ones. The steps that led up to Solomon’s house were like a ladder reaching up to Heaven, not that we could reach the abode of God, but by conforming to God’s will, be able to partake of His excellency.

Surrounding the Temple was a great court whose walls were built with rows of cedar beams in between three rows of hewn stones, a style of building that we had never heard of before.[6] Our queen could not enter the Temple itself, but was able to stand in the court, facing the altar, with the Temple in the background.[7] When she told us about it, she also recounted to us the story of the Tabernacle, which God had commanded Moses to make in the wilderness of Sinai, way to the north of our country. This was Israel’s place of worship where God had placed his glory as they made their way to the land He had promised to their fathers. Now that Israel was established in the Land, God had replaced this moveable structure with a house of stone and cedar and gold. David had wanted to build God a house, but had been involved in many battles and shed much blood. God had blessed Solomon with a peaceful reign—we could hear the word for “peace” in his name. David had passed on to him the plans for this temple, which he had received directly from God himself. No wonder our queen was awestruck—the building she was shown had been designed by God and her guide was the man He had chosen to execute His plans. We heard that the two brass pillars in front of the Temple Porch were called “Jachin” (He will establish) and “Boaz” (In strength) and how they stood as a confirmation of God’s word. Although the Temple was modelled on the Tabernacle, being divided into two rooms, the Holy Place leading into the Most Holy Place, it was twice as large as the Tabernacle. We heard of how the Altar, the Brazen Sea, the Lampstands, the Table of Shewbread and the Incense Altar all pointed forward to the redemptive work of one who was yet to come. When she described for us the Most Holy Place with the Mercy Seat overshadowed by the Cherubim, set on top of the Ark of the Covenant, we understood that Israel’s God had said that “His name would be there.” Believers in Yahweh, who would be beaten (through trial) out of the Mercy Seat (which represented this redeemer who was to come), could enter the Most Holy Place (be granted eternal life). The glory of these mighty ones would fill the earth as the outstretched wings of the cherubim filled the entire width of the Most Holy.

At last she understood the Name! She knew now why Solomon had to build a house for this Name. This explanation of God-manifestation, for that is what this tour of Jerusalem was all about, took her breath away. She told the king that the reports she had heard did not tell half of the truth about his wisdom and prosperity. We went back to our country in the uttermost parts of the earth and could hardly wait to tell these great things to our people.[8]

A Prayer at the End of our Tour

May the greater than Solomon soon come so “that all the people of the earth may know that Yahweh is Elohim and that there is none else” (1 Kings 8:60).

References

[1] The word for “hard questions” in Hebrew is Hidot. In other parts of Scripture, this word is translated as “dark speeches” (Num 12:8), “secret things” (Deut. 29:29), “dark sayings” (Prov 1:6, Psa 49:4;78:2) and would appear to signify knowledge that is hidden from the world but that is essential for salvation.

[2] It was interesting to see what was obviously a copy of this throne among the gifts sent to British royalty from foreign dignitaries and kept in Windsor Castle.

[3] 2 Sam 5:9, 1 Chron 11:8. There have been many suggestions as to the nature of the building described as “Millo”, but the theory of Kathleen Kenyon, the British archaeologist who excavated in Jerusalem in the sixties, prior to the Six-Day War, has gained wide acceptance. As the word is clearly derived from the Hebrew root “maleh”, which means “filling”, she proposed that it referred to the stone terraces built to support buildings on the eastern slope of the city and that it was a feature of the city since its inception. In her book Digging up Jerusalem, Book Club Associates, London, 1974, pp100, 101, she describes the massive terraces she excavated. While digging in the Israeli-run Temple Mount Excavations in the 70’s, we also encountered similar huge walls. These walls would have needed constant maintenance to prevent collapse of the buildings they supported, hence the constant references to repairing the “Millo” in the First Temple period.

[4] The German scholar Galling believed that Solomon’s Palace, as described in the Bible, had parallels in the palaces of northern Syria, known as Bit Hilani, with examples at Zinjirli and Tel Halaf and published an article to this effect in German in 1932. The contemporary Israeli scholar, David Ussishkin, has developed this theory and pointed out: “that the order of the parts of the building in the biblical account corresponds to the order of the units of the northern Syrian palace, namely, the entrance was through the ‘porch of pillars’ which led into the ‘porch for the throne’ and ‘another court’ which was an interior court inside the building. A passage in this court led to ‘his house’ (Solomon’s) and to ‘a house for Pharaoh’s daughter’, which composed the private living quarters in the interior of the building.” See Ronny Reich, “Palaces and Residencies in the Iron Age” in The Architecture of Ancient Israel, Israel Exploration Society, Jerusalem, 1992, pp.202, 203.

[5] 1 Chron 17:17.

[6] Israeli seismologists now believe that this style of building was developed to make a building earthquake-proof.

[7] There was no Court of the Gentiles in the Temple of Solomon, as there was in Herod’s Temple because this Temple pointed forward to the Kingdom of God, where there will be neither Jew nor Gentile.

[8] The country of Sheba is usually identified with either Yemen or Ethiopia, on opposite sides of the Red Sea. In Arab lore, the Queen of Sheba was called Balkis and a temple to this name has been found in Yemen. On the other hand, Ethiopia has a connection with Judaism that is unparalleled in any other country. The Kebra Nagast, a literary work written between the 6th and 9th centuries BC, claims that the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Ethiopia from Jerusalem by Menelik, the  lleged son of the Queen of Sheba by Solomon. Ge’ez, the liturgical language of Ethiopia is a Semitic language and related to Hebrew. Ethiopian Falasha Jews, whose immigration to Israel made headline news in the 1980’s, knew nothing of Rabbinic Judaism and there was acrimonious discussion as to whether or not they needed ritual conversion to ‘true’ Judaism on their arrival in the Land. Their ignorance of such post-exilic feasts as Purim and Hanukkah (the Feast of Dedication) would indicate that their Old Testament form of Judaism had been introduced to the country, at least prior to the Exile. The visit of the Ethiopian eunuch to Jerusalem, recorded in Acts 8, shows that Judaism was well-known and accepted in Ethiopia in the first century. In addition, the Christian Ethiopian Orthodox Church also has strong connections to Judaism. When we rented property from the Ethiopian Church in Jerusalem, our children’s playmates were little Abrahams, Moses and Samuels. Our neighbours practised infant circumcision and the Biblical laws of separation between men and women after childbirth etc. Their church contained a replica of the Ark, inside a kind of Holy of Holies, as do all Ethiopian churches. It is reputed that in the 1896 Battle of Adowa, the Ethiopian army under Emperor Menelik II, carried such a tabot or sacred replica of the Ark, in the tradition of Joshua at Jericho. This battle against Italian invaders remains famous today as the first victory of an African nation over a colonial power. The New Testament (Matt 12:42) reveals the Queen of Sheba, as the Queen of the South and for our purposes, this is all we need to know. Classical historians and geographers called the whole region, from India to Ethiopia, by the name of Ethiopia and regarded all dark-skinned people as Ethiopians. Where Jesus laid all the emphasis in his reference to this queen however, is that she came from the farthest reaches of the known earth to learn the wisdom of Solomon, while the scribes and Pharisees of his day demanded an immediate sign from him, before they would believe. The contrast is masterful.