In 1 Kings 3:5, God appears to Solomon in a dream and asks him what he wishes to receive from God. In verse 9, Solomon answers and asks for an “understanding heart” so he may judge the people of Israel righteously and that he “may discern between good and evil.” Solomon didn’t ask for riches and a long life or the death of his enemies, and this pleased God (verse 10-11). In verse 12, God granted him what he wished for and gave him wisdom, more than any man has ever had or will ever have (excluding of course Jesus Christ, Who, even as a human being, was much wiser than Solomon). But God also GAVE him what he did not ask for. We read in the next verse that Solomon received riches and honor, so that there wouldn’t be any king like him in all his days. Even though Solomon was the son of David and did inherit riches from him, God was the one who granted him more riches than any man in his time. God also granted him a long life but only IF he kept His commandments, just as his father David did (verse 14).
How then did Solomon become the wealthiest king alive? He received wealth and riches through the gifts that he received, through trading and business dealings, tribute money that was paid to him and heavy taxation: “Hiram, the king of Tyre had supplied Solomon with cedar and cypress and gold, as much as he desired” (1 Kings 9:11).
“King Solomon also built a fleet of ships… in the land of Edom. Then Hiram sent his servants with the fleet, seamen who knew the sea, to work with the servants of Solomon. And they went to Ophir, and acquired FOUR HUNDRED AND TWENTY TALENTS OF GOLD from there, and brought it to King Solomon” (1 Kings 9:26-28). Through his trade dealings with Hiram, in addition to gold and silver, Solomon also received ivory, apes and monkeys every three years (1 Kings 10:22).
He received gifts from the queen of Sheba who came to Jerusalem to test his knowledge. She was so impressed by his wisdom and understanding which he had received from God, that she gave him “ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY TALENTS OF GOLD, spices in great quantity, and precious stones. There never again came such an abundance of spices as the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon. Also, the ships of Hiram, which brought gold from Ophir, brought great quantities of almug wood and precious stones from Ophir… There never again came such almug wood, nor has the like been seen to this day” (1 Kings 10:10-12). Solomon was also very generous in return as he gave the queen of Sheba all she desired, and he also gave Hiram cities for his gifts, even though Hiram did not like the cities (1 Kings 10:13; 9:11-14).
Solomon’s great wealth is expounded upon in 1 Kings 10:14-15: “The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was SIX HUNDRED AND SIXTY-SIX TALENTS of gold, besides that from the traveling merchants, from the income of traders, from all the kings of Arabia, and from the governors of the country.” With the gold he received, he made shields, a great throne of ivory covered in gold with twelve lions made of gold; all his drinking vessels were made of gold, including all the vessels of Lebanon which were pure gold (1 Kings 10:16-21). King Solomon “surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom” (verse 23). Because of his great fame and wisdom, people from all over the world went to see him, bearing presents, such as “articles of silver and gold, garments, armor, spices, horses, and mules, at a set rate year by year. And Solomon gathered chariots and horsemen…” (verses 25-26). He also had horses and chariots imported from Egypt and Keveh (verses 28-29).
He received goods which were paid by kingdoms or countries in acknowledgment of his superiority in a form of tribute money. “They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life” (1 Kings 4:21). The following verses expound on the amount of daily food he received (verse 22-23). He also received money from heavy taxation on the people. In 1 Kings 12:4 the people complained to Rehoboam, after he adopted the throne of his father Solomon and travelled to Shechem where many of the northern-most tribes of Israel gathered to make him king: “Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us…”
According to John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible, Solomon “[l]aid heavy taxes upon them, for the finishing of his buildings, for the maintenance of his household, for keeping such a large number of horses and chariots, and for the salaries of his officers, and for the support of his magnificent court; though they had very little reason to complain, since this was for the honour and grandeur of their nation, and they enjoyed their liberty, and lived in peace, plenty, and safety all his days; and such an abundance of riches was brought unto them by him that silver was as the stones of the street; though perhaps the taxes might be increased in the latter part of his life, for the support of his vast number of wives, and of their idolatrous worship, and for the defence of himself and kingdom against the attempts of Hadad and Rezon; but, as most interpreters observe, what they find most reason to complain of, they take no notice of, even the idolatry he had set up among them.” The people wanted Rehoboam to “lighten” Solomon’s “heavy yoke which he put on” them, including to ease them of their taxes or lessen them (1 Kings 12:4).
Solomon was very rich and even though the Bible doesn’t say exactly just how much gold he owned, it does give us an idea as to how much he possessed, in addition to the silver, bronze, precious gems, garments, spices, livestock, etc. We are told in 1 Kings 10:14 that he received 666 talents of gold a year, which was around 25 tons. In ancient times, talents were a measure of weight and money. A talent weighs around 34.3 kilograms (75 U.S. pounds), which is equal to 1,094 troy ounces (1 pound = 14.58 troy ounces). As of December 2015, the price of gold is worth $1,075 a troy ounce, so a talent of gold in today’s value is worth $1,176,050. Solomon received 666 talents of gold EACH YEAR. The value he received each year was around $785 million in today’s value. This does not include all the additional gifts and monies he received. His net worth was astounding.
Since he ruled Israel for forty years (1 Kings 11:42), and since he brought in close to a billion dollars of gold each year, his assets were in the billions of dollars, in addition to his inheritance from his father, King David; the gold and silver he received from kings, governors and merchants; heavy taxes paid by the Israelites; tribute money from countries and kingdoms; gold, silver, ivory, various animals and foreign slaves, which he received every three years due to his business partnership with Hiram, King of Tyre; and other additional gifts of gold, spices, precious stones, garments, armor, horses, mules, etc., which he received each year. This made Solomon the richest king of his time, and one of the richest individuals, or even perhaps the richest human being who has ever lived.
What we need to understand is that this was God’s doing. He made Solomon the wisest human who ever lived and as a bonus, He gave him wealth and fortune. But Solomon had a weakness which made him turn from God so that he did “evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not fully follow the LORD” (1 Kings 11:6), but “his heart… turned away from the LORD God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice” (1 Kings 11:9), and he “did not keep what the LORD had commanded” (verse 10). And so, God told Solomon that after his death, He would tear the kingdom away from him in the days of his son Rehoboam (verse 11-12) and leave him only with one tribe “for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen” (verse 13).
Solomon speaks about his life and his experiences in the book of Ecclesiastes. He pointed out that without God, man is lost, no matter how many precious physical gifts and riches he might have. God inspired him to write down for us the timeless “conclusion of the whole matter”: “Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all” or “the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Solomon’s riches and his human wisdom did not prevent him from sinning, but it appears that he repented deeply at the end of his life. God gave him His wisdom and inspired him to write and pass on to us, for our education, learning and benefit, additional writings in the Bible, including a psalm, the book of Proverbs and the Song of Solomon.
Lead Writer: Michael Link