The queen praises a happiness in Solomon’s subjects that is real, consistent and reliable. It is a settled and stable satisfaction of heart and mind, and flourishing of life, under Solomon’s wise and trusted leadership.
Fissures in the Foundation
And so this visit from the Queen of Sheba, and the praise she lavishes on Solomon, marks the pinnacle of Israel’s earthly kingdom. The rest of 1 Kings 10 will celebrate Solomon’s great wealth.
Then follows these dreadful words:
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women … from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love … and his wives turned away his heart. (1 Kings 11:1–3)
Even at the height of Israel’s earthly kingdom, there were fissures in the foundation. As soon as his reign had been established, he married Pharaoh’s daughter (1 Kings 2:46–3:1). Then he spent almost twice as long building his own house as the Lord’s (1 Kings 6:38). When 2 Chronicles 9 tells the story of the Queen of Sheba’s praise, we hear, “Happy are your wives!” (2 Chronicles 9:7).
Greater Than Solomon
The wisdom of Solomon and the prosperity of his kingdom were great, and his people’s satisfaction in him was his great honor, but the clock was ticking.
Soon his kingdom would decline, and split in two, and in time the people would be carted off into exile. Eventually, they returned, but remained subjected to foreign rule. It would be then, at the low point of the people’s despair and dissatisfaction, that one of Solomon’s distant descendants would point to an even greater day to come, under the wise rule of an even greater king.
The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. (Matthew 12:42)
Solomon may have built the Lord’s house, but his greater descendant would be the Lord’s House, the very place of God’s dwelling with man. And if Solomon’s wisdom and sovereignty made for happy subjects, how much more will the one who is greater than Solomon?
In this greater kingdom, the deep and enduring joy of the redeemed is the glory of their Redeemer. And so, for the honor of our King, it is profoundly important that we pursue as much happiness as possible—in him.
There is space for sorrow in this kingdom. We weep with those who weep. We mourn. We suffer. We even find ourselves slandered and opposed and persecuted for his name. But we are a profoundly happy people. We are “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). Beneath all the pain, we have a deeper pleasure, and we unapologetically pursue such happiness.
Because our King is most honored in his subjects when we are most happy in him.