Does The Bible Exaggerate King Solomon’s Wealth? -- By: Alan R. Millard

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 07:4 (Autumn 1994)
Article: Does The Bible Exaggerate King Solomon’s Wealth?
Author: Alan R. Millard


Does The Bible Exaggerate King Solomon’s Wealth?

Alan R. Millarda

Those who read the Biblical text and make a subjective judgment as to its reliability often conclude—and understandably so—gross exaggerations. The quantity of gold the Bible claims for King Solomon is simply unbelievable, even unimaginable!

Take, for example, the Jerusalem Temple that Solomon built for Israel’s God, Yahweh. Walk inside, and all you would see was gold! The walls, the ceiling, even the floors were all covered with gold.

The description in 1 Kings tells us that the interior stone-core walls were covered with cedar boards (1 Kgs 6:15). The floor was covered with planks of pine (1 Kgs 6:15). “No stone was to be seen” (1 Kgs 6:28). The wood was then completely plated with gold:

He overlaid the [inner sanctuary] with pure gold. .. Solomon covered the inside of the Temple with pure gold. .. He overlaid the whole interior with gold. .. He also covered the floors of both the inner and outer rooms of the Temple with gold (1 Kgs 6:20, 21, 22, 30; see also the parallel passage in 2 Chr 3:4–7).

Modern Western minds can’t envisage such a thing. J. A. Montgomery, in his standard commentary on Kings in the International Critical Commentary series, labeled the Biblical account a product “of exuberant imagination!” Montgomery allowed that perhaps the altar was plated with gold. But the whole thing? Incredible. Other writers have suggested that in reality only some of the carving on the wooden panels was picked out in gold leaf. One commentator opined that perhaps it was only gold paint that was sprayed on the walls—as if aerosol or power sprays existed 3, 000 years ago! In this way, the Bible was supposed to be made believable. In any

event, the description of the gold in Solomon’s Temple, these exegetes contend, obviously grew in the telling. As we read on in Kings, matters continue in this vein:

King Solomon made 200 large shields of hammered gold; 600 bekas of gold went into each shield. He also made 300 small shields of hammered gold, with three minas of gold in each shield. .. Then the king made a great throne inlaid with ivory and overlaid with fine gold. .. All King Solomon’s goblets were gold, and...

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