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Solomon is best known for his wisdom, but also for his wealth. He asked God for wisdom, but got wealth as well (2 Chron. 1:12). Yet his wealth was somewhat limited while building the temple. He used the materials that his father, David, had accumulated for that purpose; but to pay for the labor sent by King Hiram of Tyre, Solomon had to give him 20 Israelite cities along with the surrounding territory in Galilee (1 Kings 9:11).
Solomon and Hiram set up a mining partnership somewhere in foreign countries, by which Solomon is said to have become wealthy. 2 Chron. 9:22 says,
22 So King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom.
Two names are given as locations where Solomon mined his gold: Tarshish (2 Chron. 9:21) and Ophir (1 Kings 9:28). This "Tarshish" is obviously not the historical Tarshish where Jonah tried to escape his calling (Jonah 1:3). In fact, they may have mined in Spain, but what is NOT said is that they continued to the West to mine gold as far as the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This area was mined 1000 years before Christ, and the tailings show that the refining process was the same as done in Solomon's mines in the Sinai peninsula.
Yet Solomon had also built a fleet of ships on the Red Sea in order to sail south into the Indian Ocean and then east beyond India. 1 Kings 9:26-28 says,
26 King Solomon also built a fleet of ships in Ezion-geber, which is near Eloth [now Eilat] on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom. 27 And Hiram sent his servants with the fleet, sailors who knew the sea, along with the servants of Solomon. 28 And they went to Ophir, and took four hundred and twenty talents of gold from there, and brought it to King Solomon.
In 2 Chron. 8:18, the figure is given as 450 talents of gold coming from Ophir. Since the fleet made a round trip every three years, it is no stretch to believe that both figures are correct, depending on which trip was meant. It appears that Solomon's best year took in 666 talents of gold (2 Chron. 9:13), which became a prophetic number in Rev. 13:18 identifying the beast from the earth in terms of gold that is mined from the earth.
Hiram of Tyre provided the Phoenician sailors who understood navigation. Solomon provided the knowledge of searching, mining, and refining metals. The question for historians has been: Where is Ophir?
The idea of an ancient trade route to the east for spices and also precious metals like gold and silver is not new. The Jewish historian Josephus, writing in the first century AD, offered his explanation of the Biblical story of Solomon and Hiram's joint trade mission to the distant land of Ophir. In his Antiquities of the Jews, he said the voyages which began from the Red Sea port of Ezion-geber weredestined for the island of Chryse far to the east in the Indian Ocean. Ezion-geber was near the modern city of Eilat in Israel and the trade voyages took three years to complete according to the Old Testament account.
Where then was the island of Chryse mentioned by Josephus? Greek geographers usually placed it east of the Ganges river mouth. Medieval writings placed it near where the Indian Ocean met the Pacific Ocean. In modern times, Chryse has been equated by scholars with the land known in Indian literature as Suvarnadvipa. Both Chryse and Suvarnadvipa mean "Gold Island." The latter was also located in Indian writings well to the east of India in the "Southern Ocean" and is identified by most scholars with the Malay Archipelago ("the East Indies").
Hence, there is a Mount Ophir in Indonesia, which is extremely rugged and difficult to climb. Likewise, there are many Ophir products that are presented as "the gold standard" of their trade.
In 1568, the Solomon Islands were so named by a Portuguese explorer, perhaps because of an ancient gold mine that had long been mined out. The Goldridge Mine is there today, still trying to find the mother lode.
The history of this entire region says that Solomon stored most of his wealth in Indonesia, probably the island of Java (pronounced Yava, Yahvah). It is said that he only brought back a certain portion to Jerusalem for spending purposes. It is also said that he sent one of his many wives, along with one of his sons, to Indonesia. That son started the Mahapajit tribe, which even today enjoys tremendous prestige in all of Southeast Asia.
It is suggested that this wife was actually imported from Java to become one of Solomon's 600 wives--most of whom were married to cement political alliances around the world. He then sent her back to her homeland with their son, not only to rule, but also to protect his assets. She ruled from the city now known as Solo, in Java.
When the spice trade flourished centuries later, first to China in the 1300's, and later to Europe, gold flowed into Indonesia as payment. (They had no use for paper money from afar.) It was not long before vast amounts of gold were accumulated, and the European explorers got wind of it. This motivated many of them from Spain, Portugal, Holland, and England to search for the gold of Ophir.
History records that the first European to come to Solomon Islands, Alvaro De Mendana, in 1568 gave the archipelago its name because he believed this area of the South Pacific was where King Solomon got the gold he used to build the Temple of Jerusalem.
That search still continues to this day. It was Japan's real motive for World War 2. They strip-searched every nation in Southeast Asia all the way to Burma. The Solomon Islands were the scene of the battle of Guadalcanal. See the map:
The gold found by the Japanese was shipped to the Philippines as a staging area, and from there was shipped to Japan. But in 1943 when the sea lanes were blocked by the US navy, most of it remained buried in the Philippines or sunk on ships to be excavated later. Philippine President Marcos made his life-long quest to find as much of it as he could. He had considerable success, but most of it yet remains buried.
There is a huge amount of gold in the world today, but most of it is unregistered. The official figures of all the gold mined in history is only a small fraction of what actually exists. The hidden, unregistered gold is still coveted by European bankers. It is curious, then, how Solomon's world-wide maritime empire, partnered with the Phoenicians, could have such an effect upon later world history. History is simply fulfilled Bible prophecy. Hence, the effects of Solomon's actions are with us to this day.