A few indicators for King Solomon’s wealth – part 3

Bronze statuette of the Roman war in a chariot with two horses . Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Previous post took a guess at quantifying the value of King Solomon’s chariots and warhorses. Earlier post estimated the number of warhorses King Solomon owned along with the number of chariots in his kingdom.

Here is another text that allows us to make estimates of some portions of his vast wealth.

Kings text

1 Kings 10: 14-29 (emphasis added to highlight specific valuations):

“14 The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents, 15 not including the revenues from merchants and traders and from all the Arabian kings and the governors of the territories.

 

“16 King Solomon made two hundred large shields of hammered gold; six hundred shekels of gold went into each shield. 17 He also made three hundred small shields of hammered gold, with three minas of gold in each shield. The king put them in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon.

“18 Then the king made a great throne covered with ivory and overlaid with fine gold. 19 The throne had six steps, and its back had a rounded top. On both sides of the seat were armrests, with a lion standing beside each of them. 20 Twelve lions stood on the six steps, one at either end of each step. Nothing like it had ever been made for any other kingdom. 21 All King Solomon’s goblets were gold, and all the household articles in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold. Nothing was made of silver, because silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s days. 22 The king had a fleet of trading ships at sea along with the ships of Hiram. Once every three years it returned, carrying gold, silver and ivory, and apes and baboons.

“23 King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. 24 The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart. 25 Year after year, everyone who came brought a gift—articles of silver and gold, robes, weapons and spices, and horses and mules.

“26 Solomon accumulated chariots and horses; he had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses,[i] which he kept in the chariot cities and also with him in Jerusalem. 27 The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills. 28 Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt and from Kue – the royal merchants purchased them from Kue at the current price. 29 They imported a chariot from Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse for a hundred and fifty. They also exported them to all the kings of the Hittites and of the Arameans. (NIV)

 

Value of decorative shields

Both 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles indicate Solomon had a number of show piece shields made of mostly gold, if not pure gold. He had 200 large and 300 small shields made of hammered gold. They contained 600 and 300 shekels of gold, respectively.

Let’s quantify those amounts:

 large  small  total
 number         200         300         500
 shekels gold         600         300         900
 total gold shekels   120,000     90,000   210,000
 gold mina (1:50)       2,400       1,800       4,200
 gold talent (1:60)           40           30           70
 avoirdupois (not troy):
 gold ounces (.4 oz /shekel)     48,000     36,000     84,000
 gold pounds (16 oz)       3,000       2,250       5,250
 gold tons (2,000#)          1.5          1.1          2.6
 weight of 1 shield, ounces         240         120
 weight of 1 shield, pounds           15             8

 

Yes, I know precious metals are measured in troy system, which has a different weight to ounces and different number of ounces to pound than the avoirdupois system, which is how we Americans usually of weights. To have any hope of grasping large amounts, I’ll continue to describe precious metals in avoirdupois units. So…

Those 500 shields contained about 210,000 shekels of gold, or 70 talents. That is about 84,000 ounces, or 5,250 pounds, or 2.6 tons of gold.

Those shields were stored in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon. Imagine how large a body of soldiers would be needed to guard a treasure store with 2.6 tons of easily portable gold.

Other indications of Solomon’s wealth

I can’t even begin to quantify the amount of gold in that throne. It must have been worth a fortune just by itself.

Household items

Both texts say the goblets (drinking cups) used by King Solomon were all made of gold.

At the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon all the “household items” were made from pure gold. Use your imagination what would be included in the definition of household items. I can picture that would include the goblets, plates, soup bowls, utensils (‘goldware’ instead of ‘silverware’?), candle sticks, pots, and pans.

Keep in mind that Solomon probably had a large entourage when he had the main meal of the day. So he probably did not just have 8 or 12 place settings in gold. More likely he had 30 or 60.

Picture 3 or 4 or 5 dozen sets of a goblet, plate, soup bowl, knife, fork, and spoon made out of gold.

Make a completely wild guess of how much gold that involved. Maybe 3 or 4 pounds per place setting times 3 or 5 dozen?  That could be anywhere from 108 pounds (3# x 36 settings) of gold up to 240 pounds (4# x 60 settings).

A triffle compared to just those gold shields, but still, 150 or 200 pounds of gold is a lot.

Trading fleet

Both texts say Solomon had a “fleet of trading ships.”

First, just consider one ship. I don’t know what those ships looked like, but one really basic comparison I have is a Viking longship, not even one large enough for trading purposes, took an estimated 40,000 hours to construct. Project that back into Solomon’s time and expand to a long-term trading ship. By any possible measure each ship would have been quite valuable just by itself.

At 10 hour days, six days a week, for 50 weeks a year, that 40,000 hour estimate is 13.3 labor years. Adding in cost of the wood makes each ship an expensive capital asset.

Oh, and Solomon owned a “fleet” of the ships. No indication of how many. Only indication is they brought back lots of wealth from trading profits.

So, add in to Solomon’s wealth an unknown number of ships multiplied by an unknown large value for each of the ships.

Annual income

Both texts say his annual income was 666 talents of gold. Consider:

 annual income, gold talents           666
 annual income, gold mina (60:1)       39,960
 annual income, gold shekels (50:1)   1,998,000
 avoirdupois (not troy):
 gold ounces (.4 oz /shekel)     799,200
 gold pounds (16 oz)       49,950
 gold tons (2,000#)          25.0

 

That doesn’t consider his considerable trading profits from the fleet of ships, profits from import/export of Egyptian warhorses, the substantial tribute from all his controlled/subservient neighbors, or the large amounts of “silver and gold, robes, weapons and spices, and horses and mules” brought by everyone, far and wide, who arrived to seek his wisdom and counsel.

His income was incalculable. We can’t even make a completely totally wild off-the-wall guess what he pulled in every year.

What was greater than all that wealth?

Oh yeah, his wisdom exceeded his wealth.

And his wisdom was more valuable than all that wealth.

Oh, and you can access his wisdom any minute of any day you wish.

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