King Solomon’s “navy” was built in Ezion-geber on the shores of the Red Sea (I Kings 9:26). The fleet is listed in a compendium of his accomplishments that convey Solomon’s splendor (I Kings 9:10-28; II Chronicles 9:13-28). Though the ASV and KJV speak of a “navy”, the Hebrew ’oniy is better rendered by the more common “fleet of ships” (ESV, HCSB, NASB, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, RSV). The MSG and NIV (“ships”) and CEV (“a lot of ships”) simply avoid the term.
Solomon’s navy was not military or imperialistic in nature but rather a commercial fleet. Ironically, perhaps the only time that Israel ever experienced peace was at a time they employed a successful “navy”. Solomon’s fleet completed three year expeditions to import all types of exotic cargo including gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks (I Kings 10:22; II Chronicles 9:21).
Though the Israelites are often thought of more as sea fearers than seafarers, they do have some history on the seas. There is a reference in “Deborah’s Song” that indicates that the tribe of Dan was closely identified with maritime activities (Judges 5:17). After Solomon, King Jehoshaphat unsuccessfully attempted to get into the shipping industry (I Kings 22:48; II Chronicles 20:36-37). The only time the Israelites have been known to excel on the waters, however, was done at the time of Solomon. His Red Sea fleet could sail to African, Asian and Pacific ports and he also used an additional port in Tarshish (I Kings 10:22; II Chronicles 9:21).
Israel’s maritime success during Solomon’s reign was predominantly due to his alliance with King Hiram of Tyre (I Kings 9:10-14). Solomon’s friendship with Hiram allowed him to get a foot in the Phoenicians’ monopoly on the ancient world’s sea routes as Hiram sent seasoned sailors to teach the Israelites (I Kings 9:27; II Chronicles 8:18). In aligning with Hiram and establishing his own fleet, Solomon cut out the middle man and became a player in the lucrative maritime trade business.
Solomon was said to have been the wisest man of his time. How is Solomon’s wisdom displayed in his maritime interests? Was his alliance with Hiram a wise one? Why? Why not?
Solomon’s reign begins by him being granted any wish by God (I Kings 3:5). When Solomon chooses an “understanding heart” (I Kings 3:9 NASB), God adds “I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days (I Kings 3:13 NASB).” God fulfilled that promise in spades.
Tony Campolo (b. 1935) famously asks “Would Jesus Drive a BMW?” Is there a limit to the wealth a Christian should accumulate? Why?
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” - Jesus, Matthew 6:33, NASB