|Is Solomon's wealth unbelievable?|
2 Chron. 1:12 God said to Solomon, Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee, and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there be any after thee have the like.
Objection: This is false because there were several kings in this day, and scores since, who could have thrown away the value of Palestine without missing the amount. The wealth of Solomon has been exceeded by many kings and is comparatively small by today's standards.
I'm an accountant in my everyday life, so I'm glad that this one fell in my lap.
From 1st Kings 10:14, we see that Solomon's yearly take of gold alone (he also received silver, ivory, many exotic animals, tribute from merchants passing through [JPH note: J. Julius Scott, in Customs and Controversies, p. 42, notes: "Control of trade, including the rights to collect tariffs, made Israel a highly sought prize."], and heavy tax revenues that he levied on his subjects) was 666 talents, which translates out to about 600,000 troy oz. Even with gold currently at an 18-year low (as of Aug. 1998) of about $290 per oz., this comes out to $174 million.
David left him about $25 billion worth of gold to be used in the temple (1 Chron. 22:14). Although it seems likely that this was technically not Solomon's, I'm sure that he received a pretty hefty inheritance anyway. What's more, the value of gold in the ancient Near East would have been far greater, as modern mining methods were not available, and they did not have access to the vast reserves that we do today.
We're not given any information on Solomon's net worth, but it's readily apparent that his wealth was not "comparatively small by today's standards." He was doubtless up in Bill Gates territory. In fact, the only rulers that would even come anywhere close are the oil sultans of the United Arab Emirates and Brunei.
Now, Skeptics may doubt the veracity of the Biblical account, but they present no audited financial information on Solomon to back up such claims. But even so, one should readily recognize this as typical Ancient Near Eastern hyperbole - not as a literal accounting.
But now for another objection on the same issue:
1 Kings 10:14 The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents...
It is amazing that Solomon, head of a petty, barren district of Asia Minor without significant arts, manufacturing, or civilization received so much gold.
The number may be schematic rather than precise, but we note that this verges on anti-Semitism - Palestine was a major trade thoroughfare, as noted above. Note alos that this is the OPPOSITE objection of that offered above, where it was stated that kings "could have thrown away the value of Palestine without missing the amount." And: "The wealth of Solomon has been exceeded by many kings and is comparatively small by today's standards."
And yet, this is peanuts compared to the takes claimed by Alexander the Great, who supposedly took 40-50,000 talents of gold and silver bullion, plus 9000 talents of coined gold, from the royal Persian treasury, as well as 120-180,000 from surrounding cites.
Furthermore, no one says that Solomon just KEPT all of this - he probably spent some of it, invested it, and got some of it back over and over again. Kenneth Kitchen in The Reliability of the Old Testament [133-4] also notes similar and larger amounts received and bestowed: A single gifts of 150 talents was given by Metten II of Tyre to Egypt; Thutmosis III of Egypt gave over 200 talents to a temple, and Oskoron I gave away 383 tons (not talents) of gold and silver in the first year of his reign, 17 times Solomon's yearly take. That makes Solomon, if anything, a modest receiver.