Ancient Israel enjoyed its golden age of power, wealth, and influence during the reigns of David and Solomon, with Solomon’s reign a zenith never again achieved during the old covenant era. Having finished his account of Solomon’s construction and dedication of the temple in 2 Chronicles 2–7, the Chronicler describes in today’s passage what this golden age looked like.
The Chronicler focuses first on Solomon’s building projects and trade. He rebuilt cities that Hiram of Tyre gave him (8:1–2). He also exerted control over northern trade routes, taking or building the cities of Hamath and Tadmor in the region of Zobah (Hamath-zobah; vv. 3–4). These cities stood in the north, in modern-day Syria, and they enabled Israel to control trade north of the promised land. Solomon also fortified Upper Beth-horon and Lower Beth-horon, cities near Jerusalem that were vital to the city’s defense and that guarded trade routes from the City of David to the Mediterranean coast. This Solomon did with the help of labor that he drafted from the remaining Canaanites who still lived in Israel and who had not been wiped out in the period between Joshua and Solomon’s leadership. However, he did not take any Israelites for slaves (vv. 5–10). This seems at first to contradict 1 Kings 5:13–18, which records Solomon’s conscription of Israelites into forced labor. However, it is clear from the Kings account that the Israelites were not made slaves in the sense of having all their freedom taken away or in never having time off. There was a difference between the slavery of the Canaanites and the forced labor of the Israelites.
Under the reign of Solomon, Israel finally entered the sea trade. Israel had not had any experience with shipping and sea commerce, but Hiram of Tyre was one of the Phoenicians, whose expertise was in shipping and sea travel. He gave ships and seamen to Solomon, and they journeyed as far as Ophir, which was located either in northwest Africa, southern Arabia, or a point further east. The trade was immensely successful, with Israel receiving 450 talents of gold—seventeen tons of the precious metal (2 Chron. 8:17–18).
Solomon’s fame and wisdom achieved international renown. The Queen of Sheba (modern-day Yemen) came to test his wisdom and see the glory of his kingdom. She brought him gifts, but Solomon gave her even more (9:1–12). As God had promised, Abraham’s descendants were blessing the world (Gen. 12:1–3).