Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

1 Kings 10,1-10

The queen of Sheba heard of Solomon's fame and came to test him with difficult questions. She arrived in Jerusalem with a very large retinue, with camels laden with spices and an immense quantity of gold and precious stones. Having reached Solomon, she discussed with him everything that she had in mind, and Solomon had an answer for all her questions; not one of them was too obscure for the king to answer for her. When the queen of Sheba saw how very wise Solomon was, the palace which he had built, the food at his table, the accommodation for his officials, the organisation of his staff and the way they were dressed, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings which he presented in the Temple of Yahweh, it left her breathless, and she said to the king, 'The report I heard in my own country about your wisdom in handling your affairs was true then! Until I came and saw for myself, I did not believe the reports, but clearly I was told less than half: for wisdom and prosperity, you surpass what was reported to me. How fortunate your wives are! How fortunate these courtiers of yours, continually in attendance on you and listening to your wisdom! Blessed be Yahweh your God who has shown you his favour by setting you on the throne of Israel! Because of Yahweh's everlasting love for Israel, he has made you king to administer law and justice.' And she presented the king with a hundred and twenty talents of gold and great quantities of spices and precious stones; no such wealth of spices ever came again as those which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Queen of Sheba's visit to Solomon is among the most well-known episodes of the Bible, even because of Jesus's call-back to Solomon's riches. This meeting has been interpreted in many ways. Some Fathers of the Church, for example, saw the Queen's tribute to Solomon as prophecy of the Church of the Gentiles paying homage to Christ. Origen, for his part, saw, in the encounter between the two, the perfect relationship of love between Christ and the Church. Other modern commentators believe that the episode aims to magnify "Solomon in all his glory" (Mt 6:29). Indeed, at the beginning of the first millennium BC, the kingdom of Sheba, which extended to the southwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula, had considerable commercial power and it would have been easy for its queen to enter into trade agreements with Solomon. However, with a faint nod to this reality, the sacred author emphasizes the attractiveness and wisdom exercised by Solomon even on the Queen. It is also worth noting, however, that the author places this meeting within the negative phase of Solomon's life. In the previous chapter (9:15-24) we hear of forced labour for his subjects, and in the following verses (10:29) of the king's disproportionate wealth. Such enrichment leads us to think of Solomon falling prey to the logic of the worldly kingdoms that base their strength on wealth and weapons. The risks of monarchy announced in Samuel's first book (1Sam 8:11-18) began to manifest in earnest: the people wanted "a king to govern us, as is the case for all peoples," and a king who behaves like all kings. But this is not the logic that must preside over the life of God's people. The word of the Gospel always remains valid: "For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted" (Lk 14:11).