King Solomon’s Mines
By Wendy Wippel
The book, King Solomon’s Mines (1885) thrilled its Victorian audience and established a new genre in literature: Lost Worlds. The premise of King Solomon’s mines – a source of limitless wealth gone missing, has intrigued generations since, revisited in books and movies and a TV miniseries. Despite the fact that the phrase “King Solomon’s mines” never appears in the Bible. Nor, for that matter, does the word “mines”.
So where did the oft-fabled allure of King Solomon’s mines come from?
Mostly from some verses you probably never focused on in your quiet time, I Kings 10 and 2 Chronicles 8:18.
1 Kings 10: Hiram’s ships brought gold from Ophir; and from there they brought great cargoes of almugwood[c] and precious stones. 12 The king used the almugwood to make supports[d] for the temple of the Lord and for the royal palace, and to make harps and lyres for the musicians. So much almgugwood has never been imported or seen since that day.)
2 Chronicles 8: Hiram sent him ships commanded by his own men, sailors who knew the sea. These, with Solomon’s men, sailed to Ophir and brought back four hundred and fifty talents of gold, which they delivered to King Solomon.
Neither verse really says that they were actually Solomon’s mines. What we do know, however, is that the amount of gold that Solomon acquired was staggering. Not long after Solomon ascended to the throne, God asked him what he desired God to give him. And there were no limits attached.
Solomon—being Solomon—asked only for wisdom. Which made God pretty happy. So God told Solomon that He would in fact, fulfill that request, but in addition, He would give Solomon wealth that would surpass any other kingdom.
And He did. Solomon accumulated wealth of all kinds, but precious metals are the most consistently mentioned currency.
He was given gifts. The Queen of Sheba presented to King Solomon the gifts she had brought: almost five tons (other translations say ‘one hundred and twenty talents) of gold.
He apparently bought gold. “Now the weight of gold that was brought him was six hundred and sixty-six talents, not including in that sum what was brought by the merchants, nor what the toparchs and kings of Arabia gave him in presents.” (Josephus)
He was paid tribute. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life..” (1Kings 4:24)
And he collected it in taxes. ‘Your father Solomon treated us harshly and placed heavy (tax) burdens on us. ‘ (1Kings 12:4)
So, when Sir Rider Haggard gave the world its first “lost Worlds’ book and called it King Solomon’s Mines (and his book proved to be a blockbuster), Haggard’s snazzy title stuck, and the many adaptions that followed kept his original name going. Despite the fact that King Solomon seems to have not owned the mines at all.
Nevertheless, what I am about to tell you now shouldn’t really be a shocker. Historically Solomon’s or not, lots of people since the release of King Solomon’s Mines have tried to find them.
There has really been precious little to go on. All we really know from Scripture is that the gold came back to Solomon from a place called Ophir. And that one of the sons of Joktan was named Ophir. (Genesis 10:29)
And that Solomon went to Ophir with Hiram, the King of Tyre and they left from a port on the Red Sea called Ezion-Geber.
Like I said, precious little to go on. Which, predictably but unfortunately, activated the Barney Back-up plan: Use your imagination.
Ancient Jewish tradition associated Ophir with India.
A tenth-century Jewish scholar identified Ophir as Sri-Lanka.
A very ancient manuscript called the “Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan”, says that Ophir could be found in the land of Sadania.
Early explorers of the Western Hemisphere thought Ophir was Zimbabwe.
Paradise Lost put it in Mozambique.
And last but not least, a Spanish book published in 1519 (entitled Colección General de Documentos Relativos) actually gave directions. Ophir can be found by travelling from the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, to India, to Burma, to Sumatra, to Moluccas, to Borneo, to Sulu, to China, then finally to, Ophir.
It provided further helpful hints. Ophir is in front of China towards the sea, of many islands, where the Moluccans, Chinese, and Lequios meet to trade.
I think it’s safe to say that Solomon’s mines risked no discovery by those who bought that travel guide.
So where are those mines of Solomon?
The mystery’s been solved, apparently, and at least some of the lost mines were right there in Israel all the time.
Archaeologists working in the Timna Valley in southern Israel (in the Negev, specifically), have recently discovered mines in the Jordanian desert just south of the Black Sea. And the site, 24 acres of tunnels and holes with thousands of individual mines (copper) as well as dozens of smelting sites were found courtesy of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at the University of Oxford in England. And they date to the 10th century BC. Exactly when Solomon lived.
Before this discovery, archaeologists believed that no mining occurred before about 7000 years before Christ.
But now we know mining HAD occurred, And it was what was then Israel AND at the time that Solomon himself lived!
You can’t go wrong just taking the word of God as truth, right? It always ends up proving its doubters wrong!.
Maybe, someday, the Bible-bashers will all stop and think about that. Hope springs eternal.