Did King Solomon Have Monkeys and Baboons?

    First you must know some scholars do not believe there was a King Solomon or a King David either. They claim there is no evidence to prove Solomon or David were real persons. But that is not true.


    Recently six clay seals were discovered at Khirbet Summeily in Israel. These seals date to the time of David and Solomon (10th century BC) and show that there was some type of government activity going on there. While it may not prove it was King David's government, it at least makes it possible.


    Then there are the jars labeled "to the king" found at Tell Rumeide which is ancient Hebron, David's first capital city. And, don't forget the inscriptions on the Meshe Stele and the Tel Dan Stele referring to the "House of David."  The term House of David means the family of David.


    The second thing you need to know is there are archaeological discoveries referring to David as a king.  There are discoveries related to the time of Solomon too, but we can talk about those later. This post is about Solomon and his baboons.


    What would a king need monkeys for?


    Actually he didn't need them, and that's the point. They were extras, and he could afford them.


    Solomon was Israel's richest king. He was also the smartest. Other kings and queens wanted to be friends with him. One friend was Hiram the king of Tyre. They were good business partners too.


    Hiram had a navy that included merchant ships able to travel deep waters. Solomon had a port at Ezion Geber in southern Israel where it meets the Red Sea. The precise location may have been southwest of Elat. Hiram helped Solomon build his navy and train his men to be sailors.


    1Kings 9:26-28 says,

    And king Solomon made a navy of ships in Eziongeber, which is beside Eloth [Elat], on the shore of the Red sea, in the land of Edom. And Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipmen that had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon. And they came to Ophir, and fetched from thence gold, four hundred and twenty talents, and brought it to king Solomon.


    Gold is not the only thing they brought back to Solomon. Every three years they brought him ivory, silver and monkeys and baboons. But were they really baboons?


    1Kings 10:22 ERV says, 

    The king also had many cargo ships that he sent out to trade things with other countries. These were Hiram's ships. Every three years the ships would come back with a new load of gold, silver, ivory, and apes and baboons.


    Now check your Bible. Does it say gold, silver, ivory, apes and peacocks?


    A lot of translations say peacocks. There is a big difference between peacocks and baboons. How could a translator mess this up?

    Solomon did get monkeys of some kind. The word apes is qôph. This is not a Hebrew word but a word from some foreign language. Scholars have debated its origin. Some think it is Egyptian, Arabic, or a dialect from India.


    Now for the baboons or peacocks. Again, the original word is foreign. It is tukîyîm or thukkiyyim. Scholars also debate whether it is Egyptian or Indian. The problem is, nobody knows for sure what it means.


    One clue may be the place the tukîyîm came from which was Ophir.  In 1946 a pottery shard with the inscription "gold of Ophir to Beth Horon 30 shekels" was found in Tel Aviv. That proves gold came from Ophir. Check.


     A recent discovery may point to Ophir being in Saudi Arabia. Geologists in 1976 discovered an area called the Cradle of Gold in Saudi Arabia and announced this location must be Ophir since it is close to Ezion Geber.


    Wait a minute. Let's analyze that reasoning. Saudi Arabia may be the place where gold could be mined in abundance, but Solomon had ships that could sail farther than across the Gulf of Aqaba. So, okay Ophir could be in Saudi Arabia because it has lots of gold, but not just because it was close.


    The Jewish Encyclopedia says Ophir was located near the Indus River which would make the word of some Indian/Pakistan dialect. But the Bible connects Ophir with Joktan in Genesis 10:29, and Joktan is from the Arabic lands. Saudi Arabia might be the right area.


    So where is Ophir? Near the Indus River or in Arabia?


    Let's leave Ophir in Arabia for right now and remember these are trading ships going to trading ports and trading cities. Foreign goods from foreign places, from far away places, were available. Hiram's sailors may have sailed only to Ophir, but archaeology has proven goods traveled everywhere earlier than thought possible. The tukîyîm may have arrived in Arabia from India or Pakistan or Hiram's sailors sailed that far around Saudi Arabia's coast. Whatever a tukîyîm is, it is not native to Arabia.


    Perhaps the best clue I saved for last. In the modern Hebrew language the word for parrot is tukiy pronounced tookee. Compare that with the original foreign tukîyîm in 1Kings pronounced too kee eem. Parrots and peacocks are both colorful exotic birds. The best translation for 1Kings 10:22 is most likely apes and peacocks. Not apes and baboons.


    Did your Bible get it right?


    Although some cultures worshipped monkeys, Solomon's purpose for receiving apes and peacocks every three years was most likely to adorn his palace gardens and express his vast influence and affluence.


    I like peacocks and maybe I'm prejudice but don't you think a bunch of peacocks strutting around the palace grounds would fit Solomon in all his splendor better than a bevy of baboons? I mean, he already had some kind of apes. Who wants more monkeys when you can have peacocks?




    Baboon closeup by Chris F. courtesy of Pexels.

    White baboon waving by Alexas Fotos courtesy of Pexels.

    Peacock by Pixabay courtesy of Pexels.


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