Gilded Ages: Part I: Solomon, 666 and Gold
To this point
in history, the greatest period of power and wealth for Israel was during the reign of King
Solomon. During this time, for the
most part, Israel
was at peace. Its land mass
stretched from the Mediterranean and northern Egypt to outposts on the River
Babylon. Solomon received tributes
and levies from many other kingdoms.
1 Kings 10
(and also 2
Chronicles 9) gives an account of Solomon’s Golden Age, including the
ostentatious visit by the Queen of Sheba. An
excerpt from 1 Kings 10, (verses 21 to 26, NIV) provides an indication of
“All King Solomon's goblets were
gold, and all the household articles in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold. Nothing was made
of silver, because silver was considered of little value in Solomon's days. The king had a fleet of trading ships at sea
along with the ships of Hiram. Once every three years it returned, carrying
gold, silver and ivory, and apes and baboons. King Solomon was greater in riches
and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought
audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart. Year after
year, everyone who came brought a gift—articles of silver and gold, robes,
weapons and spices, and horses and mules. Solomon accumulated chariots and
horses; he had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses, which he
kept in the chariot cities and also with him in Jerusalem. The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and
cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills.”
We see that
Solomon was wealthy beyond imagination.
However, the Bible makes it clear that these riches were not a result of
Solomon’s works, but rather a blessing from God.
When Solomon asked God for understanding, the Lord responded thus:
I have given thee
a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee,
neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.
And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and
honour […].”: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all
Kings 3:12-12, KJV)
Yet, we also
know that, while God surely did deliver his promise, Solomon did not finish his
life faithful. In time, he allowed
the blessings themselves to corrupt him.
As he gained power, honor and influence, he began to break many of God’s
commands. He wandered off to follow
his own interests and indulgences.
While tragic, it was not surprising.
Only two generations earlier, Samuel had warned Israel about the dangers of
appointing a king over them.
Nevertheless, the people said:
"We want a king
over us. Then we will be like all the other nations.”
Moses had expressly laid down requirements should Israel ever want
a king. The king “must
not acquire great numbers of horses for himself” (Deuteronomy 17:16); “ He must
not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate
large amounts of silver and gold.” (verse 17)
Solomon did all of these things.
He had hundreds of horses, wives and concubines.
He built himself an immense palace, much larger than the temple he had
built for the Lord. Moreover, he
built himself an impressive throne. (verses 18-20)
While God had told Moses never to build steps in front of any altar,
Solomon elected to have 6 steps leading to his throne with 12 golden lions
placed upon them.
And, true to
the prophecy of Samuel that the entire nation of Israel would end
up being oppressed by their kings economically, (1 Samuel 8:10-18) this indeed
proved to be the case with Solomon. Jeroboam,
appealing to King Rehoboam
"Your father put a
heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on
us.” (2 Chronicles 10:4)
Solomon had raised a levy upon all Israel. (1Kings 5:13)
Extra-biblical sources indicate that high levels of inflation existed
during the later stages of Solomon’s reign.
As a result, the population was in a plaintive mood.
Solomon’s Foreshadowing and 666
The account of
Solomon’s reign holds many lessons, only a few of which we can profitably
explore here. Interestingly,
Solomon’s Golden Age provides a useful type or foreshadow of another type of
Gilded Age … one that the world is hankering after today.
The chapter of
1 Kings 11 is rather remarkable in several respects.
In this one chapter is shown both the rise and fall of Solomon, providing
another example of a man
receiving blessings but ultimately forgetting its source and conditional
aspects. And, most curiously, the
number 666 is mentioned.
this infamous number have to do with Solomon’s era if anything? In this writer’s
view, the mention of this number is neither accidental nor circumstantial.
The Holy Spirit intended it for reason.
In 1 Kings
10:14-15 we read.
“The weight of the
gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents, not including the revenues
from merchants and traders and from all the Arabian kings and the governors of
the land.” This surely
was a large income. Based upon recent gold prices, 666 talents would amount to
an annual income of about one-half billion in US dollar terms.
Based upon the average income of that time, King Solomon would have
earned an income equivalent to about 200,000 laborers and more.
In those terms, his annual income would be closer to an equivalent of $8
to $10 billion per year. As the
Bible confirms, no other king was as rich as he was during that time.
return to our examination of this curious number —
threescore and six”
as it is phrased in the King James translation.
It comes up on only 3 occasions in the Bible.
Most well known is its reference in Revelation 13:18.
Another reference is found in Ezra 2:13, where it refers to the number of
Adomicam’s family that was returning to Jerusalem
However, the parallel account in Nehemiah 7:18, counts them differently
at 667. Given this apparent
inconsistency, we are best not to attribute any importance to this reference.
first reference in the Bible to the number 666 appears in the two parallel
records of the reign of King Solomon. (1 Kings 10 and 2 Chronicles 9)
In both, the number is mentioned specifically.
But why should
its reference here attract further attention?
There are at least two reasons.
Firstly, the number is incongruous with the rest of these two chapters.
It sticks out as a sore thumb.
almost identical, Scripture accounts employ many numbers in describing the reign
of King Solomon and the opulence of his kingdom and possessions.
For example, there are mentioned 300 concubines, 1400 chariots, 300
shields, and 12,000 horses. Among
more than 15 numbers mentioned, there is found one unusual number — 666. Of the
11 numbers greater than 100 employed in this chapter, only one of these is not
rounded to nearest one-hundredth or one-thousandth or ending in zero.
It is the number 666.
application and context of this number is ill-fitting.
King Solomon’s annual income in terms of talents of gold “was
not including the revenues from merchants and traders and from all the Arabian
kings and the governors of the land.”
(2 Chronicles 9:13-14. 1 Kings
10:14-15). The text clearly tells
us that he had much greater revenues than 666 talents per year.
Then why is the odd number of 666 used
in describing his income? It would
be just as strange to express ones hourly wage of $10.00 as $6.66 plus a whole
lot more. In any case, it would be
strange if Solomon’s gold income were not to fluctuate from year to year.
should conclude that this number is also meant to provide a symbolic connection.
It may simply alert us to the fact that King Solomon commanded a
prosperous and opulent economy that then descended into idolatry and
bureaucratic controls. It was not a
“divine” economy but an enterprise of man with all its usual defects and
troubles. In the end, the bureaucracy under Solomon ended up becoming a type of
oppressor. Says one commentator,
came at the high price of individual freedom and tribal sovereignty.”[i]
The Simple Meaning of 666
666 surely is
an infamous number among both Christians and non-Christians alike. However,
before we comment any further, we best keep in mind Joseph Thayer’s comment
(author of The
Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament) concerning this number —
“six hundred and
sixty six, the meaning of which is the basis of much vain speculation.”
As such, we will not embark upon any such speculation and
limit ourselves to the Bible’s plain meaning.
Anything else would risk misdirection.
there assuredly is a lot of non-sensical and ludicrous speculation as to the
meaning of this number. Even
well-known Bible teachers make speculative associations, employing numerology,
and other twists of mathematics.
One high-profile prophecy teacher with a large TV audience openly makes
associations with the number 66 purely on the basis of the number values of
English names. This is so spurious
it can hardly bear comment. For
one, this practice presumes that the English language must be used to unlock the
meaning of a text originally written in Greek.
This is the equivalent to saying that all people — whether Chinese or
Swahili — must be required to first learn English before they can be allowed to
read the Holy Scriptures. We forget
that the Bible’s words were inspired in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.
On this theory, we must all first learn these three languages before we
can study the scriptures.
No doubt, many
levels of meanings may be taken from the number 666.
However, in essence, the Bible provides a fairly straightforward
description. Said John the
“If anyone has
insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's
number. His number is 666.” (Revelation 13:18)
Clearly, the beast and man are together indicted in this passage. It is
man’s number … representing his systems and beliefs and idolatries.
These happen to be enervated by the Prince of this World.
It should be
noticed that the Revelator’s mention of the number 666 follows right after the
verses that inform us that the false prophet will attempt to induce everyone to
take the mark of the beast:
he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a
mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or
sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his
is an obvious economic and financial connection.
An idolatrous man-made system of control is likely indicated, implying
self-sufficiency and a reliance upon earthly materialism.
Systems such as these are destined for destruction or break-up as
happened to Solomon’s kingdom. In
this sense, we may see that a common spirit finds a connection with the later
stages of Solomon’s reign, the number 666 and the yet future prophetic events.
Thoughts to Ponder
today, the world is experiencing a remarkable era.
Around the globe, a new unified belief is gaining strength:
Mankind’s materialistic systems and globalism — in its simplest form,
symbolized by the number 666 — is unstoppable … or so most people think.
A grand new gilded era of peace and economic prosperity seems assured. It
would be tempting to agree.
No where is
this confidence more evident currently than in the fields of global finance,
economics and globalism. The
popular and celebrated view is that globalization is leading to another golden
age for mankind … the best and biggest ever …
far better than the previous time that a similar confidence emerged.
That period was referred to as the Gilded Age, occurring between 1880 and
1914. It also was a period of rapid
technological progress and advances in globalization.
Unfortunately, it ended horribly when the First World War erupted.
later reign of self-reliant commercialism and dependence upon a prosperous
economy ended badly. So will the
current one. The only difference is
that today’s “gilded” confidence is more swaggering, unified and globally
pervasive than ever before. Its
treacheries and deceits are therefore also much larger and more dangerous.
We surely are today experiencing the systemic rise of the 666 system that
will very soon intersect with the literal prophecies found in Revelation 13.
All of this
may not sound very uplifting and optimistic — again the doom and gloom
ruminations of a pessimistic, austere, unloving Bible thumper.
However, we can choose to view our current epoch from either of two
perspectives: As did Abraham,
longing for a better country—a heavenly one.” (Hebrews 11:16); or, as
“friends of the
world.” (James 4:4)
Actually, the former is an optimistic
view; the latter a pessimistic one.
It is only
“friends of the
world” who have both feet firmly staked to hopes of a better and more
comfortable place upon earth for a season, that will likely view the
perspectives of a literally-interpreted Bible’s as pessimistic.
perspectives, have you ever wondered what that
“great cloud of
witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) would think of our world today?
Would they be observing mankind’s crowning capstone of humanism and
materialism rapidly taking form — man’s systemic number of 666 coming into view?
Would they be dismayed that mankind yet again is intoxicated by the
vision of another
Tower of Babel, saying
“let us make a
name” (Genesis 11:4) and determine our own destiny?
Most of all, wouldn’t that cloud of witnesses be most grieved to see how
many supposed Christians have been thoroughly blinded by the golden promises and
cares of our present age?
the broad fabric of long-term world trends — not simply in the short-term, but
as would the great cloud of heavenly witnesses — evident is a human timeline
that the Bible has long prophesied. Its ultimate fate has been prophesied
through the prophets in no uncertain terms.
So we see that
the systemic aspects of the “beast” symbolized by the number 666 are already
operative in our day … right under our very noses, so to speak.
Some day, this beast that comes out of the sea will be headed by the
Antichrist and used to oppress the entire world.
However, to the believing and pure church, this will be of no concern.
The Church — the Philadelphian church — will be kept from this future
period. Christ said to the
“I will also keep
you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test
those who live on the earth.” (Revelation 3:10)
In Part II, we discuss the Bible’s perspective on gold and its future role.
Wilfred J. Hahn - August 2007
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About the Author:
Wilfred J. Hahn is a global
economist/strategist. Formerly a
top-ranked global analyst and chairman of the country’s largest global
investment operation his writings focus on the endtime roles of money, economics
and globalization. He has been
quoted around the world and his writings reproduced in numerous other
publications and languages. His
most recent book is The Endtime Money Snare: How to live free.
Israel From Conquest to
Exile, John J. Davies & John C. Whitcomb, 1989, BHM Books, Indiana, pg. 337.