1 Kings 10:22
“22For the king had a fleet of ships of Tarshish at sea with the fleet of Hiram. Once every three years the fleet of ships of Tarshish used to come bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks.
23 Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. 24The whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind.”
As the Biblical book of 1 Kings opens chapter 10 with a visit from the queen of Sheba and her patronage of a great, powerful, wise and rich king with an awe-inspiring listing of the gifts they exchanged. Then after this visit, the official tally of the riches, beauty, and this tantalizing note that from Tarshish’s ship the kingdom of Israel received apes. An exotic animal, small and unceremoniously noted as arriving from one part of the world to another. Just why were apes being transported across this ancient world? What kind of usage or power symbol could they have provided that a successful king was judged on the receivership of apes or not?
Some fun research notes these apes did not come from the city of Tarshish, off the southern coast of Spain but rather using the indication of ‘ships of Tarshish’ to designate a type of ship. ‘Ships of Tarshish’ were referencing large, ocean faring ships that could travel long distances, like to actually Africa, where even today one is more likely to come across apes, or monkeys. And, like many today, owning something like a monkey in a part of the world where they are rare, and exotic was most likely a status symbol. And having monkeys as entertainment around the castle may have brought King Solomon and his family laughter in the midst of busy days. What mischief could that have got up to in ancient Israel?
Lord God, as we marvel at your creation and enjoy their antics, may that awe, and ultimate joy connect us stronger to you. In creating creatures like apes and monkeys we even see your care in the ancient world.