King Solomon was made rich through commerce, trading, gifts he received, tribute money paid to him and heavy taxation.
In Solomons time, money was measured in talents, a talent was an ancient unit of weight and value in Greece, Rome, and the Middle East. In the Old Testament period, a talent was a unit of measurement for weighing precious metals, usually gold and silver. In the New Testament period, a talent was a value of money or a coin. The talent was first mentioned in the book of Exodus within the inventory of materials used for the construction of the tabernacle:
“All the gold that was occupied for the work in all the work of the holy place, even the gold of the offering, was twenty and nine talents, and seven hundred and thirty shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary.” Exodus 38:24
Five talents of gold or silver would make you a multimillionaire by today's standards. A talent in parables during the Old Testament was equivalent to 20 years of wages for the common worker. The New Testament talent was somewhere between $1,000 to $30,000 dollars today.
“And king Solomon made a navy of ships in Eziongeber, which is beside Eloth, 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.” 1 Kings 9:26–28
His partnership with Hiram brought him paid him every three years.
“For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish with the navy of Hiram: once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks. So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom.” 1 Kings 10:22 -23
The Jewish historian Josephus also wrote about his rich trading for gold and silver.
" The King had many ships which lay upon the sea of Tarsus, these he commanded to carry out all sorts of merchandise unto the remotest nations, by the sale of which silver and gold were brought to the king, and a great quantity of ivory, and Ethiopians, and apes; and they finished their voyage, going and returning, in three years' time" (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 8, Chapter 7).
The Queen of Sheba made a special trip to Jerusalem to hear Solomon's wisdom. She was so impressed that she gave him camels, jewels, a large quantity of gold and other 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.
“And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, she came to prove Solomon with hard questions at Jerusalem, with a very great company, and camels that bare spices, and gold in abundance, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart. And she gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices great abundance, and precious stones: neither was there any such spice as the queen of Sheba gave king Solomon.” 2 Chronicles 9:1, 9
The Bible says that everyone who came to inquire of the king's wisdom brought him a gift - either animals, spices, precious metals and so on.
“So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom. And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart. And they brought every man his present, vessels of silver, and vessels of gold, and garments, and armour, and spices, horses, and mules, a rate year by year.” 1 Kings 10:23-25
Josephus also wrote about how rich Solomon was through the gold and other goods he received.
"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. Accordingly there went a great fame all around the neighboring countries, which proclaimed the virtue and wisdom of Solomon, insomuch that all the kings everywhere were desirous to see him, as not giving credit to what was reported, on account of its being almost incredible. They also demonstrated the regard they had for him by the presents they made him; for they sent him vessels of gold, and silver, and purple garments, and many sorts of spices, and horses, and chariots, and as many mules for his carriages as they could find proper to please the king's eyes, by their strength and beauty" (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 8, Chapter 7).
“And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life. And Solomon's provision for one day was thirty measures of fine flour, and threescore measures of meal, Ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and an hundred sheep, beside harts, and roebucks, and fallowdeer, and fatted fowl. For he had dominion over all the region on this side the river, from Tiphsah even to Azzah, over all the kings on this side the river: and he had peace on all sides round about him. And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.” 1 Kings 4:21-25
Rehoboam, was the fourth king of Israel. He was a son of and the successor to Solomon, and a grandson of David. After he assumed the throne of his father, he travelled to the city of Shechem where many of the northern tribes of Israel gathered to make him king. The people told the king, in no uncertain terms, what his father required of them. Their response makes it clear that Rehoboam's father was rich, in part, off the backs of the people he ruled.
“And Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king. And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who was yet in Egypt, heard of it, (for he was fled from the presence of king Solomon, and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt;) That they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying, Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.” 1 Kings 12:1-4
How much Gold did he own and its worth?
While the Bible does not give us a value or weight of all the silver, bronze, precious gems, garments, spices, etc. that came to Solomon, it does give us a rough idea how much gold he brought in and how rich he was. Every year King Solomon received over twenty-five tons (other translations say 'six hundred and sixty-six talents') of gold, in addition to the taxes paid by merchants. (1 Kings 10:14 - 15)
A talent weighs roughly 75 U.S. pounds (34.3 kilograms), which is equal to 1,094 troy ounces. At $1,500 per troy ounce, a talent of gold in today's value is worth $1,641,000. At $1,600 per troy ounce, a talent is worth $1,750,400. Solomon received 666 talents of the metal each year. This means the value of what he got each year was between $1,092,906,000 and $1,165,766,400 U.S. dollars!
The king became so rich that all his cups were made of gold (not one was made of silver - 1 Kings 10:21). His wealth was so immense that gold and silver were as common in Jerusalem as stones (2 Chronicles 1:15, 1Kings 10:27)
There has never been a human in history who had so much gold and silver "at his fingertips" such that it was as common as pebbles! Since we know he ruled Israel for forty years, and that he brought in roughly 1.1 BILLION dollars of gold each year, we can safely assume his assets were in the multiple billions of dollars. Solomon, however, possessed even more riches than what was mentioned above. He also inherited wealth from his father David who regularly received gold and silver from the kings of Arabia, had other governors and merchants give him stuff, plus he also heavily taxed his own people!
As if all the above was not enough, Solomon also received tribute money from countries and kingdoms, plus gold, silver, ivory, animals, slaves and so on every three years due to his business partnership with the King of Tyre and he garnered gifts of gold, spices, precious stones, garments, armor, and so on each year from a variety of others! The land value was substantial as well, his personal wealth would exceed a billion billions (trillion) of todays dollars. It is safe to say that the king was not only rich he was, are arguably still is, the wealthiest human ever to walk the face of planet earth!