King Solomon's Mines
Where Was Ophir?
By Lowell Kirk
In my 30 years of teaching history I have come across many questions, which seem to have no clear answers. For the past few years I have spent a lot of time trying to find the answer to two questions. Where was King Solomon's fabulous gold mine, Ophir. I know that the richest gold strike in Nevada found in the 1860s was named Ophir in honor of King Solomon's Ophir. I remember in the 1950's watching a Hollywood movie about King Solomon's Mines. Despite Hollywood's efforts, no one to my knowledge has ever identified the specific site. Most theories I have read seem to place it somewhere in Africa. But no one seems to have found the site.
In the early 1970s I was able to see some of the treasures from the tomb of the Egyptian Pharaoh King Tut. In 1922 King Tut's tomb was discovered. It was the only ancient Egyptian Pharaohs tomb ever to be discovered in the modern world that had not been robbed or looted. It was full of golden objects. He was a minor Pharaoh. What happened to the tons of gold that must have been in so many other important Pharaoh's tombs? What happened to the gold in the tomb of men such as Ramses II, one of the greatest and most powerful of Egyptian Pharaohs?
After having read many books on Egyptian history and having slowly and diligently read and reread the Old Testament, a theory emerged in my mind. I am not a scholar of Hebrew history nor of Egyptian history. But I have developed a theory, which I feel deserves examination by the great experts in those fields. I believe I have an answer to both of those questions. I believe that King Solomon looted some of the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs, including Ramses II.
The Old Testament tells us that Moses led the Hebrews out of bondage under Ramses II. Ramses II died about 1225 BC. After 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, Moses followers established themselves in the Holy Land. After a couple of centuries Saul became the first King of the Hebrews. Saul's son-in-law, David, after a brutal civil war, emerged as King of the Hebrews. David's son, Solomon, built a great Hebrew empire, which stretched from the Euphrates River to the border of Egypt. Solomon was reputed to be the richest and wisest man of his time. Solomon built the Great Temple in Jerusalem, as well a great palace for himself, and a great palace for primary wife, who was the daughter of Pharaoh. "And Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh, King of Egypt, and took Pharaoh's daughter, and brought her into the city of David, until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the Lord, and the wall of Jerusalem round about." (I Kings, 3:1) The Bible tells us in detail how those tons of gold were used in those constructions. The Old Testament says it came from Ophir. The Bible tells us that Solomon built a seaport on the Red Sea and constructed a fleet of ships. Hiram, King of Sidon sent many sailors to help build the fleet and man the ships to sail to Ophir and bring back the gold.
Moses led the Hebrews from bondage of Ramses II. The Hebrews knew what kind of gold was in the pharaoh's tombs. They may have helped construct some of the Pharaoh's tombs. Although Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, his primary wife was Pharaoh's daughter. The reason Solomon had so many wives was to make political links to different peoples that he either conquered or with whom he had made a political alliance. Solomon had a powerful military force, which was clearly feared in his day.
In Solomon's day, Egypt was militarily weak due to civil wars and internal conflicts, but it still had a pharaoh. Any looting of the tombs would have had to been done by a powerful and feared military force. It seems illogical to think that the tombs could have been looted by small time burglars. Since Solomon's primary wife was the daughter of Pharaoh he had a political link to Egypt.
In the late 19th century a cave was discovered in Egypt near the Valley of the Kings (where the major tombs were located), which contained the identified mummies of 32 Pharaohs. Among those mummies were the mummies of Ramses II and his father Seti. Archaeologists believe that those 32 mummies were placed in the cave all at the same time of about 1000 BC to protect them from tomb robbers. This is the same time of King David and Solomon, who built the Hebrew Temple about 950 BC. This time line seems to fit and suggests to me that the important Egyptian mummies were salvaged by a major Egyptian government operation to protect them from a major looting by a non-Egyptian power, namely, King Solomon. There was a major ancient trade route that linked the Nile River near the Valley of the Kings to the Red Sea, where Solomon's ships could have docked.
This reminds me very much of the situation when the Spanish Conquistadors first looted the countless tons of gold of the Aztecs and the Incas in the 16th century AD. The Spanish melted priceless art works of tomb and temple ornaments and shipped them to Spain in gold ingots. This helped to make Spain the richest of empires in the 16th century. So Spain first looted the existing treasures of gold, which had been collected for many centuries and were there for the taking by a superior military force. It took the Spanish several decades of treasure looting before they began to exploit the existing gold mines of Central and South America.
Solomoní ships returned after about three years from Ophir. if Solomon had to develop real mines, the mining technology of his day it would have required many decades to have actually mined so much gold in such a short time. So this suggests to me Solomon looted existing treasure, just as the Spanish did 25 centuries later. The Hebrew law forbids the looting of graves of the dead. Therefore, Solomon had to keep the operation a secret. So I believe he created this myth of Ophir to cover for his looting of the tombs of the Pharaohs. If there had been a real place called Ophir, other than Egyptian tombs, why would the mines not have been worked by others empires after the Hebrew empire collapsed? One other powerful King of Israel, Jehoshaphat, if made ships of Tharshish to go to Ophir for gold: but they were broken at Ezion-Geber." (I Kings, 22; 48) This was the same seaport that Solomon had built. It was the Egyptians who broke Jehoshaphat's fleet. There are no other records of Ophir that I have found.
When Solomon died, about 922 BC, his kingdom quickly fell apart due to Civil War. Jeroboam, who had been force to live in Egypt with Pharaoh Shishak while Solomon still lived, returned to war with Rehoboam. Although the Hebrew empire was collapsing, Rehoboam retained control over Jerusalem. Then the Old Testament tells us that the following:
"And it came to pass in the fifth year of king Rehoboam, that Shishak King of Egypt came up against Jerusalem: And he took away the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king's house; he even took away all: and he took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made." (I Kings 25-26) This suggests to me that the Egyptian Pharaoh knew that the Hebrew gold had been taken from Egypt in the first place. So I believe that Shishak came to take back the gold that had been looted from the Pharaoh's tombs.
After Solomon's Hebrew self-standing empire fell, for the next thousand years the Hebrews were in turn overrun and subjected to the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks and finally by Romans. The Babylonians destroyed Solomon's Temple. The Persians allowed the Temple to be rebuilt. In all of that time the Hebrew priests and prophets kept prophesying for a Messiah from the genetic line of King David to come and restore the political independence of Hebrews as it was in David and Solomon's time. Thus Jesus in the time of the Romanís was viewed by many to be the Messiah. But Jesus was not interested in restoring worldly political power or material wealth to Jerusalem. The message of Jesus was simple, yet perhaps the most difficult challenge a human can ever have: To love God and to love our fellow man as ourselves.
It was in the midst of Hebrew revolutionary fervor against Rome that Jesus was put to death by demands of Hebrew leaders. Perhaps Hebrew leaders made that demand because Jesus would not lead a worldly political revolution against the Romans. About 35 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, the Hebrew leaders did lead a revolution against the Romans. The Hebrew were soundly defeated and the Hebrew Temple was totally destroyed about 70 AD. To prevent another revolution, the Hebrew people were spread through out the Roman Empire and it was not until after World War II that Hebrews were allowed to reestablish an independent Hebrew government.
But to return to the primary point of this short article, I believe that I have found an answer to the question, "Where was King Solomon's Mines?" Ophir was the tombs of the Egyptian Pharaoh's who had so long enslaved the Hebrews prior to Moses. I will be the first to admit that I am not a Hebrew or Egyptian scholar and will gladly defer to another theory if I can be shown some strong evidence that my theory is incorrect. But I have spent a tremendous amount of mental energy and time pondering this subject of the location of Ophir. I want to know the answer. I believe that I have a good explanation.
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