• Issue: November 2016
  • Designer: Tuvia Kurtz & Meir Eshel
  • Stamp Size: 40 mm x 60 mm
  • Sheet size: 83 mm x 138mm
  • Security mark: Microtext
  • Sheet of 1 stamp, Tabs: 0
  • Printers: Cartor Security Printing, France
  • Method of printing: Offset

King Solomon inherited a large and wealthy kingdom from his father King David, stretching from the Euphrates River in the north to the Eilat Bay in the south. The good trade relations King Solomon created with the rulers of nearby kingdoms, as well as the great wealth he accumulated thanks to those relations and to the taxes he collected, are described in the Bible in books I Kings and II Chronicles.

The development of his fleet in the Red Sea was described in detail: "Hiram sent servants of his with the fleet, mariners who were experienced on the sea, to serve with Solomon's men. They came to Ophir; there they obtained gold in the amount of four hundred and twenty talents" (I Kings, 9:27-28). King Hiram of Tyre, who knew how to build ships and had men who were skilled mariners, partnered with King Solomon, who ruled the Eilat Coast and together they built a fleet of trade ships in the Red Sea. These ships sailed to Ophir, which was apparently located along either the eastern or the western coast of the Red Sea, and returned carrying many treasures and exotic wares.

A similar journey is described in Egyptian sources dating from 500 years earlier, during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut. Egyptian ships sailed southward to the Land of Punt, which was also apparently in eastern Africa. The remnants of murals on the walls of Hatsheput's mortuary temple in Deir el-Bahari feature exotic goods that were brought to Egypt at that time from the same faraway land, and contribute to the interpretation of the biblical descriptions.

In addition to gold and silver, "ivory, apes and peacocks" were also brought to King Solomon (I Kings, 10:22). The Egyptian murals show the "apes" to be baboons.

The Bible also notes that "a huge quantity of almug wood" was brought from Ophir (I Kings, 10:11). Biblical scholars and modern researchers have voiced various opinions regarding the nature of the "almug wood". Some claim that these were special wooden beams used for construction; others think that they were saplings of exotic aromatic trees, and a third opinion is that they were a rare type of coral.

Based on the various interpretations, the stamp designer portrayed a heap of treasures that were unloaded on the dock at the seaport in Ezion-Geber, which today is the city of Eilat. These treasures were taken to King Solomon's palace in Jerusalem and used in the construction of the Temple and the palace. Thanks to the journey to Ophir "King Solomon excelled all the kings on earth in wealth... the king made silver as plentiful in Jerusalem as stones..." (I Kings, 10:27)

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King Solomon's Ships (Souvenir sheet)