The 1953 romantic comedy How to Marry a Millionaire ushered in Cinemascope’s long narrow screen. It starred Marilyn Monroe (Pola), Lauren Bacall (Schatze), and Betty Grable (Loco) as beautiful young models pooling their resources to share a Manhattan penthouse. This put them in the right neighborhood to achieve their stated goals—to each “catch” and marry a millionaire.
Call them fortune hunters, gold-diggers, whatever; marrying money was their dream. Meantime, they barely earned enough to pay their exorbitant rent. The women made a pact to order a lot of food on dinner dates and bring home most of it so their roommates could eat. If that failed, they could always resort to their favorite diner’s counter where they would order free hot water and add ketchup and salt and pepper for a kind of soup.
In this fictional world, even though all three women were overly impressed by power and wealth, they were supportive of each other and not catty or cut-throat. They encouraged each other with phrases such as, “It is just as easy to love a rich man as a poor one.” In their aspirations to marry into wealth, there were few limitations. At least in their discussions. They would prefer handsome, but they’d settle for merely non-grotesque.
“I wouldn’t mind marrying a Vanderbilt?” Loco said.
“Or Mr. Cadillac,” Pola replied.
But Schatze had done the research. “No such person. I checked.”
“Is there a Mr. Texaco?” Pola asked.
Another conversation showed similar feelings on age. Monroe asked Bacall about her date, “You don’t think he’s a little old?” And Bacall replied, “Wealthy men are never old.” In another scene Bacall’s character, Schatze, says, “I’ve always liked older men . . . Look at that old fellow what’s-his-name in The African Queen. Absolutely crazy about him.” (A quip about her real-life husband, Humphrey Bogart, who was much older.)
Spoiler Alert: Two of the women do find millionaires willing to marry them, but all three have fallen in love with other men who failed the millionaire test. At the end, as the three couples eat burgers in their favorite diner, they’ve each just married for love, not money. Then Schatze’s husband, who she kept calling her “gas-pump jockey,” reveals that he actually is a multi-millionaire who hadn’t let anyone know because he wanted to be loved for himself. They think he’s kidding until he pulls out a wad of bills and puts down $1,000 for the burgers. Three women pass out.
The biblical woman we look at today went looking for a wealthy man, but she wasn’t trying to find a rich husband. She was an African queen who reigned over a great trading nation at the southern end of the “Spice Road,” a trade route that started in the Far East. The Bible calls her the Queen of Sheba, an Arabian country approximately 1200 miles from Jerusalem. Today the ancient land of Sheba is modern Yemen and part of Ethiopia. The queen’s story is found in 1 Kings 10. Tradition says her name was Makeda, so let’s call her that.
Makeda made a long, dusty uncomfortable journey to Israel to find out if Solomon was really as rich and as wise as the reports she’d heard. She traveled in a huge caravan for protection and to carry the many gifts she’d brought him. In Jerusalem she had the grand tour and was overwhelmed with Solomon’s wisdom, the palace and temple, the food and servants, and even the burnt offerings she saw him make to his God (v. 4–5).
The Queen of Sheba was her nation’s high priestess in a kingdom of sun and moon worship. She had power, prestige, and enormous wealth, but she was looking for something more. Josephus, the historian, says that she was “inquisitive into philosophy.” She quizzed Solomon about his relationship with the Lord. The queen had wealth and power, but she also had questions. She wanted to see if Solomon could answer them. Apparently, he did. In 1 Kings 10:9 the queen said, “Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness.”
Makeda gave the Lord credit for Solomon’s wisdom and returned to her country with many gifts from Solomon and many things to think about. We know no more about her except that Jesus mentioned her. He contrasted her recognition of who Solomon was with His generation’s ignorance of who He was: “The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here” (Mt. 12:42).
Second Chronicles 9:12 (a parallel passage) says, “King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for; he gave her more than she had brought to him.” That is the way it is with us and Christ, too. As believers, we say we commit or give ourselves to Jesus Christ. But all of us have to admit: He gave me more than I could ever give Him.
©2017 by Vicki Huffman