February 27, 2024

#08-839: The Queen of Sheba

The Queen of Sheba visits Solomon, by Tintoretto (Wikipedia)

Note: For a woman who is barely mentioned at all, the fabulously-wealthy Queen of Sheba has had an out-sized effect on culture. Just ask my sister!

Get Ready: What would you call a powerful, perhaps arrogant, woman?

My sister holds a special position in our family. She is the youngest of four children--and all the others are boys. So sometimes when she entered the room my father would say, "Well, well, well. If it isn't the Queen of Sheba!" What did he mean by that?

The Queen of Sheba is a figure mentioned only briefly in the Bible, once in the First Book of Kings and again, in almost identical language, in the Second Book of Chronicles.

King Solomon was the son of King David, and was famed for his wisdom. He had sent out agents to gather materials of all kinds for the building of the temple at Jerusalem, and apparently some of them had reached Sheba (or Saba), in what is now Ethiopia.

There, the fabulously wealthy queen--whose name we are never told--decided she would go up to Jerusalem and test the king's wisdom. He readily answered all of her questions, proving he was wise.

She brought with her large quantities of gold, spices, and precious stones. This cemented the reputation of her fabulous wealth, and today (as my father did) her name is used to refer to a powerful--or arrogant--woman.

When her visit was over and gifts presented, the Queen returned to her own land. And that is all the Bible says about her.

But where "history" is silent, legend takes over. The national epic of Ethiopia, the Kebra Nagast, claimed that she was the ancestor of the medieval kings of Ethiopia, dynasties presumably still in existence today.

Legends of her exploits abound, but one of my favorites is how she became Ethiopia's first queen. As told in the Kebra Nagast, there was a legendary snake-king named Arwe who ruled for four hundred years. Somewhat like the Chinese legend of Nian, he demanded the sacrifices of humans and cattle until he was defeated by one man who therefore became king--and his daughter was the famous queen after him.

But in a more interesting version, the girl (named Makeda) is tied to a tree, where seven (or nine) Christian saints find her. They slay the monster and she becomes queen.

Intriguingly, legend also says that the Queen of Sheba bore a child after her visit to Solomon, and it was he who founded the "Solomonic dynasty" of Ethiopian royalty.


Practice: Match the term to its definition:

Term Definition
  1. abound
  2. arrogant
  3. cemented
  4. dynasty
  5. epic
  6. exploits
  7. intriguingly
  8. readily
  9. sacrifices
  10. slay
  1. interestingly
  2. overly proud
  3. adventures; exciting activities
  4. a ruling family
  5. easily; with little effort
  6. kill
  7. occur in large numbers
  8. ritual killings
  9. confirmed; solidified
  10. a long story about a hero or heroes

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for February 27, 2024

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. g; 2. b; 3. i; 4. d; 5. j; 6. c; 7. a; 8. e; 9. h; 10. f