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Bible Dictionaries
Sheba, Queen of

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

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SHEBA, QUEEN OF . 1 Kings 10:1-13 narrates a visit of the contemporary queen of Sheba to king Solomon. At the present day there is a strong tendency to regard this as a legendary addition made by the later editor for the purpose of emphasizing Solomon’s wealth and wisdom. The reasons adduced are not quite conclusive. It is no doubt true that the Inscriptions hitherto discovered fail to mention any queen of the Sabæans. But the names are given of queens who reigned over other Arabian countries, and, curiously enough, in Sargon’s inscription, quoted on p. 842 b , Samsç, queen of Aribu, immediately precedes It’amara, king of Sheba. It must be admitted, however, that the narrative in 1 Kings 10:1-29 is not free from difficulties. We cannot satisfactorily explain the words ‘concerning the name of the Lord’ (v. 1): the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] ‘ and ’ etc. being an obvious attempt to evade the difficulty, and the Chronicler ( 2 Chronicles 9:1 ) omitting all the words. It is hard to believe that the monarch of a highly civilized and exceedingly wealthy State would be dumbfounded by the luxury of the court of Jerusalem ( 2 Chronicles 9:5 ); that reads as though the chieftain of a petty tribe of Arabs was in question. Moreover, it is likely enough that the motive of the visit was other than our author supposed. Riddles, proverbs, apologues, and stories supply much of the material for the leisured conversation of the Arabs, but the queen of Sheba would visit her brother monarch with a more practical object than these. Commercial intercourse between the two countries was of extreme importance for the prosperity of both: Kittel ( Die Bücher der Könige , p. 89) is justified in suggesting that she wished to promote this.

The fantastic legends which gathered round this journey may be conveniently read in Sura 27 of the Koran, and the notes on that chapter from Mohammedan sources which Sale has collected. Mohammed himself no doubt derived his account from Jewish sources. A lengthy history of queen Bilkis, from Ta‘labi’s Lives of the Prophets , may be found in Brünnow’s Arabic Chrestomathy . Solomon marries the queen, and the Abyssinians, to whom the story passed from the Arabs, call her Makeda, and trace from this marriage the lineage of all their kings. In this connexion two facts should be noted. First, that Abyssinia was undoubtedly colonized by the Sabæans. Second, that Jos. [Note: Josephus.] ( Ant. II. x. 2) speaks of ‘Saba, a royal city of Ethiopia,’ and (VIII. vi. 5 f.), without naming Sheba, gives an account of the visit to Solomon of a woman who was queen of Egypt and Ethiopia.’ He is mistaken as to the locality, but it is interesting to observe the tradition which he reports, ‘that we possess the root of that balsam which our country still bears by this woman’s gift.

J. Taylor.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Sheba, Queen of'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdb/​s/sheba-queen-of.html. 1909.
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