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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Queen of Sheba

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shē ´- ba ( 1 Kings 10:1-13 ; 2 Chronicles 9:1-12 , called in Matthew 12:42 ; Luke 11:31 , "the queen of the south" (βασίλισσα νότου , bası́lissa nótou )):

1. Old Testament Accounts:

The two Old Testament accounts of the coming of the queen of Sheba (see SHEBA ) to Solomon differ slightly from one another, and, of the two, that in 1 Kings is the older. (1) The words "concerning the name of Yahweh" (1 Kings 10:1 ) are lacking in 2 Chronicles; while the Septuagint in 1 Kings has "and the name of Yahweh," apparently a correction of the Massoretic Text. (2) For 1 Kings 10:9 , "because Yahweh loved Israel for ever," 2 Chronicles 9:8 has "because thy God loved Israel, to establish them for ever"; the Septuagint in 1 Kings has "because Yahweh loved Israel, to establish it forever." (3) In the last verse of each account we find another difference: 2 Chronicles 9:12 says that Solomon gave to the queen all her desire, "besides that which she had brought unto the king." i.e. according to some, besides the equivalent of what she had brought to him; 1 Kings 10:13 margin has" besides that which he gave her according to the hand of king Solomon," i.e. besides gifts commensurate with his own wealth and power ( SBOT ), or be sides gifts which he gave her quâ king.

2. The Narrative:

The narrative tells of the queen of Sheba, on hearing of Solomon's great wisdom, coming to test him with perplexing questions or riddles (compare Judges 14:12 ). She brought presents to the king, and interviewed him: "And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, and the house that he had built" (i.e. the palace, not the temple) as well as its arrangements, "and his burnt-offering which he offered in the house of Yahweh (so read and translate with the Revised Version margin in 1 Kings 10:5 , and also in 2 Chronicles 9:4 ); there was no more spirit in her": the half of Solomon's wisdom had not been told her. "Happy," she said to him, "are thy wives (so read with Septuagint, Syriac and Old Latin versions), happy are these thy servants." She then exchanged gifts with him and returned to her own land.

The narrative is a complement of that in 1 Kings 3:16-28 , where the king's justice is exemplified; here his wisdom.

3. Employed by Jesus:

The narrative is referred to by Jesus in Matthew 12:42 ; Luke 11:31 , where He refuses to accede to the request of the scribes and Pharisees for a sign from Him. He tells them that no sign will be given them except that of Jonah, whose sign was his preaching, one that proved sufficient to the Ninevites; and 'behold something greater than Jonah is here.' The men of Nineveh will be a living condemnation of them "in the judgment" (compare Luke 16:31 ); and so will the "queen of the south" who came from the ends of the earth after hearing of Solomon's wisdom, 'and behold something greater than Solomon is here.' The only sign to be given is that of the wisdom of Jesus, a wisdom far greater than that of Solomon (see D. Smith, Days of His Flesh , 176 ff).

4. Eastern Literature:

Eastern literature has much to say about the queen of Sheba. The Arabs called her Bilqis. Abyssinian legend declares that she came from Ethiopia, her name being Maḳeda , and that she had a son by Solomon. See Delitzsch, Iris, 116-27; ZDMG , X, 19 f; J P r T, VI, 524 ff (1880). Gressmann (in Schriften des Altes Testament , II, 1,203) has further references to Wilhelm Hertz, Gesammelte Abhandlungen , 1905,413 ff; Bezold, Kebra Nagast , 1905, and also ZDMG , 60,666 ff. For the Mohammedan story, see Koran xxvii, with notes in Sale's translation.


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Queen of Sheba'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/isb/q/queen-of-sheba.html. 1915.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, August 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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