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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Sheba,

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the name of several men and places in the Bible, but occurring in two forms in the original:

(a) Heb. Sheba', שְׁבָא (of uncertain etymology, see below), which is the name of three fathers of tribes in the early genealogy of Genesis, often referred to in the sacred books, one of them located in Ethiopia (No. 1, below), and the other two in Arabia (Nos. 2 and 3 respectivelv);

(b) Heb. She'ba, שֶׁבִע, an oath, or seven, which is the name of two men, and also of a place (Nos. 4, 5, and 6, below). (See BEER-SHEBA).

1. (Sept. Σαβά v.r. Σαβάτ .) First named of the two sons of Raamah, son of Cush (Genesis 10:7; 1 Chronicles 1:9). B.C. post 2515. This Sheba settled somewhere on the shores of the Persian Gulf. In the Marasid (s.v.) there is found an identification which appears, to be satisfactory that on the island of Awal (one of the "Bahrein Islands") are the ruins of an ancient city called Seba. Viewed in connection with Raamah, and the other facts which we know respecting Sheba, traces of his settlements ought to be found on or near the shores of the gulf. It was this Sheba that carried on the great Indian traffic with Palestine in conjunction with, as we hold, the other. Sheba, son of Jokshan son of Keturah, who, like Dedan, appears to have formed with the Cushite of the same name one tribe the Cushites dwelling on the shores of the Persian Gulf, and carrying on the desert trade thence to Palestine in conjunction with the nomad Keturahite tribes, whose pasturages were mostly on the western frontier. The trade is mentioned by Ezekiel 27:22-23, in an unmistakable manner, and possibly by Isaiah 60:6, and Jeremiah 6:20, but these latter, we think, rather refer to the Joktanite Sheba. The predatory bands of the Sabaeans are mentioned in Job 1:15; Job 6:19, in a manner that recalls the forays of modern Bedawin (comp. Joel 3:8). Smith. (See ARABIA); (See DEDAN), etc.

2. (Sept. Σαβά v.r. Σαβεύ and Σαβάν .) Tenth named of the thirteen sons of Joktan son of the patriarch Eber (Genesis 10:28; 1 Chronicles 1:22). B.C. cir. 2350. H e seems to have been the founder and eponymous head of the Sabaeans (q.v.), and to have given his name to Sheba or Seba (q.v.), a district in Arabia Felix abounding in frankincense, spices, gold, and precious stones (Isaiah 60:6 Jeremiah 6:20; Psalms 72:15). From this region came the queen to see and converse with Solomon (1 Kings 10:1-13; 2 Chronicles 9:1-12; Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31). The. Sabaeans were celebrated for their great trade (Psalms 72:10; Ezekiel 27:22; Joel 3:8) and for plundering (Job 1:15; Job 6:19; comp. Strabo, 16:768-780; Abulfeda, p. 96). In the following detailed treatment of this name we introduce the illustrations of it from modern ethnographical, archaeological, and geographical sources.

It has been shown, in the art. ARABIA and other articles, that the Joktanites were among the early colonists of Southern Arabia, and that the kingdom which they there founded was, for many centuries, called the kingdom of Sheba, after one of the sons of Joktan. They appear to have been preceded by an aboriginal race, which the Arabian historians describe as a people of gigantic stature, who cultivated the land and peopled the deserts alike, living with the Jinn in the "deserted quarter," or, like the tribe of Thamud, dwelling in caves. This people correspond, in their traditions, to the aboriginal races of whom remains are found wherever a civilized nation has supplanted and dispossessed the ruder race. But, besides these extinct tribes, there are the evidences of Cushite settlers, who appear to have passed along the south coast from west to east, and who, probably, preceded the Joktanites and mixed with them when they arrived in the country.

Sheba seems to have been the name of the great South Arabian kingdom and the peoples which composed it, until that of Himyer took its place in later times. On this point much obscurity remains; but the Sabaeans are mentioned by Diod. Sic., who refers to the historical books of the kings of Egypt in the Alexandrian library, and by Eratosthenes, as well as Artemidorus, or Agatharchides (3, 38, 46), who is Strabo's chief authority; and the Homeritae or Himyerites are first mentioned by Strabo in the expedition of Aelius Gallus (B.C. 24). Nowhere earlier, in sacred or profane records, are the latter people mentioned, except by the Arabian historians themselves, who place Himyer very high in their list, and ascribe importance to his family from that early date. We have endeavored, in other articles, to show reasons for supposing that in this very name of Himyer we have the Red Man and the origin of Erythrus, Erythriean Sea, Phoenicians, etc. (See ARABIA); (See RED SEA).

The apparent difficulties of the case are reconciled by supposing, as M. Canssin de Perceval (Essai, 1, 54, 55) has done, that the kingdom and its people received the name of Sheba (Arabic, Seba), but that its chief and sometimes reigning family or tribe was that of Himyer; and that an old name was thus preserved until the foundation of the modern kingdom of Himyer or the Tubbaas, which M. Caussin is inclined to place (but there is much uncertainty about this date) about a century before our era, when the two great rival families of Himyer and Kahlan, together with smaller tribes, were united under the former. In support of the view that the name of Sheba applied to the kingdbm and its people as a generic or national name, we find in the Kamus "the name of Sebhi comprises the tribes of the Yemen in common" (s.v." Seba"); and this was written long after the later kingdom of Himyer had flourished and fallen. And, further, as Himyer meant the "Red Man," so, probably, did Seba. In Arabic the verb seba said of the sun, or of a journey, or of a fever means "it altered" a man, i.e. by turning him red; the noun seba, as well as siba and sebee-ah, signifies "wine" (Taj el-'Arus MS.). The Arabian wine was red; for we read "Kumeit is a name of wine, because there is in it blackness and redness" (Sihah MS.). It appears, then, that in Seba we very possibly have the oldest name of the Red Man whence came φοῖνιξ,' Himyer, and Erythrus.

We have assumed the identity of the Arabic Seba with Sheba (שְׂבָא ). The plur. form שְׁבָאַים corresponds with the Gr. Σαβαῖοι and the Lat. Saboei. Gesenius compares the Heb. with Ethiop. Sebe, "man." The Hebrew Shin is, in by far the greater number of instances, Sin in Arabic [see Gesen.]; and the historical, ethnological, and geographical circumstances of the case all require the identification.

In the Bible the Joktanite Sheba, mentioned genealogically in Genesis 10:28, recurs as a kingdom, in the account of the visit of the queen of Sheba to king Solomon, when she heard of his fame concerning the name of the Lord, and came to prove him with hard questions (1 Kings 10:1): "And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones" (1 Kings 10:2). Again, "She gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store, and precious stones: there came no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon" (1 Kings 10:10). She. was attracted by the fame of Solomon's wisidom, which she had heard in her own land; but the dedication of the Temple had recently been solemnized, and, no doubt, the people of Arabia were desirous to see this famous house. That the queen was of Sheba in Arabia, and not of Seba the Cushite kingdom of Ethiopia, is unquestionable. Josephus and some of the Rabbinical writers perversely, as usual, refer her to the latter; and the Ethiopian (or Abyssinian) Church has a convenient tradition to the same effect (comp. Josephus, Ant. 8, 6, 5; Ludolf, Hist. Ethiop. 2, 3; Harris. Abyasiie, 2, 105). Aben-Ezra (on Daniel 11:6), however, remarks that the queen of Sheba came from the Yemen, for she spoke an Ishmaelitic, or rather a Shemitic, language. The Arabs call her Bilkis (or Yelkamah or Balkamah; Ibn-Khaldun), a queen of the later Himyerites, who, if M. Caussin's chronological adjustments of the early history of the Yemen be correct, reigned in the 1st century of our mera (Essai, 1, 75, etc.); and an edifice at Ma-rib (Mariaba) still hears her name, while M. Fresnel read the name of "Alrnacah" or "Balmacah" in many of the Himyeritic inscriptions. The Arab story of this queen is, in the present state of our knowledge, altogether unhistorical and unworthy of credit; but the attempt to make her Solomon's queen of Sheba probably arose, as M. Caussin conjectures, from the latter being mentioned in the Koran without any name, and the commentators adopting Bilkis as the most ancient queen of Sheba in the lists of the Yemen. The Koran, as usual, contains a very poor version of the Biblical narrative, diluted with nonsense and encumbered with fables (27:24, etc.).

The other passages in the Bible which seem to refer to the Joktanite Sheba occur in Isaiah 60:6, where we read "All they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense," in conjunction with Midian, Ephah, Kedar, and Nebaioth. Here reference is made to the commerce that took the road from Sheba along the western borders of Arabia (unless, as is possible, the Cushite or Keturahite Sheba be meant); and again in Jeremiah 6:20, it is written "To what purpose cometh there, to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country?" (but comp. Ezekiel 27:22-23, and see below). On the other hand, in Psalms 62:10, the Joktanite Sheba is undoubtedly meant; for the kingdoms of Sheba and Seba are named together, and in Psalms 72:15 the gold of Sheba is mentioned. In Job 1:15; Job 6:19, the predatory habits of the Keturahite Sabaeans have been thought to be referred to, but these were later than our date of that book. We prefer to assign that passage, as well as Joel 3:8, which speaks of their kidnapping propensities, to the Joktanite tribe, with which the other seems to have coalesced. The fact of the chief and best ascertained settlement of the Sheba tribe being in the extreme south of the Arabian peninsula sufficiently explains the language used of the queen who came from thence to hear the wisdom of Solomon, that she was a queen of "the south," and "came from the uttermost parts of the earth," i.e. from the extremities of the then known world (Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31). The distance in a straight line could scarcely be under a thousand miles. On, the other hand, the fact that this was a queen seems to point to the Cushite Saba, or Meroe, the sovereigns of which are well known to have been chiefly or exclusively females. Later essays on the queen of Sheba's merits have been written by Rost (Bautz. 1782), Zeibich (Viteb. 1774), Schultens (Lugd. 1740), Norberg (Lond. and Goth. 1797). (See CANDACE).

The kingdom of Sheba embraced the greater part of the Yemen, or Arabia Felix. Its chief cities, and probably successive capitals, were Seba, San'a (Uzal), and Zafar. (Sephar). Seba was probably the name of the city, and. generally of the country and nation; but the statements of the Arabian writers are conflicting on this point, and they are not made clearer by the accounts of the classical geographers. Ma-rib was another name of the city, or of the fortress or royal palace in it: "Seba is a city known by the name of Ma-rib. three nights' journey from San'a" (Ez-Zejjaj, in the Tdj-el-'Arus MS.). Again, "Seba was the city of Marib (Mushtarak, s.v.), or the country in the Yemen, of which the city was Ma-rib" (Marasid, s.v.). Near Seba was the famous dike of El-'Arim, said by tradition to have been built by Lukman the Adite, to store water for the inhabitants of the place, and to avert the descent of the mountain torrents. The catastrophe of the rupture of this dike is an important point in Arab history, and marks the dispersion in the 2d century of the Joktanite tribes. This, like all we know, of Seb, points irresistibly to the great importance of the city as the ancient center of Joktanite power. Although, Uzal (which is said to be the existing San'a) has been supposed to be of earlier foundation, and Zafar (Sephar) was a royal residence, we cannot doubt that Seba was the most important of these chief towns of the Yemen. Its value, in the eyes of the old dynasties, is shown by their struggles to obtain and hold it; and it is narrated that it passed several times into the hands, alternately, of the so called Himyerites and the people of Hadramaut (Hazarmaveth). Eratosthenes, Artemidorus, Strabo, and Pliny speak of Mariaba; Diodorus, Agatharchides, Stephanus Byzant. of Saba (Σαβαί [Steph. Byzant.]; Σαβᾶς [Agath.]); Ptolemy (6, 7, § 30, 42), and Pliny (6, 23, § 34) mention Σάβη . But the first all say that Mariaba was the metropolis of the Sabaei; and we may conclude that both names applied to the same place one the city, the other its palace or fortress (though probably these writers were not aware of this fact) unless, indeed, the form Sabota (with the variants Sabatha, Sobatale, etc.) of Pliny (H.N. 6, 28, § 32) have reference to Shibam, capital of Hadramaut, and the name, also, of another, celebrated city, of which the Arabian writers (Marisid., s.v.) give curious accounts. The classics are generally agreed in ascribing to the Sabaei the chief riches, the best territory, and the greatest numbers of the four principal peoples of the Arabs which they name the Sabaei, Atramitae (=Hadramaut), Katabeni (=Kahtan=Joktan), and Minaei (for which (See DIKLAH) ). See Bochart (Phaleg, 26), and Muller (Geog. Min.), p. 186 sq.

The history of the Sabaeans has been,examined by M. Caussimi de Perceval (Essai sur l'Hist. des Arabes); but much reimaeins to be adjusted before its details can be received as trustworthy, the earliest safe chronological point being about the commencement of our era. An examination of the existing remains of Sabaean and Himyeritic cities and buildings will, it cannot be doubted, add more facts to our present knowledge; and a further acquaintance with the language, from inscriptions aided, as M. Fresnel believes, by an existing dialect, will probably give us some safe grounds for placing the building or mera of the dike. In the art. ARABIA it is stated that there are dates on the ruins of the dike, and the conclusions are given which De Sacy and Caussin have drawn from those dates and other indications respecting the date of the rupture of the dike, which forms, then, an important point in Arabian history; but it must be placed in the 2d century of our era, and the older era of the building is altogether unfixed, or, indeed, any date before the expedition of Elius Gallus. The ancient buildings are of massive masonry, and evidently of Cushite workmanship or origin. Later temples and palace temples, of which the Arabs give us descriptions, were probably of less massive character; but Sabaean art is an almost unknown and interesting subject of inquiry. The religion celebrated in those temples was cosmic; but this subject is too obscure and too little known to admit of discussion in this place. It may be necessary to observe that whatever connection there was in religion between the Sabaeans and the Sabians, there was none in name or in race. Respecting the latter the reader may consult Chwolson's Ssabiea, a work that may be recommended with more confidence than the same author's Nabathoean Agriculture. (See NEBAIOTH). Some curious papers have also appeared in the Journal of the German Oriental Society of Leipsic, by Dr. Osiander.

3. (Sept. Σαβά v.r. Σαβαϊ v and Σαβάν .) Elder of the two sons of Jokshan, one of Abraham's sons by Keturah (Genesis 25:3; 1 Chronicles 1:32). B.C. cir. 1980. He evidently settled somewhere in Arabia, probably on the eastern shore of the Arabian Gulf, where his posterity appear to, have. become incorporated with the earlier Sabaeans of the Joktanic branch.

4. (Sept. Σαβεέ v.r. Ἀβεέ ; Josephus Σαβαῖος , Ant. 7:11, 7.) The son of Bichri, a Benjamite from the mountains of Ephraim (2 Samuel 20:1-22), the last chief of the Absalom insurrection. B.C. 1023. He is described as a "man of Belial," which seems (See SHIMEI) to have been the usual term of invective cast to and fro between the two parties. But he must have been a person of some consequence, from the immense effect produced by his appearance. It was, in fact, all but an anticipation of the revolt of Jeroboam. It was not, as in the case of Absalom, a mere conflict between two factions in the court of Judah, but a struggle, arising out of that conflict, on the part of the tribe of Benjamin to recover its lost ascendency a struggle of which some indications had already been manifested in the excessive bitterness of the Benjamite Shimei. The occasion seized by Sheba was the emulation, as if from loyalty, between the northern and southern tribes on David's return. Through the ancient custom he summoned all the tribes to their tents;" and then and afterwards Judah alone remained faithful to the house of David (2 Samuel 20:1-2). The king might well say "Sheba the son of Bichri shall do us more harm than did Absalom" (2 Samuel 20:6). What he feared was Sheba's occupation of the fortified cities. This fear was justified by the result. Sheba traversed the whole of Palestine, apparently rousing the population, Joab: following him in full pursuit, and so deeply impressed with the gravity of the occasion that the murder even of the great Amasa was but a passing incident in the campaign. He stayed but for the moment of the deed, and "pursued after Sheba the son of Bichri." The mass of the army halted for an instant by the bloody corpse, and then they also "went on after Joab to pursue after Sheba the son of Bichri." It seems to have been his intention to establish himself in the fortress of Abel-Beth-maacah in the northernmost extremity of Palestine possibly allied to the cause of Absalom through his mother, Maacah, and famous for the prudence of its inhabitants (2 Samuel 20:18). That prudence was put to the test on the present occasion. Joab's terms were the head of the insurgent chief. A woman of the place undertook the mission to her city, and proposed the execution to her fellow citizens. The head of Sheba was thrown over the wall and the insurrection ended. (See DAVID).

5. (Sept.' Σεβεέ v.r. Σοβαθέ .) A chief Gadite resident in Bashan in the reign of Jeroboam II (1 Chronicles 5:13). B.C. 781.

6. (Sept. Σαμαά v.i. Σαβεέ .) One of the towns of the allotment of Simeon (Joshua 19:2). It occurs between Beer-sheba and Moladah. In the list of the cities of the south of Judah, out of which those of Simeon were selected, no Sheba appears apart from Beer-sheba; but there is a Shema (15:26), which stands next to Moladah and which is probably the Sheba in question. This suggestion is supported by the reading of the Vatican copy of the Sept. The change from b to m is an easy one both in speaking and in writing, and in their other letters the words are identical. Some have supposed that the name Sheba is a mere repetition of the latter portion of the preceding name, Beer-sheba by the common error called homoiotelewton and this is supported by the facts that the number of names given in 19:2-6 is, including Sheba, fourteen, though the number stated is thirteen; and that in the list of Simeon of 1 Chronicles (4:28) Sheba is entirely omitted. Gesenius suggests that the words in 19:2 may be rendered "Beer-sheba, the town, with Sheba, the well;" but this seems forced, and is, besides, inconsistent with the fact that the list is a list of "cities" (Thesaur. p. 1355 a, where other suggestions are cited). (See SHEMA).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Sheba,'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/s/sheba.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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