Who Is the Queen of Sheba in the Bible?

Investigating the Queen of Sheba and her kingdom

queen-of-sheba

Who is the Queen of Sheba in the Bible? Here is one artist’s depiction of the Queen of Sheba. It comes from the Medieval manuscript Bellifortis by Conrad Kyeser and dates to c. 1405.

Who is the Queen of Sheba? In the Bible we are introduced to an unnamed queen from the land of Sheba who travels to Jerusalem to meet King Solomon (see 1 Kings 10; 2 Chronicles 9). Accompanied by many attendants and camels, the Queen of Sheba brings a large quantity of spices, gold and precious stones with her. She is drawn to Jerusalem because of Solomon’s fame, and she tests the king with hard questions. Solomon is able to answer them all.

Impressed by Solomon’s wisdom—and by the riches of his kingdom—she proclaims, “Your wisdom and prosperity far surpass the report that I had heard” (1 Kings 10:7). The Queen of Sheba gives King Solomon 120 talents of gold, precious stones and the largest quantity of spices ever brought to Jerusalem (1 Kings 10:10). In return King Solomon gives the Queen of Sheba gifts and “every desire that she expressed” (1 Kings 10:13). After receiving these gifts, the queen returns to the land of Sheba with her retinue.

The Biblical account of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon ends there, but later Jewish, Christian and Islamic sources have elaborated the story—adding details to the famous queen’s visit. In his article “Where Is the Land of Sheba—Arabia or Africa?” published in the September/October 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Bar Kribus investigates the location of the land of Sheba and looks at the figure of the Queen of Sheba—both in the Bible and in a text called the Kebra Nagast.
 


 
The religion section of most bookstores includes an amazing array of Bibles. In our free eBook The Holy Bible: A Buyer’s Guide, prominent Biblical scholars Leonard Greenspoon and Harvey Minkoff expertly guide you through 21 different Bible translations (or versions) and address their content, text, style and religious orientation.
 


 
Dated between the 6th–14th centuries C.E., the Kebra Nagast (The Glory of Kings) is an important text to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It names the Queen of Sheba as the beautiful queen Makeda and identifies the land of Sheba as ancient Ethiopia. Kribus thoroughly examines the latter claim in his article “Where Is the Land of Sheba—Arabia or Africa?”

According to the Kebra Nagast, Queen Makeda travels to Jerusalem and has a love affair with King Solomon. Makeda then returns to the land of Sheba—giving birth to a son, Menelik, along the way. Menelik is raised in Ethiopia, but when he turns 22, he travels to Jerusalem to meet his father. King Solomon is delighted with his firstborn son and tries in vain to convince Menelik to remain in Israel and succeed him as king. However, Menelik chooses to return to the land of Sheba. Solomon sends the firstborn sons of Israel’s elders with his son from Israel to Ethiopia, and the Ark of the Covenant travels with them. To this day, many Ethiopians believe that the Ark of the Covenant resides within the Chapel of the Tablet next to the Church of Maryam Tsion in Aksum, Ethiopia.

maryam-sion-in-axum

Is this the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant? Many Ethiopians believe that the Ark of the Covenant resides within the Chapel of the Tablet next to the Church of Maryam Tsion in Aksum, Ethiopia. They believe that the Ark traveled with Solomon’s firstborn son, Menelik, from Jerusalem to the land of Sheba. Where is the land of Sheba? According to the Kebra Nagast, it is ancient Ethiopia. Photo: “Maryam Sion in Axum Nebenbau Mit Der Bundeslade 2010” by Jensis65 is licensed under CC-by-SA-3.0

Ethiopians claim the Queen of Sheba as part of their heritage, and through her union with King Solomon, Ethiopians also claimed a connection between their kings and the Davidic monarchy of Israel. Bar Kribus explains: “Their [Ethiopian] kings were seen as direct descendants of the House of David, rulers by divine right.”
 


 
With 11 rock-hewn churches, Lalibela, Ethiopia, is understandably a place of pilgrimage for those in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Explore Lalibela’s spectacular subterranean churches in a web-exclusive slideshow >>
 


 
But is the land of Sheba truly ancient Ethiopia, as purported by the Kebra Nagast? Archaeological and historical sources document a Kingdom of Saba (Sheba) during Biblical times in modern-day Yemen. Those in ancient Ethiopia were fully aware of the Kingdom of Saba in southern Arabia—and sometimes even appropriated aspects of their culture.

solomon-queen-of-sheba

The Queen of Sheba and King Solomon: Another depiction of the Queen of Sheba is seen in Giovanni Demin’s 19th-century painting Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, which shows the meeting of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon.

Where is the land of Sheba? Is it in Africa or Arabia? Bar Kribus wades through history, archaeology, tradition and legend as he pieces together the story of the Queen of Sheba and investigates the land of Sheba. Who has the rightful claim to the Queen of Sheba? Read Kribus’s surprising conclusion in “Where Is the Land of Sheba—Arabia or Africa?” in the September/October 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

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BAS Library Members: Read the full article “Where Is the Land of Sheba—Arabia or Africa?” by Bar Kribus in the September/October 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.
 


 

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

The Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela

Expedition Claims Evidence of Queen of Sheba Found in Ethiopia

Ancient Jerusalem: The Village, the Town, the City
 


 
This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on August 31, 2016.
 


 

Posted in The Ancient Near Eastern World.

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  • patricia says

    I ordered the Bar. I got the big package. This was last winter. I was to get a magazine every time one came out. I have only gotten 3. I have sent email after email on this. Even called on the phone. Not worth my hassle. The money I paid for this was a rip off. I’m not the only one with the problem. I have read others having same problems not getting what we paid for. The Bar is a rip off and I highly recommend you buy from book stores the Bar magazines. Sorry to be giving them a bad rep. But if I can save another problems I had. Then I will.

  • Darlene says

    This was a great read,,,,but I’m still scratching my head. LOL for you see, I came hear to hopefully understand why as a young child I gave my oldest sister this nickname?! in my young eyes I saw her as a mean and extremely bossy “Queen a Sheba!!!” lol. kids,,,,go figure!!! so now my sister is about to turn 60 years old, still as bossy as ever!! LOL I love her so much!!! (I am surprised to hear that about the Queen and King Solomon!!! I will dig deeper into that whole thing, THANK YOU!!! Sincerely, Darlene 9/20/18

  • Mike says

    Thank you for for rich understanding! Today i’am Reading Matt, and see where the Queen of Sheba was mentioned by Jesus! Beautiful workThank you! Mike Hendon Sparks Nevada 8/14/18

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