Monday, March 7, 2016

King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba

Based on popular lore, when people think of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, they envision a romance of epic proportions. The true nature of their relationship, however, is far from clear. 

The visit of the Queen of Sheba is recorded twice in scripture, first in I Kings 10 and then in II Chronicles 9. The two accounts mirror each other. The basic story goes like this: When the Queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s great wisdom and wealth, she traveled to Jerusalem with a great entourage and an enormous number  of presents. When the two met, they spoke at great length. “She spoke with him of all that was in her heart” (10:2). Solomon answered all of her inquiries and showed her his palace. The text then records that he showed her his household staff and, it seems, how well cared for they were. After seeing it all, the Queen admitted that she had not originally believed what she had heard said of Solomon , but now that she had seen that it was true and then some, she praised him, lavished him with gifts, accepted gifts  herself  and then returned to her own land. 

The first source describing her visit states that she came to test him with riddles. The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Divrei Hayamim II 1085) lists the riddles she asked and the answers that Solomon gave. When the great wisdom of Solomon is discussed, stories of the Queen of Sheba’s admiration are often included.

Much folklore is recorded about the relationship. According to Ethiopian tradition, Solomon and the Queen had a son, Menalik, who became the first king of Ethiopia. Some Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jews) believe that their people are the descendants of this union as well. Alas, any written records from so long ago have been lost to time. The full extent of the relationship between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, however, is now left to the imagination.

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