Yesterday I wrote about King Solomon and his points of success. One those points mentioned the fabled Queen of Sheba, so today I’m wondering……Did she really exist?
What proof do we have?
She’s mentioned, of course, in the Bible in 1 Kings 10: 1-13 and 2 Chronicles 9: 1-12. The story goes she had heard tales of King Solomon’s wisdom and wanted to see it in action for herself. She travelled to meet him and tested him with many questions. She brought with her gifts of precious stones, spices, and gold. In fact, the Bible states she brought 4.5 tons of gold with her.
The trip was worth it I guess because she was awed by his wisdom and his wealth. She pronounced a blessing upon Solomon’s God. In return King Solomon gave the Queen of Sheba extravagant gifts. Some Bible scholars believe the Song of Solomon describes the love King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba shared.
She’s also mentioned in the Qur’an, and throughout Ethiopian history. The Queen of Sheba has many names throughout these sources including Makeda, Bilqis, Nikaule, and Nicaula. Jewish historian Josephus wrote of the Queen’s love of learning while Origen and Jerome, early church fathers identify her as a queen of black nationality.
Depending on which archeologist you prefer it is believed her kingdom, if it did exist, was located in present day Ethiopia, Yemen, or Eritrea. The Imperial family of Ethiopia claims its origin directly from the offspring of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
There are some historians who think long ago in Ethiopia’s history a group of Semitic-speaking South Arabians migrated across the Red Sea and intermarried with non-Semitic peoples. Evidence of this is connected to the fact that the African kingdom of Aksum ruled a large area of Southern Arabia including Yemen. This kingdom was very powerful until the rise of Islam in the 7th century. Further support of this comes from the knowledge that the languages of Southern Arabia and some of the dialects spoken in Ethiopia are both known as South Semetic languages.
Archaeological evidence includes ancient Sabaean inscriptions using the old South Arabian alphabet, but this scenario is still heavily debated.
There is no archaeological evidence to date that has been directly linked to a monarch known as the Queen of Sheba, and even when new discoveries are made everyone is careful about making definitive links. In this 1999 BBC article artifacts and structures are authenticated, but links to the legendary queen are not forthcoming.
A fantastic article by Michael Wood can be found here titled The Queen of Sheba.
So, I guess we’ll just keep wondering.
The painting with this post was completed in 1648 by Claude Lorrain. Its formal title is Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba