The Queen of Sheba

The Queen of Sheba is mentioned only briefly in the Bible, in the Book of Kings. Nonetheless, she has become a household name.

The Queen of Sheba reigned in Ethiopia at the time when King Solomon, son of David, ruled over Israel. The Queen was intrigued by Solomon’s ways, and decided to travel to meet him personally: “Arriving in Jerusalem with an enormous caravan, camels laden with spices and immense quantities of gold and precious jewels, she came to Solomon and talked to him about all that she had in mind.” (Kings 10:2)

For the Queen to travel cross-country for someone else meant that the meeting was one of vital importance. The Queen had heard word of Solomon’s excellence in kingship, but was overwhelmed by what she encountered: “Until I came and saw with my own eyes, I did not believe them … Your wisdom and wealth surpass everything I was told … Praise God, Your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel!” (Kings 10:6-9)

It was known that Solomon loved women. He had a harem of seven hundred wives, as well as three hundred concubines. The Queen of Sheba’s motivations for meeting the King went beyond the acquisition of knowledge and business dealings. Her visit to the King, although being diplomatic in intention, progressed to a sexual encounter.

It is clear that the establishment of trade routes between the two countries was an outcome of their meeting. The Incense Road, which was established in 1000 B.C.E., began in Southern Arabia and ended in Israel. Its continuation across to Egypt, Syria and Ethiopia relied upon King Solomon’s concession. The Queen’s gifts of spices were indicative of her intentions to ratify the trade route with the King.

As a result of their encounter, the Queen of Sheba gave birth to King Solomon’s son, whom she called Menelik I. The birth paved the way for future dealings between Israel and Ethiopia, binding the nations together by blood.

According to legend, when the Queen left King Solomon he gave her a ring engraved with the lion of Judah, signifying Israel. It was said to have sacred powers. The ring was intended for their child, to be passed down through the generations. The ring was eventually given to Emperor Haile Selassie, known as Ras Tafari, in 1930. His people considered him as the last in a long line of the Divine incarnate, beginning with Abraham.

The Queen of Sheba’s relationship with King Solomon established a link between Jews and Ras Tafarians, who embrace the Star of David with their own symbol. According to some, the legendary Ras Tafarian Bob Marley was given King Solomon’s ring by Haile Selassie’s son upon the death of the Emperor. It is said that Marley was buried wearing the ring.