Queen of Sheba

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Solomon receives the Queen of Sheba. Painting by Giovanni Demin

The Queen of Sheba ( Hebrew מַלְכַּת שְׁבָא Malkat Shebah ) is a biblical figure who is said to have made a trip to the court of King Solomon in Jerusalem in the 10th century BC . Except in the Old Testament , the earliest written mention, it also appears in the Koran and in Ethiopian legends, but not in sources from ancient Saba in today's Yemen . Whether her empire actually lay there or in the region around Aksum in Ethiopia is therefore just as unclear as the question of whether the legendary queen had a historical person as a model.

Biblical sources

In the Old Testament history books there are references in the 1st Book of Kings (approx. 6th century BC) and in the 2nd book of the Chronicles (approx. 5th century BC). The queen learns of King Solomon's wisdom and goes to his court in Jerusalem to check what she has heard. Overwhelmed by what she sees, she gives him "a hundred and twenty quintals of gold and a great deal of spices and precious stones".

In the New Testament , the Queen of Sheba is referred to as "Queen of the South". In the end times she is to appear again to bear testimony about the people in judgment (Mt 12:42; Lk 11:31).

Jewish sources

In Josephus it is called Queen of the South, Queen of Ethiopia which the seeds of the incense tree according Palestine brought ( Antiquitates Judaicae 2 249 .., 94 AD).

In Targum Sheni (probably 8th century AD), based on the Talmud , the biblical story is supplemented by older oral traditions. Here Solomon appears as the lord of the animals, to whom a hoopoe conveys the news of a fabulously rich Queen of Sheba.

Arabic-Islamic sources

Further information about the Queen of Sheba, who is highly valued in Islam because of her wisdom, can be found in the Koran ( sura 27 , verses 22-44) and from the authors al-Tabari , al-Tha'alabi and al-Kisa'i . In the Islamic culture it bears the name Arabic بلقيس, DMG Bilqīs (other common transcription Bilkis or Balkis , also Aziz ). (The extinct Yemen gazelle ( Gazella bilkis ) is named after her.)

Ethiopian sources

The Queen of Sheba, Ethiopian fresco

The legend of the queen is of particular importance in Ethiopian history. It is recorded in the 14th century in Aksum in the work The Glory of the Kings ( Kebra Nagast ). The queen is called Mâkedâ and is said to have visited Solomon in Jerusalem. She is said to have fathered Menelik , the progenitor of the Ethiopian kings, with him . It is also said that Menelik later traveled to Jerusalem himself and from there abducted the ark with the two tablets of the Ten Commandments to Ethiopia. The Solomonids dynasty , which ruled Ethiopia from 1270 to 1975, was based on this connection between Makeda and Solomon. The last Abyssinian Emperor , Haile Selassie , described himself as the 225th successor to the son of the Queen of Sheba.

Historicity of the Queen of Sheba

It remains to be seen whether the Queen of Sheba really existed, as no mention of the queen has been found in Sabaean inscriptions from this period. As a biblical narrative , the origins can also go back to older traditions of Canaanite , Chaldean or Sumerian mythology. There is evidence that there were Arab queens, e.g. B. Zabibê, Queen of Aribi from 744 to 727 BC The written biblical text probably came into being between the 7th and 6th centuries BC. It is conceivable that King Solomon had connections to an Arab queen, but that the name Saba was added to emphasize the importance of Solomon through the connection with the then flourishing Sabaean empire . According to another theory, the story of the Queen of Sheba is based on a holy wedding . That would explain in particular why the Christian Ethiopians infer the origin of their ruling house from an illegitimate relationship between Makeda and Solomon, from which the legendary King Menelik I emerged .


The asteroid Bilkis was named after the figure.


In the oratorio in three parts Solomon (German: Salomo or Salomon ; HWV 67) by Georg Friedrich Handel , the entry of the Queen of Sheba is the introduction to the 3rd act.

The libretto is essentially based on the 1st Book of Kings ( 1 Kings 1-11 ) and the Chronicles ( 2 Chr 1-9 ). The Antiquitates Judaicae by the Jewish historian Flavius ​​Josephus , which describes the visit of the “Queen of Egypt and Ethiopia” to Jerusalem, was used for the section on the “Queen of Sheba” .

Karl Goldmark's opera, entitled The Queen of Sheba , premiered in 1875. The libretto is also based on the 1st Book of Kings.

Ottorino Respighi : Belkis, regina di Saba (Eng. Belkis, Queen of Saba; 1931). Ballet in 7 pictures. Libretto: Claudio Guastalla. Premiere 1932 Milan (Teatro alla Scala)

Cheb Khaled describes his beloved Aïcha in the song of the same name Aïcha as "Reine de Saba" (Queen of Sheba)

Christian visual art

The Queen finds the future cross beam - The Queen before Solomon. Fresco by Piero della Francesca in S. Francesco in Arezzo, around 1460

The depiction of the Queen paying homage to Solomon has been incorporated into Christian iconography because it was typologically related to the Three Wise Men worshiping the Infant Jesus (example: Klosterneuburg Altar). Medieval legends also assign it a place in the prehistory of the discovery of the cross : on the way to Solomon, she recognizes a beam placed over a stream as the future wood of the cross.

Pop Culture

In the American television series American Gods , which is based on the novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman , the Queen of Sheba appears in the form of the goddess of love Bilquis, played by the Nigerian actress Yetide Badaki .


In the American monumental film Salomon and the Queen of Sheba (1959) directed by King Vidor , the Queen was played by Gina Lollobrigida .


Web links

Commons : Queen of Sheba  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. 1 Kings 10.1-13  EU
  2. 2 Chr 9,1-12  EU
  3. http://www.koran-auf-deutsch.de/27-die-ameisen-naml
  4. Daum: Queen of Sheba . Pp. 82-96.
  5. Lange: Queen of Sheba as the Canaanite goddess of love. (PDF; 310 kB) In: Hahn, Spittler: Afrika , pp. 274–277.
  6. Ant. VIII. 6, 5-6.
  7. Pictures: Queen of Sheba before Solomon and the Three Wise Men