Sheba, Queen of

Both Jewish and African traditions include stories about the Queen of Sheba. The ruler of a wealthy nation in southern Arabia, the queen had heard tales about the great wisdom of Solomon, king of the Hebrews. Curious, she decided to go to Jerusalem to meet him.

According to the book of Kings in the Bible, the queen arrived in Jerusalem and asked King Solomon a series of difficult questions. He responded wisely to each one. The queen presented Solomon with many gifts and returned to her home.

In an African version of the story, the Queen of Sheba is an Ethiopian ruler named Makeda. She traveled to Jerusalem to visit Solomon. She was so impressed by his wisdom that she gave up her religion and adopted Judaism. After six months, Makeda told Solomon she wanted to return home. The king gave her a ring to remember him. He also told her that if she became pregnant and had a male child, her child would become king of Ethiopia.

Nine months later, Makeda bore a son whom she named Menelik. When Menelik was a young man, she sent him to Jerusalem to visit his father. Solomon recognized the young man as his son because of the resemblance between them. Solomon embraced and blessed Menelik, who became the king of Ethiopia and the legendary ancestor of later Ethiopian kings.

See also African Mythology ; Semitic Mythology .

Piero Delia Francesca's painting of the mid-1450s illustrates the meeting of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon in Jerusalem.

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