Bilqis

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The Queen of Sheba was a sovereign that met with King Solomon of Israel. Her story is recounted in Surah 27 of the Qur'an, the First Book of Kings, the Second Book of Chronicles, and the Ethiopian Kebra Nagast. Although she is left unnamed in the Qur'an and the Bible, she is known as Bilqis or Balqis (بلقيس) in Islamic tradition, and she is known as Makeda in Ethiopian tradition.

Biography[edit]

Qur'annic account[edit]

The great King Solomon had command over people, jinn, and animals. A hoopoe bird delivered to Solomon information of the Queen of Sheba, her great throne, and the idolatry of its people. Solomon wrote a letter to the Queen of Sheba calling her to join him in submission to God or face the possibility of war.

Sheba received the letter, but conferred with her advisors. Her advisors reminded her that she possessed a strong army and told her that they would the final decision rests with her and that they would follow her orders. Sheba understood that war was a costly option, so she sent Solomon a gift.

She said, 'O Council, see, a letter honourable has been cast unto me.

'It is from Solomon, and it is "In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

"Rise not up against me, but come to me in surrender."'

She said, 'O Council, pronounce to me concerning my affair; I am not used to decide an affair until you bear me witness.'

They said, 'We possess force and we possess great might. The affair rests with thee; so consider what thou wilt command.'

She said, 'Kings, when they enter a city, disorder it and make the mighty ones of its inhabitants abased. Even so they too will do.

'Now I will send them a present, and see what the envoys bring back.'

— Surah 27:29–35 (Arberry)

Solomon dismissed the gift, saying that God's love is better than material wealth. He sent a new message announcing that he would enter Sheba with his army.

Solomon then had a jinn retrieve the throne of the Queen of Sheba, and the jinn moved the throne into Solomon's possession within a blink of an eye. They disguised the throne as a test.

The Queen of Sheba arrived to speak to Solomon, and she recognized her throne.

Solomon permitted the Queen to enter his palace. The palace's floors were made of glass, and the Queen of Sheba mistaken it for water, lifting her skirt to avoid her clothes becoming wet. Solomon then informed her that the floors were made of glass.

The Queen of Sheba then submitted to God.

She said, My Lord, indeed I have wronged myself, and I surrender with Solomon to God, the Lord of all Being.

— Surah 27:44 (Arberry)

Biblical account[edit]

The Queen of Sheba learns of Solomon's greatness and visits him. She arrived in Jerusalem with a large caravan filled with goods, including spices, gold, and precious stones. The Queen of Sheba tested Solomon with questions, and Solomon proved to be extremely wise and knowledgeable. She also witnessed the greatness of his palace, his feasts, his servants, and the stairway to the Temple.

The Queen was struck with awe and told Solomon about how impressed she was and how God must've made Solomon king for Israel's benefit.

The report which I heard in my own land about your words and wisdom is true! I did not believe the report until I came and saw it with my own eyes. Behold, the half of it was not told to me. You exceed in wisdom and prosperity the report which I heard. How blessed (fortunate, happy) are your men! How blessed are these your servants who stand continually before you, hearing your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel forever, He made you king to execute justice and righteousness.

— 1 Kings 10:6–10:9 (AMP)

The report which I heard in my own land regarding your [accomplishments and your] words and your wisdom was true, but I did not believe the reports until I came and saw it with my own eyes. Behold, the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told to me; you have surpassed the report that I heard. Blessed and fortunate are your people, how blessed and fortunate are these servants of yours who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God, who delighted in you, setting you on His throne as king for the Lord your God; because your God loved Israel, establishing them forever, therefore He made you king over them, to do justice and righteousness.

— 2 Chronocles 9:5–9:8 (AMP)

She then gave Solomon a large quantity of gold, spices, and precious stones. Solomon then gave the Queen of Sheba many goods in return.

The Kebra Nagast[edit]

Meeting and conversion[edit]

Solomon sought traders in order to obtain materials to built the Temple with. Solomon invited Tamrin, a caravan leader, merchant, and subject of Queen Makeda of Sheba, to Israel to do business. Tamrin went to Israel and met with the King. He learned of Solomon's greatness and wisdom, returned to Sheba (Ethiopia), and told the Queen about Solomon.

The Queen of Sheba was extremely intrigued and ought to meet Solomon. She understood how dear wisdom was, believing it to better than gold or silver. God also intervened to push the Queen into meeting with Solomon: God had made her heart incline to go and had made her to desire it (E.A. Wallis Budge).

The Queen, her noble subjects, and her servants then journeyed to Israel to met with Solomon. She arrived in Jerusalem and gave Solomon many gift, and the Solomon was magnanimous towards his royal guest. There was feasting, and he gave the Queen new outfits.

The Queen recognized and was awe-struck by Solomon's wisdom and grace. He also witness Solomon command those working on the Temple. Solomon also commanded beasts, birds, and spirits. All of Solomon's talents were granted to him by God, and Solomon sought wisdom and to build God's Temple above victory in battle or wealth.

The Queen told Solomon about how impressed she was of him, wishing that she was one of his maids so that she could tend to him and hear his wisdom. She thanked God for allowing her to meet Solomon.

Solomon then told The Queen that he owed his wisdom to God and that he was a servant of God. Solomon continued to share his wisdom, and the Queen asked if her people should abandon idolatry and the worship of the Sun and worship God instead.

Solomon answered, saying that yes, they should stop worshiping the Sun and worship God instead, since God created everything, including the Sun and the Moon, possesses power over life and death, deal punishment or show compassion, rise up the poor and the meek, and more.

The Queen then decided to abandon idolatry and worship God, and she pledged her descendants and people to the worship of God.

From this moment I will not worship the sun, but will worship the Creator of the sun, the God of ISRAEL. And that Tabernacle of the God of ISRAEL shall be unto me my Lady, and unto my seed after me, and unto all my kingdoms that are under my dominion. And because of this I have found favour before thee, and before the God of ISRAEL my Creator, Who hath brought me unto thee, and hath made me to hear thy voice, and hath shown me thy face, and hath made me to understand thy commandment.

— The Kebra Nagast (E.A. Wallis Budge)

Love[edit]

The Queen and Solomon grew close to each other and visited each other often. The Queen stayed in Jerusalem for six months; then she asked to leave in order to fulfill her duties to her people.

I desire greatly to dwell with thee, but now, for the sake of all my people, I wish to return to my own country. And as for that which I have heard, may God make it to bear fruit in my heart, and in the hearts of all those who have heard it with me. For the ear could never be filled with the hearing of thy wisdom, and the eye could never be filled with the sight of the same.

— The Kebra Nagast (E.A. Wallis Budge)

However, Solomon sought to have her:

A woman of such splendid beauty hath come to me from the ends of the earth! What do I know? Will God give me seed in her?

— The Kebra Nagast (E.A. Wallis Budge)

Solomon possessed many wives of many nationalities, which he saw as a mean of fulfilling God's will.

And he had four hundred queens and six hundred concubines. Now this which he did was not for [the sake of] fornication, but as a result of the wise intent that God had given unto him, and his remembering what God had said unto ABRAHAM, I will make thy seed like the stars of heaven for number, and like the sand of the sea. And SOLOMON said in his heart, What do I know? Peradventure God will give me men children from each one of these women. Therefore when he did thus he acted wisely, saying, My children shall inherit the cities of the enemy, and shall destroy those who worship idols.

— The Kebra Nagast (E.A. Wallis Budge)

Solomon sought to have the Queen remain with him and convinced the Queen that she still had a lot to learn and needed to remain with him in order to learn. Solomon then brought the Queen to a special room adorned with special decorations and perfumes, and served her food that made her thirsty. Solomon and the Queen were then alone with each other, and Solomon asked for sex, and the Queen asked to not be taken by force.

Solomon agreed on the condition that the Queen not steal anything from his house by force. They agreed to each others' proposals.

The Queen was thirsty due to Solomon's plan and took a bowl filled with water while Solomon pretended to sleep. Solomon grabbed her, stating that she was about to break her promise by taking the water. The Queen was extremely thirsty and agreed to release Solomon from his oath in exchange for being released from her oath not to take anything from Solomon. She drank the water, and then they then had intercourse with each other.

Solomon's dream and the Queen's departure[edit]

After the sex, Solomon had a prophetic dream where the light of the Lord, representing the Ark of the Covenant, moved from Israel to Sheba (Ethiopia). Solomon waited to see if the light would return to Israel but it remained in Sheba. Then a new, stronger light, representing the Messiah, descended upon Judah.

Solomon awoke, unsettled by the dream. He then saw the figure of the Queen of Sheba, beautiful and defiled despite the intercourse.

And moreover, SOLOMON marvelled concerning the Queen, for she was vigorous in strength, and beautiful of form, and she was undefiled in her virginity; and she had reigned for six years in her own country, and, notwithstanding her gracious attraction and her splendid form, had preserved her body pure.

— The Kebra Nagast (E.A. Wallis Budge)

The Queen of Sheba asked for permission to leave, and this time, Solomon granted it and bestowed many gifts upon her. Solomon also gave him a ship to transverse the sea and a God-inspired ship to transverse the sky.

As the Queen was setting off, Solomon gave her a ring as a token and so that he would recognize any child from their union as his. He also advise the Queen to follow God and not stray from Him.

Menelik[edit]

As she journeyed home, The Queen of Sheba gave birth to Solomon's son and named him Bayna-Lehkem (Menelik). She arrived home and brought the way of God into Sheba (Ethiopia). The Queen also changed the law of Sheba. Previously, only maidens may reign, but now only men shall reign.

Now there was a law in the country of ETHIOPIA that [only] a woman should reign, and that she must be a virgin who had never known man, but the Queen said [unto SOLOMON], Henceforward a man who is of thy seed shall reign, and a woman shall nevermore reign; only seed of thine shall reign and his seed after him from generation to generation.

— The Kebra Nagast (E.A. Wallis Budge)

Thus, the legitimacy of Ethiopian monarchs is based upon their descent from Solomon.

When Menelik was twelve years old, he inquired about his origins, and the Queen told him that King Solomon was his father. Menelik then asked to meet his father, but the queen feared for Menelik's health and sought to discourage him. Menelik repeated the request several times, but the Queen still sought to dissuade him.

Menelik grew and greatly resembled Solomon. By age 22, he had become a great warrior and hunter. He announced that he would visit his father, and the Queen relented. She order Tamri to prepare for Menelik's journey, and she gathered gifts for Solomon. The Queen then gave Menelik Solomon's ring, and she made him promise to return as quickly as possible.

She also ordered Tamri to request that Solomon anoint Menelik as the King of Ethiopia.

[Solomon,] take this young man, anoint him, consecrate him, and bless him, and make him king over our country, and give him the command that a woman shall never again reign [in this country], and send him back in peace.

— The Kebra Nagast (E.A. Wallis Budge)

Menelik returns[edit]

Menelik journeyed to Israel, met Solomon, was anointed King of Ethiopia, and returned home with the Ark of the Covenant. The Queen thanked God. They placed the Ark in the city of Dabra Makeda. The Queen then gave her son gifts had the nobility pledge themselves to Menelik:

Speak ye now, and swear ye by the heavenly ZION that ye will not make women queens or set them upon the throne of the kingdom of ETHIOPIA, and that no one except the male seed of DAVID, the son of SOLOMON the King, shall ever reign over ETHIOPIA, and that ye will never make women queens.

— The Kebra Nagast (E.A. Wallis Budge)

She then made Elmeyas and Azaryas the head priests of the kingdom. The Queen then handed command of the kingdom to Menelik.

Take [the kingdom]. I have given [it] unto thee. I have made King him whom God hath made King, and I have chosen him whom God hath chosen as the keeper of His Pavilion. I am well pleased with him whom God hath been Pleased to make the envoy of the Tabernacle of His Covenant and His Law. I have magnified him whom God hath magnified [as] the director of His widows, and I have honoured him whom God hath honoured [as] the giver of food to orphans.

— The Kebra Nagast (E.A. Wallis Budge)

Menelik said that he would still respect her. The Queen then had Elmeyas and Azariah promise to teach Menelik the way of God, and she had Menelik promise to learn from them.

After reciting the laws of God, Azariah anointed Menelik King of Ethiopia.

Campaigns[edit]

The Ethiopians used the Ark in war like the Israelites before them, and the Queen was with them. Ethiopia defeated its enemies, and Menelik received gifts from Egypt, Midian, and India.