A Queen In Search of Wisdom

Originally published Monday, 10 March 2014.

Women have a knack of being mysterious, but perhaps none so well as the Queen of Sheba. She is a woman surrounded in adventure, wealth, and legendary tales; but what does the Bible really say about her? What historical evidence outside of the Bible has been discovered and what can we learn from this woman of the Bible?

First, where did the Queen of Sheba hail?

Queen of Sheba came from modern day Yemen (South Arabia) and was the queen leader of the Sabeans (or Sabean Civilization). Sheba was known as a kingdom ruled by queens.

She is mentioned in the Koran and also in Ethiopian history, specifically the area of Seba or Meroe. One explanation for this is that her wealthy kingdom, the wealthiest in the Ancient East, extended to the Horn of Africa in the land of Seba. Seba and the region of Ethiopia is known even today for its frankincense industry. Perhaps this is where the Queen harvested the frankincense as a gift for Solomon? However, even today Yemen is also known for its Frankincense industry so the ties of the Queen of Sheba to Meroe or Ethiopia are unclear at best.

Here is a wonderful documentary to learn more.

Why did she travel to Israel?

The Queen of Sheba was a Gentile queen of a pagan nation. We can read in scripture that she was attracted by the fame of Solomon’s wisdom and wealth. She associated this wisdom with the Name of Jehovah (1 Kings 10:1). Next, she came to learn. She came with questions to test the king. Her questions for the wise king most likely concerned trade, agriculture, industry, kingdom rule, and a host of other questions which we can only speculate about (i.e. creation, his God …).

What did the Queen of Sheba's quest uncover?

After viewing the riches of Solomon’s kingdom, the efficiency and efficacy with which it was run, the rulings of this wise king, and listening to the answers to all of her questions, the Queen of Sheba proclaims that she had only heard the half of what she now witnessed of this man and his kingdom. (1 Kings 10:4-9)

What gifts did the Queen of Sheba bring King Solomon?

Spices, gold and jewels. (1 Kings 10:2, 10) Two of the spices that the Queen of Sheba bestowed on Solomon were frankincense and myrrh. Both were used for medicinal purposes. Frankincense was also used in the sacred incense (Exodus 30:34-38; Lev. 2:2) and myrrh was used for perfume and for embalming the dead. Theses spices along with gold were also presented to Jesus by the wise men from eastern lands. (Matthew 2:1-11)

Today we too can offer gifts such as these to the giver of all wisdom, God.

  • Consider our offering of fragrant spices as outlined in 2 Corinthians 2:15.
  • Jewels: "Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies." (Proverbs 31:10)
  • Gold: "These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold--though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world". (1 Peter 1:7)

The parallels for the Gentiles coming to salvation in Christ Jesus are seen in the account of the Queen of Sheba as well as the wise men's visit to Jesus. The Queen of Sheba’s visit to Solomon and the wisdom of God he shared with her foreshadow the salvation that Christ would make known to the Gentile nation. What the Jewish nation rejected would be shared with the Gentile people.

Did the Queen of Sheba convert to follow God?

The Queen praised Solomon and his Lord for the wisdom which God gifted Solomon with. Further, Jesus, when asked by the Pharisees for a sign that He was who He claimed to be, gave only the sign of Jonah and the Queen of Sheba:

The Queen of the South Shall rise up with this generation at the judgment and shall condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. (Matthew 12:42, emphasis mine)

Let's take a closer look at the words of Jesus. "The judgment” Greek “krisis” refers to the final judgment which is also used in Matthew 10:15, “ Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment (krisis) than for that city.”  ("That city" is referring to vs. 14, the one that does not receive a disciple.)

"Shall condemn" Greek “katakrino” from "kata,"against, and "krino," to judge, to pronounce sentence against, condemn. This term is also used in Hebrews 11:7: “By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith."

In each of these examples which used the same Greek words, "the judgement" was referring to the final judgement, and those standing in the place of judge where followers of God. This lends me to believe that the Queen of Sheba converted to be a follower of Yahweh after her visit with King Solomon. Further, 1 Corinthians 6:2, "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?" It would not be logical for a pagan queen to stand in judgement over others at the final judgement.

In conclusion, we citizens of the 21st century continue to have many questions much like the Queen of Sheba in the 10th century BC. Today we must continue to be wisdom seekers like the Queen of Sheba and be willing to pass along what we have learned as disciples of Christ to make more disciples so that the gospel may go forth and multiply.

Continue your search for wisdom,