Often known for her power, wealth, and sex appeal, the Queen of Sheba ruled over the ancient kingdom of Sheba. Her existence has been referred to in ancient Ethiopian texts, the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Qur’ran. Although there is little evidence outside of these four texts to validate the Queen of Sheba’s existence, recent archaeological discoveries have confirmed that the Queen of Sheba most likely ruled over a kingdom occupying present-day Yemen.
According to the Kebra Nagast (“The Glory of Kings”), an anthology of ancient Ethiopian legends, the royal Ethiopian family descended from the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. In the legend, King Solomon invited the Queen of Sheba to a banquet and invited her to stay in his palace. Before agreeing to stay, the Queen of Sheba asked King Solomon to swear not to take the her by force. King Solomon agreed, so long as the Queen of Sheba swore not to take anything from his palace. Offended that King Solomon might suspect she’d steal from his Palace, the Queen agreed. King Solomon served a spicy dinner to the Queen of Sheba and in the middle of the night, she arose for a glass of water to quench her thirst. King Solomon appeared and warned her that she was breaking her oath by drinking water from the palace. They freed each other of their vows and spent the night together.
In the Hebrew Bible, the Queen of Sheba, although unnamed, is referenced in the Book of Kings, Chapter 10. In this chapter, she is awed by King Solomon’s wisdom and travels to Israel, where he resides, bearing gifts of beautiful wood, precious stones, gold, and spices. She would often test King Solomon’s wisdom with questions. Although there are no amorous hints between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, some passages in the Song of Songs are believed to refer to a romantic relationship between these two monarchs.
In the New Testament, Queen of Sheba is known as the Queen of the South and is referred to in the books of Matthew and Luke. In Christian interpretations of the Old Testament, the Queen of Sheeba’s visits to King Solomon are compared with the metaphorical union between the Church of Christ (where Solomon is the messiah) and the non-Israelites accepting the messiah (the Queen of Sheba traveling to King Solomon’s land from afar).
In the Qur’an, King Solomon receives reports from a Hoopoe bird about the Queen of Sheba’s kingdom. King Solomon invites the Queen of Sheba to visit his kingdom and accept Allah as her God. Instead of traveling to Solomon’s kingdom, the Queen of Sheba sends beautiful gifts to Solomon, who is unimpressed, saying that God’s gifts are of supreme value to him. When the Queen of Sheba finally visits, Solomon tricks the Queen of Sheba into lifting her skirts when she mistakes a slab of glass for a pool of water. Feeling humbled, the Queen of Sheba accepts Allah as her God.