Who was the Queen of the South? 

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By BibleAsk Team


The Queen of the South, also known as the Queen of Sheba, is a figure mentioned in the Bible whose story is recounted in both the Old and New Testaments. She is portrayed as a powerful and wise ruler who traveled from her kingdom to visit King Solomon in Jerusalem, drawn by his fame and reputation for wisdom. To thoroughly explore the narrative of the Queen of the South, we will delve into the biblical passages that mention her, examine historical and cultural context, and consider theological insights.

The Queen of the South in the Old Testament

1 Kings 10:1-13: The Visit to Solomon

The story of the Queen of the south (Queen of Sheba) is primarily found in 1 Kings 10:1-13 and its parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 9:1-12. According to these accounts, the Queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s wisdom and prosperity and traveled to Jerusalem with a great retinue of servants and camels bearing spices, gold, and precious stones. She came to test Solomon with difficult questions and to see for herself the wisdom that had made him famous.

1 Kings 10:4-5: The Queen’s Response

When the Queen of the south arrived and saw Solomon’s wisdom, the splendor of his palace, and the excellence of his servants, she was overwhelmed. In 1 Kings 10:4-5, it is written: “And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his servants, the service of his waiters and their apparel, his cupbearers, and his entryway by which he went up to the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her.”

The Queen of the South sought the wisdom of Solomon for her many questions. For she had “heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the LORD, [and] came to test Solomon with hard questions” (1 Kings 10:1). And God had granted Solomon the gift of wisdom (1 Kings 3:5–12), so “nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her” (1 Kings 10:3). Solomon gave helpful, intelligent answers, which directed the queen’s mind to the true source of all wisdom and prosperity.

1 Kings 10:6-9: Solomon’s Wisdom and Wealth

In response to the Queen of Sheba’s awe, Solomon answered all her questions and surpassed her expectations with his wisdom and understanding. She praised Solomon and acknowledged the blessings that God had bestowed upon him, saying, “Blessed be the Lord your God, who delighted in you, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord has loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness” (1 Kings 10:9).

Her visit led to her conversion and salvation. In gratitude to Solomon, the Queen of the South gave King Solomon gifts. And she returned to her own country blessed and satisfied (1 Kings 10:13).

The Queen of Sheba in the New Testament

Matthew 12:42: Jesus’ Reference

The Queen of Sheba is mentioned in the New Testament by Jesus Himself in Matthew 12:42 and its parallel passage in Luke 11:31. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus refers to the Queen of the South in response to the Pharisees who demanded a sign from him. Jesus tells them, “The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.”

Luke 11:31: Parallel Passage

In Luke’s Gospel, the context of Jesus’ reference to the Queen of Sheba is similar, with Jesus reproving the Pharisees for their lack of faith and understanding. He contrasts their rejection of him with the Queen of the South’s journey to hear Solomon’s wisdom, suggesting that they will be judged unfavorably in comparison.

Historical and Cultural Context

The Kingdom of Sheba

The precise location of the Queen of Sheba’s kingdom is a matter of debate among scholars, with various theories suggesting regions such as modern-day Ethiopia, Yemen, or even parts of Arabia. Sheba was known for its wealth, trade routes, and cultural exchange with other civilizations. The Queen’s visit to Solomon may have served diplomatic, economic, and scholarly purposes, as well as religious and spiritual curiosity.

Solomon’s Wisdom and Influence

Solomon’s reputation for wisdom and his role as a prosperous and powerful king are central to the narrative of the Queen of Sheba. His wisdom was renowned throughout the ancient Near East, attracting visitors and ambassadors from distant lands who sought his counsel and admired his achievements.

Theological Insights

Jesus’ Fulfillment of Solomon’s Wisdom

In the New Testament, Jesus is presented as the ultimate fulfillment of Solomon’s wisdom and more. He is portrayed as the Son of God, the embodiment of divine wisdom, and the true source of eternal life. Jesus’ reference to the Queen of Sheba underscores His authority and surpassing greatness compared to Solomon.

Jesus contrasts the Queen’s actions with the actions of the religious leaders of His time. Though she is a pagan queen, she travels a long distance to listen to Solomon and seek his wisdom. While the Queen of the South accepts the wisdom of Solomon with all eagerness, the religious leaders reject Jesus, who is indeed greater than Solomon (Matthew 12:42), the personification of all wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30).

The religious leaders are unwilling to listen to the Son of God who came down from heaven to save them. For this reason, Jesus adds that the Queen of the South will be saved whereas the religious leaders will be judged at the judgement day for their rebellion against God’s Son.

The Call to Seek Wisdom

The story of the Queen of Sheba invites reflection on the importance of seeking wisdom and understanding, as well as the blessings that come from honoring God. Like the Queen of Sheba, who journeyed from afar to hear Solomon’s wisdom, believers are called to seek wisdom from God and to recognize its value in their lives.

Conclusion

The Queen of Sheba, a figure of power, wisdom, and curiosity, is depicted in the Bible as a seeker of truth and understanding. Her visit to Solomon underscores the importance of wisdom, the blessings of honoring God, and the recognition of divine providence. Jesus’ reference to her in the New Testament highlights his authority and surpassing greatness as the Son of God. The story of the Queen of Sheba continues to inspire reflection on the pursuit of wisdom, the recognition of divine blessings, and the acknowledgment of Jesus as the ultimate source of wisdom and truth.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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