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Sheba and Salomon

A piece of epic poetry, titled Kebra Nagast, which means The Glory of Kings, constitutes for Ethiopians the only truth about their history. One part of this truth is a colourful tale about the meeting of and love between the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon.

It all commenced when an affluent Ethiopian merchant, Tamarin, arrived in Jerusalem in order to deliver by materials for the construction works on a temple. The merchant was enchanted with the wisdom of the monarch of Israel, and he told his queen about everything after his return. The queen arrived at the conclusion that there was nothing more valuable in the world than wisdom. Even though she did not know Solomon, the queen fell in love with him because of his knowledge. Soon, she prepared to depart and set off to Jerusalem with a lot of sumptuousness and carrying magnificent gifts. The king offered her a chamber in a palace, exquisite food and also lavished expensive gifts upon her.

Priests carry copies of the Ark of Covenant (Tabot) on their heads. Lalibela – Ethiopia
Priests carry copies of the Ark of Convenant (Tabot) on their heads. Lalibela ©AndrzejZarzecki

Every morning, the queen received eleven robes of outstanding beauty. Every day, she and Solomon conducted philosophical discussions, until, under the influence of the Wisdom of Solomon, the Queen of Sheba resolved to worship the God of Israel. After some time, she wished to return to her own subjects. Solomon gave a farewell banquet to honour her; in the course of that feast, the table was set seven times. It was on purpose that the Jewish monarch ordered that spicy and salty foods, increasing thirst, be made. After the servants had departed, he asked the queen to stay until the morning. She consented upon the condition that Solomon would guarantee her immunity. The king also set a condition – which she would not touch, anything that belonged to him. He ordered that a jug of water be placed next to the bed of the queen. When she woke up with her mouth dried-out by thirst, convinced that Solomon was sleeping, the queen resolved to have a drink and, in this manner, she broke her pledge. When she left for Ethiopia, she received a royal gift. After returning to her own country, she gave birth to a son, who later adopted the name of Menelik (originating from: Ibn-al-Malik, which means „Son of the King”).

After he came of age, he wished to learn to know his father and, provided with a royal ring, he departed for Jerusalem. Solomon recognized in him a true heir to the throne and bestowed his blessing upon him. The Ethiopian spent several years at the royal court, learning from Solomon the latter king’s royal wisdom. However, he eventually resolved to return to his native land. Upon the command of the king, he was accompanied by the firstborn sons of the rulers of all the tribes of Israel. Menelik took from the temple in Jerusalem the Biblical Arc of the Covenant – the stone tables with the Ten Commandments which Moses had received from God. Until today, the Arc is stored in Ethiopia. In this manner, the dynasty of Solomon, the descendants of which had been ruling Ethiopia until as recently as the year 1974, when Emperor Haile Sellasie was overthrown, was originated.


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