queen of sheba mural

Queen of Sheba, Seeker of Knowledge

The Queen of Sheba has been mentioned in many accounts as a wise woman, including the Bible and the Quran. According to both an ancient Abyssinian account of the Ethiopian royal lineage and the Bible, Queen Makeda of Sheba (Ethiopia) went to visit King Solomon, although different accounts give different reasons for her visit. Legend says she traveled on her long journey perhaps in order to test to see if the King of the North was as wise as rumored. Alternately it may have been a trading visit or to pay homage to the powerful king. Her people did not follow Solomon’s god, they were “sun worshippers” according to the Bible accounts.

Wise Woman Queen of Sheba and King Solomon at the gates of paradise
Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Gates of Paradise

She was known to be beautiful, pure and a lover and seeker of wisdom. Regardless of the true story of how this queen came to power and what her real name was, some of her poems have survived to this day. This one below struck me, about the value of wisdom. I found it in a lovely book by poet Jane Hirshfield called Women in Praise of the Sacred, a collection of spiritual poems and writings from women spanning the depths of history.

Wisdom is
sweeter than honey,
brings more joy
than wine,
more than the sun,
is more precious
than jewels.
She causes
the ears to hear
and the heart to comprehend.

I love her
like a mother,
and she embraces me
as her own child.
I will follow
her footprints
and she will not cast me away.

Makeda, Queen of Sheba

The Queen of Sheba even has numerous performative works referencing her, in addition to the vast number of accounts of her name and history. I was surprised to find that I had heard this piece before by Handel.

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