They Did Jehovah’s Will
A Visit That Was Richly Rewarded
THE trip from Sheba to Jerusalem must have been grueling for the queen. She was used to living in luxury. Now, she was trekking at a camel’s pace on a journey of 1,500 miles [2,400 km], much of it through the burning desert. According to one estimate, her travels would have taken some 75 days to complete, and that was just one way!*
Why did this wealthy queen leave her comfortable home in Sheba and undertake such an arduous journey?
An Intriguing Report
The queen of Sheba came to Jerusalem after “hearing the report about Solomon in connection with the name of Jehovah.” (1 Kings 10:1) Exactly what the queen heard is not stated. We know, however, that Jehovah blessed Solomon with exceptional wisdom, wealth, and honor. (2 Chronicles 1:11, 12) How did the queen come to know of this? Since Sheba was a center of trade, it may be that she heard of Solomon’s fame through traders who visited her land. Some of these may have been to Ophir, a land with which Solomon had considerable business dealings.—1 Kings 9:26-28.
In any event, the queen arrived in Jerusalem “with a very impressive train, camels carrying balsam oil and very much gold and precious stones.” (1 Kings 10:2a) Some say that the “impressive train” included an armed escort. This would be understandable, considering that the queen was a powerful dignitary and was traveling with tens of millions of dollars’ worth of valuables.*
Note, however, that the queen heard of Solomon’s fame “in connection with the name of Jehovah.” So this was not just a business trip. Evidently, the queen came primarily to hear Solomon’s wisdom—perhaps even to learn something about his God, Jehovah. Since she likely descended from Shem or Ham, who were worshipers of Jehovah, she may have been curious about the religion of her ancestors.
Perplexing Questions, Satisfying Answers
Upon meeting Solomon, the queen began testing him with “perplexing questions.” (1 Kings 10:1) The Hebrew word here used can be translated “riddles.” But this does not mean that the queen engaged Solomon in trivial games. Interestingly, at Psalm 49:4, the same Hebrew word is used to describe serious questions regarding sin, death, and redemption. Likely, then, the queen of Sheba was discussing deep subjects with Solomon that tested the depth of his wisdom. The Bible states that she “began to speak to him all that happened to be close to her heart.” Solomon, in turn, “went on to tell her all her matters. There proved to be no matter hidden from the king that he did not tell her.”—1 Kings 10:2b, 3.
The queen of Sheba was so impressed with Solomon’s wisdom and the prosperity of his kingdom that there was “no more spirit in her.” (1 Kings 10:4, 5) Some take this phrase to mean that the queen was left “breathless.” One scholar even suggests that she fainted! Be that as it may, the queen was amazed at what she had seen and heard. She pronounced Solomon’s servants happy for being able to hear this king’s wisdom, and she blessed Jehovah for putting Solomon on the throne. Then she gave the king costly gifts, the gold alone totaling, by modern values, some $40,000,000. Solomon too presented gifts, giving the queen “all her delight for which she asked.”*—1 Kings 10:6-13.
Lesson for Us
Jesus used the queen of Sheba as an object lesson for the scribes and Pharisees. “The queen of the south will be raised up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it,” he told them, “because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, but, look! something more than Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12:42) Yes, the queen of Sheba showed great appreciation for God-given wisdom. If she traveled 1,500 miles [2,400 km] to listen to Solomon, surely the scribes and Pharisees should have listened intently to Jesus, who was right there in front of them.
We today can show deep appreciation for the Greater Solomon, Jesus Christ. How? One way is by following his directive to “make disciples of people of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:19) Another way is to consider closely Jesus’ example and his mental attitude and then imitate these.—Philippians 2:5; Hebrews 12:2, 3.
True, following the example of the Greater Solomon will require effort on our part. Yet, we will be richly rewarded. Indeed, Jehovah promises his people that if they show a self-sacrificing spirit, he will ‘open to them the floodgates of the heavens and actually empty out upon them a blessing until there is no more want.’—Malachi 3:10.
Many scholars believe that Sheba was located in southwest Arabia, in what is today the Republic of Yemen.
According to the ancient Greek geographer Strabo, the people of Sheba were enormously wealthy. He says that they made lavish use of gold in their furniture, their utensils, and even on the walls, doors, and roofs of their homes.
Some take this phrase to mean that the queen had sexual relations with Solomon. Legends state that they even had a son. There is no evidence, however, to support any of this.