Sheba

Sheba

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Sheba was a kingdom mentioned in the Jewish scriptures
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

 (Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

) and the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

. The actual location of the historical kingdom is disputed, with modern evidence tending toward Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

 in southern Arabia, but other scholars argue for a location in either present-day Eritrea
Eritrea
Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

 or Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

. Since the two territories are separated by a narrow channel it is possible that at various times the kingdom included territory in both Yemen and Ethiopia, and may be equated with the Sabean kingdom
Sabaeans
The Sabaeans or Sabeans were an ancient people speaking an Old South Arabian language who lived in what is today Yemen, in the south west of the Arabian Peninsula.Some scholars suggest a link between the Sabaeans and the Biblical land of Sheba....

.

Biblical tradition


Sheba is mentioned several times in the Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

. For instance, in the Table of Nations (Genesis 10:7), Sheba, along with Dedan
Dedan
The word Dedan means "low ground". The people are called Dedanim or Dedanites.In the Bible, it can refer to either:* A son of Raamah . His descendants are mentioned in Isaiah 21:13, Ezekiel 25:13 and Ezekiel 27:15...

, is listed as a descendant of Noah
Noah
Noah was, according to the Hebrew Bible, the tenth and last of the antediluvian Patriarchs. The biblical story of Noah is contained in chapters 6–9 of the book of Genesis, where he saves his family and representatives of all animals from the flood by constructing an ark...

's son Ham
Ham, son of Noah
Ham , according to the Table of Nations in the Book of Genesis, was a son of Noah and the father of Cush, Mizraim, Phut and Canaan.- Hebrew Bible :The story of Ham is related in , King James Version:...

 (as sons of Raamah
Raamah
Raamah or Rama is a name found in the Bible , means "lofty, exalted, that also may mean "thunder".The name is first mentioned as the fourth son of Cush, who is the son of Ham, who is the son of Noah in Gen. 10:7, and later appears as a country that traded with the Phoenician city-state of Tyre, in...

 son of Cush
Biblical Cush
Cush was the eldest son of Ham, brother of Mizraim , Canaan and the father of Nimrod, and Raamah, mentioned in the "Table of Nations" in the Genesis 10:6 and I Chronicles 1:8...

). In Genesis 25:3, Sheba and Dedan are listed as names of sons of Jokshan
Jokshan
Jokshan ; most probably Josephus' Jazar. According to the Bible he was the second son of Abraham and his concubine Keturah, whom he wed after the death of Sarah...

, son of Abraham
Abraham
Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

. Another Sheba is listed in the Table of Nations (Genesis 10:28) as a son of Joktan
Joktan
Joktan or Yoktan was the second of the two sons of Eber mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. His name means "small" or "smallness"....

, another descendant of Noah's son Shem
Shem
Shem was one of the sons of Noah in the Hebrew Bible as well as in Islamic literature. He is most popularly regarded as the eldest son, though some traditions regard him as the second son. Genesis 10:21 refers to relative ages of Shem and his brother Japheth, but with sufficient ambiguity in each...

. Yet another Sheba is mentioned in 2 Samuel 20:1–22 who rebelled against King David, was beheaded and his head thrown over the wall by the people in the city of Abel in order to save their lives. Isaiah
Isaiah
Isaiah ; Greek: ', Ēsaïās ; "Yahu is salvation") was a prophet in the 8th-century BC Kingdom of Judah.Jews and Christians consider the Book of Isaiah a part of their Biblical canon; he is the first listed of the neviim akharonim, the later prophets. Many of the New Testament teachings of Jesus...

's prophecy, "all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense" (:6), is understood as a prediction of the Biblical Magi
Biblical Magi
The Magi Greek: μάγοι, magoi), also referred to as the Wise Men, Kings, Astrologers, or Kings from the East, were a group of distinguished foreigners who were said to have visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh...

 bringing gifts of gold, myrrh
Myrrh
Myrrh is the aromatic oleoresin of a number of small, thorny tree species of the genus Commiphora, which grow in dry, stony soil. An oleoresin is a natural blend of an essential oil and a resin. Myrrh resin is a natural gum....

 and frankincense
Frankincense
Frankincense, also called olibanum , is an aromatic resin obtained from trees of the genus Boswellia, particularly Boswellia sacra, B. carteri, B. thurifera, B. frereana, and B. bhaw-dajiana...

 to the newborn Jesus.

In Ethiopian Orthodox tradition, the third of these Shebas (Joktan's son) is considered the primary ancestor of the original Semitic
Semitic
In linguistics and ethnology, Semitic was first used to refer to a language family of largely Middle Eastern origin, now called the Semitic languages...

 component in their ethnogenesis
Ethnogenesis
Ethnogenesis is the process by which a group of human beings comes to be understood or to understand themselves as ethnically distinct from the wider social landscape from which their grouping emerges...

, while Sabtah and Sabtecah, sons of Cush, are considered the ancestors of the Cushitic element.

Jewish-Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 historian Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

 describes a place called Saba as a walled, royal city of Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

, which Cambyses
Cambyses
Cambyses can refer to two ancient rulers and two plays:-*Cambyses I, King of Anshan 600 to 559 BCE*Cambyses II, King of Persia 530 to 522 BCE*Cambyses, a tragedy by Thomas Preston...

 afterwards named Meroe
Meroë
Meroë Meroitic: Medewi or Bedewi; Arabic: and Meruwi) is an ancient city on the east bank of the Nile about 6 km north-east of the Kabushiya station near Shendi, Sudan, approximately 200 km north-east of Khartoum. Near the site are a group of villages called Bagrawiyah...

. He says "it was both encompassed by the Nile quite round, and the other rivers, Astapus and Astaboras
Astaboras
Astaboras may refer to:* the Atbarah River of Ethiopia/Sudan, as named by 1st century Greek geographer Strabo* Astaboras, a canal on Mars connecting Syrtis Major to Ismenius Lacus, named after the African river. See the list of Martian canals...

" offering protection from both foreign armies and river flood
Flood
A flood is an overflow of an expanse of water that submerges land. The EU Floods directive defines a flood as a temporary covering by water of land not normally covered by water...

s. According to Josephus it was the conquering of Saba that brought great fame to a young Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

ian Prince, simultaneously exposing his personal background as a slave child named Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

.

The Kitab al-Magall ("Book of the Rolls", considered part of Clementine literature
Clementine literature
Clementine literature is the name given to the religious romance which purports to contain a record made by one Clement of discourses...

) and the Cave of Treasures
Cave of Treasures
The Cave of Treasures, sometimes referred to simply as The Treasure, is a book of the New Testament apocrypha.-Origin:This text is attributed to Ephrem Syrus, who was born at Nisibis soon after AD 306 and died in 373, but it is now generally believed that its current form is 6th century or...

mention a tradition that after being founded by the children of Saba (son of Joktan), there was a succession of sixty female rulers up until the time of Solomon
Solomon
Solomon , according to the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, a King of Israel and according to the Talmud one of the 48 prophets, is identified as the son of David, also called Jedidiah in 2 Samuel 12:25, and is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before...

. The Biblical tradition of the "Queen of Sheba" (named Makeda in Ethiopian tradition and Bilqis in Islamic tradition) makes its first appearance in world literature in 1 Kings 10, describing her as travelling to Jerusalem to behold the fame of King Solomon.

Owing to the connection with the Queen of Sheba, the location has thus become closely linked with national prestige, as various royal houses have claimed descent from the Queen of Sheba and Solomon
Solomon
Solomon , according to the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, a King of Israel and according to the Talmud one of the 48 prophets, is identified as the son of David, also called Jedidiah in 2 Samuel 12:25, and is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before...

. The most vigorous claimant has been Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 and Eritrea
Eritrea
Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

, where Sheba was traditionally linked with the ancient Axumite Kingdom.

Qur'anic tradition


In the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

, the people of Sheba are called the people of Tubba because "Tubba" was used as the title for Sheba's kings. The Qur'an mentions this ancient community
Community
The term community has two distinct meanings:*a group of interacting people, possibly living in close proximity, and often refers to a group that shares some common values, and is attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household...

 along with other communities that were destroyed by God. Some Muslim scholars, including Ibn Kathir
Ibn Kathir
Ismail ibn Kathir was a Muslim muhaddith, Faqih, historian, and commentator.-Biography:His full name was Abu Al-Fida, 'Imad Ad-Din, Isma'il bin 'Umar bin Kathir, Al-Qurashi, Al-Busrawi...

, related that the People of Tubba were Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

s from South Arabia
South Arabia
South Arabia as a general term refers to several regions as currently recognized, in chief the Republic of Yemen; yet it has historically also included Najran, Jizan, and 'Asir which are presently in Saudi Arabia, and Dhofar presently in Oman...

.

Archaeological considerations


Modern archaeological evidence increasingly supports Sheba being located in modern Yemen at or near the site of the famous Marib Dam
Marib Dam
The Marib or Ma'rib or Ma'arib Dam blocks the Wadi Adhanah in the valley of Dhana in the Balaq Hills, Yemen. The current dam is close to the ruins of the Great Dam of Marib, dating from around the eighth century BC...

, which was first built more than 2500 years ago.

Some scholars suggest a link to the Sabaeans
Sabaeans
The Sabaeans or Sabeans were an ancient people speaking an Old South Arabian language who lived in what is today Yemen, in the south west of the Arabian Peninsula.Some scholars suggest a link between the Sabaeans and the Biblical land of Sheba....

 of southern Arabia. A number of sources claim that the people of Sheba controlled trade in the Red Sea, and expanded at some point from Arabia into Africa to found trading posts in the lands currently called Eritrea and Somalia.

In the medieval Ethiopian cultural work called the Kebra Nagast
Kebra Nagast
The Kebra Nagast , or the Book of the Glory of Kings, is an account written in Ge'ez of the origins of the Solomonic line of the Emperors of Ethiopia. The text, in its existing form, is at least seven hundred years old, and is considered by many Ethiopian Christians and Rastafarians to be an...

, Sheba was located in Ethiopia. Some scholars therefore point to a region in northern Tigray
Tigray Region
Tigray Region is the northernmost of the nine ethnic regions of Ethiopia containing the homeland of the Tigray people. It was formerly known as Region 1...

 and Eritrea
Eritrea
Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

 which was once called Saba (later called Meroe
Meroë
Meroë Meroitic: Medewi or Bedewi; Arabic: and Meruwi) is an ancient city on the east bank of the Nile about 6 km north-east of the Kabushiya station near Shendi, Sudan, approximately 200 km north-east of Khartoum. Near the site are a group of villages called Bagrawiyah...

), as a possible link with the Biblical Sheba. Other scholars link Sheba with Shewa
Shewa
Shewa is a historical region of Ethiopia, formerly an autonomous kingdom within the Ethiopian Empire...

 (also written as Shoa, modern Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia...

) in Ethiopia.

Ruins in many other countries, including Somalia, Sudan
Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

, Egypt, Eritrea
Eritrea
Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

 and Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 have been credited as being Sheba, but with only minimal evidence. There has even been a suggestion of a link between the name "Sheba" and that of Zanzibar
Zanzibar
Zanzibar ,Persian: زنگبار, from suffix bār: "coast" and Zangi: "bruin" ; is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, in East Africa. It comprises the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of the mainland, and consists of numerous small islands and two large ones: Unguja , and Pemba...

, and a massive earthenware monument of the Yoruba people
Yoruba people
The Yoruba people are one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa. The majority of the Yoruba speak the Yoruba language...

 all the way in West Africa
West Africa
West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of the African continent. Geopolitically, the UN definition of Western Africa includes the following 16 countries and an area of approximately 5 million square km:-Flags of West Africa:...

 known as Sungbo's Eredo
Sungbo's Eredo
Sungbo's Eredo is a rampart or system of walls and ditches that is located to the south-west of the Yoruba town of Ijebu-Ode in Ogun state, southwest Nigeria . It was built in honour of the Ijebu noblewoman Oloye Bilikisu Sungbo, and is reputed to be the largest single pre-colonial monument in...

 actually caused mild excitement when it was first studied by Western scholars due to the tribal folk tradition that the divine personage it was built in honour of was none other than the Queen of Sheba herself.

See also

  • First Kings
    Books of Kings
    The Book of Kings presents a narrative history of ancient Israel and Judah from the death of David to the release of his successor Jehoiachin from imprisonment in Babylon, a period of some 400 years...

  • Genesis
  • Sabaeans
    Sabaeans
    The Sabaeans or Sabeans were an ancient people speaking an Old South Arabian language who lived in what is today Yemen, in the south west of the Arabian Peninsula.Some scholars suggest a link between the Sabaeans and the Biblical land of Sheba....

  • Eritrea
    Eritrea
    Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

  • Ethiopia
    Ethiopia
    Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

  • Islamic view of the Queen of Sheba
  • King Solomon
  • Queen of Sheba
  • Rulers of Sheba
  • Rulers of Saba and Himyar – a reconstruction of the lineage of the rulers of Saba and Himyar based on extant inscriptions. Based on the work of Dr. Javad Ali.
  • Second Chronicles
    Books of Chronicles
    The Books of Chronicles are part of the Hebrew Bible. In the Masoretic Text, it appears as the first or last book of the Ketuvim . Chronicles largely parallels the Davidic narratives in the Books of Samuel and the Books of Kings...

  • Yemen
    Yemen
    The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

  • Qataban
    Qataban
    Qataban was one of the ancient Yemeni kingdoms. Its heartland was located in the Baihan valley. Like some other Southern Arabian kingdoms it gained great wealth from the trade of frankincense and myrrh incense which were burned at altars...


External links