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The Queen of Sheba was Solomon’s royal visitor. According to the writer of 1 Kings, the queen of Sheba visited Solomon in order to test him. The queen’s test may well have demanded the best of not only Solomon’s wisdom but his diplomatic and political skills as well.
The Bible does not reveal origins or the identity of the queen of Sheba.
According to one tradition, she came from Ethiopia. (Ancient Ethiopian lore claimed that Solomon and the queen had a son who grew up to become the African nation’s first king.) However, archaeological findings indicate that the Arabian Peninsula is a more likely option. It is also a location that fits well with the biblical narrative. The ancient peoples of Arabia had accumulated great wealth by importing goods from Asia and Africa and exporting them to their neighbors in the Middle East. Their trade consisted mainly of expensive spices, gold, and precious stones—in other words, the very items the queen presented to Solomon.
Under Solomon, Israel had become a regional power—his kingdom controlled some of the key trade routes that Sheba depended on for its prosperity. In all likelihood, this is what the queen of Sheba “had on her mind” when she tested Solomon’s wisdom. Between Solomon’s impressive showing—his skills at discernment and negotiation were legendary (1 Kings 3:16–28)—and the overwhelming display of his wealth, the queen was awestruck. She honored Israel’s king with high praise and a lavish gift of gold, about four-and-a-half tons’ worth.
Solomon reciprocated by giving the queen “all she desired” (1 Kings 10:13). The queen of Sheba returned to Arabia, her diplomatic mission a success.
Jesus taught that the queen of Sheba (to whom he referred as the “Queen of the South” in Matthew 12:42 and Luke 11:31) was more righteous than the religious leaders who opposed Him. When they skeptically demanded proof of His authority, Jesus responded that the queen herself would judge people like them.
After all, at least she—though she was a foreigner—had been willing to listen to Solomon’s wisdom. Jesus’ words are a reminder that religious piety has no value unless it is accompanied by a humble, teachable heart.