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Archive for August 22nd, 2009

King Solomon Suffered After Sheba

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on August 22, 2009

Solomon was born to King David and Bathsheba the Ethiopian. The name of Solomon (Sol-Om-On) means Sun, as well as peace. Solomon was a very wise and versatile man. His wisdom was not only political and theological; he was also an expert on natural history. A gardener, he planted olive, spice and nut trees as well as vineyards; he admired and studied spiders, locusts and harvesting ants. According to the Bible, “he could talk about plants from the cedar to the hyssop growing on the wall; and he could talk of animals and birds and reptiles and fish.


When the Queen of Sheba visited him as the first woman, he was a very gracious host to her and her people. Solomon gave her a luxurious home in a palace next to his, and provided her with fruits, rose trees, silks, linens, tapestries, and 11 bewitching garments for each day of her visit. Daily, he sent her (and her 350 servants) 45 sacks of flour, 10 oxen, 5 bulls, 50 sheep (in addition to goats, deer, cows, gazelles, and chicken), wine, honey, fried locusts, rich sweets, and 25 singing men and women. But, Sheba was more interested in his wisdom. Power and riches could not satisfy Sheba’s soul, for she possessed an ardent hunger for truth and wisdom. She said:

“ I am smitten with the love of wisdom…. for wisdom is far better than treasure of gold and silver….. I will follow the footprints of wisdom and she shall protect me forever. I will seek asylum with her, and she shall be unto me power and strength…..wisdom is sweeter than honey….. Let us seek her, and we shall find her; let us love her, and she will not withdraw herself from us, let us pursue her, and we shall overtake her; let us ask, and we shall receive; and let us turn our hearts to her so that we may never forget her.”

When Sheba met Solomon, not only did she ask him theological and philosophical questions; she also tested him with different riddles.

In one theological riddle, she asked: “What is the ugliest thing in the world, and what is the most beautiful? What is the most certain, and what is the most uncertain?” Solomon replied, “The ugliest thing…is the faithful turning unfaithful; the most beautiful is the repentant sinner. The most certain is death; the most uncertain, one’s share in the World to Come.”

Solomon showed showed a great desire to please Sheba. He showed her his gardens of rare flowers ornamented with pools and fountains, and the architectural splendors of his government buildings, temple and palace. She was awed by his work on the temple, by his great lion-throne and sandalwood staircase, and by his enormous brass basin carried by the twelve brass bulls which symbolized the twelve months of the year. She sought astronomical knowledge, for which he was known; Solomon had developed a new calendar which added an extra month every nineteen years.

The visit of the Queen of Sheba was the highlight of Solomon’s life. The six wonderful months she had spend with him were the most important times of his life. After she left, Solomon continued to write and speak words of wisdom, but he and Israel dimmed and deteriorated. Some speculate that this deterioration was triggered by Solomon’s preoccupation with building a glorious palace and temple. But others say it was his obsession with Sheba. Never again would Solomon encounter or love a woman he could call his equal. Sheba was known to be beautiful (despite her ankle and leg), intelligent, understanding, resourceful, adventurous and gracious.

Early in his reign, after the Queen of Sheba left him, Solomon become polygamous, and took 700 wives and 300 concubines. Many were foreign women who eventually “turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God.

Although Solomon was known for his internationalism and open-mindedness to foreign cultures and their beliefs, this same religious tolerance contributed to his downfall. Not only did he anger God; he also failed to unify his people, who needed their monotheistic practices in order to maintain religious identity and national pride.

The completion of his luxurious Temple became more important to Solomon than the practice of his religion. Then his luxurious Palace – built for personal rather than collective use – took precedence over the Temple. Finally, his writing and preaching of wisdom became increasingly vague.

Solomon no longer lived by the humane principles for which he had become respected and honored. Some historians even view him as a tyrant who became devoted to his own glory, and whose greed and extravagance led him to build his kingdom on injustice, oppression and misery.

Solomon drew tax lines across the old tribal borders, alienating tribal elders. For his costly architectural projects, he taxed mercilessly, forcing those who could not pay into slavery, and seizing their lands. Many starved and died. Raising a levy of 30,000 men for forced labor from Hebrews and non-Hebrews of his northern kingdoms, rather than his own people of Judah, Solomon divided his country. His people, including his own sons, became increasingly resentful, and began to revolt.

After his death, the northern kingdoms of Israel stopped tolerating the forced labor and high taxes which had fed Judah, and refused to accept Solomon’s son Rehoboam as king. Civil war resulted; ten northern tribes set up their own kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam, leaving only the kingdoms of Judah and Benjamin to Rehoboam. Such internal strife only made the Israelites weak and vulnerable to invasion. Eventually, the Assyrians, Babylonians and Egyptians conquered them, and carried them off into exile. But before his kingdom was pillaged, Solomon moved the sacred Ark of the Covenant to a safe and protected place, before it was transported down to Ethiopia.

“When I reflected in my mind

That in kinship with wisdom there is immortality,

And in her friendship there is pure delight…

I went about seeking how to win her for myself.

I loved her and sought after her from my youth up,

And I undertook to make her my bride,

And I fell in love with her beauty….

So I decided to bring her to live with me,

Knowing that she would give me good counsel,

And encouragement in cares and grief…..

If the possession of wealth is to be desired in life,

What is richer than wisdom, which operates everything?

She understands the tricks of language and the solving of riddles;

She knows the meaning of signs and portents,

And the outcomes of seasons and periods.

Wisdom is bright and unfading,

And she is easily seen by those who love her,

And found by those who search for her.”


Posted in Ethiopia | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

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