The Queen of Sheba
Her character: Though a pagan queen like Jezebel, she prized wisdom above power. She appears to have been intellectually gifted, with a good head for business and diplomacy.
Her joy: That her quest for wisdom was rewarded beyond her expectations.
Key Scriptures: 1 Kings 10:1-13; Matthew 12:42
Sheba was a fragrant land, famous for its perfumes and spices. Located on the southwestern tip of Arabia, bordering the Red Sea, it traded precious commodities like gold, frankincense, and myrrh to kingdoms in Africa, India, and the Mediterranean. Little wonder that passing caravans brought news of the wide world to Sheba's queen.
Lately, the queen had heard marvelous stories of Solomon, the son of Bathsheba and David, now Israel's third king. At his birth, a prophet had named him "Beloved of the Lord." Some said he was the wisest man alive.
The queen smiled as she recalled the tale of the two prostitutes. Both had claimed to be the mother to the same infant. How could the king possibly know who was telling the truth and who a lie? But Solomon merely ordered the baby cut in half, to be divided equally between the two women. He knew the real mother would relinquish her rights rather than let her child perish. Indeed, the king's cleverness had quickly revealed the truth, reuniting the heartbroken mother and her child.
The queen had also heard of the fabulous temple and palace Solomon had built in Jerusalem. Such a ruler, she realized, would have little trouble controlling the international trade routes crisscrossing his kingdom.
Though Jerusalem lay fifteen hundred miles to the north, the queen was determined to see for herself whether Solomon measured up to even half the tales told of him. Hoping to establish a trade agreement with Israel, she assembled a caravan of camels and loaded them with precious spices, gems, and four and a half tons of gold. Her entrance into Jerusalem would have created an unforgettable spectacle, adding to Solomon's growing fame.
Day after day, the queen pounded Solomon with hard questions. But nothing was too difficult for the king to explain. Overawed, the queen exclaimed: "The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth, you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord's eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness."
Then the queen gave Solomon all the gold and spices she had brought with her, perhaps foreshadowing the Magi's gift of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ child nearly a thousand years later. In fact, Jesus himself referred to the Queen of Sheba when he replied to the Pharisees who had demanded from him a miraculous sign: "The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here" (Matthew 12:42).
Though ruler of a pagan nation, the Queen of Sheba was so drawn to the wisdom of God that she made an arduous and dangerous journey, traveling three thousand miles round-trip in order to meet the world's wisest man.
The Queen of Sheba was a wealthy and influential ruler whose nation dominated commercial trading in the Middle East at that time. She must have had a certain measure of wisdom, or at least intelligence, to rule such a country. Still, she had questions, many of them, and she sought out the region's famed King Solomon, depending on his wisdom for answers. Solomon didn't disappoint her; she went away satisfied.
Do you have any questions that need answers? Questions about yourself? About things that have happened in your life? About the will of God? About God's love for you? If you do, go to the source of all wisdom, God himself, for answers. When you diligently seek him, he doesn't always give clear answers, but he will give peace. And you will go away satisfied. He promises.
This devotional is drawn from Women of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Women in Scripture by Ann Spangler and Jean Syswerda. Used with permission.
She prized wisdom above power.