A Clever Queen Learns the Wisdom of God: The Queen of Sheba in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Qur'an

By Tidswell, Toni | Hecate, July 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

A Clever Queen Learns the Wisdom of God: The Queen of Sheba in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Qur'an


Tidswell, Toni, Hecate


The story of the Queen of Sheba, who comes to the court of King Solomon of Israel, is found in 1 Kings 10:1-14 and 2 Chronicles 9:1-12 of the Hebrew Scriptures and sura 27:23-44 of the Qur'an. The Queen remains unnamed throughout the story in both scriptures.1 This paper will introduce the character as she appears in 1 Kings and the Qur'an,2 taking account of her motivations, actions, and the outcomes of those actions, identifying how the characterisation of this woman is both similar and different between the two scriptures. In particular we will investigate what it is that she desires and the outcome of her desiring, so as to better appreciate how she is depicted. From the close reading and analysis of the stories, common attitudes and common themes about women will be identified, in particular the associated themes of desire and shame. Finally a comparison will be made with the views of the queen contained in commentaries on both scriptures.

In making a study of the character of the Queen of Sheba, this article will use a narrative critical method for a close reading of the two scriptures.3 This method focuses on the structure of the narrative plot and how that unfolds for the reader/listener, climaxes and their resolution, characterisation, and the act of narration itself. While such a method is common when studying the Hebrew Scriptures, it has been less readily used by those studying the Qur'an, where traditionally Qur'anic exegesis has not been so interested in the narrative as a whole, being much more focussed on what has been called an 'atomistic' approach where:

individual verses . . . and verse segments become the focus of study, with little literary significance attached to the larger units of composition . . . And it is no surprise that few studies of narrative - of plot, dialogue, characterization - in the Qur'an consequently exist, for the very concept of narrative presupposes the existence of sustained presentation, which an atomistic approach does not allow.4

This article will attempt to redress the imbalance to some extent by dealing with both scriptures in the same way, with the same method, to focus clearly and strongly on the character of the queen; present a new reading of her character from close attention to the text; and illustrate how that reading may be at odds with other commentary about her.

Before presenting commentary on the character of the queen, one should note the difference in approach that can be found between major biblical and Qur'anic commentators. While biblical commentary is as old as the biblical text, whether that be the commentary of early Jewish midrashists or the early Christian fathers, most modern biblical commentary does not take its point of departure from these earlier works, although they may occasionally refer to them. On the other hand, one of the currently most prolific Qur'anic exegetes cited in this work, Al Sabouni, is typical of modern Qur'anic scholars who consistently and constantly acknowledge earlier significant Qur'anic scholars from the classical and medieval periods - Al Tabari, Al Qortobi, Ibn Kathir - as well as giving his own modern interpretations.5

I. The Story in 1 Kings 10:1-13

The story begins in 1 Kings 10:1 with the information that the Queen of Sheba has heard a report about Solomon, king of Israel. The exact nature of the report is unclear in the Hebrew text, apart from the use of the phrase 'the name of the Lord' (l'eshem adoncn'),6 so perhaps the report has something to do with Solomon's devotion to the God of Israel. Whatever it is the Queen has heard, she determines to test for herself. The Hebrew describes this activity of testing with the verb nsh, which has connotations of weighing up, proving, or trialling.7 We are told that riddles or perplexing questions (hidoth) will be the means by which she will test him, which implies that the report must also have dealt with Solomon's intellectual ability or his wisdom. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Clever Queen Learns the Wisdom of God: The Queen of Sheba in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Qur'an
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.