The Land of Sheba -- By: Anonymous
BSP 4:4 (Autumn 1975) p. 117
The Land of Sheba
“And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to prove him with hard questions.” So begins the intriguing account in 1 Kings 10 of the visit of an unnamed queen from the mysterious land of Sheba to Solomon, king of Israel. Solomon was now at the height of his power and fame — he controlled all of Syro-Palestine, from the Euphrates in the north to Egypt in the south. He had finished building the great temple and his beautiful palace in Jerusalem, he had carried out building projects throughout the land, and his ships went out from Ezion-Geber to carry on trade along the Red Sea (1 Kings 9:15–28).
All of this sounded somewhat fanciful to sober-minded scholars of a generation or so ago. But now, archaeological discoveries have demonstrated the accuracy of the Bible’s description of Solomon’s reign, including the reality of a place called Sheba.
In the book Solomon and Sheba (James B. Pritchard, Ed., Phaidon Press Ltd., London, 1974), Gus W. van Beek of the Smithsonian Institution describes the land of Sheba in the days of Solomon. The following is a summary of Dr. van Beek’s remarks.
Sheba an Isolated Land
Sheba was located in the southwestern corner of the Arabian peninsula, with boundaries roughly corresponding to those of modern Yemen. It was more than 1400 miles south of Palestine, with the land in between consisting of a barren, almost waterless desert, with mountains near the coast of the Red Sea and a broken, sand — or rock — covered tableland to the east of the mountains. This enormous region is extremely difficult to cross unless one is well provided with camels and experienced guides. The coastal areas are treacherous with coral reefs, offer very few watering places, and were often infested with pirates in antiquity. These conditions made travel by land and sea between Sheba and the great empires to the north hazardous in the extreme and had the effect of isolating southern
BSP 4:4 (Autumn 1975) p. 118
Arabia. Thus Sheba was free from military devastations and her culture developed, with the exception of trade contacts, independently from the other civilizations of the ancient Near East.
The Bible tells us little about the culture of Sheba. Since the state had a queen, probably Sheba was a nation little different in political organization from the other nations of the ancient Near East. The fact that a queen ruled is not surprising; it is well attested that women quite often rose to positions of prominence in Bible times. Assyrian inscriptions, in fact, refer to Zabibe and Shamsi, two qu...
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