King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba
I just watched a program that claims that King Solomon had a child with the Queen of Sheba who was named Menalik. This Menalik was entrusted with the Ark of the Covenant from the Temple which is now hidden in Ethiopia. He also began a long-standing dynasty in Ethiopia. Are there any Jewish records about this entire incident?
The Aish Rabbi Replies
Thank you for raising the interesting issue. The story itself is believed to be an Ethiopian folktale, without any serious outside corroboration. Certainly, the Ark would not have been taken out of the Temple while it stood – and it stood for several hundred years after King Solomon’s time.
The Torah does record the Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon (I Kings 10:1-10,13, II Chronicles 9:1-9,12). She came with an enormous retinue of camels carrying spices, gold and precious stones. She tested his wisdom with riddles and was mightily impressed with his wisdom and majesty, as well as the Temple he had recently completed. She praised both the king and Israel, gave an enormous tribute, and returned to her land.
There is one curious verse in the story, which is the basis for a surprising Midrash. Verse 13 states that the King gave the Queen “all her desire which she asked for.” There is a Midrash which sees this as a hint to a relationship between them. This would mean she became one of his thousand wives – as the many other foreign wives he took, converting them upon their marriage. However, since she afterwards returned to her land, it is clear that her conversion was never sincere.
The Midrash continues that before she left and recanted her faith she had a child through the king. A descendant of that child, many generations later, was Nebuchadnezzar – who would later destroy the Temple Solomon built.
As often with the Midrash, it’s very possible that this did not literally occur. Yet the message of the Midrash is that Solomon was faulted for being excessively open and forthcoming with the queen, to some small degree cheapening himself by giving her all she desired. And rather than this bringing her fully to God, she returned to her land. The energy he invested into the relationship would not bring the world closer to salvation but would remain distant – and would ultimately be used against the sanctity of Solomon’s world and destroy his Temple. (See ArtScroll version of Chronicles (II Chronicles 9:12).)
The ArtScroll notes further the similarity of this Midrash to the one (Talmud Shabbat 56b) that when King Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter that marked the beginning of the formation of the Roman Empire – which would ultimately destroy the Second Temple.
I should also note that we do not have this original Midrash today, but there are early sources which quote it.