Solomon And Sheba - The End Of An Empire

Solomon And Sheba - The End Of An Empire

In my previous post, I noted that the end of the Egyptian Empire came in consequence to the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra's love affair with a foreign ruler of Rome named Antony. In this post I will note that the end of the Israelite Empire came in consequence to the Israelite King Solomon's love affair with the Sabean Queen Sheba.

The ancient Kingdom of Saba (identified by some with the biblical Kingdom of Sheba) encompassed the areas of what are today known as Yemen (located on the southern end of the Arabian peninsula), Ethiopia (located in the Horn of Africa) and Eritrea (also in the Horn of Africa). According to Josephus, Sheba was the Queen of Egypt and Ethiopia.

Solomon is denounced by many rabbis who interpret I Kings 10:13 as meaning that Solomon had criminal intercourse with the Queen of Sheba. The rabbis teach that the child of this union was Nebuchadnezzar, who destroyed the Temple (comp. Rashi ad loc.) [Jewish Virtual Library]. 

Along with offering the foreign queen anything she desired [I Kings 10:13], Solomon took on many foreign wives, taxed the people heavily, conscripted civilian soldiers, and granted special favors to the tribe of Judah. Naturally, the Native Israelites became embittered. A northwest Semitic Aramaic-speaking tribal confederation royal family of Edom, Hadad, also rose up as an adversary against Solomon in parallel with the ever rising adversarial feelings of the Israelite people against Solomon. When Solomon died, under the rule of his son, Solomon's Empire was lost and the kingdom divided.

As the love affair of Antony and Cleopatra brought down the Egyptian Empire, so too, did the love affair of Solomon and Sheba (and his many foreign wives of unknown origin) bring down the Israelite Empire. Why? Normally, monarchies create strengthening bonds between nations when their royal families intermarry. But not in the cases of Egyptian-Roman or Israelite-Saba/Egyptian relationships. In these cases, the foreign relationships sealed the destruction of Empire.

Perhaps we can believe that these relationships posed a danger to the power of men. On the other hand, perhaps we can believe that the relationships were unacceptable to native ethnic Roman, Israelite and Edomite women. As it has been throughout the days of humankind, the ways of women are known, where familial and kindred relationships matter despite that men may spread their seed around the globe and take wives as they choose. As a Matriarch of the Israelites once said to the Patriarch Abraham regarding the foreign woman Hagar, "the son of this woman shall not be heir with my son [Genesis/Bereshit 21:10]."

Sarah said no to Abraham and Hagar. Israel and Edom said no Solomon and Sheba. Rome said no to Antony and Cleopatra.