Bilquisss… (بلقيس)

/ The Queen of Sheba /

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Bilquis is one of the Old Gods. She is the mother goddess of love and the Biblical Queen of Sheba. Bilquis is the legendary Queen of Sheba who ruled the city of Ma’rib in Yemen thousands of years ago where she was worshipped by her people in nocturcal rituals of orgiastic nature. Queen of Sheba is a figure first mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (Malchat Shibah, מלכת שבא).

The tale of her visit to King Solomon (שלמה) has undergone extensive Jewish, Islamic, and Ethiopian elaborations, and has become the subject of one of the most widespread and fertile cycles of legends in the Orient. The queen of Sheba came to Jerusalem “with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold, and precious stones” (I Kings 10:2). “Never again came such an abundance of spices” (10:10; II Chron. 9:1–9) as those she gave to Solomon. She came “to prove him with hard questions,” which Solomon answered to her satisfaction. They exchanged gifts, after which she returned to her land.

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According to Josephus the queen of Sheba was the queen of Egypt and Ethiopia, and brought to Israel the first specimens of the balsam, which grew in the Holy Land in the historian’s time. Josephus represents Cambyses as conquering the capital of Aethiopia, and changing its name from Seba to Meroe. The Talmud insists that it was not a woman but a kingdom of Sheba (based on varying interpretations of Hebrew mlkt) that came to Jerusalem, obviously intended to discredit existing stories about the relations between Solomon and the Queen. Baba Bathra 15b: “Whoever says malkath Sheba (I Kings X, 1) means a woman is mistaken; … it means the kingdom (מַלְכֻת) of Sheba“. In the Quran (القرآن), the story is essentially similar to the Bible and other Jewish sources. Solomon commanded the Queen of Sheba to come to him as a subject, whereupon she appeared before him. It is mentioned that the distance from the locality of Sulayman’s palace to the residence of Bilqis was seventy farsakh. Before the queen had arrived, Solomon had moved her throne to his palace with the help of a wise man, who was able to move the throne faster than a Jinn. She recognized the throne, which had been disguised, and finally accepted the faith of Solomon.

I am very dark, but comely…

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Muslim commentators such as al-Tabari, al-Zamakhshari, al-Baydawi supplement the story at various points. The Queen’s name is given as Bilqīs, probably derived from Greek παλλακίς (pallakis) or the Hebraised pilegesh, “concubine“. According to some he then married the Queen, while other traditions assert that he gave her in marriage to a tubba of Hamdan. According to the Islamic tradition as represented by al-Hamdani, the queen of Sheba was the daughter of Ilsharah Yahdib, the Himyarite king of Najran.

The Quran and its commentators have preserved the earliest literary reflection of the complete Bilkis legend, which among scholars complements the narrative that is derived from a Jewish Midrash.

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