The Queen of Sheba (3/5) [Archives:2005/836/Culture]
Translated and Annotated by David Ben-Abraham
Summary of part 1 & 2:
King Solomon checks his army of creatures of all kinds and misses the hoopoe bird, he threatens to punish it for not being present in the parade, when the hoopoe appears coming from Yemen where he had seen a queen that worships not the true God. King Solomon sends the hoopoe bird with a letter back to the Queen of Sheba. The Queen reads the letter and decides to travel from Yemen to the King in Jerusalem.
She and her great train were conducted by Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, to Jerusalem, and when the king was told that the queen of Sheba had just arrived in the city, he stood up from his place and went to sit in his glass house. The queen was brought before him, and when she saw the king sitting in his glass house, she thought within herself that the king sat upon water, and so proceeded to draw up the hem of her dress so that she could pass over without getting wet. The king then saw her legs that they were full of hair, and when the queen had sat down beside him, he said unto her, “Thy beauty is the beauty befitting women, but thy hairs are the hairs befitting men. Hair on a man's body is comely, but uncomely on a woman's.”
Now while she yet sat in his glass house, the king asked her, “What portends to thy coming, my fair queen? Hath the tokens of the hoopoe bird summoned thee unto me, which he didst carry in his wings aloft?” She answered, “Nay, my lord the king. T'was not merely tidings from thee which didst trouble me, for I fain not look with contempt upon thy calling. But rather, we have heard it stated by our ancestors of old, even by Abraham who was married to Keturah, who bare him six sons, from whom came Sheba our ancestor, that Abraham's descendants through Isaac would bring forth a deliverer into the world, even the Messiah. For this is what was meant by the words, 'For unto the sons of the concubines belonging to Abraham, Abraham did give unto them gifts, and sent them away, etc.' (Gen.25:6); Those gifts meaning none other than the mystery of the earth's redemption, delivered unto us by our ancestor Abraham. I have come here out of due respect to his great name, to wit, God's name, to know whether or not thou art this Messiah.”
Now Solomon knew not what to answer the woman at her words, being astonished at her great measure of faith. And so, not willing to disappoint the queen who had endangered herself to come unto him, he wisely evaded her question, and asked, “Who are these youths, my fair queen, who have come along with thee?” “My lord,” she said, “if thou art so wise that even the wild beasts of the field and the birds of the air do heed thy call, then I shall yet make trial of this thy wisdom. For I would prove thy wisdom by words and by riddles, and by way of puzzling problems which I shall pose unto thee. Canst thou then distinguish between manchild and womankind, though they might appear to thee to be alike?”
At these words, she nodded, and the children whom she had brought along with her came forward in single file, passing before the king. Each child carried within his bosom a vessel laden with either gold or silver, and the best of the spices and incense that grew in their land. When each child reached the place where the king sat, he or she bowed down before the king, presenting his vessel to Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, who stood before the king and queen, while Benaiah passed the same onto a servant who stood nearby. When this procession came to an end, each child returned to his place within sight of the king, and the king answered:
“Tis but a trial of character, it is. For the mannerisms of a lad are not as those of a maid. Call hither my servants, and let them fill the floor of the room with parched grain and walnuts.
Let each child take up into the borders of his skirt his fill, or as many as he can thereby hold, and I shall forthwith tell thee who is male, and who is female.”
No sooner had the word been spoken than the floor of the room was filled with roasted seeds and walnuts. At the given signal, the children began to fill up their garments, racing to outdo the other. The boys filled their garments by lifting up their skirts, exposing their legs without the slightest embarrassment or shame. The girls, however, bent over awry, and out of modesty would not expose their legs.
“Here, then, my queen, are thy menservants and here are thy maidservants!” quoth Solomon, who rising up from his chair did intimate with his hand to separate the boys from the girls, putting the one on his right side, and the other on his left side.