The Queen of Sheba (5/5) [Archives:2005/838/Culture]
Translated and Annotated by David Ben-Abraham
Summary of part 1 -4:
King Solomon checks his army of creatures of all kinds and does not see the hoopoe bird, he threatens to punish it for not being present in the parade, when the bird 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 to the King in Jerusalem. When she meets him there he amazes her with the powers that God has bestowed on him. She duels with him in an intelligent conversation. She asks him many riddles and he answers them all, the last one she asks: ” seven are departing. Nine are entering in. two are giving drink, but only one is drinking. What are they?” and he answers:
“The seven whom you have spoken of as departing are the seven days of a woman's separation from her husband when she is unclean by reason of her natural purgation. Yet, while she enters her nine months of pregnancy, the seven days of uncleanness are not to be found with her, since she remains clean for that entire duration of time. Thus, the seven being departed, the nine come in. Whilst the two whom you have said are giving drink, these are the two breasts giving milk to the newborn infant. However, the only one actually drinking from those breasts is the baby himself!”
Again, she asked the king: “This thing, at first, goes upon four. Then it goes upon two. At last, it goes upon three. What is it?”
The king replied: “When a child is born, he first crawls upon four. When he learns to walk, he walks upon twain. When the child becomes old, and is waxen in years, he is helped by the cane – hence, he goes upon three.”
The queen, realizing the wisdom with which King Solomon had been endowed by his God, left off asking him riddles, and so sought answers to those long-standing questions which she had long ago asked herself in her own land, but could find no answers. When the queen had heard these matters, she was satisfied and made note of the things.
Now when King Solomon had entertained her a great while, and had given her gifts to take back into her own country, and had shown her his house, and the great feats of engineering used by him in constructing the house of the forest of Lebanon, as well the splendour of his table and the orderly manner of his attendants and their fine apparel, as also the ascent he would make use of when going up unto the Temple of GOD, with its impregnable walls, she resolved to ask him one last question, saying:
“My lord and Sovereign, at thy behest I have come unto thee, traversing both land and sea, and taking the entire Government along with me, to hear this thy wisdom. And, indeed, it was but a small report that I heard in my own land concerning thee, until I came here to see and hear it for myself. Thy wisdom far exceeded that which was told to me by my servants.
And even then, I could not believe it until I had seen it! Happy are the men who serve thee, and blest is the God who delightest in thee to make thee a king of his people! Art thou then the Messiah who is wont to come into the world?”
Answered the king: “Let not thy countenance be distraught, O fair queen, that God hath chosen to impart wisdom unto his subjects. For he is the God who made heaven and earth, and we are his people. Is it not then commensurable with his excellence to make me a king of his people? Yet, even so, I am not he whom though seekest.”
So, she went away into her own land, leaving behind her a great reputation for one who sought after virtue.
About the writer:
(David Ben-Abraham has been fascinated over the subject of the Queen of Sheba, ever since his tour of Yemen in 1979, where allegedly the queen had her origins. An avid reader of ancient Arabian histories, and one who has had recourse to ancient books of Jewish lore, he has combined his knowledge of both fields to help him build this short-story.
Many of the scenes described herein are found in, both, ancient Arabic and Aramaic sources. For instance, the Qu'ran (in the 27th chapter known as “Surat al-Namal,” or The Ant) specifically mentions the hoopoe bird (Arabic: “hud-hud”), while so does the Second Aramaic translation of the book of Esther, which is read by the Jews. The bird, as the story goes, was sent with a message to the Queen of Sheba from King Solomon.
The Qu`ran (ibid.) also mentions the glass floor used by King Solomon, and which was mistaken by the queen for water. David Ben-Abraham makes his living as a freelance writer and translator of, both, biblical and exegetical literature, translating such works into English which were heretofore unknown to most English readers.
His style is unique, preferring an archaic style over the contemporary, and has a complete command of the King's English.)