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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Queen (2)

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QUEEN (βασίλισσα).—A title occurring only once in the Gospels (Matthew 12:42, Luke 11:31), in our Lord’s reference to the queen of Sheba as ‘the queen of the south.’ The visit of the queen of Sheba to king Solomon is related in 1 Kings 10:1-13 and in 2 Chronicles 9:1-9, and the chief object of her journey was to satisfy herself as to his great wisdom, the report of which had reached her, although she was also attracted by the accounts which had been brought to her of his riches and magnificence. It is to the former of these two purposes of her visit that our Lord refers. The Pharisees had demanded of Him a special sign, and He replied that no such sign should be given them, but that they should have a sign in Himself and in His burial and resurrection, as the Ninevites had had in Jonah. But the Ninevites, He added, would in the judgment condemn the men of that generation; for they had repented at the preaching of Jonah, who was a sign to them, while the men of that generation, He implied, would not repent at the preaching of one greater than Jonah. Then, referring to the celebrated queen, He added: ‘The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.’

The connexion between the case of the Ninevites and that of the queen of Sheba does not lie on the surface. Some have supposed that our Lord refers to a woman as the correlative to the men of Nineveh previously spoken of. Others think that, having spoken of the Ninevites to whom without any seeking of theirs a preaching of repentance was brought, He refers, to complete the warning, to one who was herself a spontaneous seeker of wisdom. Without setting aside these suggestions, it is more to the point to observe that our Lord brings into juxtaposition the two characteristics—so strongly emphasized in the case of Jew and Gentile—of the desire for a sign, and the seeking after wisdom; and it has been suggested that St. Paul may well have had this whole incident in mind when he wrote 1 Corinthians 1:18-27 (see esp. 1 Corinthians 1:22). We may also notice how our Lord in effect boldly claims to be what St. Paul says that He is, ‘the wisdom of God.’ Solomon was ‘wiser than all men’ (1 Kings 4:31), and later Jewish literature delighted to magnify his wisdom (cf. Wisdom of Solomon 7:17-21). For our Lord, then, to claim before a Jewish audience to be ‘something more’ than Solomon, was to claim to be Wisdom itself. We may also remark how here again, as in the discourse at Nazareth, our Lord chooses His examples from among Gentiles (cf. also Matthew 8:11-12; Matthew 10:15; Matthew 11:22-24).

Abyssinian legend has many strange tales of the queen of Sheba, declaring that she came from Ethiopia, that her name was Maqueda, and that she had a son by Solomon. (For many curious details, see Ludolf, Hist. Aethiop. ii. 3; Vitœ sanctorum indigenarum, ed. K. Conti Rossini; Legend of the Queen of Sheba, ed. E. Littmann; also Josephus Ant. viii. vi. 5). All this, however, probably rests on a confusion between Seba (סְבָא) and Sheba (עְבָא), cf. Psalms 72:10. Our Lord’s phrase, ‘the queen of the south,’ falls in with the most widely accepted opinion, i.e. that Sheba was in South Arabia; her land was accordingly more than a thousand miles from Jerusalem, a fact which justifies our Lord’s words, ἐκ τῶν περάτων τῆς γῆς (cf. Jeremiah 6:20).

Albert Bonus.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Queen (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/q/queen--2.html. 1906-1918.

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