Singing the Song of Life
Blood Roses: The Canticle of Canticles
Rabbi Akiva had this to say in espousing the Song of Songs into the Jewish canon:
The Song of Songs, which is to be read at the Pesach Shabbat, is the ultimate love song on many levels, the song of sexual love, the song of the mashiach, the song of the soul, the song of the nation Israel, the song of humanity, the song of the universe and the song of God and Wisdom together.
Now this is a truth and the Song of Songs is our salvation and the redemption of the Earth and the principle of the Song of Songs is the reunion and recognition between the two genders and each - Solomon giving the Queen of Sheba all that she desired is the key to Wisdom. The Wisdom of Solomon is what gave him the six hundred and sixty six talents and six hundred and sixty six, 'here is Wisdom' is Homo sapiens. Sapiens is Wisdom. The mark of the beast Homo is sapiens, Sophia or Hockmah - Wisdom.
The sacred marriage is not simply worshipping the female in an epoch of dominion, "but it is the relationship of reconciliation between the two sexes and between humanity and nature. And light and darkness are represented in the sacred marriage. "I am black but comely O ye daughters of Jerusalem" The Queen of Sheba is the Shulamite, she's the darkened one of the enclosed garden. She also represents the repressed feminine principle. In Luke it says "The Queen of the South shall return and judge the men of this generation" and that is the sacred marriage principle returning and it is the feminine principal returning and what apocalypsia means - the term 'apocalypse' is an unveiling and it is traditionally the unveiling of the bride - it is the feminine gender in Greek.
The Song of Songs expresses for all time the fertility of sexual love in its full abundance. Through the love and passion of the young king and queen for one another, the living world springs forth anew, the plants bursting into flower and fruit, the wilderness into wild splendour and the herding flocks pregnant with offspring. The "Canticles" sits paradoxically in the Old Testament, being transparently a celebration of the hieros gamos of the the Summer King "Salmaah, the Kenite Dionysius, making love to his twin", the Flower Queen, "the May bride of Shulem". It was accepted into the Bible only after the time of Jesus by Akiba the rabbi who pronounced the Zealot Bar Kochba Messiah..
Villa Noailles, Grasse. Jennifer
Potter 1998 Secret Gardens,
Conran Octopus London ISBN 1-85029-962-5
The song reverberates with the sexual erotica of the goddess of the enclosed garden. "A garden concealed is my beloved" ..."Let my beloved come into his garden and eat its pleasant fruits" ..."Open to me my sister, my love ... for my head is filled with dew".
Although it is attributed to Solomon, its date is much more recent, (circa 200 BC). Robert Graves (1948 261) notes: "The Canticles, though apparently no more than a collection of village love-songs, were officially interpreted by the Pharisee sages of Jesus's day as the mystical essence of King Solomon's wisdom, and as referring to the love of Jehovah for Israel; which is why in the Anglican Bible they are interpreted as 'Christ's love for his Church'.
Although the Canticles ring with the sensual joy and longing of the sacred marriage and abounds like no other tract of writing before of since with the sheer abundance of fertility of garden, wilderness and flock alike, the undercurrents of human sacrifice are never far away. Although, as in the joyful courtship of Inanna, we delight in the abundant fertility - "Thy teeth are as a flock of sheep which go up from the washing, whereof every one beareth twins and there is not one barren one among them," we also find "As a lilly among thorns, so is my love among the daughters. As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. " The thorns of male sacrifice thus remain lurking among the sisters, for whom the red lilly is also a symbol of sacrificial blood, and the beloved is none other than the dying vegetation God Tammuz - Adonis or Lord:
"The 'lilies' are the red anemones - the wind flower - that sprang up from the drops of blood that fell from Adonis's side when the wild boar killed him (Graves 261), sprinkled with nectar by the mourning goddess. The name anemone appears to be derived from Naaman - darling, an epithet of Adonis (Frazer v4/1 226).
The rose also received its present hue from this fatal event, for as Aphrodite ran barefoot through the woods to the aid of her lover, the thorns of the white rose-briars, the damask rose, tore her delicate skin and the flowers were henceforth tinged with red (Henderson 119).
The apple is the Sidonian (i.e. Cretan) apple, or quince, sacred to Aphrodite the Love-goddess, and first cultivated in Europe by the Cretans. The true apple was not known in Palestine in Biblical times and it is only recently that varieties have been introduced there that yield marketable fruit" (Graves 1948 261).
Pondering the way the words of the Song of Songs have held so powerfully true in our tangled dilemmas of love and life I suddenly wondered ... "who wrote the song of songs", from the love strong as death to the "passion fierce as Sheol" and the utterly flowing tenderness of feminine sexual arousal echoing through the verses?
The book is also called the Song of Solomon because the first verse appends the words li-shlomo to the phrase "song of songs." Depending on one's interpretation, li-shlomo can either be "by Solomon", or "for Solomon." Was the author then a woman, or a man? Was it written by one person or many? At one time, or over many episodes? How come such a nakedly lubricious sexual piece made it into the Jewish and hence the Christian bible and whence did it come anyway ... if not from the alleged hand of Solomon?
The answer to how it gained entry to the Bible is itself intriguing. At the 90 A.D. Council of Jamnia. Jewish Rabbis from across the spectrum of Judaism assembled in order to close in Jewish Canon. The Palestinian rabbinical school of Shammai stood in the fore of the opposition for canonization of Song of Songs. They argued that nothing could be considered scripture that was being employed in lewd, barroom songs. Notably, like Esther it does not mention god explicitly. Fortunately the cause of Song of Songs was championed by the less stringent Babylonian rabbinical school of Hillel. Akiba said: "The entire universe is not as worthy as the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the Writings are holy, but the Song of Songs are the Holy of Hollies." Lead by the defense of Rabbi Aqiba, the Hillel school succeeded in maintaining the canonicity of Song of Songs. The inclusion of the Song of Songs within the canon is at some level an affirmation of the essential created goodness of sex, as if the Rabbis appreciated the goodness of human love, and realized the importance of canonically affirming it.
Hillel was a very enlightened benefactor of Yeshua's teachings. Hillel said "Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you" a more protective inverse of Yeshua's assertive "Do unto others what you would have them do to you". Akiba is also famous for anointing the Jewish Zealot Bar Cochbah as mashiach shortly afterwards, for which his detractors said "grass will grow out of your jaw" because it led to the final destruction and diaspora of the Jewish nation by the Romans.
Now coming back to the Song of Songs, we find, despite their attribution to Solomon, they are redacted much more recently perhaps around 400-300 BC. The presence of Aramaic, Persian, and Greek words in the text means that the work antedates the sixth century B.C. All internal evidence considered, the best dating available places the compilation of Song of Songs between 400 and 300 B.C.
Many writers attribute the Song to being simply a collection of pastoral love poems which have been drawn together over many years into a larger piece. The variety of explanations of the Song's allegorical or ritual meaning shed a fascinating light on its long and tortuous history.
Midrash, Targum, and Medieval Jewish commentators state that the intended message of Song of Songs is an allegory of God and Israel. The succession of events flows from the Sinai Covenant through subsequent events. Later, the early church fathers adapted this view to Christianity by changing the role to the love of Christ for the Church. This allegorical view is parried by the natural perspective, given its direct sexual overtones that the song is simply a song of heady infatuation or at best a series of insights in the nature of love as a spiritual teaching.
But there are references in the Song which point to much earlier times and to the lost traditions of Northern Israel. The naming of the city of Tirzah in 6:4 is evidence that compilation must have occurred sometime before 876 B.C. This is because Tirzah, compared to Jerusalem in the verse, ceased to be the capital of Israel in 876 B.C. when Omri moved the Northern capital to Samaria. This could place some of its early compilations back to the time of Solomon.
Running through the Song are a series of motifs shared by rituals and customs of Palestinian and Syrian wedding ceremonies. Parallels with Syrian wedding songs written in Arabic have been noted for centuries. Other authorities have suggested they may be related to ancient Mesopotamian and Canaanite ceremonies uniting divinities in marriage. This would place the development of the Song of Songs as something preceding Israelite religion and stemming from the most ancient sacred marriage celebrations throughout pastoral Mesopotamia, from Inanna and Dumuzzi and Tammuz and Ishtar, continuing all the way to rural Israel-Palestine in Yeshua's time.
In addition, the Song presents a dramatic cycle either involving the romance of two lovers or an eternal triangle composed of Solomon, a rustic maiden and the maiden's shepherd lover. This brings us back full circle to the celebration of the sacred reunion as a dramatic rite of renewal in world fertility, uniting in turn with the marriage traditions to generate a primordial wisdom literature expounding the mysteries of sexual love in reunion, with all the spice and coals, apples and thorns of love, fertility and tragedy woven in - a teaching of the cumulated poetry of sexual fertility manifest in all the cultures from Jericho and Sumeria, through Israel, echoed again in the medieval arts of courtly love. The Queen of southern Saba, who is also the bride of the scented garden, is notably a black but comely Shulamite, thus personifying the black madonna, Kali.
The Song of Songs has thus become the consummate cultural evolutionary mosaic of the hieros gamos or sacred marriage, weaving into its themes, from a succession of cultures, not only the joys of love; but sacrificial motifs - the love who had withdrawn himself and was gone, the rose among the thorns, the smiting and wounding of the bride; and all the dimensions of sexual love's paradox, from the select one and only love undefiled amid the many wives and concubines, to the male competition for the female hinted at in the king and shepherd lover - "Is the male lover the same as the king, with king just being love language, or is the king in competition with a rustic lover?" In its dramatic movement, the unmistakable message of the book is the complexity and power of human love.
Perhaps this begins to give some explanation why the Song of Songs has no parallel for sheer fertility in the midst of the sap and dew of erotic consummation and for the deep lessons it provides of the paradoxical dilemmas of love and the source love provides for cosmic awakening in perpetual fertility.
In celebrating the sacred marriage, we become direct inheritors of all the paradoxes these lines contain. This is why we face the dilemmas we do. It is part of the mystery into which we enter as a key.
Nikaulis and Solomon : A Cultural Hieros Gamos
The mythical and possibly historical pilgrimage of the Queen of Sheba, Nikaulis to Josephus, Bilqis to Muhammad (pilgesh - concubine Heb) and Makeda in Ethiopia to King Solomon celebrates a rare union of the genders, each in their true power, a cultural hieros gamos between a great Goddess Queen and a great King of the Father God, each of whom is master and mistress of their own domains and destinies, and never a mere consort of the other. They celebrate the confluence of their lives as two independent figures in history each on their own journey.
Solomon is renowned for the splendour of his reign, his wisdom, the power of the magic of the Key of Solomon, and his appreciation for and understanding of nature. "And Solomon's wisdom excelled all the wisdom of all the children of the east country and all the children of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men ... And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things and fishes. And there came all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom". His palace in the cedars was twice the size of that in the capital.
Solomon's beautiful black bride the Shulamite, reflects the Godess of darkness Zulumat, the fertile garden-paradise of the Oriental kings. The queens of Sheba of had a capital Mariaba with king consorts forbidden to leave the temple on pain of stoning (Walker 946). It is also related that Solomon feared she had animal feet like Lilith and arranged to view her feet reflected from beneath her long skirt in a still pool of water, finding to his relief, that she was fully human, if a little hairy. The term Shayba 'old woman' is an epithet of the Great Goddess.
"Now when the Queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold, and precious stones; and when she came in to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. And Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king which he did not explain to her. And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings which he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her. And she said to the king, 'The report was true which I heard in my own land of your affairs and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it; and, behold, the half was not told me; your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report which I heard.' "
"Happy are your men! Happy are these your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! BIessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel for ever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness. Then she gave the king a hundred and twenty talents of gold, and a very great quantity of spices, and precious stones; never again came such an abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon. ... Moreover the fleet of Hiram, which brought gold from Ophir, brought from Ophir a very great amount of almug wood and precious stones. And the king made of the almug wood supports for the house of the Lord, and for the kings house, lyres also and harps for the singers; no such almug wood has come or been seen, to this day" (1 Kings 10:8)
"And King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all that she desired , whatever she asked besides what was given her by the bounty of King Solomon. So she turned and went back to her own land, with her servants" (1 Kings 10:13).
The terms come in and all that she desired are taken to mean that Solomon and Nikaulis were lovers and that she sought a child by the king. It is said that their meeting took place in terms of an ancient prophecy of the messiah king, and that Bilquis was coming as a queen of the ancient race to see if this was really the case. A passage in the Midrash ha-Gadol begins by referring to Genesis 25:6: 'But to Abraham's sons by concubines Abraham gave gifts while he was still living, and he sent them away.. .'Among those thus sent away was Jokshan, father of Sheba (Genesis 25:3). They were, the story continues, to remain apart from Isaac and his descendants until the messiah had come. Now in the days of Solomon, the situation was so favourable, as 1 Kings 4:25 reports, that it seemed as though the Messiah had come (Pritchard 68). ... However, when it was recognized that Solomon was not the messiah, the concubines' descendants retumed home to await his coming. The passage concludes: 'And they are destined to return in the days of the Messiah, may it come quickly and in our days, for it is said in scripture,' " (Isaiah 60:6) "the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee ... all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense".
The idea that Solomon was the messiah was justified, for his reign was one of both splendour and peace: 1 Kings 4:21 "And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life. ... For he had dominion over all ... the kings on this side the river: and he had peace on all sides round about him. ... And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon."
Jesus stands on the tradition of this myth when in Matthew 12:38 he claims to be messiah, by prophesying the arrival of Nikaulis, at the same time as refusing to confirm his miraculus nature, offering only the ritual of the descent of the three days of darkness: "Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, 'Master, we would see a sign from thee'. But he answered and said unto them, 'An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. ... 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."
Solomon's accession to the throne has all the hallmarks of a traditional sacred king. He is appointed through the wiles and power of his mother, with the more than coincidental name Bath-Sheba, after his half-brother Absalom is hung in a tree after challenging David by going to his concubines in the sight of all Israel and his brother Adonijah makes a similar display of assuming power over Solomon after the failure of the old and feeble King David to perform the sacred act with the comely Shunnamite Abishag. Adonijah is temporarily forgiven when he holds on to the horns of the altar. However when he then makes a play for Abishag's hand, thus attempting to assert virility rites over the young regent, Solomon has him killed. Solomon then receives his wisdom from God in a dream at Gibeon and demonstrates it to the two women fighting over an offspring, by threatening to divide the child in two.
His temple is notable for its male and female symbolism. 1 Kings 7:15 " For he cast two pillars of brass, ... And he made the pillars, and two rows round about upon the one network, ... And the chapiters that were upon the top of the pillars were of lily work ... And the chapiters upon the two pillars had pomegranates ... two hundred in rows round about ... and he set up the right pillar, and called the name thereof Jachin: and he set up the left pillar, and called the name thereof Boaz." The two pillars, Jachin and Boaz were "he shall establish" (the sun) and 'in its strength" (the moon), consistent with worship of the heavenly host. The pomegranate, rimmon, was a symbol of both the womb and fertility of the seed (Walker 805).
Solomon's diverse Religious Exploits
Solomon is also renowned for his love of his diverse wives' deities. "And Solomon made affinity with Pharoh king of Egypt, and took Pharoh's daughter, and brought her unto the city of David". He built a temple to Yahweh to replace the tabernacle tent, and the many sanctuaries in the high places. "And the Lord said if thou wilt walk before me as David ... then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel forever". "But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of the Pharoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonains and Hittites" let alone the Shulamite Queen of Sheba. "Solomon clave unto these in love" And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines ... For it came to pass that when Solomon was old that his wives turned away his heart after other gods ... Astoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites ... Chesmosh of Moab, Molech of Ammon ... and likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burned incense and sacrificed unto their gods. ... And the Lord was angry with Solomon". "I will surely rend the kingdom from thee ... but will give one tribe to thy son for David thy father's sake" (1 Kings 11:1) However the fall of Solomon's empire resulted from a previous escape of Hadad the Edomite from his initial patricide and thus predated Solomon's transgressions.
The very large numbers of wives and concubines is consistent with the models of sacred kingship based on spermatogenic fertility, characteristic both of many national leaders up to the 20 th century in the case of Mao Tse Tung.
Although the riches and bounty of Solomon's era as Kingof Israel is famed in the Bible, the Sabeans possessed a long-lived culture lasting from 1700 BC to 400 AD, which has left significantly greater evidence of its richness than the kingdom of Solomon, of which there are few archaelogocal records. While Solomon made good trade in minearls and chariots, Sabean wealth was based on the spice trade in frankinsense and myrrh.
Solomon's Kingdom: The Archaelogical Evidence
"Archaeology has been able to recover sizeable portions of three cities of the tenth century BC, cities prominent enough to have been mentioned in the Bible as cities which Solomon built. Each is extremely modest in extent: Megiddo (after which Armegeddon is named) is no larger than 13 acres; Gezer measures approximately 27 acres; and the area of the higher mound at Hazor, half of which was encircled by the tenth-century casemate wall, is only 30 acres. These 'cities'.. even by the ancient Near Eastern standards, ... were far from what one might call urban centres; they were more like villages. ... Artefacts of bone, stone, clay, an occasional metal tool or weapon., suggest a cultural level which was apparently lacking in both artistic sophistication and wealth. As yet no. evidence has been found for the use of chariotry or for the metal trappings for the harness of horses. As for gold and other precious metals, its occurrence is limited to an occasional earring or other article of personal adomment. ... Solomon is mentioned in no Egyptian, or Mesopotamian, or Phoenician document. Only from the Bible do we learn that he lived" (Pritchard 1974 17).
In contrast to the picture of life in the tenth century is that derived from 1 Kings 3-11, a life that might be termed a 'Golden Age'. Mentioned are huge amounts of gold, ivory carvings., bronze in abundance, woods imported from distant lands. Since it was obvious that Palestine was a relatively poor land and gold was not indigenous to the area, the author took pains to identify its source, Ophir, a distant land reached by the navies of Solomon and Hiram. In one verse the figure of 42o talents ... is mentioned; in another, it is said that 666 talents - more than 38,000,000 gold dollars flowed into the treasury of Solomon each year (1 Kings 10:14). Yet there is nothing to indicate what was exported in exchange for this gigantic income.
"When we compare this account of his age with that of the Court History of David in II Samuel 9-20 and Chapters 1-2 of 1 Kings, which has been almost universally acclaimed by biblical scholars ... for its candid objectivity, here there is but one mention of the precious metal: the crown of Milcom, king of Ammon, conquered by David's forces, contained but one talent of gold (2 Samuel 12:30). In the Court History of the king who conquered the vast kingdom over which his son Solomon ruled this one talent, as far as we are told, constituted David's entire assets of gold" (Pritchard 1974 35).
Archaeology of the Realm of Nikaulis
Diodorus Siculus notes: "This tribe [the Sabaeans] surpasses not only the neighbouring Arabs but also all other men in wealth and in their several extravagancies besides. For in the exchange and sale of their wares they, of all men who carry on trade for the sake of the silver they receive in exchange, obtain the highest price in return for things of the smallest weight. Consequently, since they have never for ages suffered the ravages of war because of their secluded position, and since an abundance of both gold and silver abounds in the country, . . . they have embossed goblets of every description, made of silver and gold, couches and tripods with silver feet, and every other furnishing of incredible costliness, and halls encircled by large columns, some of them gilded, and others having silver figures on the capitals. Their ceilings and doors they partitioned by means of panels and coffers made of gold, set with precious stones and placed close together, and have thus made the structure of their houses in every part marvellous for its costliness; for some parts they have constructed of silver and gold, others of ivory and the most showy precious stones or of whatever else men esteem most highly" (Pritchard 1974 44). Their sculpture and votive offerings were refined.
Strabo noted that the king of Saba who "presides over the court of justice and other things" was not permitted to leave the palace, for if he did "the people would at once stone him, in consequence of a saying of an oracle" (Pritchard 1974 66).
While her tomb and documents of her time have yet to come to light, and remains of the tenth century BC are still largely unknown to archaeology, the recovery of a small amount of contemporary evidence together with a considerable amount of material from only three or four centuries later enables us to reconstruct a general outline of the Queen of Sheba's culture with considerable probability. She would have lived surrounded by the accoutrements of an affluent civilization: a thriving trade that brought unparalleled prosperity; an irrigation agriculture that provided ample subsistence; a distinctive architecture in stone that was second only to that of Egypt in the ancient Near East in its execution and variety of ornamentation; a richness in metallurgy and stone carving as well as an abundance of artists and artisans who pursued these vocations; a high degree of literacy among the people, who had a keen appreciation of the importance of a written language and of their beautiful alphabetic script; and an art that is representational in a symbolic archaic manner (Pritchard 40).
Sabean religion was astral with a prominent moon deity 'Ilumquh. The sun-goddess was the moon's consort; she was perhaps best known in South Arabia as Dhat Hamym, 'she who sends forth strong rays of benevolence'.
The Demonization of the Queen: Nikaulis the Judaic Lilith
The Targum sheni of the early centuries AD describes an allegory of Ahasuerus' banquet, recounted in the Book of Esther. There was a great feast which Solomon gave for 'all the kings of the East and of the West'. Not only were the kings summoned but 'the wild beasts, the birds, the reptiles, the devils, the demons, and the spirits' who danced before him 'to show his greatness'. When the roll was called, all had assembled but the cock-of-the-woods (hoopoe). Solomon was not to be thus insulted and gave the order that the bird be brought before him under threat of death. The hoopoe then in defence, relates the tale of Kitor (Hebrew ketoret means smoke of incense) 'Now, if it please my lord the king, I shall gird my loins like a mighty man, and shall rise and go to the city of Kitor, in the land of Saba, and shall bind its king and governor in chains of iron, and shall bring them to my lord the king' (Lassner 64)
'Of course Solomon was delighted with the prospect and dispatched a letter of demand together with an armada of birds so great as to obscure the sun and cause the queen such consternation that she 'took hold of her clothes and tore them in pieces'. ...The queen's counsellors were unimpressed: 'We do not know Solomon nor do we esteem his kingdom.' Womanly intuition, however, overbore their advice. She gathered a great fleet, loaded it with 'presents of pearls and of precious stones' That the queen was in haste to visit Solomon is evident from her letter of reply: 'Although the journey from Kitor to the land'of Israel is of seven years, yet owing to the question I have to ask thee, I shall come in three' (Lassner 74)
The Targum Sheni merely reports that the queen thought that Solomon was sitting in the midst of water and so, in approaching him, raised the hem of her garments, and disclosed that her feet were hairy. The king remarks: 'Thy beauty is the beauty of women, and thy hair is the hair of men; hair is becoming to men, but to a woman it is a shame.' The queen ignores his unseemly remark and turns at once to her 'hard questions' (lassner 75).
The very brief mention of the visit in Alphabetum Siracidis reports that the queen was hairy all over and that Solomon, quite intent on possessing her but apparently somewhat finicky, sent her various depilatories that proved effective. 'The Tale of the Queen of Sheba' has a somewhat different focus, for it alone reports that the queen is a 'demon'- a matter to which we shall return at length. In 'The Tale of the Queen of Sheba' it is part of a plan on Solomon's part, for he wishes 'to lie with her'-he knows, of course, that her husband is dead - but is repelled by her hairiness which was considered a demonic characteristic.
The queen propounds riddles to test Solomon's wisdom. There are many versions of the riddles. Here is a typical set:
The Targum to Job calls her Lilith the Queen of Demons, who strangled infants in their cradles (cot death syndrome), could be summoned with magic charms, and as a succubus coupled with men. (Lassner 65)
In the Zohar the Queen asks Solomon the arts of sorcery, i n particular the handling of the snakes of the bones of the heathen seer Balaam. It is said that Solomon didn't need to make shoes for her, because she was a demon.
Ben Yosef relates that The mother of the queen was a beautiful djinn who save the future king from an unsolvable riddle. The gifted daughter then married the king who and reigned in his stead after his death as queen of both the djin and Sabeans (Pritchard 1974 81).
Bilqis the Sun-worshipper of Islam
Pre-Islamic poetry describes Solomon as a king of universal kingdom of men, djinn and winds etc. nine angels stand before him. He built the castle al-Ablaq near Taima.
"The great civilization of South Arabia was little known to the Arabs of Muhammad's time [although] any of the Arab tribes of Muhammad's day still had a tradition that they had lived in South Arabia before taking to the desert when the old civilization declined." Some tribes retained a memory of being settled there before conditions worsened, apparently connected with the Marib dam bursting and a return to nomadic life. Restorations were know to have been carried out in 450 and 542 which puts a final date on the demise (Pritchard 1974 88).
Sura 34:15 states: "Certainly there was a sign for Saba in their abode; two gardens on the right and the left; eat of the sustenance of your Lord and give thanks to Him: a good land and a Forgiving Lord! But they turned aside, so We sent upon them a torrent of which the rush could not be withstood, and in place of their two gardens We gave to them two gardens yielding bitter fruit and (growing) tamarisk and a few lote-trees."
Sura 27:15-44 relates many of the episodes already found for example in the Targum Sheni, a further indication of the familiarity Muhammad had with details of Jewish literature outside the Pentateuch. Rather than Bilqis being portrayed as a demon, Solomon is portrayed as a great man of God and master of the Djinn to whom Bilquis submits in acknowledgement of al-Llah. The story of the Hoopoe is told. The people of Sheba are said to be sun-worshippers. Her throne is disguised and placed before her as a test. She says "It is like it' evasively. As she walks on to the palace: 44 "She though it a pool and uncovered her legs. Solomon said 'It is a place paved with glass.' She sadi 'I have wronged myself to God, Lord of the worlds, with Solomon I make submission.' "
Makeda the Founding Heroine of Ethiopia
In Ethiopia, the tale of Solomon and Sheba is central to the Ethiopian monarchy which traces its line back to Menelick II the son of Solomon and Makeda the Queen, complete with an entry in the constitution concerning the 'oil of kingship' - the messianic anointing oil.
The Kebra Nagast a medieval romance. Relays the meeting as a consequence of trading relations. Solomon is very overwhelmend by Makeda and becoes determined to take her. She poses a question "What in the world in most valuable?" He offers a great banquet with highly seasoned food and at the end of the evening ask her to stay in his tent. She accepts provided he doesn't take her by force. He accepts on condition she takes nothing. During the night she is thirsty and takes a drink. He stays her hand. She learns that water is the most precious thing. From the lesson of the water Makeda returns to Saba to build the Marib dam and irrigate.
Solomon takes her by force under the pretext of the broken promise. He then has a dream that the sun will depart from Israel and stand forever over Ethiopia. Makeda returns to the Land of Saba bearing his infant son. Menelick later journeys to Solomon and returns with the Ark (the Shekina). In the illustrations, the Queen is pictured full-face (good) while Solomon is profile (evil). Like the Qur'an and probably derived from it, she thus abandons Sun worship for the god of Israel.
The Legend of the True Cross.
Adam before he died pursuaded Seth to return to the garden and plead for the oil of mercy. Gabriel gave Seth the branch of the original tree from which Adam and Eve ate. This tree had blackened and withered away when they had committed their "happy sin" or Felix culpa, but had burst forth anew when Michael promised man's future salvation.
But Adam had died when Seth returned, so he planted the branch
on Adam's grave, where it lasted until Solomon's time as a mighty
tree. Solomon cut it down to build, but it always changed shape
and was thrown down as a bridge. When the Queen came to cross
the water, she knelt in adoration at the sacred wood and prophesied
that it would be used to nail a world saviour who would defile
and end the Jewish heritage. In a related tale she has a goose-foot
deformity which is cured as she wades across the stream (Pritchard
The Wisdom, Chocmah or Sophia of Solomon is similarly a late work, which dates from long after Solomon's time. It is characteristic however of wisdom literature in which wisdom, or Sophia is embued with the feminine gender, which is in other places recognised as a cryptic name for the goddess and her wiles: Proverbs 9 - "Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars... she hath sent forth her maidens : she crieth on the high places of the city" ... and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, "Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant." But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell.
The Wisdom of Solomon dates only from the first century BC, long after Solomon.
Sophia (Sapientia) continues to have a pivotal in later gnostic writings, where she plays both the role of the divine feminine principle of wisdom unfolding true understanding where the jealous male God has withheld it, and as wisdom which has attempted to prempt the creative Logos of the paternal deity, as illustrated in the passages below from Elaine Pagels (Gnostic Gospels 75-78 ).
"In addition to the eternal, mystical Silence and the Holy Spirit, certain gnostics suggest a third characterization of the divine Mother: as Wisdom. Here the Greek feminine term for 'wisdom', sophia, translates a Hebrew feminine term, hokhmah. Early interpreters had pondered the meaning of certain Biblical passages - for example, the saying in Proverbs that 'God made the world in Wisdom'. Could Wisdom be the feminine power in which God's creation was 'conceived'? According to one teacher, the double meaning of the term conception - physical and intellectual - suggests this possibility: 'The image of thought [ennoia] is feminine, since ... [it] is a power of conception."
"The Apocalypse of Adam, discovered at Nag Haminadi, tells of a feminine power who wanted to conceive by herself: '... from the nine Muses, one separated away. She came to a high mountain and spent time seated there, so that she desired herself alone in order to become androgynous. She fulfilled her desire, and became pregnant from her desire...'"
"The poet Valentinus uses this theme to tell a famous myth about Wisdom: Desiring to conceive by herself, apart from her masculine counterpart, she succeeded, and became the 'great creative power from whom all things originate', often called Eve, 'Mother of all living'. But since her desire violated the harmonious union of opposites intrinsic in the nature of created being, what she produced was aborted and defective;' from this, says Valentinus, originated the terror and grief that mar human existence. 'To shape and manage her creation, Wisdom brought forth the demiurge, the creator-God of Israel, as her agent' ".
"Wisdom, then, bears several connotations in gnostic sources. Besides being the 'first universal creator', 'who brings forth all creatures, she also enlightens human beings and makes them wise. Followers of Valentinus and Marcus therefore prayed to the Mother as the 'mystical, etemal Silence' and to 'Grace, She who is before all things', and as 'incorruptible Wisdom' for insight (gnosis)".
Some gnostics taught that genesis narrates an androgynous creation. Others attributed to Sophia the benefits that Adam and Eve received in Paradise. ... When the creator became angry with the human race because they did not worship or honor him as Father and God, he sent forth a flood upon them, that he might destroy them. But Wisdom opposed him... and Noah and his family were saved in the ark by means of the sprinkling of the light that proceeded from her.
Return to Genesis of Eden?