- Queen of Sheba & The Kebra Nagast (Glory of King)
- Importance Queen Sheba, The Ark of Covenant & The Kebra Nagast in Ethiopian History
Africa Facts Zone presents The Queen of Sheba – an exotic and mysterious woman of power. She is immortalised in the world’s great religious works, among them the Hebrew Bible and the Muslim Koran. She also appears in Turkish and Persian painting, in Kabbalistic treatises, and in medieval Christian mystical works, where she is viewed as the embodiment of Divine Wisdom and a foreteller of the cult of the Holy Cross. In Africa and Arabia her tale is still told to this day and, indeed, her tale has been told and retold in many lands for nearly 3,000 years.
Queen of Sheba & The Kebra Nagast (Glory of King)
Of all the stories of the Queen of Sheba, those of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa are those that probably retain the most resonance today with the people who tell them. The stories are immortalised in the Ethiopian holy book – the Kebra Nagast – where we find accounts of the queen’s hairy hoof, her trip to Solomon and her seduction. But these tales go further.
According to this tradition, the Queen of Sheba (called Makeda) visited Solomon’s court after hearing about his wisdom. She stayed and learned from him for six months. On the last night of her visit, he tricked her into his bed, and she became pregnant. She returned to her kingdom, where she bore Solomon a son, Menilek meaning ‘Son of the Wise’.
The story goes that years later Menelik travelled to Jerusalem to see his father, who greeted him with joy and made him king to rule after his death. But Menelik refused and decided to return home. Under cover of darkness he left the city – taking with him its most precious relic, the Ark of the Covenant and thus founding the royal Solomonic dynasty of Ethiopia, which ruled until the deposition of Haile Selassie I in 1974.
Importance Queen Sheba, The Ark of Covenant & The Kebra Nagast in Ethiopian History
The importance of the queen, the Ark of the Covenant and the Kebra Nagast in Ethiopian history cannot be overstated. Through their reading of the Kebra Nagast, Ethiopians see their country as God’s chosen country, the final resting place that he chose for the Ark – and Queen Sheba and her son were the means by which it came there. Thus, Queen Sheba is the mother of their nation, and the kings of the land have divine right to rule because they are directly descended from her. Emperor Haile Selassie even had that fact enshrined in the Ethiopian Constitution of 1955.
Haile Selassie was not, however, the first Emperor to publicly declare the importance of the Kebra Nagast. London’s National Archives contain letters dating from 1872, written by Prince Kasa (later King John IV) of Ethiopia to Queen Victoria, in which he writes (translated):
“There is a book called Kebra Nagast which contains the law of the whole of Ethiopia, and the names of the shums (governors), churches and provinces are in this book. I pray you will find out who has got this book and send it to me, for in my country my people will not obey my orders without it”.
On Victoria’s permit, the book was returned to Ethiopia, and it is now kept in Raguel Church in Addis Ababa, where a front page inscription explains its history.
The Ark of the Covenant still resides today in a specially built treasury in the courtyard of St Mary’s Church, Ethiopia