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Queen of Sheba, King Solomon & the Ethiopian Dynasty

Ethiopian tradition places great importance to the story of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The Kebra Nagast (Glory of Kings), a seven hundred old account of the origins of the Solomonic line of the Emperors of Ethiopian, contains the story of how the two monarchs met.

Ancient Candles in JerusalemAccording to the narrative of the Kebra Nagast, King Solomon invited the Queen of Sheba to a banquet where he served her spicy food in order to induce her thirst. He suggested that she stay in his palace overnight and she conditioned her acceptance that he swear that he would not take her by force. He accepted on the condition that she would not take anything from his house by force. The queen agreed, slightly offended that he should suggest that she as a rich and powerful monarch would engage in stealing.

However, in the middle of the night, the queen awoke, her mouth very dry, and took a jar of water to quench her thirst. The king appeared, warning her that she had broken her oath by taking the water, the most valuable of material possessions. Thus, the queen was required to free the king of his promise and they spent the night together. The outcome of that night was the birth of a son by the Mai Bella stream in the province of Hamasien, Eritrea.

The story is that the child later on became Menelik I, Emperor of Abbysinia. He was the founder of a dynasty that would reign in Ethiopia until the emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown in 1974. The book also tells how the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Ethiopia by Menelik and how the Ethiopian nation converted from the worship of the sun, moon and stars, to that of the "Lord God of Israel".

Claiming a lineage which goes all the way back to King Solomon of Jerusalem was an important source of legitimacy and prestige for the Ethiopian monarchy throughout the many centuries of its existence, and had important and lasting effects on Ethiopian culture as a whole. The Kebra Nagast is not merely a literary work but the repository of Ethiopian national and religious feelings. It is similar in importance to the Old Testament and the Qur'an.

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