The Queen of Teman

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According to the Greek texts of Matthew 12:42 and Luke 11:31, Jesus used the expression “queen of south.” Why didn’t Jesus use “Queen of Sheba,” which is found in the Bible, and second, why is there no definite article before “south” (i. e., queen of the south)? More importantly, how can “south” be an equivalent for “Sheba”?

Revised: 15-Aug.-2016

According to the Greek texts of Matthew 12:42 and Luke 11:31, Jesus used the expression “queen of south.” This is clearly a reference to מַלְכַּת שְׁבָא (malkat shevā’, “the Queen of Sheba”), who paid a visit to King Solomon (1 Kgs. 10:1-13).

The queen of “south” will stand up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, a greater than Solomon is here. (Matt. 12:42; Luke 11:31)

Jesus’ substitute, “queen of south,” raises several questions. First, why didn’t Jesus use “Queen of Sheba,” which is found in the Bible, and second, why is there no definite article before “south” (i. e., queen of the south)? More importantly, how can “south” be an equivalent for “Sheba”?

Synonyms for South

Biblical Hebrew has three synonyms for south: תֵּימָן (tēmān), נֶגֶב (negev) and דָּרוֹם (dārōm).

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My thanks to Aramaic specialist Charles Meehan for his help in preparing this article.


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