The Queen of Teman

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Why didn’t Jesus say “Queen of Sheba,” which is found in the Bible, instead of “Queen of the South”?

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”?

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


  • David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin
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    David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
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