Was the Queen of Sheba the Queen of the South?
There is a common notion that the Queen of Sheba and the Queen of the South mentioned in Matthew 12:42 and Luke 11:31 were the same queen who visited King Solomon. However, it could be that the two queens were two different monarchs who visited Solomon separately. Solomon was visited by kings and monarchs of the world to learn about his wisdom and riches (1 Kings 10:24 and 2 Chronicles 9:23). Therefore, it could be possible that the two queens were among the many monarchs who sought audience with Solomon.
The Queen of the South was probably the Ethiopian queen who came from the ends of the earth to hear Solomon’s wisdom. In comparison with present-day Yemen, which accommodated the South Arabian kingdom of Saba, Ethiopia is located more exactly to the south of Israel or Jerusalem. Yemen is located more toward the southeastern side of Israel, whereas Ethiopia is located directly in the southern direction of the bottommost tip of Israel, even south of Yemen. Ethiopia, located in the Horn of Africa or East Africa, is considered to be one of the ends of the earth. And with Jerusalem considered as the center of the earth both physically and spiritually, it makes more sense to pinpoint Ethiopia as the country located in the southernmost direction of Israel.
On the other hand, the Queen of Sheba mentioned in 1 Kings 10 could be the South Arabian queen of the kingdom of Saba, which was located in present-day Yemen. One of the factors that differentiates her from the Queen of the South mentioned in the New Testament is the approach to learn about Solomon’s wisdom. Both in Matthew 12:42 and Luke 11:31, the Scripture says the Queen of the South came to Solomon to “hear” his wisdom. If we consider the Queen of Sheba’s approach, we come to know that she came to Solomon to “test” or “prove” him with difficult questions, according to 1 Kings 10:1 and 2 Chronicles 9:1. Furthermore, the Scripture says in 1 Kings 10:4 and 2 Chronicles 9:3 that she had “seen” Solomon’s wisdom.
Ethiopian Eunuch and Candace Queen of the Ethiopians
Acts 8:26 gives an interesting insight into the place or country that is south of Jerusalem. The writer uses the word “south” in this verse to indicate the location that the angel of the Lord directed Philip to. The verse continues to say that the angel asked Philip to take the way going “down” from Jerusalem. Now, the reason Holy Spirit gave this instruction to Philip was to preach Jesus Christ to an Ethiopian eunuch—whom a Candace queen of the Ethiopians had given charge of all her treasury, and also great authority (Acts 8:27).
The Ethiopian eunuch was “returning” home from Jerusalem and reading the book or scroll of prophet Isaiah in his chariot. The purpose of his visit to Jerusalem was worship. Given the heavy presence of Christianity in Ethiopia during the time of the kingdom of Aksum and even today, the Ethiopian eunuch seemed to have regularly visited the holy city for worship.
Acts 8:26-28 give evidence that Ethiopia is one of the countries to the south of Israel or Jerusalem. These verses also suggest that the Candace queen of the Ethiopians may have visited Jerusalem earlier and the Ethiopian eunuch had followed suit or obeyed the Candace’s order to visit the holy city for worship on her or her kingdom’s behalf. Having said that, the Ethiopian eunuch may have visited the holy city for his personal worship to God. Nevertheless, the clear mention of the “Queen of the Ethiopians” from a country to the south of Jerusalem in Acts 8:27 indicates that this queen could be the Queen of the South whom Jesus talked about in the New Testament.
Moreover, Philip preaching Jesus Christ to the Ethiopian eunuch shows that Ethiopia is one of the ends of the earth, according to Acts 1:8. This is because Jesus Christ commanded the apostles to be witnesses to Him in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Until Acts 8:26, the apostles had already been witnesses to Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. Thus, with the gospel being preached to an Ethiopian eunuch, it indicates that Ethiopia is one of the ends of the earth. The same reference “ends of the earth” was used by Jesus when He talked about the Queen of the South in Mathew 12:42 and Luke 11:31.
African Sheba versus Asian Sheba
If we look at the family tree of Noah’s son Ham, there is a person named Sheba recorded as part of the family of Cush. Biblically and historically, Ham is considered as the direct ancestor of African nations and Cush as ancient Ethiopia. This shows the possibility of the existence of an African or Ethiopian Sheba. It could be that the Queen of the South mentioned in the New Testament was one of the queens from a land named after this Sheba. This may be a reason some believe the Queen of the South was the Ethiopian queen of African Sheba who visited Solomon as mentioned in Mathew 12:42 and Luke 11:31.
If we look at the family of Noah’s son Shem, there is another person named Sheba recorded as part of the family of Joktan. Biblically and historically, Shem is considered as the direct ancestor of Asian countries and Joktan as that of many nations or tribes in Southern Arabia or Arabia, which is an Asian peninsula. This shows the possibility of the existence of an Asian or a South Arabian Sheba. It could be that the Queen of Sheba who visited Solomon, as mentioned in 1 Kings 10 and 2 Chronicles 9, was a queen from a land named after this Sheba. This may be a reason some believe the Queen of Sheba was the South Arabian queen of Asian Sheba who visited Solomon as mentioned in the Old Testament.
Lastly, the mention of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians in Acts 8:27 brings to mind the history of the Kingdom of Kush and its queen who either co-ruled, ruled independently, or exerted substantial influence on the kingdom. Some scholars associate the name Kush, which was located in modern-day Sudan, with Cush of the family of Noah. At one point of time in history, Meroe—which was the capital of the kingdom of Kush—was invaded or captured by the kingdom of Aksum, whose capital is said to be in today’s Ethiopia.