Since the publication of the best selling erotic novel, “Fifty Shades of Grey” it seems people are plainly obsessed with sex. As such, this could serve as a gentle reminder that one of the most erotic books ever written is found in the Holy Bible.
The Catholic Church defends,”The Song of Songs” meaning the greatest of songs, as an exquisite and sublime portrayal and praise of the mutual love of the Lord and his people. The Lord is the Lover and his people are his beloved. Describing this relationship in terms of human love, it characterizes the covenant between the Lord and Israel as a marriage. It paints a beautiful picture of the ideal Israel, the chosen people whom the Lord led to an exalted spiritual union with himself in the bond of perfect love. When the Song is thus interpreted, there is no reason for surprise at the tone of the poem which describes the courtship and marriage of two people very much in love.
However, the Ethiopians beg to differ. One of their very old books, “Kebra Negast” which means the Glory of Kings, tells of a beautiful love story. It is about Makeda, the young virgin queen who lived in the Virgin Land. That was the name given to Ethiopia — Virgin Land — because of their queen. The capital of her kingdom was Axum. Makeda reigned over parts of Southern Arabia in Sabea, called Sheba and because of this she was called Queen of Axum and Sheba.
She had heard of King Solomon and learned of his great wisdom. She desired to meet him and learn the wise way of governing her land. The journey was long – longer than the exodus, but the distance was covered not in forty years, but in forty days.
The queen’s caravan was enormous, like an army. Jerusalem saw the multitude of dark people and panicked. But King Solomon calmed them. He rejoiced greatly that the Queen of the South had arrived.
There were no photographers or reporters to record the event and what took place in Jerusalem at the time of the Queen’s visit. But hand drawn pictures and poetry tell us she talked and talked to Solomon on matters of religion and she eventually abandoned the worship of the sun and moon and stars and worshipped the God of Israel. Love of poetry which was a true indication of their love brought them closer together.
“O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth! Or your love is better than wine, your anointing oils are fragrant, your name is oil poured out; therefore the maidens love you….”
After the Queen had spent a great deal of time in Jerusalem, she told King Solomon that, even though she would like to remain in his capital and continue to learn and gain wisdom from him, the time had come when duty required that she return to her land.
“Draw me after you, let me make haste. The King has brought me into his chambers. We will exult and rejoice in you; We will extol your love more than wine; rightly do they love you….”
When Solomon heard the time had come for her to leave, he was saddened but as a king, he understood. But the man in his heart said, ” A woman of such splendid beauty has come to me from the ends of the earth. Will God give me seed in her?”
“I am very dark, but comely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of cedar, do not gaze at me because I am swarthy, because the sun has scorched me….”
The King was most reluctant to part with his gracious and lovely visitor and urged the queen to prolong her stay for yet another season in order to complete her instructions of wisdom.
After one of those dinners at which the meats were highly seasoned, Solomon invited the queen to spend the night in his quarters. She agreed to do so on condition he did not violate her person. Solomon accepted on condition she not take anything of his. Having thus reached an agreement, the two retired for the night. During the night, the queen awoke and took a drink of water because of the highly seasoned meats — only to find Solomon who had expected this.
He accused her of breaking the oath not to take anything of his. She protested the oath did not apply to water. Solomon made it clear there was nothing more precious upon the earth than water. He thus justified taking her to bed because she had broken the agreement.
“Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful!..Your lips are like a scarlet thread and your mouth is lovely… Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle that feed among the lilies… You are all fair, my love…”
On her return to Ethiopia, the Queen of Sheba was sad and lonely.
“I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, If you find my beloved, that you tell him I am sick with love. O that his left hand were under my head and that his right hand embraced me! I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem that you stir not nor awaken love until it please…”
The Queen gave birth to a son whom she named Menelik. The royal youth was brought up in Ethiopia and sent to Jerusalem to receive his father’s blessings. After a lengthy stay in Jerusalem, the son knew it was time to return to Axum and rule his kingdom. Solomon loved Menelik and wanted to keep him in Jerusalem and make him his heir. His heart was torn apart between his love for his mother and father. His new friend, the son of the High priest told Menelik that everyone knew God was not pleased with Solomon because, since the departure of the Queen of Sheba, he had built craven images and paid homage to the pagan gods of his foreign women. He further told Menelik if they took the Holy Ark to his kingdom, God would bless the faith to the new Zion. So they took the Ark of the Covenant from the temple and together with several families of nobles and other religious leaders, fled the city.
The tragedy of the great King Solomon came before his death. He had finished building the house of the Lord. He excelled all the kings of the earth in riches. Even though he had seven hundred wives, three hundred concubines and loved many foreign women, he still could not forget the Queen of Sheba. He could not find love in his soul and never wrote another song again. The queen of Sheba was gone and their son who had come to him had left for his own kingdom. He could not pray and God never spoke to him again. The nights were long and empty and so it came to pass that the man whom the Lord had blessed with a discerning mind, ended up in his own kingdom of madness.
Worst of all, he had broken the Hebrew blood line.
As in every story, there is a beginning. And it’s always about a man and a woman. We know the man — King Solomon – the wise and the powerful who ended up in disgrace. But it is not the end of the story. It is only the beginning!