Axum, Ethiopia and the Queen of Sheba (In Amharic)      
Today’s The World Around Us will be presented in Amharic and English, with subtitles in Amharic, Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Mongolian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Slovenian, Spanish and Thai.

Greetings noble viewers. The Queen of Sheba was a legendary monarch of ancient Ethiopia who is referred to in just four sources: the history of the ancient Habeshan people of Ethiopia, the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament of the Christian Bible), the New Testament of the Christian Bible, and the Holy Qur’an. Who is she, the famous yet mysterious Queen of Sheba of Ethiopia? Today’s program will explore the story of an individual whose life is not known in full detail.

What we do see clearly is that Makeda, as she is known in Ethiopia, was single-minded in her life. That is, she was in single-minded pursuit of one goal: wisdom. The following words are attributed to the Queen of Sheba, or Makeda, in the Kebra Nagast. The Kebra Nagast is a historical account of the ancient rulers of Ethiopia and is also called “The Book of the Glory of Kings.” Makeda, whose name means “Greatness,” is said to have explained to her subjects why she was departing the land in order to seek out the wise King Solomon of Jerusalem.

She said, “I desire wisdom and my heart seeks to find understanding. I am smitten with the love of wisdom.... for wisdom is far better than treasure of gold and silver... It is a source of joy for the heart, and a bright and shining light for the eyes, and a giver of speed to the feet, and a shield for the chest, and a helmet for the head... It makes the ears to hear and hearts to understand.”

“...And as for a kingdom, it cannot stand without wisdom, and riches cannot be preserved without wisdom.... He who heapeth up gold and silver doeth so to no profit without wisdom, but he who heapeth up wisdom – no man can steal it from his heart... I will follow the footprints of wisdom and she shall protect me forever. I will seek asylum with her, and she shall be unto me power and strength.”

According to the Kebra Nagast, the queen’s loyal subjects understood and valued her pursuit of the intangible and answered her in this way: “O our Lady, as for wisdom, it is not lacking in thee, and it is because of thy wisdom that thou loved wisdom. And as for us, if thou goest we will go with thee, and if thou sittest down we will sit down with thee; our death shall be with thy death, and our life with thy life.” The Queen of Sheba is thought to have lived in the 10th century BC.

According to the Ethiopian historical book, which is called “Kebra Nagast” in Amharic or “The Glory of Kings” in English, the Queen of Sheba was an Ethiopian queen who lived around Axum in her special town, which was called Debra Makeda.

Sheba was a prosperous kingdom. Through the use of dams and wells and excellent water management techniques, there was enough food and water in Sheba to meet all needs. Sheba was blessed with gold, precious stones like sapphires, spices, and other valuables sought after by neighboring lands. Thus, according to the Kebra Nagast, the Queen of Sheba came to know of another legendary ruler of the time, King Solomon, through trade.

Once upon a time, there was a businessman named Tamrin, who informed the queen (that) King Solomon was a very wise king. After the queen heard the good news of King Solomon, she was so impressed by his wisdom and she decided to pay him a visit. So it’s believed that she traveled to Jerusalem to see the wisdom of the king.

The Queen of Sheba's desire to know wisdom was so strong that she traveled approximately 2,300 km across the Middle East to Jerusalem to meet King Solomon. She brought vast wealth to present to King Solomon – such as gold, precious stones, furniture and spices. Upon arriving, the queen was given a royal welcome by the gracious king. It is said that Makeda tested King Solomon repeatedly to truly confirm he was the man of wisdom all said that he was.

One example is that she presented him with the trunk of a cedar tree, with both ends made to look identical. She then challenged him to tell her which end was the root end and which was the end furthest from the root. King Solomon took the wood and put it into water. The root end sank as it is the heavier end – thus giving him the answer.

In a theological riddle, the queen asked: “What is the ugliest thing in the world, and what is the most beautiful? What is the most certain, and what is the most uncertain?” Solomon replied, “The ugliest thing... is the faithful turning unfaithful; the most beautiful is the repentant sinner. The most certain is death; the most uncertain, one's share in the World to Come.” The Queen of Sheba was impressed with the answers the king gave to this and her other questions. She had many discussions with King Solomon and compared his wisdom to something akin to “a lamp in the darkness.”

After a time, Makeda returned to her own country. For her return journey, King Solomon gave her many expensive gifts from his kingdom such as gold and camels. But more than these material things, her journey had been rewarded with the most precious treasure of all. For while it can be neither touched nor measured on scales, it was wisdom that the Queen of Sheba had most desired from her pilgrimage to the land of King Solomon.

When she reached to Ethiopia, she gave birth for a baby and she named this baby Menelik, which means “the son of a wise king.” When Menelik reached the age of 22, he started to ask his mum who his father was, and at the age of 22, it’s believed that he traveled to Jerusalem to see his father’s land. So according to “The Glory of Kings,” he stayed in Israel for about three years.

After three years, he was so interested to come back to his motherland. He embraced Judaism as his religion. At the same time, he studied Hebrew, the language of the Jewish. So when he was coming back, it’s believed that he was accompanied by 12,000 Jewish, and these 12,000 Jewish were contributed from the 12 tribes of Israel. So it’s believed that there were more than 300 clergymen who were coming with Menelik.

On May 7, 2008, the University of Hamburg in Germany announced that its archaeologists had found the queen’s palace. The discovery was made in the northern Ethiopian city of Axum. They dated the structure to the 10th century BC. Lead archaeologist Helmut Ziegert stated: “From the dating, its position and the details that we have found, I am sure that this is the palace.”

The archaeologists also say that the palace has an altar where the Ark of the Covenant was once kept. According to the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament, the Ten Commandments were received by the prophet Moses from God and were inscribed on stone tablets. The tablets were put into the “ark” which is an acacia wood box with gold plating. Ethiopian tradition says that King Solomon had a son with the Queen of Sheba and that the son, Emperor Menelik I, took the ark from Jerusalem to Ethiopia.

Azarias, he was the son of Zadok, the keeper of the ark, was coming to Ethiopia with the king. So it’s believed that he took the original Ark of the Covenant from the temple and they brought it to Ethiopia. At that time, King Solomon, was not aware, so this was the way how the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Ethiopia.

According to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s interpretation, what we believe is that the Ark was not just brought by the interest of ordinary human beings, but it was brought to Ethiopia by the will of God. Because when the Ark of the Covenant was coming to Ethiopia, even the Ark performed a lot of miracles. So what we believe is that God wanted Ethiopia to be the last resting place for the Ark of the Covenant. And taking the relationship which was between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba as pretext, the Ark was brought to Ethiopia by the will of God.

Here we have a very historical water reservoir, which is located in the town of Axum, and locally, we call it Mai Shum. When it’s translated into English, Mai Shum means “water for the chief.” According to the Ethiopian oral traditions or the legend around Axum, it’s believed that once upon a time, this was the swimming pool for the Queen of Sheba. The original size was smaller and we have these rocky steps, which are believed to be original. Especially after the introduction of Christianity, Epiphany has been celebrated for long period of time. This day is celebrated to commemorate the day when John baptized Christ at the River Jordan.

For this reason, annually in January 19, the Epiphany holiday is celebrated colorfully. From among the elements of the celebration, on the eve of January 19, the replica of the Ark of the Covenant is carried by the priests, and the priests are dressed colorfully, with colorful vestments and the faithful follow them. The people, they pray all the night and the clergymen perform the chanting for all the night. The people even sing together.

Finally, the most important person from the church blesses the water. The candle floats over the water surface. Finally, the water is sprayed over the faithful. Then the replica of the Ark is again accompanied by the people back to its sanctuary. We take this water reservoir as symbol for the River Jordan. This day is celebrated colorfully, especially here in Axum, and at the same time at Gondar, even at Lalibela, where Christianity is deep-rooted.

We thank you for joining us today. Now, please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television for Words of Wisdom, coming up next after Noteworthy News. May celestial ideals adorn your lives with light and fulfillment.

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