Damien F. Mackey
‘The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here’.
Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31
Owing to our modern tendency to think along global lines, we can sometimes over-extend the more localised geographical indicators given in the Bible. Thus we might be inclined to imagine that ‘the Queen of the South coming from the ends of the earth’ must have set out from some location far, far, to the south of Jerusalem, whereas - according to what has been determined in this series, at least - she came only from the southernmost boundary of the kingdom of Israel, from Beersheba in the Negev.
Jesus Christ appears to have given very specific geographical co-ordinates here.
Actually, the descriptive phrase, ‘Queen of the South’, can biblically embrace also the Egypt/ Ethiopia where the ancient Jewish historian Josephus had located this queen: “There was then a woman, queen of Egypt and Ethiopia. . . . When this queen heard of the virtue and prudence of Solomon, she had a great mind to see him. . . . Accordingly she came to Jerusalem with great splendor and rich furniture.” (Whiston, Josephus’ Complete Works, Antiquities of the Jews, VIII, VI, p. 5.7). For, as I noted in my:
Solomon and Sheba
…. The New Testament evidence that Solomon's visitor was a “Queen of the south [who] came from the ends of the earth ...” (cf. Matthew 12:42 & Luke11:31) supports an Egypto-Ethiopian identity. In the Book of Daniel, the phrase ‘of the south’ was used with various rulers to designate rulership over Egypt and Ethiopia (cf. Daniel 11:5, 6, 9, 11, 25, 40).
[End of quote]
Jesus Christ had coupled the Queen of the South with the prophet Jonah and ‘the men of Nineveh’, whom he had mentioned first (Matthew 12:38-41):
Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from you’. He answered, ‘A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here’.
This eschatological threat by Jesus towards “some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law” would have been quite pointless had neither the Queen of the South nor Jonah truly existed and done what Jesus had attributed to them. It would have been somewhat like a mother threatening her child that if he/she continued to disobey her, then Daffy Duck would terrorise the child.
‘So what?’ one might appropriately retort under the circumstances.
According to this series, however, the Queen of the South was a known historical person – she was Queen Hatshepsut who became the Pharaoh of Egypt and Ethiopia.
And, if this identification is correct, then it must add further sting to the words of Jesus Christ. And it must also add strength to the argument that the prophet Jonah was an historical figure - further verified in 2 Kings 14:25 - and that he really had ‘sojourned’ in the belly of the whale.
“Was Jonah really in the belly of the whale?”, a student once asked Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.
Fulton Sheen: “I don’t know, but the first thing I am going to do when I get to heaven is to ask Jonah: Were you in the belly of the whale?”
To which the wiseacre student replied: “What if Jonah’s not there?”
Fulton Sheen: “Then you ask him”.