We are continuing with the visit of the queen of Sheba to Solomon. She came to benefit from his astounding wisdom from God.
Because of the length of our ‘boots on the ground’ story, I had to cut it in half. We pick up our story with Bilquis, the queen of Sheba, and Solomon in his throne room. He has just asked her what wisdom she is seeking. Her heart pours forth the need of physical salvation for her people. Little does she know that spiritual salvation will also be held out to her.
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“Our grain has been blighted by mildew. What survives the mildew grows smaller with each passing year. The surviving crop also seems to be causing illness in my people. We are starving to death as we fill our bellies from our fields.”
“And you would like me to tell you how to cure this mildew? And how to grow heartier and healthier crops?”
“Yes. That is my hope.”
“I could tell you things that may help your people but without being able to show you the reasons behind these changes, your farmers would quickly tire of them and revert back to their old ways. You need to see the difference with your own eyes. It is good that you have arrived in the spring for it allows me to demonstrate and teach your servants about their seed and their ground.”
“I have brought some seed with me in hopes that you could examine it and tell me what ails it.”
“If you will permit me the time of one season we will resolve this matter, with the help of wisdom from my God.”
“I would be most grateful and will commit my servants to study all you have to offer them.”
“And what of your other questions?”
“Since it appears I will be here some time, we have time for many discussions and questions. I would like to get started on learning how to help my people as soon as possible.”
“Your heart seems to beat for your people. We will see to it that it doesn’t stop any time soon. Let’s get started.”
Solomon and Bilquis make their way to Solomon’s garden when he shows her his plantings. He has everything that is grown in Israel represented within its borders. All are ready for the spring rains to bring them to life. Solomon explains how he chooses which plants to grow next to one another, how to prepare the soil, how to determine the light each will need and how to ensure they each get the water they will need for optimal growth.
“This is my personal garden. For your concerns we need to choose a field where we can start fresh. And we need to gather those who will learn the tasks needed to transform your yield.”
“I can gather my men now. Where should we go and what must we do to be ready?”
Solomon nods his approval of her eagerness to learn. “I will speak with my steward and locate an appropriate plot. We should be able to begin about midday. This will give you time to prepare your people and retrieve your grain. Have your people meet me at the main gate to the city. I will lead them from there.”
“I trust it will not be a problem if I attend with them? I too want to learn. I may one day want to plant a garden of my own.”
Solomon smiled at the thought of this beautiful woman toiling in her own garden. He has no doubt that, given the right tools and instruction, she would make a wonderful showing of crops. He doubts there is much that is beyond her.
“You would be most welcome. The task ahead is hard, even for a seasoned farmer. Do not be ashamed if you should require rest. In the beginning, even the best of your men may have need of it too. Keep that in mind and treat them with care. They will grow into the task as our season together progresses.”
The two rulers part company to attend to each of their tasks in preparation for the day’s activities. Bilquis gathers her servants and gives them Solomon’s warning of what lays ahead. A few are prideful and vow they will have no need of rest and can handle anything the king of Israel can. Bilquis marks these men in her mind. Prideful men can be very difficult to teach. She may need to take extra measures to ensure their attitudes do NOT stand in the way of her people’s future.
Midday arrives and both groups meet at the appointed place. Together they journey to the field Solomon’s steward assure him required the most intervention to produce a good crop. Solomon thought it best to start with such a field as he surmised that the fields in Sheba may be in the same state.
As soon as they have all assembled in the field Solomon begins giving instructions.
Three things need done first and can be done together. 1. Clear the land of any large stones; any that are bigger than your fist. 2. Take note of any wet spots. Is there standing water, is it under cover of a tree or at the edge of an overhang or is it just a damp spot where the sun has not yet reached? 3. Notice the color and texture of the soil. Is it light or dark? Does it easily sift between your fingers? Does it compact when squeezed in your fist or fall apart? All these things tell you what you have to work with.
You will no doubt notice that the field has an abundance of weeds growing in it. Feel free to pull the largest ones as we undertake our other three tasks but don’t feel as if you have to remove every last weed. When we plow the field it will break lose any that remain and they can be gathered up at that time.
Before the day is out the field has been thoroughly examined, wet spots have been marked, and piles of rocks and weeds have been established on the corners of the field. At the end of the day Solomon walks back over the field with all those involved in the task and explains the difference in the soil types identified. He points out the best soil, the soil that will need a little help, and the soil that will take the most work.
“This was a good start. Assemble again tomorrow morning right after your morning meal. My men will bring a plow and oxen to pull it. I will join you after the morning sacrifice.”
The next day is spent in plowing and clearing the field. Solomon is just as involved in the task as any man. He finds many teaching moments where he can explain different techniques in plowing the different types of soil. Some plow with ease while other areas need a much stronger hand. After the entire field is broken up Solomon sets the men to clearing away the remaining weeds. This takes up the remainder of the day.
Day by day Solomon explains the different nutrients the soil needs for good plant growth, how to identify what is missing, the best way to replenish the soil, and the importance of rotation and rest for a field. After a week of tending to the needs of the soil Solomon tells his students it is time to plant. A few areas have been purposefully left as they were so that the difference will be evident in the yield.
Solomon also takes time to examine the seed brought from Sheba. Bilquis is very interested in this task as she hopes to learn what it is that her seed lacks. Solomon puts it next to grain seed from his own storehouse. The seed from Sheba is darker in color and heavier. Solomon sees right away that there is a difference in moisture content. Solomon asks how it is being stored. When he hears the process for harvest and storage he immediately picks up on something. The farmers of Sheba are not drying their seed before storage. It is put away while it still has most of its moisture within the seed. He feels this may be the root cause of their blight. Their seed is always damp and therefore prone to mildew. Solomon divides the seed from Sheba. He dries half of the seed and preserves the moisture in the other half. Each section he plants will be divided in half. One half will receive the dried seed while the other the moist seed. This too should show a difference in yield and health of the plants.
Learning continues on the main issue Bilquis came to Solomon for and she turns her mind to other questions she has. Solomon makes time to sit and talk with her at the end of each day so she can voice anything she wishes. He also tells her of his God and His history with the people of Israel.
“Even the kingdom of Sheba has heard legends of a people who walked across the sea on dry land. I always believed it was a story of myth but you say it actually happened to your people?”
“My people have a history full of acts that others would think myths. When it comes to walking across the see on dry land, my God made the impossible a reality. And He did it not once, but twice for his people.”
“Tell me of the second.”
“It doesn’t get as much attention as it was not a “sea” He brought His people across but the river Jordan.”
“A river is much easier to cross, especially when it is low. There would be no need of a miracle.”
“Except he did it while the river was at flood stage and the people once again walked across on dry land.”
“No other god has made such claims. This is a God I would like to know more about.”
Solomon smiled at her interest in his God. It will be his delight to share with her the stories of his people and his God.
The major tasks in planting having ended, Solomon had more time to spend with Bilquis. He showed her all he had. Daily he would take her on short journeys to see the towns nearby where he had made improvements for them, tour Jerusalem, visit his garden, or comb through the plans he was in the process of completing. During these times he also spoke of the Lord and how He cared for His people.
“We are a chosen people. We are called His children.”
“What did your people do to earn this status? I would require it of mine also.”
“Abraham our father was chosen from all the world for his faith. He had faults like the rest of men but he had great faith in the Lord. Why he was chosen is not clear, just that he was. The promises the Lord God made to him are the people you see standing before you today. He promised that his descendants would be as numerus as the stars in the sky.”
“He must have has a large family to have spawned such a great nation.”
“At the time the Lord made His promise to Abraham he had no children at all. His child of promise was born to him when he was a hundred years old. And his wife was ninety!”
“I cannot imagine being that age, let alone bearing a child at that time in life. I don’t believe I would have the strength for such a task.”
“She lived to see her son’s 25th year. I believe her strength and long life were a gift from the Lord also.”
“Did she have other children?”
“Only the one was born to the two of them. Abraham had one son by her handmaiden before Sarah bore him the child of promise, Isaac. Abraham had other children after her death.”
“Your God blessed him with amazing strength too. What became of his other children; the ones ‘not of the promise’?”
“Many nations rose from his loins. That too was a promise of the Lord our God. His son Isaac would father two nations and his first son with the handmaiden fathered many nations of his own.”
“Are they not part of your nation?”
“There was strife between the two mothers that was passed onto the two brothers. The first was sent away and a rift exists between the two to this day.”
“That is sad. Family is of great importance to my people. To lose part of it is to lose part of yourself.”
“It is sad but I believe that the Lord God has a purpose even in this. He has promised to redeem the world through His chosen people, Israel.”
“How does He plan to do this? And when will it happen?”
“These are answers even I do not have. These are secrets He guards closely so man cannot spoil them. He gives us glimpses into His plan so that we can hold fast to our faith but the fullness of it will only be revealed in time; in His time.”
“How may my nation please Him and be blessed by Him? Can we too become His people?”
“I don’t know how to answer your last question but I have seen Him bless those who bless Him and curse those who curse Him. He is a jealous God and those who serve Him must serve Him alone, forsaking all other gods. That is His first commandment. He has given us His commandments and Laws which we are to live by. Perhaps if your nation adopts His precepts He will bless you also.”
“I would like to learn of the commandments and laws.”
Solomon and Bilquis spent many days pouring over the commandments of the Lord. She made no promises for her people but she would carry Solomon, and God’s, words in her heart for the rest of her life. This was the greatest wisdom she felt she received from Solomon, possibly even beyond that of the rehabilitation of her kingdom’s crops.
As the growing season progressed Solomon was able to easily demonstrate the difference in the soil preparations and the care of seeds. The greatest yield came from the seed that had been dried before planting and the soil that had been given nutrients. As reaping time drew near Solomon had another lesson that needed to be taught to preserve the yield of the field. They all met together to walk the field with Solomon pointing out the important differences in the soil.
“Notice how the soil has slightly changed color closer to the plants. This is because the plants are using up some of the nutrients in the soil, the ones we added plus a few others. To keep your field producing you need to rotate the kinds of crops being grown. Some crops use certain nutrients that others don’t. Some actually add back nutrients that other crops would use. You would do well not to plant the same crop in the same field for more than three seasons. Even adding nutrients at the beginning of each season doesn’t do as much as planting a crop that uses other nutrients in its place. Also it is vital to let your fields rest. The Lord our God has taught us the need for rest for all things including the land. Every seventh year we leave the field fallow.”
“But if we plant nothing in the seventh year how will our people eat” asked one of the guards who had been studying under Solomon.
“First, you must save a portion of what you gather each year for the year of rest. Second, rotate which fields are fallow. Each year choose some to leave fallow while you plant the others. This way there will always be fields producing food for your people while others are at rest. This is how to rotate the corps too. Choose in the first year which fields will contain what crops. Plant different crops in field groupings and rotate what is planted or fallowed in groups. This ensures grain will be available every season and greatly extend the life of your fields. It has the added benefit of reducing the amount of nutrients you need to replace in them yourselves.”
Solomon’s students soaked up every piece of wisdom he dispensed that season, including the best way to deal with weed in the field. This lesson he would conclude at harvest time.
Two more weeks passed before Solomon proclaimed the harvest ready. He took Bilquis and her servants through the field and showed them the final difference between the plantings. The crops grown with the undried seed in the poorest soil were withered and moldy.
“A wise farmer would have uprooted these crops so they could not infect the other healthy plants. I purposefully left them to grow so you could see the dangers inherent in not caring for all your fields when you plant. Notice that the grain on the edge of this next field bears some of the blight also.”
Solomon had described for them the signs of fully ripe grain during the last two weeks. They checked daily, under his supervision, for what he had indicated. Today he was able to actually show them the difference.
“See how the heads are white and the stalk is light. The grain no longer puts out the milky substance when you press it with your finger. It dents but does not ooze. This is the perfect time to harvest. From the seeds you presented me with it looks as if you were harvesting too soon. Your storage process is what kept the moisture in the grain and brought you to the point of near crop failure. Learn well this sign of ripeness and adhere to it. But do not wait past this time or your grain will shatter and fall to the ground. There must be enough moisture in the grain to keep it on the stalk for harvesting but not so much that it molds within itself.”
“But what of this grain? It looks different from the rest. And over here too” asked Bilquis.
“It is different because it is a weed; it is a tare. Remember I cautioned you against pulling weeds from your field. The reason for this is that the wheat and tares look alike as they grow but the tares are obvious when harvest time comes. Now you can separate the wheat from the tares easily.”
Harvest time was joyful for all involved. Bilquis servants rejoiced at the bounty grown in such a small field. They looked forward to teaching these techniques to their families in Sheba. Solomon was grateful to have had the opportunity to make such a difference in the lives of another people. Bilquis was the only one showing signs of distress as the harvest drew to an end.
“Bilquis, something is troubling you. Please share it with me. Perhaps I can help.”
“I do not believe there is any hope for what ails me, for I am torn. Would that I could stay here in Jerusalem and learn at your feet and at the feet of your God for the rest of my life. But I must return home to my people and bring the wisdom you and your God have bestowed on me to them; to save them from death. I long to see my home and my family but I also long to know more of your God. If only I were two. One could fill each role.”
“I understand your dilemma. I will miss our talks together. But I know your people have need of you, now more than ever. What I would do for you, if you permit it, is to give you a copy of our God’s commandments and of my own collection of proverbs that I have kept throughout my life. Hopefully you will find wisdom within them to guide you when I am not available.”
Great heaving sobs erupted from Bilquis as she wept with joy. Solomon quietly waited until she was composed enough to speak.
“This is a greater kindness than I could ever have hoped for. To take the words of your God and the wisdom He has imparted to you back to my people will bless them even more than the teachings you have imparted concerning our crops. For food from the ground fills the belly but for a little while. Food for the soul fills the spirit for all time.”
“Then I am pleased to offer you both.”
“I have gifts for you also. I know you have stayed my hand many times as I tried to bless you with them saying that you were still ‘singing for your supper’ but it is time your ‘supper’ was served. You have earned all that I have brought and more. Please let my servants prepare you one last meal before we return to our country where I may present to you the gifts you so rightfully deserve.”
“I accept your offer. Tomorrow night we will dine on the delicacies of your people once again. I admit freely that I enjoyed myself immensely at the last banquet you prepared.”
The night of the banquet Solomon made sure to invite all his advisors and put on his best. The reception Bilquis thought would come in the beginning of her visit happened at the end instead.
Bilquis used Pharaoh’s daughter’s bathing tub one last time as she prepared for their final meal together. She even allowed Pharaoh’s daughter leave in applying makeup to her face and fragrances to her hair and body. She wanted this to be a night to remember; one like no other. As the two women entered the banquet hall Bilquis was nearly breathless at the sights before her.
The room had been made over in her honor. Tapestries draped the ceiling making it appear as dunes of sand. Candles burned softly in each corner and dotted the tables giving the room a soft glow. The servants standing in the room were dressed in robes to match the tapestries making it appear as if the shifting sands were moving throughout the room. The tables were overflowing with delicacies from both kingdoms. The officials were dressed in their finest robes with honors displayed prominently on their tunics. Solomon stood in the center of the room dressed in his finest robes which matched the beauty of the one Pharaoh’s daughter had chosen for herself for this night. Even Solomon’s cupbearer, who stood to the side of Solomon’s place at the table, was arrayed in robes that complemented Solomon’s own attire.
Bilquis stood silent as Pharaoh’s daughter moved to stand beside her husband. Then Bilquis came and bowed deeply before Solomon.
“The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes have seen it…” Bilquis raised herself up from where she had bowed and looked tenderly at Solomon. “…And behold, half the greatness of your wisdom was not told me; you surpass the report that I heard…”
Solomon smiled at her praise but kept silent.
Bilquis turned her eyes to Pharaoh’s daughter, “…Happy are your wives!..” She spread her arms wide to encompass the room and those within it. “…Happy are these your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!…” She returned her gaze to Solomon. “…Blessed be the Lord your God, who delights in you and set you on His throne as king for the Lord your God!…” With tears of joy in her voice and on her face she pronounced what she wished to be proclaimed over her own people and her one day. “…Because your God loved Israel and would establish them forever, He has made you king over them, that you may execute justice and righteousness” (verses 5-8 emphasis added by me).
Bilquis turned to her captain who had been waiting beside the door and motioned him forward. Behind him came her servants bearing the gifts she brought with her from Sheba. Among them were 120 talents of gold, a great quantity of spices found only in Sheba, and precious stones too many to number.
“These gifts I present to you as a small token or our gratitude for the wisdom you have so freely shared with my people. They will live on because of you and the kindness of your God.”
“I accept your gifts with honor and wish to bestow on you a small gift of my own.”
Solomon motioned for his cupbearer to bring the scrolls that lay on the table beside him.
“These are the writings of my God to His people. May you meditate on them and observe them and find favor in His eyes. Also are a copy of the writings I have maintained since my youth of all the proverbs and wisdom the Lord has imparted to me. May these serve to be my voice to you in times of doubt.”
“I will treasure them always and teach my people of the God of Israel. May we too, one day, be called His children.”
After the gifts were exchanged dinner was served. Never was there a more joyous occasion in the home of Solomon as on that day.
Morning dawned and Bilquis and her female servants bade Pharaoh’s daughter good-bye. They would join with the rest of their company at the city gate. Solomon took this last time to walk with Bilquis through the city where all the residents had turned out to wish her farewell. This was a sight Bilquis knew she would cherish the rest of her days.
“Maybe someday you will see your way to Sheba and we may honor you as well” whispered Bilquis as they parted at the gate.
“Only the Lord knows what tomorrow holds” Solomon answered with a sincere smile and a light touch on Bilquis cheek.
Bilquis was helped to her coach atop her camel as Solomon looked on. He continued to watch until her caravan had crested the hill beyond Jerusalem. Finally he turned and headed back to the palace where he would lose himself in his next project.
Bilquis and her party traveled the great distance back to their home with as much speed as they could. She prayed to Solomon’s God that her people still had time to implement the changes Solomon had taught them. She was grateful for the added stores that Solomon had included in her caravan; new dry seed to plant, nutrients for their soil and grain to feed them through the first season. These gifts significantly increased the size of her caravan but drovers who were passing through were easily hired to help guard the precious cargo all the way back to Sheba.
The hills of Sheba can be seen in the distance after a long and arduous journey. Bilquis increases her prayers as they draw near the outskirts of her kingdom. Their first stop will be the caravan stand from where she first received news of Solomon and the wisdom his God had granted him. She wants to personally tell the two men of the answered prayers they bear.
Felalli and Meshiq recognize the queen’s caravan in the distance and are on hand to greet them when they cross into Sheba. Bilquis calls for her captain to set her on the ground. She straightens her robe and approaches the two men.
“Meahiq you are no longer the young man you were when I saw you last. Time, has it been kind to you?”
“It has my queen. I am strong and in a few more years will be able to run this caravan stand almost as well as my uncle.”
“Is this true Felalli” she asks with an arched eyebrow and sly smile.
“Maybe not quite as good as I have but as close as a boy can get who has grown up under the hooves of camels since he was weaned.”
“Then I will tell all my drovers to stop here one their journeys. It is the least I can do for the boy who brought hope to our people.”
“Then this king was able to answer our people’s needs” asked Meshiq.
“He was indeed. He provided answers for more than just our physical need. He provided spiritual food as well.”
Meshiq and Felalli looked at one another with questions in their eyes. Bilquis laughed at their response.
“All will be made clear in time. For now, my men have a gift for you.”
The captain brought forward a sack of grain for the two men.
“This is the grain we grew in Israel under the hand of the king. You will be the first to receive Sheba’s new health. There is no longer death but life in our seed. We will teach you the lessons of the king and the Lord God of Israel for planting it so there may continue to be life in Sheba.”
The travelers bid farewell to the two men and continued on in their journey to the capital city. From there Bilquis servants would begin teaching the people the lessons of Solomon, including the lesson that the task was hard and that resting when needed was expected.
Within two growing seasons the grain in Sheba resembled that of Israel. Bilquis liked to walk among the ripe fields and remember the times she walked with Solomon. There was an even greater harvest too that was planted along with the grain. Many of the people of Sheba accepted the words of Solomon’s God and pledged to follow His precepts. This legacy would last even longer than that of the grain.
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I have thoroughly enjoyed writing the queen’s story. I wish I had more time to spend on her journey to and from Israel. I would have liked to have her interact with more of the people along the way and heard the stories she gathered as she journeyed. Maybe someday God will give me those stories to add to this one.
I wanted to include the spiritual life that the queen surely received while in Israel in my story. There is even today a rich Jewish culture in Ethiopian. There is also a Christian culture there too. I don’t know if this first culture sprang directly from the queen’s visit to Israel but it would not surprise me to learn that it did. We are not told what questions the queen presented Solomon with. I expect that they were of great importance to her for her to have made such a long journey to his land. This was the issue that sprang up in my spirit when I thought of her journey. I pray this story has blessed you as it has me.
As my father said to me after reading the first part of this story, “You never know the difference you can make in someone else’s life when you first meet them.” Solomon had enormous impact on a whole other kingdom for the Lord. I wonder what impact telling His stories in this way might have on someone.
Father God, thank You again for Your stories. Thank You for bringing them to life for me and helping me put them down for others to share. I pray they bless those who read them and cause them to look at Your word a little different the next time they come upon a story. I pray You use them to spur conversations that draw people closer to You and heal divides. Please don’t let me become a source of division. Let Your Spirit bring healing through Your words that flow from my fingers.
I look forward to our next adventure Father. I can’t wait to see which story You tell next!