Sheba and surrounding area

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Joshua 19:2 They had for their inheritance Beersheba (or Sheba), Moladah,

1 Kings 10:1 When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of Yahweh, she came to prove him with hard questions.

1 Kings 10:4 When the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, and the house that he had built,

1 Kings 10:10 She gave the king one hundred twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store, and precious stones. There came no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon.

1 Kings 10:13 King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatever she asked, besides that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty. So she turned, and went to her own land, she and her servants.

2 Chronicles 9:1 When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, she came to prove Solomon with hard questions at Jerusalem, with a very great train, and camels that bore spices, and gold in abundance, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she talked with him of all that was in her heart.

2 Chronicles 9:3 When the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, and the house that he had built,

2 Chronicles 9:9 She gave the king one hundred and twenty talents of gold, and spices in great abundance, and precious stones: neither was there any such spice as the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon.

2 Chronicles 9:12 King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatever she asked, besides that which she had brought to the king. So she turned, and went to her own land, she and her servants.

Job 6:19 The caravans of Tema looked. The companies of Sheba waited for them.

Isaiah 60:6 The multitude of camels shall cover you, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praises of Yahweh.

Jeremiah 6:20 To what purpose comes there to me frankincense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices pleasing to me.

Ezekiel 27:22 The traffickers of Sheba and Raamah, they were your traffickers; they traded for your wares with the chief of all spices, and with all precious stones, and gold.

Ezekiel 27:23 Haran and Canneh and Eden, the traffickers of Sheba, Asshur and Chilmad, were your traffickers.

Ezekiel 38:13 Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions of it, shall tell you, Have you come to take the spoil? have you assembled your company to take the prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to take great spoil?


she'-ba (shebha'; Saba):

(1) Sheba and Dedan are the two sons of Raamah son of Cush (Genesis 10:7).

(2) Sheba and Dedan are the two sons of Jokshan the son of Abraham and Keturah (Genesis 25:3).

(3) Sheba is a son of Joktan son of Eber who was a descendant of Shem (Genesis 10:28).

From the above statements it would appear that Sheba was the name of an Arab tribe, and consequently of Semitic descent. The fact that Sheba and Dedan are represented as Cushite (Genesis 10:7) would point to a migration of part of these tribes to Ethiopia, and similarly their derivation from Abraham (Genesis 25:3) would indicate that some families were located in Syria. In point of fact Sheba was a South-Arabian or Joktanite tribe (Genesis 10:28), and his own name and that of some of his brothers (e.g. Hazarmaveth = Hadhramaut) are place-names in Southern Arabia.

The Sabeans or people of Saba or Sheba, are referred to as traders in gold and spices, and as inhabiting a country remote from Palestine (1 Kings 10:1 Isaiah 60:6 Jeremiah 6:20 Ezekiel 27:22 Psalm 72:15 Matthew 12:42), also as slave-traders (Joel 3:8), or even desert-rangers (Job 1:15; Job 6:19; compare CIS 84 3).

By the Arab genealogists Saba is represented as great-grandson of Qachtan (= Joktan) and ancestor of all the South-Arabian tribes. He is the father of Chimyar and Kahlan. He is said to have been named Saba because he was the first to take prisoners (shabhah) in war. He founded the capital of Saba and built its citadel Marib (Mariaba), famous for its mighty barrage.

1. History: The authentic history of the Sabeans, so far as known, and the topography of their country are derived from South-Arabian inscriptions, which began to be discovered about the middle of the last century, and from coins dating from about 150 B.C. to 150 A.D., the first collection of which was published in 1880, and from the South-Arabian geographer Hamdani, who was later made known to European scholars. One of the Sabean kings is mentioned on Assyrian inscriptions of the year 715 B.C.; and he is apparently not the earliest. The native monuments are scattered over the period extending from before that time until the 6th century A.D., when the

Sabean state came to an end, being most numerous about the commencement of our era. Saba was the name of the nation of which Marib was the usual capital. The Sabeans at first shared the sovereignty of South Arabia with Himyar and one or two other nations, but gradually absorbed the territories of these some time after the Christian era. The form of government seems to have been that of a republic or oligarchy, the chief magistracy going by a kind of rotation, and more than one "king" holding office simultaneously (similarly Deuteronomy 4:47 and often in the Old Testament). The people seem to have been divided into patricians and plebeians, the former of whom had the right to build castles and to share in the government.

2. Religion:

A number of deities are mentioned on the inscriptions, two chief being Il-Maqqih and Ta`lab. Others are Athtar (masculine form of the Biblical `ashtaroth), Rammon (the Biblical Rimmon), the Sun, and others. The Sun and Athtar were further defined by the addition of the name of a place or tribe, just as Baal in the Old Testament. Worship took the form of gifts to the temples, of sacrifices, especially incense, of pilgrimages and prayers. Ceremonial ablution, and abstinence from certain things, as well as formal dedication of the worshipper and his household and goods to the deity, were also religious acts. In return the deity took charge of his worshipper's castle, wells, and belongings, and supplied him with cereals, vegetables and fruits, as well as granted him male issue.

3. Civilization:

(1) The chief occupations of the Sabeans were raiding and trade. The chief products of their country are enumerated in Isaiah 60:6, which agrees with the Assyrian inscriptions. The most important of all commodities was incense, and it is significant that the same word which in the other Semitic languages means "gold," in Sabean means "perfume" (and also "gold"). To judge, however, from the number of times they are mentioned upon the inscriptions, agriculture bulked much more largely in the thoughts of the Sabean than commerce, and was of equal importance with religion.

(2) The high position occupied by women among the Sabeans is reflected in the story of the Queen of Sheba and Solomon. In almost all respects women appear to have been considered the equal of men, and to have discharged the same civil, religious and even military functions. Polygamy does not seem to have been practiced. The Sabean inscriptions do not go back far enough to throw any light upon the queen who was contemporary with Solomon, and the Arabic identification of her with Bilqis is merely due to the latter being the only Sabean queen known to them. Bilqis must have lived several centuries later than the Hebrew monarch.

(3) The alphabet used in the Sabean inscriptions is considered by Professor Margoliouth to be the original Semitic alphabet, from which the others are derived. In other respects Sabean art seems to be dependent on that of Assyria, Persia and Greece. The coins are Greek and Roman in style, while the system of weights employed is Persian.

See further SABAEANS.


Rodiger and Osidander in ZDMG, volumes XX and XXI; Halevy in Journal Asiatique, Serie 6, volume IX; Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum, pt. IV, edition by J. and H. Derenbourg; Hamdani, edition by D. H. Muller, 1891; Mordtmann, Himyarische Inschriften, 1893; Hommel, Sudarabische Chresthomathie, 1893; Glaser, Abyssinien in Arabien, 1895; D. H. Muller, Sudarabische Alterthumer, 1899; Derenbourg, Les monuments sabeens, 1899. On the coins, Schlumberger, Le tresor de San'a, 1880; Mordtmann in Wiener numismatische Zeitschrift, 1880.

Thomas Hunter Weir


she'-ba (shebha`; Sabee, or Samaa): The name of one of the towns allotted to Simeon (Joshua 19:2). the King James Version mentions it as an independent town, but as it is not mentioned at all in the parallel list (1 Chronicles 4:28), and is omitted in Joshua 19:2 in some manuscripts, it is probable that the Revised Version (British and American) is correct in its translation "Beer-sheba or Sheba." Only in this way can the total of towns in this group be made 13 (Joshua 19:6). If it is a separate name, it is probably the same as SHEMA (which see).

E. W. G. Masterman

Strong's Hebrew
H7614: Sheba

a territory in S.W. Arabia, also the name of one or more descendant of Noah

Shaveh-kiriathaim (Kiriathaim)
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