Errors of Rastafarism – Wrong Dynasty


Excerpt from “Revelations on Ras Tafari” by Dr. Clinton Chisholm:

“[There is the mistaken belief that Haile Selassie] he links with King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. This belief is central to the Kebra Nagast and is reflected in the 1955 Ethiopian Constitution that Haile Selassie I devised. Article 2 says, “The imperial dignity shall remain perpetually attached to the line of Haile Selassie I, descendant of King Sahle Selassie, whose line descends without interruption from the dynasty of Menelik I, son of the Queen of Ethiopia, the Queen of Sheba, and King Solomon of Jerusalem.” This claim has been picked up and promoted proudly but uncritically by Rastas, but is it factual?”


There is no reputable literary proof, apart from the Kebra Nagast, of a sexual liaison between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba – resulting in the birth of the first Emperor of Ethiopia Menelik I or Ebna Halim (son of the wise) – in Hebrew, Christian or Arabic sources that treat with the Solomon/Queen of Sheba story.


The Kebra Nagast regards the Queen of Sheba as Queen of Ethiopia. This seems to be because the Kebra Nagast confuses the Queen of Sheba with Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians mentioned in Acts 8. Edward Ullendorff writes,


The [chief locations] of the blending of the two traditions about the ‘Queen of the South’ and ‘Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians’ are in the 21st and 33rd chapters of the Kebra Nagast. Here the great Sheba cycle is introduced by references to Matthew 12:42 and Luke 11:31; and we are the iformed that ‘the Queen of the South is the Queen of Ethiopia’.


Where exactly was Sheba and what was the extent of the Queen’s regency? The Queen’s regency would have been limited to Sheba since there is no tradition of Sheba having royal influence in Ethiopia, though there is some evidence of Abyssinian rule in South West Arabia in the sixth century A.D. following the defeat of the last Himyarite or South Arabian king, Du Nuwas.


Sheba was most definitely in Suth Arabia by the reckoning of reputable scholars. The Interpreter’s Bible in its introductory comments on 1 Kings 10:1-13 says, “Sheba was the great trading community of Southwestern Arabia, and at this period controlled the overland trade routes.” The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible in its fourth entry on Sheba says, “A country in SW Arabia, now Yemen, the most mountainous and fertile part of Arabia… This country gained wealth through control of the trade in perfumes and incense, which were important in the life and religion of the ancient world.”


Alfred J. Hoerth in his 1998 book Archaeology & the Old Testament contends “Scholars place Saba (Sheba) at the southwest end of the Arabian Peninsula, more than one thousand miles from Israel.”


Some Afrocentric scholars try to use the Ethiopian Kebra Nagast traditions, Josephus’s description of the Queen of Sheba as the ‘Queen of Egypt and Ethiopia’ and citations from the church fathers to support the view that the queen came from Africa and not from Arabia. But these are late and unreliable sources that cannot be used to overturn the biblical and archaeological evidence taht Sheba was in southwest Arabia.


The Bible, though fairly explicit about Solomon’s sexual misdeeds say nothing about a sexual union between him and the Queen of Sheba though some scholars have tried to read sex into the statement in 1 Kings 10:2 which says the Queen “came to Solomon …” It is true that the Hebrew word ‘bo’ translated as ‘came’ in the text can mean a sexual encounter as it does in Gen. 16:2 but it is context that determines the nuance that a word has and in this context a non-sexual ‘come’ is meant. Notice that the reason for her coming to Solomon is stated in v. 2, “to test him with hard questions” and in v. 3 the Queen also “came to Jerusalem”.


Most importantly, in standard Jewish prose it would be most unlikely to find a mere woman, in Jewish reckoning, initiating sexual intercourse with a King of Israel. If sex was meant in 1 Kings 10:2, the reading would more likely be “when the King had come to her”. Some have also tried to read sex into 1 Kings 10:13, where the text says, “King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired”, presumably a child. But this conclusion does violence to the verse which continues “whatever she asked, besides what Solomon had given her according to the royal bounty”.


Josephus in his Antiquities basically reiterates the Old Testament narrative, The Talmud and the early and late Midrashim have no mention of sex or offspring. Targum Sheni (2nd Targum to Esther 1:2), the most complete rabbinical account of the story re Solomon and the Queen, contains no reference to marriage or sexual intercourse. The first document to mention sex between the two monarchs is a spurious Jewish work called the Alphabet of Ben-Sira in which the child resulting from the union is Nebuchadnezzar.


The Qur’an (=Koran) (Sura 27:15-45) contains most of the elements found in Targum Sheni and, like it, makes no mention of sex or offspring. Some Muslim commentaries relate traditions suggesting a marriage between the monarchs with no mention of a child. Other commentaries speak of a child called Ebna Hakim (‘child of the wise’) but these seem to be based on Ethiopian sources and so do not provide independent corroboration of a sexual liaison between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.


In the Kebra Nagast we find the claim that Menelik I or Ebna Hakim, with King Solomon’s assistance stole the Jewish Ark of the Covenant and took it to Ethiopia. Ponder though the verdict of two leading scholars. C. Conti Rossini, noted specialist on Ethiopia, of an earlier period, said “of the journey of Ebna Hakim [Menelik I] there is no historical record. The individual is fictitious, the journey is fictitious.”


D.A. Hubbard’s doctoral dissertation was on The Literary Sources of the Kebra Nagast and he says re the abduction of the Ark “There exists no parallel account of this event in either rabbinical or Islamic Literature although the story occurs in various forms on Ethiopian soil …” (D.A. Hubbard, The Literary Sources of the Kebra Nagast, unpublished PhD thesis, p. 332).


The Kebra Nagast’s account of a stolen Ark seems implausible given the Bible’s specifications about who can handle the Ark. According to 1 Chronicles 15:11-15, only the Levites and the Kohathites among them in particular (Numbers 4:15) could legitimately and safely transport the Ark from one point to another. Even they did this indirectly by “poles on their shoulders” (v. 14). Hence, the well-intentioned Uzzah who “took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled” was struck dead (2 Samuel 6:7).


So then even if Memlik I actually existed, it seems highly unlikely that he could have survived death from handling the Art since the Kebra Nagast’s provides no evidence that he was either a Levite in general or a Kohathite in particular. This is a critical but neglected detail in the Kebra Nagas’s account.


It should be noted that even if you bypass the historical problems with Menelik I, there is no historical support for the Rastafari claim that Haile Selassie was in an unbroken blood line of Ethiopian rulers going back to King Solomon. The problem is that just prior to the reign of Yekuno Amlak (c. A.D. 1270-1285) there was a line of Negroes (the Zagwe Dynasty) on the throne of Ethiopia for at least 150 years and they were totally unrelated, ethnically and dynastically to the so-called Solomonid dynasty from which Selassie allegedly springs. Further, rulership in Ethiopia was not by primogeniture (i.e. [eldest] son succeeding father), but by power.


Despite claims of a Solomonic dynasty only one Emperor in the last 200 years of the monarchy (Lij Iyasu) actually succeeded by primogeniture. Emperors Tewodros (1855-1868), Yohannis IV (1872-1889), Menelik II (1889-1913) and Haile Selassie (1930-1975) reached the throne only after they emerged the most powerful men in the country. Further, there was no unbroken monarchy in Ethiopia. In 1753 the monarchy collapsed and the ‘era of the Princes’ was ushered in. The monarchy was restored in 1855 when Theodore came to power.


So then, the alleged chain connecting Emperor Haile Selassie with Solomon has several crucial missing links.


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