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By a Glass of Water

Posted by Frank van Steenbergen
May 08, 2019

Remains of Queen of Sheba's palace in Axum

Axum is a place of power and spirituality – and millennia of biblical history.

The fabled Queen of Sheba came from this holy place in Northern Ethiopia.  Intrigued by the tales of the wisdom of King Solomon - that are still with us in the Proverbs -  she travelled to Jerusalem to meet her soul mate and peer, 3000 years ago. 

When King Solomon saw her beauty, he was enticed. He set his mind on making her his own. The Queen of Sheba resisted and promised not to take anything from the Palace that was not her own. If she broke the promise he could marry her. At their evening meal Solomon served her food that was very salty. When she went to sleep, he placed a glass of water next to her bed. She woke up thirsty at night and drank the water. As the glass of water was his, he was immediately with her to consumate the relationship. 

A pool with ancient steps in Axum reminds of the baths she used. The bath is called Mai Shum, has been enlarged over time, and for a long time has been serving as the city’s water supply source.  The remains of her palace – that at the time had three stories – is in Axum as well. As is the now fallen  pillar (stellae) under which the Queen of Sheba is buried. 

When the Queen of Sheba travelled back to Axum she discovered she was pregnant. She gave birth to Menelik. Menelik was the first king in a long line forming the so-called House of Judah, that extended up to Emperor Haile Selaissie who died  in 1974. The line included King Bazen, or Balthasar, one of the magi who travelled to Betlehem to witness the birth of Christ. 

When he grew up, Menelik travelled back to Jerusalem to meet his father. The reunion came to a sudden end. Menelik left with his entourage but not after having taken the Ark of the Covenant, holding the two stone tablets given by God to Moses, containing the Ten Commandments. 

The very holy Ark is still in Axum. It is kept at a Church of Sion, guarded by a monk who is not leaving the treasure as long as he lives, but unseen by anybody else. Every year at the Epiphany Celebration a replica of the Ark is taken out and shown around. It is taken to the Mai Shum, the Queen of Sheba’s bath, where it stays for one night before being brought back to its sacred place.

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