King Solomon & the Queen of Sheba

A comparison between Targum and Qur'an

By Jameel



In a Court of Law the prosecution is required to present evidence for a connection between the criminal and the crime. Should sufficient evidence be forthcoming then the Judge and the jury are obliged to make a decision having weighed the evidence.  There is no requirement for 'absolute' proof but the judgment must be based upon the weight of evidence.

The Qur'an claims to support this principle in making a judgment:

"We shall set up scales of justice for the day of judgment, so that not a soul will be dealt with unjustly in the least. And if there be (no more than) the weight of a mustard seed, we will bring it (to account) and enough are we to take account (Qur'an Anbiyaa 21:47)

In a recent news group discussion (soc.religion.islam) the question of evidence was raised in connection with the mythical legend of the Queen of Sheba in the 2nd Targum of Esther and the Qur'anic story contained in Sura Naml 27:20-44.  The promoters of the Islamic Awareness website had tried to show that the story in the Targum was post Qur'anic. They appear to have accepted the evidence that the stories were similar as their object was to suggest that the redactor of the Targum copied the story from the Qur'an. They even went as far as to claim.

"Quite the contrary, the very "source" he (Rev Tisdall) had identified has been acknowledged by Judaic scholarship as borrowing from the Qur'an instead."

However this false claim was exposed for the nonsense it was as can be seen here:

What followed was a tirade of abuse towards the present writer and taunts to 'show the evidence'. This was unnecessary at the time and since the evidence of a connection between the two stories was not in question according to the article produced by the Islamic Awareness writers.

There is little need to delve too deeply into the two stories to show the connection. As in a Court of Law a jury is selected from the general public - they do not have to be experts in a particular field for their judgement to be valid and so I invite the general public to examine the evidence and come to their own conclusion.

Evidence of how Muhammad would have come across Jewish midrashic stories can be found in an article here:

May the Lord of Heaven bless all who seek truth.


The relevant extracts from the Targum are given below along with a description of the Qur'anic equivalent shared parallel. The Qur'anic verse is given in brackets. The text of the Targum is the one translated by Professor Bernard Grossfeld (full reference below)

Then the wild rooster replied before King Solomon, saying to him; 'Hear my words, My Lord, O king, incline your ear and listen (to) my utterances. Have not three months (passed) that I have given advice and counsel; my words are truth; I did not eat food, nor did I drink water before I flew throughout the whole world inspecting it, saying; Is there a country whose ruler is not subservient to my lord, O king? Whereupon I noticed a certain country in the land of the East, its name was the city of Qitor, whose dust is so precious and whose gold and silver exists like dung in the streets.

1. A bird spoke to Solomon and Solomon could understand bird language (22)

2. The bird flew throughout the world or whole region to territories unknown and not compassed by Solomon (22)

3.  The bird noticed a special land in the east (22- see note 3263 Yusef Ali translation).

4.  The bird returned to Solomon to give him the news. (22)

They do not know anything about waging war; they are unable to draw the bow; However, truly I have seen a single woman rule over them and her name is the Queen of Sheba.

5. The bird gave news that a woman ruled over this land (23)

Then the scribes of the king were summoned and they wrote a letter and tied the letter to the wing of the wild rooster, which proceeded to ascend heavenward and soared soaringly. It then flew among the birds which proceeded to follow it in flight; they went on to the city of Qitor to the land of Sheba. Towards morning the Queen of Sheba went out to worship the sea (? ) - when (suddenly) the birds obscured the sunlight, which caused her to take hold of her clothes and tear them. Whereupon she was very stunned. As she was in her very stunned state, the wild rooster descended towards her, and she observed a letter tied to is wing. So she untied (it) and read it; and what was written in it? - From me, the kingdom of Solomon: Peace to you, peace to your princes. As you know; the Holy One, Blessed be He, appointed me to reign over the wild beasts, over the fowl of the heavens and over demons and spirits.

6. The king gave a letter to the bird to deliver to the Queen. (28). Solomon had dominion over birds and jinn. (16-17)

7. The bird flew to the land of the Queen to deliver the letter. (29)

8. The Queen exclaims that the letter is from Solomon. (30)

9. A benediction is pronounced. The Jewish benediction is replaced in the Qur'an by an Islamic benediction. (30)

10. The letter contains a command from Solomon to offer obedience to him. (31)

Now all the kings of the East, the West, the South and the North come to greet me. Now if you wish to come and greet me, I will show you greater honour than all those whom I have hosted before me. But if you do not wish to come and greet me, I will send kings and legions against you (which belong) to King Solomon. The wild beasts are the kings, the fowl of the heavens are the raiders, the armies are the spirits, and the demons and the Liliths are the legions (who will) strangle you in your beds inside your houses; the wild beasts will kill you in the field; the fowl of the heavens (will) eat your flesh from you.

11. Solomon issues a command requiring submission backed by a threat (31)

12. Animals and birds make up the raiders and armies who might attack a foe on behalf of Solomon (17)

13. Spirits and demons also form part of the marshalled ranks of Solomon (17)

When the Queen of Sheba heard the words of the letter, she took hold of her clothes and tore them. She then summoned her elders and princes and said to them; 'Do you know what King Solomon told me?' They replied, saying: 'We do not know King Solomon nor do we recognise his kingdom.' But she did not trust (them) and did not heed their words. She summoned all the ships of the sea and had them loaded with bracelets, pearls and precious gems.

14. The Queen of Sheba is threatened by the message from Solomon (34)

15. The Queen summons her advisors to obtain their advice (32)

16. The Queen does not trust the advice of her council (34-35)

17. The Queen decides to send a present of great value to Solomon (35)

She then wrote a letter and sent it to King Solomon.......'And now, with prayer and supplication which I will plead before you, I will come to you at the end of three years,' Now it came about at the end of three years that the Queen of Sheba came to King Solomon.

18. The Queen sends a message to Solomon (35)

19. The Queen visits Solomon (39, 42)

Now when King Solomon heard that she was coming to him, King Solomon arose and went to sit down in a bathhouse. When the Queen saw that the king was sitting in a bathhouse, she thought to herself the king must be sitting in water. So she raised her dress to wade across. Whereupon he noticed the hair on her leg, to which King Solomon responded by saying: 'Your beauty is the beauty of women, but your hair is the hair of men. Now hair is beautiful for a man but shameful for a woman.' Whereupon the Queen of Sheba answered saying to him: O lord king 'I will cite you three riddles; if you will solve them for me I will acknowledge that you are a wise man, but if not, (you are) like the rest of mankind....

20. The Queen goes to meet Solomon in a building which she thought contained water (44)

21. This misunderstanding leads the Queen to raise her dress (bare her legs) to cross what she mistook for water (44)

Whereupon she commented, saying to him: 'I would not have believed it. Praiseworthy are these your servants.' Whereupon he brought her into the royal palace. Now when the Queen of Sheba saw the greatness and glory of King Solomon, she offered praise to the One Who created him, saying: 'Blessed be the Lord, your God who has chosen you to place you on the throne of His kingdom to do righteousness and justice.' She then gave the king a great deal of fine gold while the king gave her what she desired.

22. Following the meeting with Solomon the Queen offers praise to the God of Solomon (44) on account of Solomon.


A story teller who had heard the story verbally (maybe third or fourth hand) would not be likely to keep to exactly the same line and even more unlikely to keep to what he heard if he was using the story for his own agenda.

Now that the evidence is presented confirming that the stories in the Targum and the Qur'an contain more than 20 similar references exclusive to the two accounts. What is the response of the intelligent reader?  I leave him or her to judge for themselves.

The Lord bless you and keep you - The Lord make His face to shine upon you - The Lord lift up His countenance upon you - and give you His peace (Numbers 6:24-26)


The Targum of Esther (Second) (Targum Sheni) Translated by Bernard Grossfeld - Professor of Hebrew and Aramaic at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, and founding member of the Association for Targumic Studies.

Published in 1991 by T & T CLARK LTD, Edinburgh, in co-operation with The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota 56321 USA. ISBN 0-567-09495-8

(Selected paragraphs only)

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