The object of the author, or compiler, and the later editors of the KEBRA NAGAST (no matter what its original form may have been), was to glorify ETHIOPIA by narrating the history of the coming of the “spiritual and heavenly ZION“, the Tabernacle of the Law of the God of Israel, of her own free will from JERUSALEM to ETHIOPIA, and to make it quite clear that the King of Ethiopia was descended from Solomon, the son of David, King of Israel, and through him from Abraham and the early Patriarchs. But CHRISTalso was descended from SOLOMON and the early Patriarchs, and he was the Son of God, so the King of Ethiopia being a kinsman of Christ was also a son of God, and he was, therefore, both God and king to his people.
The KEBRA NAGAST was intended to make the people of Ethiopia believe that their country was specially chosen by God to be the new home of the spiritual and heavenly ZION, of which His chosen people the Jews had become unworthy. This ZION existed originally in an immaterial form in heaven, where it was the habitation of God. MOSES made, under Divine directions, a copy of it in wood and gold, and placed in it the Two Tables of the Law, the pot of manna, the rod of Aaron; and the SHECHINAH dwelt on it and in it. This material copy was called “ZION, the Tabernacle of the Law of God”. When Solomon finished building his Temple ZIONwas established therein in the Holy of Holies, and from it, God made known His commands when He visited the Temple. It was at all times held to be the visible emblem of God Almighty and the material duplicate of the immaterial ZION in heaven.
The fame of the wisdom of SOLOMON reached the ends of the earth, chiefly because he traded with merchants from the seacoast and from the countries to the south of Palestine on each side of the RED SEA. These merchants brought the precious woods and stones, and the scents, and the spices, and the rich stuffs and other objects with which he decorated the Temple and his own palace, and when their caravans returned home their servants described to eager listeners the great works that the King of Israel was carrying out in JERUSALEM. Among the masters, or leaders, of these caravans was one TÂMRÎN, who managed the business affairs of a “Queen of the South”, whom Arab writers call “BALKÎS“, and Ethiopian writers “MÂKĔDÂ“; but neither of these names is ancient, and it is very doubtful if either represents in any way the true name of the southern queen.
It is doubtful also if she was an Ethiopian, and it is far more probable that her home was SHĔBHÂ, or SABA, or SHEBA, in the south-west of ARABIA. As she was a worshipper of the sun she was probably a princess among the SABAEANS. On the other hand, her ancestors may have been merely settlers in ARABIA, and some of them of Ethiopian origin. The KEBRA NAGAST says that she was a very beautiful, bright, and intelligent woman, but tells us nothing about her family. A manuscript at OXFORD, says that five kings reigned in ETHIOPIA before MÂKĔDÂ, viz. ARÂWÎ 400 years, ANGÂBÔ 200 years, GIEDUR 100 years, SIEBADÔ 50 years, and KAWNÂSYÂ 1 year. If these kings were indeed her ancestors she was probably a native of some country on the western shore of the RED SEA. Be this as it may, she must have been a woman of great enterprise and intelligence, for having heard what TÂMRÎN, the captain of her caravans, had told her about SOLOMON’S wisdom, she determined to go to Jerusalem and to put to him a series of difficult questions that were puzzling her.
When MÂKĔDÂ arrived in JERUSALEM, she lodged in the splendid quarters which SOLOMON prepared for her, and she had frequent opportunities of conversing with the King. The more she saw him the more she was impressed with the handsomeness of his person, and with piety and wisdom, and with the eloquence of his speech, which he uttered in a low, musical and sympathetic voice. She spent several months in Jerusalem as the King’s guest, and one night after a great and splendid banquet which SOLOMON gave to the notables of his kingdom, in her honor, he took her to wife. When MÂKĔDÂ knew that she was with child, she bade farewell to SOLOMON, and having received from him a ring as a token, she returned to her own country, where her son MĔNYĔLĔK, or MĔNYĔLÎK, was born. In Ethiopic literature this son is often called WALDA-TABBÎB, i.e. “son of the wise man” (SOLOMON), or ’ĔBNA ḤAKÎM, or BAYNA-LEḤKĔM, i.e. IBN AL-ḤAKÎM, or “the son of the wise man”.
When the boy reached early manhood he pressed MÂKĔDÂ to allow him to go to see his father SOLOMON in JERUSALEM, and his importunity was so great that at length she gave him the ring which SOLOMON had given her, and sent him thither under the care of TÂMRÎN. On his arrival at GÂZÂ, the people in the city and everywhere in the district recognized his striking likeness to SOLOMON, and almost royal honors were paid to him by them. The same thing happened in JERUSALEM, and when the officials of SOLOMON’S palace were leading him to the presence chamber all the household knew without telling that a son was being taken into his father. Father and son fell into each other’s arms when they met, and the son had no need to prove his identity by producing the ring which his father had given to his beloved MÂKĔDÂ, for SOLOMON proclaimed straightway the young man’s parentage, and made him occupy the royal throne with him, after he had arrayed him in royal apparel.
SOLOMON spared no pains in providing both instruction and amusement for BAYNA-LĔHKĔM (BIN ’L-ḤAKÎM) whilst he was in Jerusalem, for he hoped to keep him with him; but after a few months the young man was eager to get back to his mother and to his own country, and TÂMRÎN, the leader of MÂKĔDÂ’S caravans, wanted to be gone. BAYNA-LĔHKĔM, or MENYELEK, as we may now call him, saw that REHOBOAM must succeed SOLOMON on the throne of Israel, and had no wish to occupy the subordinate position of a second son in JERUSALEM, and he, therefore, pressed SOLOMON to give him leave to depart. When the King had arranged that the elder sons of his nobles should accompany MENYELEK on his return to his mother’s capital, DABRA MÂKĔDÂ, and had arranged with MENYELEK for the establishment of a duplicate Jewish kingdom in ETHIOPIA, he permitted him to depart.
When MÂKĔDÂ was in JERUSALEM she learned that the Tabernacle ZION in the Temple of Jerusalem was the abode of the God of Israel and the place where God Almighty was pleased to dwell, and in her letter to SOLOMON she begged him to send her, as a holy talisman, a portion of the fringe of the covering of the Tabernacle. SOLOMON told MENYELEK that he would grant MÂKĔDÂ’S request, but this satisfied neither MENYELEK nor his nobles, and, to speak briefly, MENYELEK and TÂMRÎN and the eldest sons of the Jewish notables who were destined to help MENYELEK to found his kingdom in ETHIOPIA, entered into a conspiracy together to steal the Tabernacle ZION and to carry it off to ETHIOPIA. Their object was to keep the God of Israel with them, and this they expected to be able to effect by stealing the Tabernacle made of gold and wood (according to the pattern of the original Spirit-Tabernacle in heaven) which contained the Two Tables of the Law, the pot of manna, AARON’S rod, &c.
One of the conspirators who had access to the chamber in which the Tabernacle ZION rested, removed it from under its curtain, and substituted a construction in the wood of exactly the same size and shape, which he had caused to be made for the purpose. The theft was not discovered until MENYELEK, and TÂMRÎN, and their company of young Jews and Ethiopians were well on their road to the RED SEA, and though SOLOMON sent out swift horsemen to overtake them and cut them off, and himself followed with all the speed possible, the thieves made good their escape, and the King of Israel returned to Jerusalem in great grief. In due course MENYELEK reached his mother’s capital, and he and the Tabernacle ZION were received with frantic rejoicings, and MÂKĔDÂ having abdicated in favor of her son, MENYELEK established in ETHIOPIA a kingdom modelled on that of Israel, and introduced into his country the Laws of God and the admonitions of Moses and the social rules and regulations with which the name of the great Lawgiver was associated in those days.
The KEBRA NAGAST tells us nothing about MENYELEK after his coronation, except that he carried on one or two campaigns against the enemies of his country, and the book is silent in respect of Queen MÂKĔDÂ’S history after her voluntary abdication. The author seems to expect his readers to assume that ETHIOPIA was ruled over by descendants of Solomon and Queen MÂKĔDÂ from the tenth century before Christ to about the tenth century A.D., i.e. for about two thousand years, and that the religion, laws, social customs, &c., of the ETHIOPIANS, were substantially those of the Hebrews in Palestine under the kings of Israel. In connection with this assumption, reference may be made here briefly to a series of chapters which now form part of the KEBRA NAGAST, in which the author endeavors to prove that the kings of the MOABITES, PHILISTINES, EGYPTIANS, PERSIANS, Babylonians, and the BYZANTINES, are of Semitic origin. The fantastic legends which he invented or reproduced contain much-falsified history and bad philology, but it would be interesting to know their source and their author; these chapters seem to suggest that he was a Semite, probably a Jew.
In another group of chapters, which can hardly have formed a part of the oldest version of the KEBRA NAGAST, the author summarizes the prophecies in the Old Testament that concern the Coming of the Messiah, and applies them to JESUS CHRIST with very considerable skill. And he devotes much space to the VIRGIN MARY, and quotes numerous passages from the Old Testament, with the view of identifying her symbolically with the Tabernacle of the Covenant.
‘The Contents of the Kebra NagastT Described [ch1-59]’
‘The Contents of the Kebra Nagast Described [ch 60-117]’
‘THE GLORY OF KINGS’- [ch1-10]
‘The Glory of Zion’-[ch11-20]’
The queen came to Solomon the king’-[ch-21-25]
‘Solomon gave Commandments to the Queen’-[ch 26-29]
‘The King of Ethiopia traveled’-[ch 30-34]
‘They made the Son of King Solomon’- [ch 35-39]
‘ The Ten Commandments’-[ch 40-44]
‘They carried away Zion’-[ch 45-49]
‘The Wagon was given to Ethiopia’-[ch 50-55]
‘The Fall of Zadok the Priest’- [ch 56-60]
‘The sin King Solomon’-[ch 61-65]
‘The Question of Solomon'[ch 66-69]
‘Mary the daughter of David’-[ch 70-75]
‘The King of Persia’-[ch 76-80]
‘Abraham traveled to Egypt’-[ch 81-87]
‘This is what ye shall eat: the clean and the unclean’-[ch 88-91]
‘The first war of the Ethiopian King’-[ch 92-95]
‘Prophecy about Christ’-[ch 96-99]
The Ark of the covenant-[ch100-104]
‘The Coming of Christ”-[ch 105-109]
‘The return of Zion’