Demonizing the Queen of Sheba: Boundaries of Gender and Culture in Postbiblical Judaism and Medieval Islam

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University of Chicago Press, Dec 8, 1993 - Religion - 281 pages
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Over the centuries, Jewish and Muslim writers transformed the biblical Queen of Sheba from a clever, politically astute sovereign to a demonic force threatening the boundaries of gender. In this book, Jacob Lassner shows how successive retellings of the biblical story reveal anxieties about gender and illuminate the processes of cultural transmission.

The Bible presents the Queen of Sheba's encounter with King Solomon as a diplomatic mission: the queen comes "to test him with hard questions," all of which he answers to her satisfaction; she then praises him and, after an exchange of gifts, returns to her own land. By the Middle Ages, Lassner demonstrates, the focus of the queen's visit had shifted from international to sexual politics. The queen was now portrayed as acting in open defiance of nature's equilibrium and God's design. In these retellings, the authors humbled the queen and thereby restored the world to its proper condition.

Lassner also examines the Islamization of Jewish themes, using the dramatic accounts of Solomon and his female antagonist as a test case of how Jewish lore penetrated the literary imagination of Muslims. Demonizing the Queen of Sheba thus addresses not only specialists in Jewish and Islamic studies, but also those concerned with issues of cultural transmission and the role of gender in history.
 

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Contents

Biblical and Postbiblical Accounts
9
B The Midrash Mishle
11
C The Midrash haHefez
13
D The Targum Sheni to the Book of Esther
14
F The Origins of the DangerousDemonic Queen
24
The Quranic Story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba
36
B Muslim Scripture and Jewish Sources
38
C The Nature of the Quranic Version
42
G The Mightiest Name of God
109
H Traces of Jewish Themes
112
I Muslim Uses of the Jewish Past
115
The Transfer and Absorption of Cultural Artifacts
120
A Islamizing Jewish Memorabilia
122
Some Methodological Considerations
124
C Cases in Point
132
D Islamized Artifacts EnteringReentering Jewish Tradition
135

Later Muslim Versions
47
A Thalabis Account
48
B The Missing Hoopoe
49
C Bilqis
50
D A Noble Letter
52
E The Mission to Solomon
55
F The Queens Visit
57
G The Fate of Bilqis
61
A Reading of Thalabis Solomon and the Queen of Sheba
64
B The Prophets Mandate
67
C The Danger of Crossing Gender Boundaries
73
D The Queens Challenge to Man and Divine Order
79
E Submission to Male Authority
85
Universal versus Particular
86
Islamizing Universal and Specifically Jewish Themes
88
A The Significance of the Queens Throne
91
B Muslim Markings
93
D Jewish Themes and Settings
102
E The One Who Had Knowledge of the Book
104
F Asaph Son of Berechiah
106
A Late Yemenite Version
137
F Solomons Campaign against the Island King
141
G Solomon and the Queen of Sheba According to Saadiah Ben Joseph
146
H Recent Jewish Folklore
153
Postscript
157
Texts in Translation
161
C The Riddles of the Midrash haHefez
163
D The Targum Sheni to the Book of Esther
165
E Pseudo Ben Sira on the Queens Visit
167
F The Yemenite Tale of Saadiah Ben Joseph
168
G Recent Jewish Folklore and Folkloric Texts
175
H Various Quranic Texts
185
I Thalabis Version of Sulayman and Bilqis the Queen
187
J Passages from alKisai
202
Abbreviations
215
Notes
217
Bibliography
255
Index of Biblical Verses
271
General Index
275
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About the author (1993)

Jacob Lassner is the Phillip M. and Ethel Klutznick Professor Emeritus of Jewish Civilization and professor of history and religion at Northwestern University. His numerous works include The Middle East Remembered, Jews and Muslims in the Arab World, and Islam in the Middle Ages.

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