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Demonizing the Queen of Sheba: Boundaries of Gender and Culture in Postbiblical Judaism and Medieval Islam / Edition 1

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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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226469157
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1993
  • Series: Chicago Studies in the History of Judaism Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 308
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

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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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Biblical and Postbiblical Accounts 9
A The Biblical Account 9
B The Midrash Mishle 11
C The Midrash ha-Hefez 13
D The Targum Sheni to the Book of Esther 14
E The Stories of Ben Sira 18
F The Origins of the Dangerous/Demonic Queen 24
2 The Quranic Story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba 36
A The Account of the Queen's Visit 36
B Muslim Scripture and Jewish Sources 38
C The Nature of the Quranic Version 42
3 Later Muslim Versions 47
A Thalabi's Account 48
B The Missing Hoopoe 49
C Bilqis 50
D A Noble Letter 52
E The Mission to Solomon 55
F The Queen's Visit 57
G The Fate of Bilqis 61
4 A Reading of Thalabi's Solomon and the Queen of Sheba 64
A Concern for an Orderly Universe 64
B The Prophet's Mandate 67
C The Danger of Crossing Gender Boundaries 73
D The Queen's Challenge to Man and Divine Order 79
E Submission to Male Authority 85
F Postscript: Universal versus Particular 86
5 Islamizing Universal and Specifically Jewish Themes 88
A The Significance of the Queen's Throne 91
B Muslim Markings 93
C Islamizing the Story of the Hoopoe 97
D Jewish Themes and Settings 102
E The One Who Had Knowledge of the Book 104
F Asaph Son of Berechiah 106
G The Mightiest Name of God 109
H Traces of Jewish Themes 112
I Muslim Uses of the Jewish Past 115
6 The Transfer and Absorption of Cultural Artifacts 120
A Islamizing Jewish Memorabilia 122
B The Queen's Visit: Some Methodological Considerations 124
C Cases in Point 132
D Islamized Artifacts Entering/Reentering Jewish Tradition 135
E The Queen's Origins: A Late Yemenite Version 137
F Solomon's 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
Appendix: Texts in Translation 161
A The Queen's Visit: 1 Kings 10: 1-13 161
B The Queen of Sheba in the Midrash Mishle (Proverbs) 161
C Riddles of the Midrash ha-Hefez 163
D The Targum Sheni to the Book of Esther 165
E Pseudo Ben Sira on the Queen's 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 Thalabi's Version of Sulayman and Bilqis, the Queen 187
J Passages from al-Kisai 202
Abbreviations 215
Notes 217
Bibliography 255
Index of Biblical Verses 271
General Index 275
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