Against all odds Makeda, daughter of an obscure African chieftain, is chosen as Queen of all Sheba. Recognizing her own inexperience, yet desperately wanting to address Sheba’s appalling social injustice, she is persuaded by her cousin Tamrin, wealthy merchant and narrator of the novel, to visit Solomon, King of Israel, to find out how he governs his kingdom.
Makeda is hugely impressed by Israel’s prosperity, by the wisdom and integrity with which Solomon rules, by the Hebrew religion, which she decides to adopt as her own, and by the justice for all that she determines to copy.
However, Solomon, who is trapped in a childless and loveless dynastic marriage with Pharaoh’s daughter, allows himself to fall in love with the beautiful and intelligent African. He eventually tricks her into sleeping with him, and on the return journey to Sheba she discovers that she is pregnant.
The son to whom she gives birth grows up in the court of Sheba, and eventually travels to Israel with Tamrin, to meet his father. But Solomon is a broken man, having put his doomed love for Makeda and need for an heir before his relationship with God. He has taken hundreds of wives and concubines in a fruitless attempt to recapture the love which he and Makeda shared. And Israel is no longer the nation of his youth …