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Solomon and Sheba

Solomon and Sheba(1959)

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In ancient Israel, the sons of King David, Adonijah and Solomon, successfully repel an Egyptian invasion. Although Solomon believes in a peaceful future, Adonijah chafes at the restrictions decreed by their father to only defend against attacks by Israel's enemies. David's chancellor Hezrai finds the brothers to report that the elderly king lies near death in Jerusalem. While Solomon returns to the city, Adonijah, having learned that soldiers from the small independent kingdom of Sheba were part of the Egyptian forces, goes in search of them. Upon finding the queen of Sheba, Adonijah introduces himself as the king of Israel and proposes that they join forces to destroy Egypt. Scornful of Adonijah's arrogance and presumption, Sheba refuses. In Jerusalem, Solomon is welcomed by the daughter of devoted tribal elder Ahab, Abishag, who has grown up in the palace. The ailing king reveals that he has had a vision and calls for a meeting with the tribal elders the next day. At the palace assembly, the king declares his greatest accomplishment in his forty-year reign is the unification of the twelve tribes that make up Israel. Adonijah then arrives at the gathering, where David stuns his eldest son by announcing that God has proclaimed Solomon as the next king. Furious, Adonijah accuses Solomon of turning David against him, but when Hezrai reveals that Adonijah pronounced himself king before Sheba, the elders and the king accuse him of breaking the law and being unworthy. Adonijah insists he will never give up his rightful claim and departs the court, shortly after which David crowns Solomon king. Later, on his deathbed, David requests that Solomon build a great temple to honor God and house the covenant. After his father's death, Solomon prays for guidance and God assures him that as long as he fulfills his pledge to David, Israel will flourish. Solomon orders construction of the temple and after several weeks visits Adonijah to ask him to return to Jerusalem and head Israel's army. Although surprised, Adonijah agrees. The completion and consecration of the temple some years later finds Israel thriving and peaceful. In the land of Sheba, the queen receives notification that the Egyptian Pharaoh has called a conference of the Arab tribes out of concern over Israel's growing army. Baltor, Sheba's advisor, explains that in addition to this practical concern, the Pharaoh fears Solomon's devotion to monotheism, which threatens their own polytheistic beliefs. At the conference, when Pharaoh demands to know what size army Sheba will supply, the queen declares she will save employing the numerous forces by ruining Solomon personally. Although hesitant, Pharaoh agrees to allow Sheba and her entourage to proceed to Jerusalem alone. Solomon and his court welcome Sheba's visit, which she declares is a mission to learn from Solomon's just and effective reign. The Israelites are taken aback by the blatant display of the visitors' pagan idols, but Solomon treats the queen with great diffidence. When Adonijah visits Sheba to repeat his earlier proposal, the queen again refuses to assist him. After several days, Sheba grows frustrated at not being able to arrange time alone with Solomon, but is impressed by his judicious rulings in dealing with the daily difficulties of his people. Solomon gradually spends time with Sheba, but when the queen invites him for a private dinner, he avoids the engagement. Later that evening, however, Solomon challenges Sheba to explain the real reason for her presence in Jerusalem. Solomon dismisses Sheba's claim to be spying for Pharaoh, so the queen confesses her plan to ruin him because of his irreproachable reputation, but confesses that she has fallen in love with him. Overcome by his long-denied attraction to Sheba, Solomon embraces her. Days later, Hezrai and a high priest visit Adonijah to express their dismay over Sheba moving into the royal palace. Meanwhile, Sheba summons Baltor to demand their immediate return to their country. When the queen admits she has truly fallen in love with Solomon, Baltor reminds her of her mission and duty to her people. Sheba reluctantly agrees and describes her plan to gain Solomon's approval for a lavish religious celebration that will scandalize the elders and Israelite people. A few days later, Solomon proposes marriage to Sheba, but she indicates their religious differences make that impossible and announces her plan to return home. Stunned, Solomon demands an explanation and Sheba explains that as queen, she must oversee an annual religious tradition. Their discussion is disrupted by an assassination attempt by two men, one of whom Solomon discovers is Adonijah's lieutenant, Joab. Outraged, Solomon confronts Adonijah, who declares that the people are angered by Solomon's involvement with Sheba. The king angrily sends his brother into exile. Upon learning that Solomon has approved of Sheba's pagan celebration, the high priests meet with the king, but he insists that he has acted only out of love. Dismayed, the court prophet Nathan announces that God will turn his hand against Israel for Solomon's actions. The next evening, Sheba and her people conduct a sensuous ceremony that mesmerizes Solomon. Fearful of the prophecy, Abishag goes to the temple and pleads with God to spare Solomon, offering her life in exchange for his. At the height of the ceremony, a thunderstorm breaks out and both the pagan idol and the temple are struck by bolts of lightning. Stunned, Solomon later finds Abishag dead in the ruined temple and realizes the depth of his offense to God. The king then publicly apologizes to his priests and people, but the elders depart after declaring Israel's unity ruptured. As foretold, the land soon returns to a desert. In Egypt, Adonijah meets with Pharaoh and vows to lead the kingdom's armies against Solomon in exchange for Israel's throne. Pharaoh agrees and demands the death of Sheba for remaining in Jerusalem. Solomon soon learns of the approaching Egyptian army and, mustering those who have remained faithful to him, leads his soldiers into the desert to meet the attack. The king is gratified when Ahab joins him, pledging his tribe's support in memory of Abishag. Adonijah's superior forces quickly surround the smaller Israelite army and after a vicious battle, Solomon sounds the retreat. Adonijah orders Solomon found, but his officers report the Israelites have faded away. Impatient, Adonijah takes a small group into Jerusalem, leaving his captain to finish off the Israelites. Up in the hills, an officer reports to the weary Solomon that the surviving Israelite troops have abandoned him. In Jerusalem, Baltor tells Sheba of Solomon's defeat, but learning that the king remains alive, Sheba hastens to the temple ruins where she prays, vowing to return to her country to build a great tabernacle to honor God if he spares Solomon. The following morning, Solomon is astonished when his soldiers return to him and, abruptly inspired, he orders them to burnish their shields. As day breaks, the Egyptian captain orders the army into a final assault on the Israelites who wait on a distant hill. At the height of the charge, the Israelite soldiers turn their mirrored shields into the sun, blinding the approaching soldiers to a huge chasm lying just below the hill. After the Egyptian army has been destroyed by riding over the cliff, Solomon returns to Jerusalem in triumph. Meanwhile, Adonijah has declared himself king and ordered Sheba stoned. Infuriated by Solomon's appearance, Adonijah attacks him and Solomon kills him. The king then takes the unconscious Sheba to the temple where she revives and praises God for sparing him and Jerusalem. Repeating her vow, Sheba is gratified when God heals her injuries and commends her love and loyalty to Solomon. Sheba then reveals to Solomon that she is pregnant with his child, but insists she must fulfill her promise to return to her country. Solomon agrees and gives thanks to God for his forgiveness.