The Sabeans were an ancient people group
mentioned in the Bible as coming from a nation
far away from Israel (Joel 3:8). They were a
people of stature (Isaiah 45:14) and a rival nation
to Israel (Job 1:15). The Sabeans lived in the land
of Sheba, which archeology suggests was a
Semitic trading state that existed for 1,000 years
in the area that is now Yemen. The capital of
Sheba was called Marib (or Ma’rib), and the
kingdom existed from 1200 BC to AD 275, trading
primarily in spices. The land of the Sabeans was
eventually destroyed as a result of civil war.
The Sabeans feature in three biblical passages.
The first of which, chronologically speaking, is in
the book of Job. Job the man was subject to a
long list of successive tragedies, of which one
was an attack by the Sabeans. These raiders
stole Job’s oxen and donkeys and struck down
his servants with the sword, leaving only one man
alive to run back and report the incident to Job
The next two biblical events involving the
Sabeans are prophecies by Isaiah and Joel.
Isaiah prophesies about Israel’s eventual victory
over three cultures: the Egyptians, the Cushites,
and the Sabeans. The men of Sheba are called
“those tall Sabeans” in Isaiah 45:14, meaning
they were apparently men of stature and strength.
Isaiah prophesies that all three of these groups
will eventually be humbled before Israel and
admit that Israel’s God is the true God: “They will
bow down before you / and plead with you,
saying, / ‘Surely God is with you, and there is no
other; / there is no other god’” (Isaiah 45:14). In
Joel’s prophecy, the Sabeans are mentioned as a
distant nation to whom the men of Judah will sell
their enemies as slaves, as a sign of God’s
punishment on Tyre and Sidon, nations who
dared to come against God’s people (Joel 3:4–8).
The Queen of Sheba, or the Queen of the South,
who traveled a long way to hear Solomon’s
wisdom, was likely a Sabean, and the elaborate
riches she gave to Solomon show that the
Sabeans were a wealthy people. Centuries after
her visit to Jerusalem, two warring clans fought
for control of Sheba and eventually weakened the
empire, and it was overtaken by the Himyarite
Kingdom. At that point the mighty Sabeans
ceased to exist as a distinct people.