Home / Negarit / Kibre Neggest: A Myth Elevated to a Biblical Cannon

Kibre Neggest: A Myth Elevated to a Biblical Cannon

There is no piece of fiction that shaped the Abyssinian psyche the way Kibre Neggest did. A product of the 13th century, many Abyssinians  accept it as an authentic narration of actual history that equates the birth of Minelik (corrupted Arabic Ibn Al Malik or Hebrew Bin Melech – מֶלֶךְ ) with the birth of Jesus Christ. The narration begins with the legendary “romance”  between King Solomon (as per the Bible) and Prophet Solomon (according to the Quran) and the “Queen of Sheba” (Belqis as per the Quraanic legend, and Makeda, as per the Axumite legend. The book was conceived to justify the usurpation of power (from then Zagew dynasty) by warlords of the Solomonic dynasty (claiming lineage to Solomon) that ruled for 700 years before it ended with the overthrow of Emperor Haile Sellassie in 1974. The following is an extract from my book “Of Kings and Bandits” that can be found on Amazon Kindle here.

Today and tomorrow is the 49th anniversary of the Besekdira massacre (250 villagers killed on Nov, 30, 1970) and Ona (596 villagers killed on Dec. 1st, 1970). Both villages are in the environs of Keren, Eritrea. The villagers were brutally massacred and their villages razed to the ground by the bloody regime of Haile Selassie, the last king of the Solomonic dynasty. (Saleh “Gadi” Johar)

…Neither did Mokria discover any while reading the captivating stories of kings, “stories over two-thousand years old,” as Mergheta Kndye explained. His father was right. In the book, Mokria found the mythical origin of Janhoi, straight from the veins of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba. It was there written in black ink with illustrations, colorful pictures of people with eyes so big they occupied half their faces. Here was a woman with a crown on her head lying down with open legs, a man with a crown on his head on top of her—a painting depicting Janhoi’s ancestors fornicating! Then the two royals drink wine from golden cups after the act. King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba had just produced the future Minelik, Mergheta had told him. On the next page the Queen of Sheba headed back home to Abyssinia. Next, there is another painting of the queen giving birth to Minelik on the banks of the Maibela Creek. Mokria thought it only natural that Janhoi, the present king, should belong to such a couple and such an affair, though the painting didn’t depict the event.

Mergheta Kndye would never mention the Kebre Neggest as the work of a fourteenth-century genius, an Egyptian Coptic priest. Having grown up feeding on the same myths himself, just like Mokria, maybe he believed every bit of it.

Chaos, the defining factor of Abyssinia for too long, needed a solution, and the Egyptian priest had come with a rescue. He produced a perfect myth, he authored Kebre Neggest, Glory of Kings—a lore on whose pages retroactively created legends fit together like bricks in a wall—to explain the present and stabilize the future. It connected the bloodline of the many Abyssinian kings, the Janhois, to that of Solomon, the Israelite king.

The Kebre Neggest, initially written in Arabic, had been translated into Geez, the language of the Axumite Kingdom, the only kingdom that created an indigenous African alphabet. This was long before “Solomonic” kings usurped legitimacy to the throne—long before the Kebre Neggest was conceived, impregnated with a mishmash of fables, generously sprinkled with scriptures from the Bible and the Koran, and embellished with ancient pornography—retroactively producing a mythical king Minelik, son of King Solomon, so that future kings including Haile Sellassie, the Janhoi, could claim a title, Elect of God.

Apparently, the Solomonic bloodline had disappeared midway. It had been eradicated from Axum and replaced by the Zagwe Dynasty that ruled Abyssinia for decades. But not before one keeper of the gene had escaped with Solomon’s blood in his veins, according to the fables of Kebre Neggest. The bloodline survived in Shoa for centuries and appeared in the veins of Yekuno-Amlak, a Janhoi who suddenly came to the picture thanks to the consultation of the Kebre Neggest. The clergy crowned the lost gene-carrier King of Abyssinia on a throne that a Zagwe king abdicated voluntarily, according to the Kebre Neggest; he must have considered his blood less worthy than a Solomonic progeny. The Zagwe king, offspring of the great architects and builders of the rock-hewn churches of Lallibela, abdicated to the lost-and-found peasant Yokuno-Amlak. But Mokria never questioned the fables.

He trusted the Kebre Neggest which said that centuries later, again, some king by the name of Sahle-Sellassie magically proved his Solomonic DNA. As designed, the Kebre Neggest’s attempt to put an end to the power struggle among the nobility, to establish a legitimate condition to assume the throne, succeeded. Janhoi Sahle-Sellassie became the king of Abyssinia. Of course, Haile Sellasie could also plump a bloodline. He did. And he became Janhoi.

Gobezie saw it differently. He considered the Kebre Neggest a mythology that was elevated to the status of a canon and a religious doctrine, came with a great expense and had a profoundly negative effect on the non-Christian people of the region. It immersed Abyssinia into a fanatic theocracy. It crippled scholarship. It blocked enlightenment. It established the absolute power of the church over the state. Abyssinians barricaded themselves in their mountains for centuries, and every time they peeked to the outside world, they found themselves lagging far behind. Giving up on advancement, they retreated, back to the mountains, back to isolation, and engaged in their favorite pastime: bloodletting and pillaging. They effectively built an isolation wall around their country.

Unlike Mokria, Gobezie had learned about it from the perspective of his rebellious uncle, not from the perspective of his father or Mergheta Kndye. Thus, the two brothers were molded into different characters. One looking to the open space and wistful that his country would enjoy justice and fairness, to grow wings and fly; another looking at the Wehni mountaintop, the prison, and wishing he could roll the entire country and quarantine it there, and he, Mokria, would stand guard from where his grandfather stood.


About Saleh "Gadi" Johar

Born and raised in Keren, Eritrea, now a US citizen residing in California, Mr. Saleh “Gadi” Johar is founder and publisher of awate.com. Author of Miriam was Here, Of Kings and Bandits, and Simply Echoes. Saleh is acclaimed for his wealth of experience and knowledge in the history and politics of the Horn of Africa. A prominent public speaker and a researcher specializing on the Horn of Africa, he has given many distinguished lectures and participated in numerous seminars and conferences around the world. Activism Awate.com was founded by Saleh “Gadi” Johar and is administered by the Awate Team and a group of volunteers who serve as the website’s advisory committee. The mission of awate.com is to provide Eritreans and friends of Eritrea with information that is hidden by the Eritrean regime and its surrogates; to provide a platform for information dissemination and opinion sharing; to inspire Eritreans, to embolden them into taking action, and finally, to lay the groundwork for reconciliation whose pillars are the truth. Miriam Was Here This book that was launched on August 16, 2013, is based on true stories; in writing it, Saleh has interviewed dozens of victims and eye-witnesses of Human trafficking, Eritrea, human rights, forced labor.and researched hundreds of pages of materials. The novel describes the ordeal of a nation, its youth, women and parents. It focuses on violation of human rights of the citizens and a country whose youth have become victims of slave labor, human trafficking, hostage taking, and human organ harvesting--all a result of bad governance. The main character of the story is Miriam, a young Eritrean woman; her father Zerom Bahta Hadgembes, a veteran of the struggle who resides in America and her childhood friend Senay who wanted to marry her but ended up being conscripted. Kings and Bandits Saleh “Gadi” Johar tells a powerful story that is never told: that many "child warriors" to whom we are asked to offer sympathies befitting helpless victims and hostages are actually premature adults who have made a conscious decision to stand up against brutality and oppression, and actually deserve our admiration. And that many of those whom we instinctively feel sympathetic towards, like the Ethiopian king Emperor Haile Sellassie, were actually world-class tyrants whose transgressions would normally be cases in the World Court. Simply Echoes A collection of romantic, political observations and travel poems; a reflection of the euphoric years that followed Eritrean Independence in 1991.

Check Also

Please Come and Invade Us!

A fringe racist, bigoted, and servile group has been trying hard to undo Eritrea and …

  • Dawit

    This is good summary of Kibre negist (the lying negist). However, the article does not mention the devastation that created in the church itself and any christian believer that opposed the kibre negist rulers. There was furious opposition to the Kibre negist Solomonic dynasty from Seraye (region in Eritrea) monasteries on the grounds that there should be a separation of state and religion. Many monks were exiled and the exiled monks reached all the way to modern day Russia and Norway.

    • Saleh Johar

      Selam Dawit,
      Your comment is interesting. I would like to know more. Can you elaborate on the nature of the opposition to Kbre Negest and some details on those you said were exiled to Norway and Russia? Unless it is a folklore, I would appreciate some supporting links or books we can refer to. Thank you

    • Haile S.

      Selam Dawit,

      Just something to consider in your response to Saleh. I think you are talking about the Ewstatewosawian. If yes, from my sparse reading about the subject, I thought their principal difference with the central religious leaders was on their observance of Sabbath. Was the point you raised their principal demand? Based on my unforgettable memories of my nun grandmother and her teachings, I think, the observance of Sabbath still persists among the monastery led churches in Eritrea.

      • Paulos

        Selam Hailat,

        That is what I thought too. And I remember reading Bahru Zewdie who is in my opinion perhaps one of if not the leading authority in Ethiopian history saying about the Ewastatewosawians and who eventually left in exile for Armenia not as Dawit suggested Norway or Russia.

      • Saleh Johar

        HaileS and Paulos,
        What year was the difference on the observance of the Sabbath that you mentioned? There were many differences on many occasions; is the one you mentioned related to the Kibre Negest?

        • Haile S.

          Selam Saleh,
          My recollection was from a book written by religious lady on Eth orthodox church and another on Lebne Dengel’s attempts to solves religious controversies, thus I thought it started during his reign. But googling, I found pretty detailed story about this in wikipedia. Please search by Ewostatewos movement, it started earlier than Libne Dengel and many other details.

          • Saleh Johar

            That is what I thought. At that time there was a split among the clergy on other things (I didn’t know it was on the observation of Sabbath). He had nothing to do with the Kibre Negest though there could have been doctrinal differences related to it at later stages on the Solomonic dynasty. Of course the differences continued in many ways until the time of Yohannes IV who forcefully resolved the issues at Birru Meda. I am interested in the Birru Meda resolution and how the other sects disappeared after that. Could you please refer me to additional materials on what transpired? Thank you

          • Haile S.

            Selam Saleh,

            I couldn’t find anything in the books that I have that talks in details about that event. Based on summary reading, a book written by Bairu Tafla may be a good source. I haven’t read it.

            A Chronicle of Emperor Yohannes IV (1872-89). Bairu Tafla, Published by Franz Steiner Verlag, Wiesbaden, 1977.

          • Haile S.

            Selam SGJ,

            About your question on KofK Yohannes IV’s Boru Meda:

            ሳልሕ እንታይ ድኣ ሎምቅነ ዝን ኢልካ
            በል ሕጂ ዘበራብር እንሃለ ረኺበልካ

            Finally, I found you an article (in english) that speaks a little bit about the Boru-Meda event and the religious controversy Yohannes IV tried to address. However, more than the Boru-Meda event the article’s main substance is on an interesting unprecedented subterfuge worthy of Operation Mincemeat (ሰላዩ ሬስ፡ ማሞ ውድነህ) by Yohannes IV’s court to convince Wollo Moslems to convert to christianity. Here is the reference and its abstract. The original geez manuscript was found in Debre Qudus Yohannes Monastry in Tembien region in Tigray. The author translated and discussed it in this article.

            Stephane Ancel. 2015. A Muslim Prophecy Justifying the Conversion of Ethiopian Muslims to Christianity during Yohanes IV’s Reign. A text found in a manuscript in Eastern Tigray. Annales d’Ethiopie (30), pp. 315-333.

            This paper presents the edition of a short Geez text dealing with a Muslim prophecy concerning king of kings Yohannes IV (1872-1889). This text, written probably between 1881 and 1889, is supposed to be a letter written by Muslim authorities from abroad to Muslims living in the Wällo region. According to the pseudo-author, Yohannes is the chosen king of God, announced by a prophecy; thus Muslims from Wällo should submit immediately to the Christian monarch. This text has very specific characteristics and its analysis shows that it was a document produced in a Christian Orthodox milieu in order to justify the harsh policy directed against Muslims in Ethiopia at that time. This way the text raises questions concerning the ideological apparatus elaborated and developed at the court of Yohannes IV.

            P.S. I wonder how this Brana Manuscript escaped the attention of Getachew Assefa to say the document was written and planted by Liqe-Menekusat Shaebia 🙂 🙂 :-).

      • Dawit

        Selam Haile,

        I don’t know the chronology, I only read some books long time ago. When was Saint Tecklehaimanot alive. You know Saint Tecklehaimanot burned many ancient books as well. I think if I remember correctly the schism happened when Saint Tecklehaimanot was alive. Tecklehaimanot was strong supporter of the Solomonic kings. However, I am sure that there was a schism pertaining to issue of separation of church and state.

  • Saleh Johar

    Selam Mokie, Wetin dey?

    I do not understand pidgin but No wahala. I can only confirm to you that I have no problem if you believe a “Crocodile in Thailand” is you god, but I believe it’s fair for me to expect reciprocal attitude.

  • mokie berhe

    Salam All. Yo brother Bob Marley what did ye have to say say? Brother Bob said that the final part of the Kibre Negest, the Colophon, contained a passage which stated In Arabic text that “We have turned this book into Arabic from a Coptic manuscript belonging to the throne of Mark the Evangelist, the teacher, the father of us all. We have translated it in the four hundred and ninth year of mercy.’ Smoking brother Bob had said that the Sheba Cycle was originally a Coptic document from Egypt translated into Arabic in 409 CE (Arabs had been migrating into Egypt since 539 BCE). Santa Claus, Easter bunny rabbits, tooth fairy, men turned into apes, blonde girls in paradise, magical powers over nature…..why do you wish to spoil the fantasy world? Smoking Bob Marley forever!

    • Simon Kaleab

      Waa gwan mi fren mokie?

      Arabs hav beeen invadin aan migratin.

      Ah, whey dem did deh?

      To egyb aan everywhe.

  • Simon Kaleab

    Selam Saleh G.,

    The myths and legends found in the Kibre Negest are not unique to Ethiopia. All ancient civilisations, be it Persian, Greek, Roman, Chinese, Japanese, Islamic have their own myths and legends.

    For example, do you seriously believe the Qur’an’s description of the defeat Abraha’s [the Axumite king of Yemen] army, by aerial bombardment of stone throwing birds to be true?

    Similarly, the Christian claim of virgin birth of Jesus in Bethlehem [in order to link him to king David] does not survive close examination.

    • Saleh Johar

      Very predictable comment 🙂
      Let’s leave my religious belief aside. But what you are not honest about is that I stated clearly, if it is belief, part of your religion, the scripture, then say so and you should not be expected to explain the rationality of a religious dogma. The Kibre Negest is not a dogma, it was created 1300 y after Christianity, a human story. But why am I interested in it? As you know, it was a political story invented to justify the ascending to power by the so-called Solomonic Dynasty. And that story has shaped, influenced, and destroyed the political and governance of our region for centuries. I do not con sider it a religious cannon, if it is, defend it. But the Quraanic story of the birds, are just like the story of Jesus raising the dead. It’s a belief and in the scripture–I do not go there. Any addition to that is questionable within context. Hope I explained it to you.

      Now, you are obsessed with making jabs by targeting Islam. Good luck with that crusade because we have it all over the world and it will remain a distractive, bigoted, and hypocritical argument. I even said, if someone wants you to prove the existence of God, don’t argue with them. Tell them it’s a religious dogma and move on. How come you omitted that part?

      • Teodros Alem

        Selam Saleh Johar
        I think Kibre negest was written by the time of king “ezana” of the Axum in geez and rewrite in amharic later.

        • Saleh Johar

          Nope Tedros,
          It is about 700 years old manufactured legend. Search it on google and you will find tons of references. One of them says,

          “…Comitted to writing in the fourteenth century, the Kebra Nagast was derived from Ethiopian oral traditions of the Queen of Sheba and her state marriage with Solomon. The Kebra Nagast has been cited as one of the sources of the Rastafarian movement because of its support of Ethiopian theocracy.”

          The major contributor was an Egyptian who wrote it in Arabic before it reached the reverence it has reached to due to the dependance of the “Solomonic Kings” to assert their God-given right to rule.

          • Teodros Alem

            Selam Saleh Johar
            am sure vast majority of kibre negest is a legend, i have no illusion about it but i heard the one that is written 700 years ago, after the so called “restoration” of Solomon dynasty was a collection of different writings of arabic, coptic and geez written at the time of king “Ezana” .
            yes i have seen the Google.

      • Simon Kaleab

        Selam Saleh G.,

        Isn’t religion man made? It is mostly driven by the human desire to live forever resulting in the invention of the afterlife as a consolation.

        A religion can be invented anytime; but to make it stick longer one needs a good number of passionately devoted followers. Some religions die too, such as Christianity in Europe. In private Europeans dislike Christianity because it is too restrictive, with to many don’t dos [for example, men/women marrying men/women].

        Rastas have developed a new religion, and Haile Selassie is their moshiach/messaiah.For them, their religion is as good as any.

        • Saleh Johar

          Believers would say religion is not man-made but divinely inspired. By now, we have scripture that we recognize–but if individuals want to invent new additions to it, humanity should not be subjected to accept it. I accept the three Abrahamic religions, no one can shove a chain of legends down my throat. Kibre Negest is one of them.

          • Teodros Alem

            Selam Saleh Johar
            I know u didn’t mean u only accept the three abrahmic religions, like pfdj did ,what about Hindi, Buddhism and others?
            by the way did u heard the news that ethiopian navy will be based in Djibouti? a lot of eritreans r not happy about it, i mean they were not happy when ethiopia announced she is forming a navy because eritreans thought it will be based in assab(pia sale eri sovereignty) and now they r not happy because they say ethiopia needs to feed it’s people first before forming navy. and am confused, both ways eri’s r not happy, what is ethiopia has to do to make them happy?

          • Saleh Johar

            Dear Tedros,
            Focus pls. Read everything in context–if we had other religions in our region I would have mentioned them. So, your wrong information about the Kibre Nesgst was the intro question. It soon changed to Far Easer religions, then it went to Djibouti, and now you want me to tell you what Ethiopia should do to make Eritreans happy. You are cruel Tedros, I am glad you are not my teacher giving me a quiz.

            I will reply to your last question: Ethiopia should stop meddling in Eritrean affairs and disrespecting the nation. That will be the end of confrontation. And if Ethiopia becomes peace focused instead of endless fighting. That’s is just my opinion. Cheers

          • Teodros Alem

            Selam Saleh Johar
            That is what they told me about the book of kibre negest, they say there still r a lot of writings present in monstrous in ethiopia that can prove kibre negest was written based on those writings .
            Wake guracha, also known as wake fetta is a relgion in our region.

          • Saleh Johar

            Of course Tedros,
            All religious sects have different books. All. But also they have one book attributed to the prophets and BeLive they are divine, and many other books that are written by people. I do not belive e they are divine and must be questioned, specially if they turn people’s lives into hell and are mainly superstitions. Now, use the mind that you have and sift through the books and stick to the scripture that you believe in and discard superstition. Legends should not have more impact that the divine books in our lives. Put everything in the balance of rationality except the scripture

          • Teodros Alem

            Selam Saleh Johar
            agree with u 100% but kiber negest is not a relgion book, it is a legend history book that talk about the history of ethiopian orthodox church and the kings and queens starting from Axum, written to fit and glorify the kings and queens narration.

          • Saleh Johar

            Tedros, exactly. That’s why I reject it because both Eritrea and Ethiopia were and still are victims of that legend for too long. So, now you should know laws cannot be based on legends and superstitions that serve rulers. But based on what serves the citizens . And the clergy was always part of the ruling dynasty’s and never with the people. That’s why they feed the people garbage to rule them jointly. It’s just like the Saudi clergy who would say god forbids women from driving and then says god permits the to drive—based on what the ruler says and it has nothing to do with religion. Didn’t I say both cultures are the same? I am dead sure if that 🙂

          • Teodros Alem

            Selam Saleh Johar
            Agreed and i reject it too, We r the same on rejecting it , specially kibre negest’s the church in politics in a diverse society is worse, and that was why the region was in a lot of problems.

          • mokie berhe

            Salam Saleh Johar. As an atheist since early youth and a firm supporter of secularism, I don’t quite agree with you. There are an estimated 4,200 religions globally or which 12 are considered major. Paul James in -Globalization and Culture Volume 2 -Globalising religions- stated that ‘Religion can be defined as a relatively-bounded system of beliefs, symbols and practices that addresses the nature of existence, and in which communion with others and Otherness is lived as if it both takes in and spiritually transcends socially-grounded ontologies of time, space, embodiment and knowing’. I am not a judge but not see justification in one saying that some beliefs/religions are credible whilst others are not. And, it is clear for many, that they do not require any book (i.e. Torah, Bible, Koran) of sacred texts or scriptures to be spiritually active. I am therefore not able to say that your belief is any less or better than that of Bob Marley and the Rastas.

          • Saleh Johar

            It’s always good to consider the context in what you explained, I am interested in the book in question because it was the tool that enabled all the misery we experienced though not necessarily all of us.

            AS for Bob’s cult, I care less but I react to the fact that Haile Sellasie the killer could be considered god. That is my human reaction.

  • ሓላው ስጡሕ

    Hello Awates,
    Wow I guess the Ethiopian king had his own invented history..the only thing that would have sexyfied the fantasy would have been any martyr that kills in the name of the king will get 72 virgins in paradise.

  • መሃንድስ-ምዕባለ

    ኡስታዝ ሳልሕ:
    መጀመርታ ኣብ ኮርሰራ ዘይረኽብኩዋ ክላስ ኣብዚ ኦፈር ምግባርካ የመስግን።

    ሃይለ-ስላሴ ጻድቕ ኔሮም ዝብሉ ክትሰምዕ ከለኻ ደምካ ኣይፍለሐካን? ሓደ-ሓደ ግዜስ ናብ ውዑይ ሽሮ ‘የ ዝቕየር።
    ስማዕባ: ሕጂ ንህግደፍ ደጊፎም ኢልና ንግረምሲ ኣብ ግዜ ሃይለ ስላሴ ሰብ ክሃልቕ ከሎ ዓባይ ኢትዮጵያ ዝብሉ ብዙሓት ኔሮም። ስልንርስዕ ድዩ?

    ጉዳም ዝኾንካ ሰብ። ዝበዝሕ ታሪኽ ብዛዕባ ኢትዮጵያን ኢትዮጵያውያንን ንመሃሮ ዝነበርናስ ለካ ዝተሰነዐ ‘ዩ ኔሩ። ወይ ዘይምፍላጥ ጥዑም!

    ከማይ ‘ንተዄንኩም ቁሩብ ክፈልጥ ምስጀመርኩ ሓሳስያ ክግብረለይ ጀሚሩ።
    ኣነ ድማ ሳሙና ስለዝቐየርኩስ ኡስ ኢለ ክልተ ቅርሺ ከተርፍ ክብል ነገር ኣምጺአ ይብለ ኔረ።

  • Brhan

    Thank you Saleh for the article,
    Firstly, I read your book and I was wandering if you have planned to translate it to Tigrinya and Arabic. I believe more will be enjoying the book.

    How the regime of King Selase was ended is astonishing. The king was killed by his own soldiers who hated him to the earth.
    This shows you that the myth was not able to survive let alone among the tribe of the king , the Amhara, but his elite. Knowledge was the key as Ethiopians went abroad and become educated they found out the king and his myth cheating and non-sense myth.
    Now in Ethiopia many ethnic groups are regaining many values , among which their dignity.

    The king not only tried to change peoples mind to that myth but also tried to change land with its stone, sands , river and valleys.

    Adama for example was changed to Nazareth, because Adama which comes from a sufi muslim Sheik,Adam, doesn’t suit the myth so the king has to change it Nazareth. And there are a lot of stories. One thing that goes parallel with this is also that atrocities that were committed in Besekdira and Ona were committed by the same King in Adama and everywhere the king tried to loot lands of others Muslims, Oromos and Guragaes .

    Last but not least we remember Bekisedera and Ona and the legendary story is that the Tor Serweet when they ordered the Muslim villagers to go the mosque so that it is going easy for them, i.e. Tor Serarweet to kill the Muslims , their Christian villagers joined them. The Tor Seraweet were shocked by this!

    • Teodros Alem

      selam brhan
      The chairman/chairwoman of 8 political parties that created prosperity party, 6 of them r Muslims, 1 half Muslim(3A) and only one of them is Pentecostal(gambela chairman). The point is, even what u saying above is mostly lie and pure hate , there will never never be that kind of government in ethiopia, because the Destiny of ethiopia is in a hand of proud ethiopians.