Scotland | As foretold in scripture: ‘The queen of the South will rise up …’

One day we will find

All our dreams are viable

’Cause we’ve got God on our side

We’re the only team in the Bible, Bible, Bible …

—“Queen of the South” (© Chris Belford)

“I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it.” (Queen of Sheba to King Solomon, 1 Kings 10:7)

Dumfries, Scotland | Few football anthems have succeeded in pairing “viable” and “Bible,” but Queen of the South are a side of multi-millennial pedigree. Via a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon–type exercise, one can date the west Scotland team’s heritage to the 10th century BCE, following the links from a 19th century politician and poet to festival traditions of the Middle Ages to the synoptic Gospels’ allusion to the “queen of the South,” itself a reference to the visit of the Arabian queen of Sheba to King Solomon, recounted in the Hebrew Bible.

YouTube video

Belford’s tribute song “Queen of the South” accompanies part of this reprisal of the Apr 12 Scottish Cup semifinal versus Aberdeen at Hampden Park, Glasgow. Some 10,000 made the trip from Dumfries. (9:11)

They do seem to be the only team mentioned explicitly in the biblical canon—excluding apocryphal works. Numerous sides are named in passing: Bury, Arsenal, The Strongest and so on (see the Guardian survey). “Corinthians,” naturally, forms the title of part of Paul‘s epistolary output, so strong conceptually that his correspondence to the troublemaking residents of ancient Corinth extends to two volumes.

Unlike the other coincidental connections between football teams and the Bible, however, “Queen of the South” seems to have been selected based on the appearance of the phrase in Matthew 12:42 (and parallels)—or was it? Research suggests that the connection is not a direct one—hence the need for the Kevin Bacon game.

Journos and supporters have mentioned the scriptural imprimatur often over the past week as, for the first time in its 89-year history, Queen of the South has advanced to the Scottish Cup final. Its opponent will be Rangers on May 24 in Glasgow.

Long-time supporter Murray Ritchie, writing in the Scotsman, asked for “divine intervention” before the Apr 12 semifinal versus Aberdeen. The only comparable occasion took place in 1950, when Queen of the South—known as the Doonhamers, from a traditional Scots reference to Dumfries as “doon hame”—played Rangers in the Cup semifinal, also at Hampden. The teams drew 1–1, with Rangers easily winning the replay.

Supporters at QOS v. Aberdeen might have borrowed from the red-letter words of Jesus as he speaks prophetically of the “queen of the South.” The queen had testified to Solomon’s wisdom and riches, as recounted in 1 Kings 10 (and 1 Chronicles 9), but would have had something different to say had she arrived in Jesus’ day or at Hampden Park on this April afternoon: “See, something greater than Solomon is here!” Four times the Doonhamers took the lead; three times Aberdeen equalized. Five goals came in one 12-minute span: “It was like a game of Pro-Evolution Soccer,” said midfielder-defender Ryan McCann. The 60th-minute goal by John Stewart, on loan from Falkirk, finally finished the scoring.

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