Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
The Mystery of the Ethiopian Eunuch!
According to Isaiah 18:7, prophecy tells us that a "present" from Ethiopia will be carried to the place (Temple) of the "name of the LORD of Hosts," to "Mount Zion." What has this to do with the Ethiopian eunuch and why, other than to worship at the Jerusalem Temple, had this particular Ethiopian traveled all the way to Jerusalem with a large and costly retinue? And why did Luke even bother to record it amidst the tumultuous times of which he was writing? Why did the Queen of Ethiopia send a highly-placed court official, and why was he carrying a scroll of Isaiah in his chariot? And, finally, why did the holy spirit urge Philip to appear beside the chariot as the eunuch happened to be reading from Isaiah 53? Coincidences? I think not!
by John D. Keyser
In the Book of Acts, chapter 8, verses 26 to 39 we read:
26 Now an angel of the LORD spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert.
27 So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship,
28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet.
29 Then the spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.”
30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 The place in the Scripture which he read was this:
33 “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter;
And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
So he opened not his mouth.
In his humiliation his justice was taken away,
And who will declare his generation?
For his life is taken from the earth.”
34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?”
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.
36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”
37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they came up out of the water, the spirit of the LORD caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.
These verses in the Book of Acts raise a number of questions that most people gloss right over.
It has always been assumed that this man was a dark-skinned Ethiopian and therefore a non-Israelite. While the term "Ethiopia" can mean "a man of burnt skin" (i.e. dark-skinned in nature), it can also refer to a man who lives in Ethiopia regardless of his skin color or original nationality. So, in light of this, the following questions need to be asked:
(1) Would a black man have been allowed into the Temple at that time?
(2) What would a black non-Israelite man be doing going to an Israelite feast?
(3) If this man was truly an eunuch (castrated male), he would not be allowed to be near the Temple.
(4) Why was there such a fuss when the apostle Paul wanted to take a Greek (suspected of being a non-Israelite) into the Temple? See Acts 21:27-29.
(5) Could we be sure that a true Israelite (white skinned) could not have been in the employ of the Queen of Ethiopia?
(6) Would we expect this man to be reading the Book of Isaiah?
The Word "Eunuch"
Before answering these questions we need to define a word that is key to understanding these verses -- the word eunuch.
According to Meyer's New Testament Commentary,
"εὐνοῦχος [eunuch] is often employed generally of court officials, without regard to corporeal mutilation. See de Dieu, in loc.; Spanheim, ad Julian. Oratt. p. 174. Many therefore (Cornelius a Lapide, de Dieu, Kuinoel, Olshausen) suppose that the Ethiopian was not emasculated, for he is called ἀνήρ and he was not a complete Gentile (as Eusebius and Nicephorus would make him), but, according to Acts 8:30 ff., a Jew, whereas Israelitish citizenship did not belong to emasculated persons (Deuteronomy 23:1; Michaelis, Mos. R. II. § 95, IV. § 185; Ewald, Alterth. p. 218).
In Matthew 19:12 we read, "For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother's womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake" (NKJV). The last class mentioned here are not literal eunuchs but those men who voluntarily abstain from sexual activity to further the Gospel. Notes Insight On the Scriptures --
"The court official who was in charge of the treasury of the queen of Ethiopia and to who Philip preached is called a eunuch. He was a proselyte to the Jewish religion who had come to Jerusalem to worship God. But since a castrated person was not accepted into the congregation of Israel under the Law, the term eu-nou'khos would apply here not literally but in its sense of 'court official.' (Ac 8:26-39; De 23:1)" (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. Brooklyn, New York, 1988, volume 1, p. 767).
In the same volume, under the heading "Court Official" we read:
The Encyclopedia Judaica sums it up, as follows:
"The Ethiopian 'eunuch' baptized by Philip the evangelizer was a man in power, over all the treasure of Queen Candace. He was a proselyte of the Jewish religion, a worshiper of Jehovah, under the Law. He could not have been a literal eunuch, for no castrated man could come into the congregation of Israel and no others aside from Jews and proselytes were baptized prior to Cornelius' conversion. (Ac 8:26-38; 10:24, 34, 35, 44-47; De 23:1)."
"CASTRATION, the removal of testes or ovaries. In the Hebrew Bible, the term saris, commonly rendered "eunuch," occurs more than 40 times. As a rule, the saris designated a court official who, occasionally, even reached the high rank of military commander (II Kings 25:19). Sarisim were found serving at the courts of Egypt (Gen. 37:36), Ethiopia (Jer. 38:7), Persia (Esth. 1:10ff.), and even Israel (II Kings 9:32). Since in at least one known case (Pharaoh's Potiphar) the saris was definitely married (Gen. 39:7ff.), it is doubtful whether the term always or usually refers specifically to a eunuch rather than to a palace official in general...
"Judaism has always forbidden all forms of castration. Alone among the nations of antiquity, the Hebrews imposed a religious prohibition on the emasculation of men and even animals, a prohibition not found in the teachings of Buddha, Confucius, Christ, or Muhammad...the biblical interdict is widely extended to cover any deliberate impairment of the male reproductive organs in domestic animals, beasts, birds, and man, including the castration of a person who is already impotent or genitally maimed...
"The explicit disqualification of priestly castrates strikingly indicates how repulsive to Judaism is the notion of emasculating ecclesiastics or temple servants in order to promote their spirituality, let alone for so slight a motive as to preserve the soprano voices of religious choristers (practices widely rampant among ancient and medieval Christians). Jewish law, by contrast, not only abhorred such operations but extended the ban to certain categories of judges and synagogue officials (Tosef., Sanh. 7:5; Sof. 14:17)."
The origin of the Greek word for eunuch is enlightening. The popular opinion is that it is derived from eunen and echo, and means "protector of the bed" -- a harem attendant in particular. However, this is strongly doubted by many scholars who consider the word to have an ancient Semitic origin, related to the concepts "trained, reliable, experienced." Therefore, In this case, there is no direct connection with castration, unlike the Greek words ektomias, spadon and apokopai, which can be directly related to eunuch and castration.
A Long Way to Be Rejected?
Writing about the Ethiopian eunuch, Nancy S. Taylor brings up some thought-provoking points about this man's visit to Jerusalem:
"...this isn’t just any Ethiopian eunuch. This Ethiopian eunuch is a dignitary, a highly placed court official, in charge of the Queen’s entire treasury.
"Here is what else we can surmise about this exotic personage whose name, by the way, we will never know. As an Ethiopian he speaks both Cushitic and Aramaic. As a highly placed official concerned with finances, with trade and politics, it is all but certain he speaks Greek and Latin. We are told he is reading the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, so we know, 1) he can read, and 2), he can read Hebrew. If he can read Hebrew, it is a safe bet he reads Cushitic, Aramaic, Greek and Latin as well.
"No, this is not your every day, run-of-the-mill Ethiopian eunuch.
"This educated and exotic personage, this man of wealth and reputation undertook a dangerous, laborious, inconvenient journey of months -- from Ethiopia to Jerusalem. Why? The text is clear. The Ethiopian eunuch is not on business. This is a personal undertaking, a pilgrimage. He has undertaken this journey and this expense to worship in Jerusalem.
"He has traveled some 2000 miles to Jerusalem. If his entourage travels 30 miles a day, it is more than a two month undertaking, one way. Four months round trip, minimum.
"Two months ago, he and his entourage started out. Heading north they following the White Nile, then the Blue Nile. They passed through the trade city of Khartoum and bore the winds and the sands of the Nubian Desert. Picking up the Great Nile they followed it to its mouth. Then, last but by no means least, they negotiated the great wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula before finally arriving, sun-burnt, dusty and weary, at their destination: Jerusalem" (Transcript).
Now think about it: Would this man have traveled all that distance -- at great expense and personal danger -- to finally arrive in Jerusalem after two months and learn that he is persona non grata at the Temple? Would not a man of his education and obvious knowledge of YEHOVAH's Word not know this before he even started out on his journey? Would the queen of Ethiopia even have allowed him to go if he was a literal eunuch with no hope of accomplishing his mission? The answers seem pretty obvious!
Saga za Ab, often known in contemporary Europe as Sagazabo or Zaga Zabo, was an Ethiopian ambassador who visited Europe in 1527-33. Saga za Ab wrote an account of the situation of the Christian religion in Ethiopia, which was published by Damiao de Gois under the title Fides, Religio Moresque Aethiopium in 1540, in which he stated:
"...we [Ethiopians], almost before all other Christians, received baptism from the eunuch of Candace, queen of Ethiopia, whose name was Indich and had come to Jerusalem for to worship; hence he seems to have been either a Jew by birth, or rather a proselyte to the Jewish religion; and had been at Jerusalem at one of their annual feasts, the passover, "pentecost," or tabernacles, to worship the God of Israel, whom he believed to be the only true God...it is reported of this eunuch, that after his conversion he preached the Gospel to the inhabitants of Zeylan and Arabia Felix, and in the island of Traprobane in the Red Sea, and at last suffered martyrdom."
Damiao de Gois comments that Indich "who had the charge of all her treasure; was her lord treasurer; which shows, that he was not an eunuch to her on account of chastity, but a high officer in her kingdom."
The Color of His Skin
While almost all of the Bible commentaries state that the eunuch was black -- based on the term "Ethiopia" which can mean "burned faces" -- these commentaries fail to understand that the term Ethiopia designates a geographic area, and is not necessarily a racial identifier. I live in California which has African-American Californians, Hispanic Californians, Chinese Californians, Armenian Californians, Japanese Californians and many others. All these groups are Californians of a very diverse nature. Similarly, ancient Ethiopia was diverse in nature -- though certainly not to the extent of modern California! Arnold Kennedy, in his article Objections About Israel Being Exclusive -- Some Answers, makes the following comment regarding the Ethiopian eunuch:
"Here we have a man who went to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning and reading the Scriptures in his chariot. It is impossible for a non-Israelite to be returning from an Israelite feast. Although he was “of Ethiopia”, this says nothing about his race or genes; it only tells us where he was living. If he had been a black man, he would not have been allowed near the temple, as he would have been an alien. The Jews would have killed such a person immediately. We can see a similar thing when the apostle Paul tried to take one who was suspected of not being an Israelite into the temple (Acts 21:27-29). Would Phillip be sent to one who was not called by YEHOVAH God and to one who “could not” receive the Word? The weight of this passage says the Ethiopian was an Israelite, even if his residence was in Ethiopia."
Mark Downey, in his article "A Study on Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch," published on 4-11-2011 in Christian Identity Basics, expounds on this --
"The key to the identity of the Ethiopian eunuch is to find out who the inhabitants of Ethiopia in New Testament times really were. Many Judeo-Christian publishers gloss the Ethiopian [in Acts 8] as an arbitrary African Negro without much historical accuracy. History is replete with examples of territories changing in racial make-up via wars, famines, migrations etc. Egypt is a good example of determining the racial identity of an Egyptian, depending on the time period. The history of Ethiopia is one of several important kingdoms that are basically unknown to Christendom, e.g., the Silurian Parthian and Scythian Empires. These territories provided fertile soil for the missionary efforts of the early Christian church. The Apostle Matthew spent much of his time fulfilling the Great Commission in the most unknown Christian empire of them all: Aksum, ancient Ethiopia...
"The forgotten history of the kingdom of the African Nile has caused many modern day Christian Bible students to make a major assumption that is totally incorrect: that the Ethiopian eunuch of Acts chapter 8 was a Negro. But this popular assumption is not correct for the following reasons:
"· It’s a faulty assumption because it’s based on the idea that Ethiopia now, as well as 2000 years ago, was and is a Negro nation. All of the ancient kingdoms of East Africa, including Egypt, Aksum, Kush, Yemen and southern Arabia were not Negro nations in 33 A.D., but instead were Caucasian and bastions of white culture until the 1600s.
"· The word “Ethiopian” indicates that this eunuch was a Caucasian. “Aith” means sunburned and “ops” means countenance, hence a sunburned complexion. Negroes do not have a sunburned look. It is white people who tan from sun exposure and therefore were the original Ethiopians according to archaic etymology. A similar exegesis is found in the Song of Solomon.
"· The Ethiopian eunuch had been to Jerusalem to do what only an Israelite could do, i.e. “to worship” (Acts 8:27). Who was allowed to worship in the Temple? Could a non-Israelite enter the Court of Israel and worship in the Temple, especially in the time right after the death of Christ? Consider what happened to the Apostle Paul when he stirred up all the people by bringing Greeks into the Temple, and they were going to kill him for it (Acts 21:27-31). Trophimus, even though he was racially the same as Paul, was considered a heathen, polluting the Temple by his presence. How then could an Ethiopian Negro (who definitely could not be an Israelite) have entered into the forbidden, exclusive Temple Court of Israel and worshiped? Wouldn’t he have polluted the Temple too?
"· The Ethiopian was reading a very expensive scroll of Isaiah. Phillip asked him if he knew what he was reading, and he said he needed someone to explain. The eunuch had just finished reading the following 3 verses from Isaiah 53:4-6, which had the recurrent theme of “OUR griefs”, “OUR sorrows”, “OUR transgressions”, “OUR iniquities”, “OUR peace”, “WE are healed”, “WE, like sheep” and “WE have turned”. What people are all the preceding pronouns (in caps) referring to? “For the transgression of MY PEOPLE was He stricken” (Isaiah 53:8): God’s people; the people known as ‘sheep’; the people whom Christ redeemed; the people of the covenants; the people of God’s Kingdom; the people next of kin to Christ, their Kinsman Redeemer, the God of Israel. Isaiah was writing about providing atonement for Israel. This is, no doubt, what Philip explained to the Ethiopian eunuch. The Apostle Phillip, Isaiah, Christ and the Ethiopian (Aksumian) eunuch were all Israelites.
"· Doesn’t it seem strange that if Aksum, the second largest Christian nation at one time, was actually a black nation, that there was no other known black Christians, let alone kingdoms, anyplace in the world? Isn’t it significant that there were no Negroes who ever attended any of the church councils; or were bishops or elders from this or any other area? If any assumptions are to be made, it is fair to think that the eunuch probably helped Matthew to establish churches in an area with a rich Christian heritage (which is all but forgotten today).
The Israelite Migrations to Ethiopia
The Ethiopia from which the traveler came was the region so named by the geographers of Luke’s time in the upper valley of the Nile. Its connection with the Israelite people presents many points of interest. There seems reason to believe that in the time of Manasseh, who (according to the statement in the narrative of Aristeas as to the Septuagint (LXX) translation) formed an alliance with Psammetichus king of Egypt, a considerable body of Israelites were sent off to protect the outposts of his kingdom, and it is in reference, probably, to these that Zephaniah speaks of the suppliants of “the daughter of My dispersed beyond the rivers of Ethiopia” (Zephaniah 3:10). Notice:
"From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My worshipers, the daughter of My dispersed ones, shall bring My offering" (NKJV).
Israelite influences had accordingly been at work there for some centuries. They may probably be traced in the piety of the Ethiopian eunuch, Ebed-melech, in the time of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 38:7-13; Jeremiah 39:16-18). Even at an earlier period the hopes of Israel had looked forward to, perhaps had actually seen, the admission of Ethiopians among the citizens of Zion (Psalm 87:4), Ethiopia stretching forth her hands unto God (Psalm 68:31):
"Envoys will come out of Egypt; Ethiopia will quickly stretch out her hands to God" (ibid.)
The fact that the eunuch had come as a pilgrim shows that he was a circumcised Israelite. His baptism was not, like that of Cornelius, the admission of a "gentile" as such.
The modern country of Ethiopia and peoples of Ethiopia are often identified with the biblical land of Cush. The ancient kingdom of Cush encompassed areas of modern southeast Sudan and northwest Ethiopia. A few years prior to the Assyrian captivity of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, some of the Israelites foresaw the coming desolation of their land and decided to leave Israel before being taken captivity and deported. Eldad Ha Dani (the Danite) appeared in a thriving Egyptian Jewish community during the 9th century A.D. and related a history of when and how a group of Israelites arrived in the land of Cush.
Writes Nissan Mindel of Chabad.org --
"According to the story related by Eldad the Danite, who had it told to him by his ancestors, who in turn were told about it by their ancestors from generation to generation, back to those fateful days, the Ten Tribes were not lost at all. Eldad the Danite related that his own tribe, the Danites, did not wait to be exiled. When the Assyrian empire grew strong and mighty, they saw that there was no hope for them to remain free.
"Moreover, the Kingdom of the Ten Tribes was at war with the Kingdom of Judah, and the Danites did not want to fight against their own brethren. So they decided to leave the Land of Israel and find a safe place for themselves. It was in the eighth year of the reign of Ahaz of Judah, that is, in the year 3192 (fourteen years before the fall of Samaria) that the Danites took their wives and children, their sheep and cattle, and left the Land of Israel.
"They went by way of Egypt further down the upper Nile River and settled in Ethiopia, in the land of the Negroes of East Africa. The Danites were great warriors, and after fighting many battles against native black tribes, they established themselves securely, with a kingdom of their own."
Isaiah was a prophet during the time of King Ahaz of Judah when, according to Eldad the Danite, a portion of the tribe of Dan left Israel to resettle in Egypt and further south in the Land of Cush.
According to Wikipedia:
"To prove the antiquity and authenticity of their claims, the Beta [house of] Israel cite the 9th-century CE testimony of Eldad ha-Dani (the Danite), from a time before the Zagwean dynasty was established. Eldad was a Jewish man of dark skin who appeared in Egypt and created a stir in that Jewish community (and elsewhere in the Mediterranean Jewish communities he visited) with claims that he had come from a Jewish kingdom of pastoralists far to the south.
"The only language Eldad spoke was a hitherto unknown dialect of Hebrew. Although he strictly followed the Mosaic commandments, his observance differed in some details from Rabbinic halakhah. Some observers thought that he might be a Karaite, although his practice also differed from theirs. He carried Hebrew books that supported his explanations of halakhah. He cited ancient authorities in the scholarly traditions of his own people.
"Eldad said that the Jews of his own kingdom descended from the tribe of Dan (which included the Biblical war-hero Samson) who had fled the civil war in the Kingdom of Israel between Solomon's son Rehoboam and Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and resettled in Egypt. From there they moved southwards up the Nile into Ethiopia. The Beta Israel say this confirms that they are descended from these Danites. Some Beta Israel, however, assert that their Danite origins go back to the time of Moses, when some Danites parted from other Jews right after the Exodus and moved south to Ethiopia.
"Eldad the Danite speaks of at least three waves of Jewish immigration into his region, creating other Jewish tribes and kingdoms. The earliest wave settled in a remote kingdom of the 'tribe of Moses': this was the strongest and most secure Jewish kingdom of all, with farming villages, cities and great wealth. Other Ethiopian Jews who appeared in the Mediterranean world over the succeeding centuries and persuaded rabbinic authorities there that they were of Jewish descent, and so could if slaves be ransomed by Jewish communities, join synagogues, marry other Jews, etc, also referred to the Mosaic and Danite origins of Ethiopian Jewry. The Mosaic claims of the Beta Israel, in any case, like those of the Zagwe dynasty, are ancient" (Beta Israel).
It is fascinating to note that according to Eldad the Danite and the Beta Israel themselves (the Ethiopian "Jews"), Israelite tribes (primarily from the tribe of Dan) had arrived in East African territories even during the Exodus. This is interesting because Greek history states that the Danites (and other Israelite tribes) had also arrived and settled in Greece and other Mediterranean countries, both prior to and during the Exodus.
Notice what J. S. Brooks relates --
"Ancient records also report that a Semitic people called Danaan were expelled from Egypt, and sailed to Greece to establish the early Greek civilization. Could the fabled Danaan be a reference to the Biblical Hebrew tribe of Dan? William Ridgeway’s Early Age of Greece (p. 220) dated the Danaan Exodus from Egypt as 1450 B.C. This is virtually identical to the date of the Hebrew Exodus -- which is dated to 1447 B.C. by Dr. Stephen E. Jones and 1453 B.C. in Dr. Adam Rutherford’s Bible Chronology (p. 120). Other historians use slightly differing dates: The History of Etruria (p. 95) by Mrs. Hamilton Gray dates the Danaan exile at 1493 B.C. -- which compares to a Hebrew Exodus of 1491 B.C. according to Archbishop Usher’s dating (McClintock & Strong’s Encyclopedia III:396). Two unrelated Egyptian Exoduses did NOT occur at the same time!" (The Forgotten History of the Danite Exodus from Egypt!).
The Semitic identity of the ancient Danaan maritime people has been commented on by historians. G. F. Schomann stated,
“Even among the ancients some considered that the [Danaan] settlers who arrived [in Greece] from Egypt were at any rate not of Egyptian descent, but adventurers of Semitic race, who, having been expelled from Egypt, had some of them turned towards Greece” (Antiquities Of Greece, p. 12).
"These Danaan were not only Semitic; they were Hebrews, according to ancient Egyptian records. Professor Max Duncker, in The History Of Antiquity (I:456-466), gave fascinating details of a two-fold land/sea Exodus as told in an ancient Egyptian account:
“The narrative of Hecataeus of Abdera, who was in Egypt in the time of Ptolemy I, and wrote an Egyptian history, gives us the most unprejudiced account, composed from the widest point of view, and connects the emigration of the Hebrews, whom he does not consider Egyptians, with the supposed emigration from Egypt to Greece.
"[Hecataeus says,] 'Once, when a pestilence had broken out in Egypt, the cause of the visitation was generally ascribed to the anger of the gods. [Editor’s Note: The Ten Plagues are called a 'pestilence' in Exodus 9:14-15, and were indeed caused by YEHOVAH God!] As many strangers dwelt in Egypt, and observed different customs in religion and sacrifice, it came to pass that the hereditary worship of the gods was being given up in Egypt. The Egyptians, therefore, were of opinion that they would obtain no alleviation of the evil unless they removed the people of foreign extraction. [Note: This “removal” is the Egyptian appellation for the Exodus of Scripture.]
"When they were driven out, the noblest and bravest part of them, as some say, under noble and renowned leaders, Danaus and Cadmus, came to Hellas [Greece]; but the great bulk of them migrated into the land, not far removed from Egypt, which is now called Judea. These emigrants were led by Moses, who was the most distinguished among them for wisdom and bravery."
Hecataeus of Abdera was an historian living in fourth century B.C. Egypt under Ptolemy I -- a general of Alexander the Great. In the extract above, this ancient historian clearly connected both the Hebrews and the Danaan as part of the same Exodus. Therefore, the Danaan were in fact the Biblical tribe of Dan -- a seafaring tribe and part of the Hebrew Exodus.
Another marvelous account -- although also spoken with a decidedly Egyptian bias -- is that of Lysimachus of Alexandria (355-281 B.C.), whose history was preserved by Flavius Josephus in Contra Apionem:
“At the time of king Bocchoris [possibly the Greek name for the Pharaoh of the Exodus], unclean and leprous men had come into the temples to beg for food. Hence there was a blight on the land; and Bocchoris received a response from Ammon [an Egyptian god], that the temples must be purified. The lepers, as if the sun were angry at their existence, were to be plunged into the sea, and the unclean were to be driven out of the land.
"Hence the lepers were...thrown into the sea; but the unclean were driven out helpless into the desert. These met together in council; in the night they lit fires and lights, and called, fasting, upon the gods to save them. Then a certain Moses advised them to go through the desert till they came to inhabited regions...they established a city Hierosyla [Jerusalem] in Judea..." (ibid.).
This ancient historic document provides evidence that the Exodus involved at least two distinct groups with different destinations. Some of the Hebrews expelled from Egypt in the Exodus were “thrown into the sea” and sailed north across the Mediterranean to found the earliest civilization in Greece and some moved south to Ethiopia -- while Moses led the rest of Israel eastward “helpless into the desert” of the Wilderness.
Obviously, at the same time Mediterranean colonization was occurring, there were Israelites migrating south of Egypt. Clearly, Israelites had migrated to many lands outside of Canaan even prior to the Exodus under Moses.
Incidentally, the Kingdom of Cush was founded around the same time that the Assyrians were conquering the Northern Kingdom of Israel (c. 720 B.C.). Shortly before the conquest of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the tribe of Dan and some branches of other Israelite tribes decided to leave their homeland to avoid trouble. According to Eldad the Danite, they eventually settled in Egypt and later moved further south into parts of modern Sudan and Ethiopia -- the ancient land of Cush.
Who Was Cush?
Cush was the first-named son of Ham and father of six sons: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, Sabteca and the infamous Nimrod (Genesis 10:6-8; 1 Chronicles 1:8-10). While no details are given concerning Cush as an individual in the Genesis account, his name is used throughout the Bible as representing his descendants and the land or regions that they settled. The translators of the Greek Septuagint rendered the Hebrew word for "Cush" by the Greek name Ethiopia in this text since the name Cush did become more or less synonymous with ancient Ethiopia at an early time. The first-century Israelite historian Josephus followed suit in his Jewish Antiquities, I, 39 [i, 3].
While it is assumed by many that Ham and his descendants were Black, there is nothing in the Bible that definitively backs this up. The facts are that Noah and his descendants were Caucasian (white) in physiology -- including Ham, Cush and Nimrod!
In the conventional understanding, Ham is touted as the father of the Negroids -- the darker-skinned peoples who inhabited Africa, India, and, anciently, certain eastern Mediterranean countries like Canaan. However, while many claim that the name "Ham" means "burnt" or "black," the Hebrew meaning of the word does not allow for a dark skin color at all. The name that occurs in the English Bible as Ham is, in reality, two completely different Hebrew names; one which is pronounced "Cham" (חם), and the other "Ham" (הם). They have two completely different meanings. The first one is identical to the adjective חם (ham), meaning "WARM," and also to the noun חם (ham), meaning "FATHER-IN-LAW."
The second one, which is spelled הם and pronounced as "Ham," denotes a once-mentioned town where kings Amraphel, Arioch, Chedorlaomer and Tidal defeated the Zuzim during the war of four against five kings (Genesis 14:5). Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names derives this Ham from the verb המה (hama), meaning "CRY ALOUD" and renders the name as "NOISY."
Now Cush, who was the father of Nimrod, has also been touted to be black and hence used to further the conception that the line from Ham was black -- including Nimrod. Hislop, in his book The Two Babylons, attempts to show that Nimrod was black, however reality also shoots this down.
The origin of the name Cush is irretrievably obscure, and none of the translators have more to say about it than that it is related to Ethiopia and to perhaps having a dark countenance. The prophet Jeremiah rhetorically asks, "Can the Cushite change his skin?" (Jeremiah 13:23), which may or may not suggest that the Cushites were known for being black. Still, this says very little about the meaning of the name Cush.
However, the Hebrew word for black is שחר (sahar). The heth and rosh in this word are so dominant that the name Cush can hardly have come from it. Allowing this would link Cush to pretty much any other word that contains a shin. Like the word ישש (yshsh; weak, impotent, aged) for instance, which makes a far more plausible candidate as a repeated letter often falls away and the yod alternates with the vav. In concert with the common Hebrew particle כ (ke; as if, like), the name would mean "As If He Were Weak."
And then there is the root ישה (yshh; meaning uncertain), which yields the noun תושה (tushiya), meaning wisdom, sound knowledge, which would yield the meaning of Cush as "As If He Were Getting Smarter."
Still -- and for no apparent reason other than a rusty tradition that cost a lot of people their lives and dignity -- Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads "A Black Countenance, Full Of Darkness," but also submits the calmly clarifying afterthought, "the etymology is most uncertain"! Author and scholar David Rohl notes that both the Egyptian god Osiris and the Assyrian god Asshur originated with the historical King Nimrod, whose origins can be traced back to Eridu (the original Babel) where he became worshiped as the god Asar. This being the case -- how was Osiris depicted in the statuary and wall paintings of ancient Egypt? Notice what E. A. Wallis Budge, in his definitive work on Osiris, has to say: "Osiris was white and was the personification of good..." (Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, p. xxiv).
To the Egyptians Nimrod was known as Osiris and also as Khons, God of the Hunt. He was depicted as a massive black, white or green skinned man -- often wearing leopard skins and a crown with bull horns. However, the color black represented death and the afterlife to the ancient Egyptians. Osiris was given the epithet "the black one" because he was the king of the netherworld and both he and Anubis (the god of embalming) were portrayed with black faces.
The Egyptians also associated black with fertility and resurrection because much of their agriculture was dependent on the rich dark silt deposited on the river banks by the Nile during the inundation. When used to represent resurrection, black and green were interchangeable. As a result, the gods Osiris and Geb were depicted with black or green skin to emphasize their connection with fertility. Egypt was known as Kemet, "the black land" and this was a reference to the Nile -- not a description of ethnicity.
The statuary and wall paintings of Egypt show Osiris (Nimrod) to be decidedly non-black in features. Thus we can clearly see that earliest secular history shows Nimrod and his forebears were NOT black or Negroid men. These historical accounts show that those Nimrod was descended from were Caucasian or white in physiology.
E. A. Wallis Budge asserts, in his remarkable book Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, that Cush (Hermes, or the Egyptian Thoth) was the father and confidential scribe of Nimrod or Osiris, "who invariably accepted his advice upon all matters." Budge goes on to say "Osiris [Nimrod] raised a large army, and he determined to go about the world teaching mankind to plant vines and to sow wheat and barley....As he marched through Ethiopia...[he] taught the Ethiopians the arts of tillage and husbandry, he built several cities in their country, and appointed governors over them, and then continued his journey. On the borders of Ethiopia he raised the river banks, and took precautions to prevent the Nile from overflowing the neighboring country and turning it into a marsh, and he built canals with flood-gates and regulators" (Vol. 1. Dover Publications, Inc. New York, N.Y. 1973, pp. 10-11).
The governors Nimrod appointed over the Ethiopian cities were undoubtedly close family members and thus represented the first Caucasian or white incursion into Ethiopia following the Flood.
The Early Life of Moses
It is worthy of note that Moses himself had married a "Kushite woman" according to a verse in Numbers 12 (1). Added to this was the testimony of of the first-century historian Flavius Josephus -- supported by a number of Jewish legends -- which asserted that between his 27th and 67th years the prophet had, in fact, lived for some time in Ethiopia. While most versions of the Bible say that the woman Moses married was an "Ethiopian" -- the correct translation from the Hebrew is ha-'ishshah ha-kushith, meaning "a Kushite (Cushite) woman."
While it is not recorded in the Torah what happened to Moses between the time when he fled Pharaoh until he became Jethro's shepherd and son-in-law at about the age of 77, we find in the Midrash (early interpretations on the written and Oral Torah, dating from the 10th-century A.D.) that Moses slew the Egyptian (Exodus 2:11-12) when he was 18 years old and fled to Ethiopia. There, according to the Midrash, he joined the Ethiopian army and 9 years later was made king. At this time he married the widow of the previous king of Ethiopia. It is said that he remained king of Ethiopia for 40 years when, at the age of 67, he left Ethiopia and went to Midian.
After the incident with the shepherds at the well, Jethro imprisoned Moses for ten years during which time Zipporah fed Moses secretly and finally convinced her father to release him. At the age of 77, according to the Midrash, Moses and Zipporah were married, and shortly thereafter had their first son, Gershon. The incident of the burning bush occurred when Moses was 79 years old
Isaac (ben Solomon) Luria Ashkenazi (1534 - July 25, 1572) commonly known in Jewish religious circles as "Ha'ARI" (meaning "The Lion"), taught that Moses actually married a Cushite women, and lived with her as man and wife "but he did not approach her physically."
Ramban, who was a leading medieval Jewish scholar, Sephardic rabbi, philosopher, physician, kabbalist, and biblical commentator, reveals that,
"Moses was actually in exile for many years after fleeing Egypt before eventually settling in Midian. He estimates that this period of exile was approximately sixty years, of which his stay in Midian where he married Tzipora [Zipporah] the daughter of Yitro [Jethro], was only a small span of several years at the very end of this period, before returning to Egypt in order to redeem Israel. But Ramban gives no indication of where Moses was or what he did during that very long time of exile.
However, according to www.wp.rabbiullman.com/moses-king-of-cush,
"the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, 1:168; Sefer HaYashar, Parshat Shemot) portrays in amazing detail the fantastic events of Moses' life during that absence, of which the following is a meager synopsis: Moses is 18 when he flees Egypt and arrives in Cush, which is ancient Ethiopia. There, he wages war on behalf of king Kokinus who had been deceitfully ousted by the wicked Bilam (former adviser to Pharaoh) who also bewitched the people and cunningly fortified the city. At the age of 27, after 9 years of fighting to restore the rightful king, Moses finally re-conquers the capital through ingenious means, but only after the king's death. The grateful populace bestows wealth and favor upon Moses, elects him as their new king and confers upon him the widowed queen Adoniya as wife. However, because the queen asserts her idolatrous ways, Moses never consummates the marriage with her.
"After Moses reigns for 40 years until the age of 67, the disgruntled, idolatrous queen beseeches the populace to oust Moses in favor of Munchan, her then grown son from Kokinus. But due to their great love of Moses, they are reluctant to do so until Moses steps down, the people send him off with great honor and gratitude, and from there he finally travels to Midian where he resides with Yitro [Jethro] for 10 years before marrying Yitro's daughter Tzipora [Zipporah] at the age of 77. God then appears to him in the Burning Bush and commands him to return to Egypt in order to redeem the Jewish [Israelite] People, which he does at the age of 80, together with Aaron who was 83 (Ex. 7:7). Accordingly, these events occurred to Moses from the age of 18 to 80, which was a period of 62 years."
It is interesting to note that Josephus also relates these general events in chapter 10 of his Antiquites, but with a major difference. Ireneus (bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, A.D. 130-202) summarizes Josephus' account by saying --
"Josephus says that when Moses was nourished in the King's [Kokinus'] Palace, he was appointed General of the Army against the Ethiopians, and conquered them when he married that King's daughter; because out of affection for him, she delivered up the city to him. Josephus tells us her name was 'Tharbis', and she had fallen in love with him, and the marriage was consummated."
The main difference that concerns us between the two versions is that in the Midrash Moses never consummates his marriage with Adoniya/Tharbis, whereas Moses does consummate his marriage in Josephus' account. We should also note that the name "Adoniya," as given to the king's wife in the Midrash, means "my LORD is YEHOVAH" in Hebrew, and that "Tharbis" in Josephus' account means, according to some sources, "gift of God". So the chances are that she was descended from the original white Adamic Cushites that established Ethiopia after the Flood. As a result, Moses could have legitimately consummated his marriage to her without violatlng YEHOVAH God's laws.
The Ethiopians themselves energetically claim that Moses was the earliest known figure in their country's history. Apparently, according to their traditions, after marrying Tharbis, daughter of the unnamed king of Ethiopia, she became pregnant with their child (the sex of the child is not mentioned but the child itself is claimed as the originator of a new dynasty of Ethiopian kings that effectively creates ties between the kingdom and the Israelites more than two hundred years before King Solomon).
However, it would seem that Eldad ha-Dani resolves this issue for us by stating that there was a "tribe of Moses" in ancient Cush, notice!
"And also (there) is the tribe of Moses our teacher (upon whom be peace!), the righteous one (and) servant of the LORD. The tribe’s name is called by us ‘Yanūs’, for it fled from idolatry and adhered to reverence for the LORD. The sea surrounds them for a distance of a three month journey by a three month journey. They live in magnificent houses and in splendid structures and in towers which they erected for themselves at the time they celebrated (victory?) over the elephant (?)....They have gardens, parks, olive groves, pomegranates, figs, and all kinds of legumes, melons, vegetables, onions, garlic, barley, and wheat. Each crop yields a hundred-fold.
"They are religiously observant, learned in Mishnah, Talmud, and Aggadah. Their Talmud is entirely in Hebrew, and this is what they say: ‘Our Sages learned it this way orally from Joshua b. Nun, who received it orally from our ancestor Moses, who received it orally from God.’ They have no knowledge of the Sages who were active during the Second Temple period, nor do they engage in argument with them. The only language which they can speak is Hebrew.
"All of them observe (the rules of) purity, engaging in ritual immersion. They never swear oaths. Should someone ever trivially invoke the Name, they cry out against that person saying, ‘Because of (your) sinful oath, your children may prematurely die!’ They have prolonged life-spans, living to an age of one hundred or one hundred and twenty, and no child dies during the lifetime of its parent; instead their life-spans overlap those of the third or fourth succeeding generations. They do their planting and harvesting [themselves], for they have no bondsmen or maidservants. All of them are equal (in social status). They never lock their houses at night: (such a habit) would cause them shame. A small child might accompany the herd for a distance of a ten-day journey, and there is no anxiety about thieves or demons. All of them are Levites; no priests or laity are present among them. They still maintain the sanctity associated with Moses our Teacher, the servant of the LORD.
"They never see other human beings, nor do other humans see them except for those four tribes who inhabit ‘the opposite side of the rivers of Cush’ (Isa 18:1; Zeph 3:10). There is a spot where they can see and converse with one another by each shouting (to the other), with the River Sa(m)batyon separating them. They (the people of Moses) will say, ‘Something like this happened to us in battle,’ and they (the four tribes) will communicate to all Israel what happened to them. And when they wish to relate an important message or matter, they possess among them a certain type of pigeon: they write down their messages and tie them to the wings or the feet of the pigeons, and the pigeons then fly over the River Sa(m)batyon and come to their (i.e., the four tribes’) rulers and princes.
"They moreover possess a vast quantity of precious stones, silver, and gold. They sow flax and raise the worm that yields scarlet coloring and manufacture countless beautiful garments. They are more than five times as numerous as those produced by Egypt" (BHM 3:9-11 (ed. Jellinek))
When Egyptian history is properly restored and reconstructed, this event in Moses' life means that his son by Queen Tharbis became the progenitor of a line of Ethiopian kings. When Israel left Egypt in 1492 B.C., the land of Egypt was in a shambles -- utterly destroyed, as the Papyrus Ipuwer states with awesome clarity in describing the plagues which fell upon that land -- including the plague of blood. The papyrus also shows that invaders from the east, the Hyksos, conquered northern Egypt (lower Egypt) and dominated the region as cruel "shepherd kings" for about 500 years. These "Hyksos" were the Amalekites who fought the children of Israel in Sinai as they left Egypt (Exodus 18). They were not thrown out of Egypt until the reign of king Saul of Israel, who conquered the Amalekites in Arabia (I Samuel 15), and Samuel the prophet slew their king Agag (vs. 32-33).
At this same time, the famous and powerful Eighteenth Dynasty arose in southern Egypt and Ethiopia -- a dynasty of what most people have assumed to be dark-skinned kings and queens! Among the famous kings of this powerful dynasty, which overthrew the Hyksos and conquered northern (lower) Egypt, Immanuel Velikovsky writes in Ages in Chaos:
"The kingdom of Egypt, after regaining independence under AHMOSE, a contemporary of Saul, also achieved grandeur and glory under Amenhotep I, THUTMOSE I, Hatshepsut, and THUTMOSE III. Egypt, devastated and destitute in the centuries under the rule of the Hyksos, rapidly grew in riches" (p. 103).
Notice the strange sounding names of this line of kings from southern Egypt and Ethiopia -- they contain the name of their ancestor, who was none other than the Biblical MOSES! Why would Egyptian kings of the most powerful dynasty that ever ruled Egypt be called by the name of Moses, and be named after Moses? Because this dynasty of kings and queens was descended from Tharbis, who became Queen of Ethiopia, and her husband was none other than MOSES!
As Josephus writes, after she delivered up the impregnable city of Saba to Moses,
"No sooner was the agreement made, but it took effect immediately; and when Moses had cut off the Ethiopians, he gave thanks to God, and CONSUMMATED HIS MARRIAGE, and led the Egyptians back to their own land" (Ant., II, x, 2).
Notice the names of some of the 18th Dynasty rulers: Thut-mosis I; Thut-mosis II; Thut-mosis III; Thut-mosis IV. What is interesting is that all the rulers of this dynasty are shown to have white Nordic/Anglo-Saxon traits -- which is what we would expect the offspring of a Cushite queen and a Hebrew prince to be!! In the article Direct Evidence of Fair Hair and Blue Eyes in Ancient Egypt, we find the following revealing information:
"The mummy of the wife of King Tutankhamen has auburn hair. A mummy with red hair, red mustache and red beard was found by the pyramids at Saqqara. Red-haired mummies were found in the crocodile-caverns of Aboufaida. The book History of Egyptian Mummies mentions a mummy with reddish-brown hair. The mummies of Rameses II and Prince Yuaa have fine silky yellow hair. The mummy of another pharaoh, Thothmes II [Tuth-mosis II], has light chestnut-colored hair.
"An article in a leading British anthropological journal states that many mummies have dark reddish-brown hair. Professor Vacher De Lapouge described a blond mummy found at Al Amrah, which he says has the face and skull measurements of a typical Gaul or Saxon. A blond mummy was found at Kawamil along with many chestnut-colored ones. Chestnut-haired mummies have been found at Silsileh. The mummy of Queen Tiy has "wavy brown hair." Unfortunately, only the mummies of a very few pharaohs have survived to the 20th century, but a large proportion of these are blond.
"The Egyptians have left us many paintings and statues of blondes and redheads. Amenhotep III's tomb painting shows him as having light red hair. Also, his features are quite European. A farm scene from around 2000 B.C. in the tomb of the nobleman Meketre shows redheads. An Egyptian scribe named Kay at Sakkarah around 2500 B.C. has blue eyes. The tomb of Menna (18th Dynasty) at West Thebes shows blond girls. The god Horus is usually depicted as white. He is very white in the Papyrus Book of the Dead of Lady Cheritwebeshet (21st Dynasty), found in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
"A very striking painting of a yellow-haired man hunting from a chariot can be found in the tomb of Userhet, Royal Scribe of Amenophis II. The yellow-haired man is Userhet. The same tomb has paintings of blond soldiers. The tomb of Menna also has a wall painting showing a blond man supervising two dark-haired workers scooping grain. The Funerary stele (inscribed stone slab) of Priest Remi clearly shows him as having red hair, although he couldn't have been a priest of Set at such a late date. A common good luck charm was the eye of Horus, the so-called Wedjat Eye. The eye is always blue, and the word "wedjat" means "green" (or blue?) in Egyptian. A very attractive painting is found on the wall of a private tomb in West Thebes from the 18th Dynasty. The two deceased parents are white people with black hair. Mourning them are two pretty fair-skinned girls with light blond hair and their red-haired older brother.
"Queen Thi is painted as having a rosy complexion, blue eyes and blond hair. She was co-ruler with her husband Amenhotep III and it has been said of their rule, 'The reign of Amenhotep III was the culminating point in Egyptian history, for never again, in spite of the exalted effort of the Ramessides, did Egypt occupy so exalted a place among the nations of the world as she had in his time.' Amenhotep III looks northern European in his statues.
"Paintings of people with red hair and blue eyes were found at the tomb of Bagt in Beni Hassan. Many other tombs at Beni Hassan have paintings of individuals with blond and red hair as well as blue eyes. Paintings of blonds and redheads have been found among the tombs at Thebes. Blond hair and blue eyes were painted at the tomb of Pharaoh Menphtah in the valley of the Kings. Paintings from the Third Dynasty show native Egyptians with red hair and blue eyes. They are shepherds, workers and bricklayers.
"A blond woman was painted at the tomb of Djeser-ka-ra-seneb in Thebes. A model of a ship from about 2500 B.C. is manned by five blond sailors. The god Nuit was painted as white and blond. A painting at the tomb of Meresankh III at Giza, from about 2485 B.C., shows white skin and red hair. Two statues from about 2570 B.C., found in the tombs at Medum, show Prince Rahotep and his wife Nofret. He has light green stones for eyes. She has violet-blue stones. A painting from Iteti's tomb at Saqqara shows a very Nordic-looking man with blond hair. Grafton Smith mentions the distinctly red hair of the 18th Dynasty mummy Henutmehet.
"Harvard Professor Carleton Coon, in his book The Races of Europe, tells us that 'many of the officials, courtiers, and priests, representing the upper class of Egyptian society but not the royalty, looked strikingly like modern Europeans, especially long-headed ones.' (Note: Nordics are long-headed.) Long-headed Europeans are most common in Britain, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, and northern Germany.
"I repeat many of the officials, courtiers, and priests, representing the upper class of Egyptian society...looked strikingly like modern Europeans.
"Time-Life Books put out a volume called Rameses II the Great. It has a good picture of the blond mummy of Rameses II. Another picture can be found in the book X-raying the Pharaohs, especially the picture on the jacket cover. It shows his yellow hair.
"A book called Chronicle of the Pharaohs was recently published showing paintings, sculptures and mummies of 189 pharaohs and leading personalities of Ancient Egypt. Of these, 102 appear European, 13 look Black, and the rest are hard to classify. All nine mummies look European.
"A recent discovery of Egyptian mummies from the Roman period astonished researchers. One-third of the mummies were fair-haired! Why do most news reports from Zawi Hawass [Egyptian archaeologist, Egyptologist and former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs] fail to mention this important fact?
"The very first pharaoh, Narmer, also known as Menes, looks very European. The same can be said for Khufu's cousin Hemon, who designed the Great Pyramid of Giza, with help from Imhotep. A computer-generated reconstruction of the face of the Sphinx shows a European-looking face. It was once painted sunburned red. The Egyptians often painted upper class men as red and upper class women as white; this is because the men became sun-burned or tanned while outside under the burning Egyptian sun. The women, however, usually stayed inside.
Enough said -- the picture should be very clear!
Eldad the Danite
Let us now, however, refocus on Eldad's story of the Israelite presence in East Africa during the beginnings of the Kingdom of Cush. We find that he records that some of the Israelite tribes left the land of Assyria -- even after their captivity -- and also settled in Ethiopia. Notice!
"Afterwards Sennacherib, King of Assyria, arose and took the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half tribe of Manasseh captive, and took them to Halah and Habor and the River Gozan, and the cities of Media. And Sennacherib arose a second time and took captive the tribe of Asher and the tribe of Naphtali and led them to the land of Assyria, and, after the death of Sennacherib, three tribes of Israel, being Naphtali, Gad, and Asher, journeyed on their own to the land of Ethiopia and encamped in the wilderness until they came to their border, a twenty days' journey, and they slew the men of Ethiopia, and unto this very day, they fight with the children of the kingdoms of Ethiopia.
"And these tribes, being Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher, dwell in the ancient Havilah, where gold is (and in goodly places in the kingdom of the Paravim, under the rule of Oreinos), and they trusted in their Maker, and the LORD helped them."
The presence of Israelite tribes arriving in Hamitic lands after the Assyrian captivity can be attested to by other histories outside of Eldad's. The kingdom of Kush ruled from the 8th century B.C. until they were conquered by the Assyrians.
According to Yoruba (people of southwestern Nigeria and Benin) tradition, there was a great migration of Assyrian refugees (Israelites) that arrived in Cush around the same time as the Assyrians were conquered by the Medes/Persians. The previous conquest of the Kingdom of Cush certainly made the Israelites during the Assyrian captivity aware of the existence of Israelite communities in the land of Cush -- which is where they fled to during the collapse of the Assyrian Empire before establishing themselves in West Africa by way of the Sahel.
In reading Eldad's narrative we understand that branches of several of the tribes of Israel migrated from Northern Israel, through Egypt and into the land of Kush. According to Eldad, the timing of this migration occurred during the 8th year of the reign of King Ahaz of Judah. Some scholars date the reign of Ahaz from 732 B.C. to 716 B.C., while others believe it to be from 744-728 B.C. With these time-frames we can derive an estimate that the migration of Israelites from Israel to Cush -- according to the history of Eldad -- began sometime between 736 and 724 B.C. -- but definitely before the Assyrian Captivity of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, c. 721 B.C. At the time of the Israelite arrival, the Kingdom of Cush was ruling the land of Cush as well as the land of Mitzraim (Egypt).
Manasseh and the Ark of the Covenant
There was another Israelite migration to Ethiopia, though smaller in scale and little noted by history. Let Chuck Missler set the scene:
"Many of us have heard of the belief that the Ark [of the Covenant] was taken to Ethiopia by Menelik I, the offspring of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba who, raised by priests until he was of age, and then leaving behind a replica, removed the Ark to separate it from Solomon's apostasy. (These ideas were developed by Graham Hancock in his book, and also popularized by Grant Jeffrey in some of his publications.) Emperor Haile Selassie has been regarded as the 225th descendant of Menelik, and these traditions continue to be embraced by the current leadership of the government of Ethiopia.
"The idea that the Ark is presently ensconced in Ethiopia is a well-documented tradition dating from at least 642 B.C. when it ostensibly was at Elephantine Island, in Egypt; then moved to Tana Kirkos Island, Lake Tana, Ethiopia; and finally to its present site in a well-protected bunker at St. Mary's of Zion Church at Axum, Ethiopia. The Ethiopians believe that it is destined to be delivered to the Messiah when he reigns on Mt. Zion...And yet there are some aspects of this mystery, in the Scriptures, that suggest a very different possibility. What may be presently in Ethiopia may have arrived there by a different path altogether, and may have a destiny that has been widely overlooked in the Biblical texts" (www.khouse.org/articles/2001/377).
Notice what Graham Hancock writes --
"Manasseh [king of Judah for 55 years], who had done 'that which was evil in the sight of the LORD,' had introduced an idol into the Holy of Holies of the Temple. In taking this momentous step backwards towards paganism it was inconceivable that he could have allowed the Ark of the Covenant to remain in its place -- since the Ark was the sign and the seal of Yahweh's [YEHOVAH's] presence on earth....
"At the same time it was improbable that the apostatizing king would actually have destroyed the sacred relic: on the contrary, with his predilection for enchantments and wizardry, he would have regarded that as a most unwise thing to do. The most likely scenario, therefore, was that he would have ordered the Levites to remove the Ark from the Temple before he installed his 'Asherah' in the inner sanctum.
"And this would have been an order that they would have been more than happy to comply with...they could hardly have imagined any worse pollution than for it to have to share the Holy of Holies with the graven image of some alien deity. As priests they would not have been in a position to prevail militarily against a powerful monarch like Manasseh; their best course of action would have been to bow to the inevitable and to carry the Ark away to a place of safety" (The Sign and the Seal: The Quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant. Crown Publishers, New York, NY, 1992, pp. 419-420).
To continue, we go now to Robert Cornuke who adds:
"...there is no doubt that old Manasseh was the scum of the earth. As a result of his loathsome actions, God pronounced a grave sentence on Israel. He removed His hand from the nation -- and very likely, the Ark was removed as well, because it was during his time that the Ark is said to have arrived on Elephantine Island in Egypt. The priests would have been repulsed by all that Manasseh did and perhaps hid or removed the Ark to avoid any further defilement" (Temple: Amazing New Discoveries that Change Everything About the Location of Solomon's Temple. Koinonia House Publishers, Coeur d'Alene, ID: 2017, pp. 167-168).
Cornuke then sums up his research by saying:
"There are three important points to be learned from all this:
"First: The Ark remained in the Temple during the reign of Hezekiah, who prayed to God 'who dwells between the cherubim.'
"Second: The Ark was absent from the Temple during the reign of Josiah (the Levites carried it on their shoulders to an unknown location).
"Third: Therefore, the Ark most likely disappeared during the reign of Manasseh (or possibly during the rule of Amon, Manasseh's son, who ruled for two years before being assassinated) and was transported to Egypt by loyal Levites" (page 169).
"A number of ancient documents (such as the Elephantine Papyri) seem to confirm the existence of a Jewish Temple at Elephantine. Egypt, or at least certain districts of Egypt, would have been a safe haven for Jewish refugees, as we see from King Neco's friendly appeal to Josiah in 2 Chronicles 35:20-21, less than a generation later. (It may even be that Josiah died trying to gain enough control over Egypt to reclaim the Ark). What's more...Dr. Atif Hanna, curator of the Aswan Museum, has concluded, from his own investigation, that the Ark of the Covenant did indeed come to Elephantine Island during the reign of Manasseh in Israel, and that it was housed in the replica temple.
"However, Dr. Hanna has also determined that the replica temple was destroyed for unknown reasons -- possibly the advance of a new, aggressive from of idol worship -- in 410 B.C. That event, then, raises the question: Where would the Ark have been taken? Where might our search lead us next? At this point, all indicators pointed toward Ethiopia" (www.baseinstitute.org/pages/ark_of_the_covenant/21).
From Elephantine Island in the Nile the Ark is next said to have been transported to an island in Lake Tana, Ethiopia.
"...research on-site in Ethiopia led us to the shores of Lake Tana, a body of water 53 miles long and 41 miles wide, located on the headwaters of the Blue Nile. Isolated far out on the waters of Lake Tana is Tana Kirkos Island, considered by the Ethiopians to be a holy island, populated only by Ethiopian, Christian monks. The monks of Tana Kirkos believe they are living on the island where the Ark of the covenant rested, and where Levitical-style blood sacrifices were performed until 338 A.D., when the nation of Ethiopia converted to Christianity. The monks of Tana Kirkos escorted us to a high plateau where they showed us several large, moss-covered stones which they said had previously been used in sacrificial ceremonies when the Ark of the Covenant was on the island. They also told us that the rock surface on which we stood had been the location of a tabernacle-like tent that had housed and protected the Ark" (ibid.).
History reveals that the Ark next journeyed to Axum, evidently the last resting place of the Ark of the Covenant in St. Mary's of Zion Church. There a man referred to as "The Guardian of the Ark of the Covenant" lives his entire life inside a fenced-off area surrounding St. Mary's of Zion. He will not leave this fenced-off compound until he dies -- when he will be replaced by the next Guardian of the Ark. In the chapel of the church, 30 robes from 30 previous guardians are on display -- and every one of those 30 professed that the object they protected was the true Ark of the Covenant.
A Coptic Christian priest Abu Al-Makarim, in his book Churches and Monasteries of Egypt composed around 1300 A.D., states that,
"The Abyssinians possess also the Ark of the Covenant in which are the two tables of stone, inscribed by the finger of God with the commandments which he ordained for the children of Israel. The Ark of the Covenant is placed upon the altar, but is not so wide as the altar; it is as high as the knee of a man, and is overlaid with gold; and upon its lid there are crosses of gold; and there are five precious stones upon it, one at each of the four corners, and one in the middle.
"The liturgy is celebrated upon the Ark four times in the year, within the palace of the king; and a canopy is spread over it when it is taken out from [its own] church to the church which is in the palace of the king: namely on the feast of the great Nativity, on the feast of the glorious Baptism, on the feast of the holy Resurrection, and on the feast of the illuminating Cross. And the Ark is attended and carried by a large number of Israelites descended from the family of the prophet David who are white and red in complexion, with red hair. In every town of Abyssinia there is one church, as spacious as it can possibly be.
"It is said that the Negus [= Emperor] was white and red of complexion, with red hair, and so are all his family to the present day; and it is said that he was of the family of Moses and Aaron, on account of the coming of Moses into Abyssinia [Ethiopia]" (folio 106a of the manuscript used for the standard English translation. Translated by A. J. Butler).
Map of Ethiopia showing Lake Tana and Axum in the north.
In summation -- and based on compelling evidence gathered from years of research -- it is evident that Levite priests from Solomon’s temple removed the Ark during the rule of the apostate King Manasseh (687-642 B.C.). The Ark was then hidden for two hundred years in an Israelite temple on the Egyptian sacred island of Elephantine in the Nile. Next it was taken to Ethiopia, to the island of Tana Kirkos in Lake Tana, where it remained for over 800 years. When the Axumite kingdom converted to Christianity after 331 A.D., the Ark of the Covenant was co-opted by the Christian hierarchy and brought from Tana Kirkos to the newly constructed church of St. Mary of Zion in Axum.
The Ark remained in Axum until the early 1530s when it was removed to a secret hiding place to protect it from approaching Muslim armies. In 1535, the fanatical Muslim invader, Ahmed Gragn, swept across the Horn of Africa from the Islamic holy city of Harar (in southern Ethiopia) and destroyed the Church of St. Mary of Zion. A hundred years later, with peace restored throughout the empire, the Ark was brought back to Axum. It was installed in a new St. Mary's church built by King Fasilidas (with Portuguese assistance) -- immediately adjacent to the ruins of the earlier church. The Ark remained in this church, called Maryam Tsion Cathedral, until 1965 when Haile Selassie (said to be the two hundred and twenty-fifth direct-line descendant of Menelik, son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon) had it transferred to a more secure chapel, the so-called treasury, thirty feet away from the northeast corner of the old church.
Church of St. Mary of Zion in Axum.
Two people have claimed to actually have seen the object resting in St. Mary's of Zion. The first was a 105-year-old priest who once was the Administrator at St. Mary's of Zion. On two occasions, he said, when the Guardian of the Ark died and a new guardian was trained in the worship rituals, he was able to gaze upon the relic. He described it as a gold box with two winged angels on top.
"In his detailed inventory of the treasury, he described the Ark as a gold box with two winged creatures on the top. He described 24 smaller angelic-type figures forming a molding around the top, with two green stones (not described in the Bible) at either end. Is this the Ark of the Covenant described in the Bible? At this juncture, we cannot say with certainty that it is, but neither can be say for certain that it isn't. What we have concluded is that St. Mary's of Zion church in Axum, Ethiopia, is the resting place either of an incredible replica of the biblical Ark of the Covenant, or, of the actual Ark of the Covenant itself" (ibid.).
Is the Bible entirely silent on the subject of the Ark of the Covenant's current resting place -- or of its existence between the present day and the future kingdom of YEHOVAH God? Some scholars argue that the Bible is, indeed, silent, and that the Ark is a moot point now that the Messiah has come, suffered and died for YEHOVAH's people Israel. Others, however, suggest that there may yet be a role for the Ark to play during a period of time following a real and triumphant victory by YEHOVAH God over the armed forces of the world system, before He institutes His eternal kingdom on a new earth. This brings us back to the Ethiopian Eunuch.
The Gift from Ethiopia
The Ethiopians believe that the relic presently in their trust will be the subject of a very prominent gift to the Messiah when he rules with his Father on Mt. Zion. Notice Zephaniah 3:10:
"From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My suppliants, even My scattered ones, shall bring My offering" (Dead Sea Scrolls Bible).
The word "bring" is yabal, to bear or carry, as in a royal procession; the word for "offering" is minchah, a gift, tribute, present. This apparently is the presentation by the Ethiopians which receives such special emphasis in Isaiah 18:7, which chapter refers to Ethiopia:
"At that time a present will be brought to the LORD of Hosts from a tall and handsome people, from a people that were frightening from their very beginning, a nation that metes out and tramples, whose land is divided by the rivers, to the place [Temple] of the Name of the LORD, to Mount Zion" (The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible).
What object might the Ethiopians have that could go inside the Third Temple in Jerusalem? Clearly, this verse has to be referring to the Ark of the Covenant!
In Isaiah 18, the prophet records a message from YEHOVAH God concerning Ethiopia. It deals not only with Ethiopia's past, but also with the future of YEHOVAH God's residence in the Third Temple on Mount Zion in the City of David. Verses 3-4 read, "All you inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth: when a signal is lifted up on the mountains, then watch; and when the trumpet is sounded; then listen! For this is what the LORD has told me: I will be still, and I will watch in My dwelling-place [Temple]..." If this and the verses that follow describe YEHOVAH God's triumph over the armies of the world, what happens next in verse 7 is very interesting. Again we ask, "What might the present be that is brought from Ethiopia to the 'place [Temple] of the Name of the LORD' -- to the Holy of Holies?"
This all lends a revealing perspective on the strange events which occurred with Philip's encounter with the Ethiopian Treasurer in Acts Chapter 8.
We have demonstrated that the eunuch, like Noah, was "perfect in his generation" -- in other words his ancestors were observant Israelites that kept the Laws of YEHOVAH God and married within their own kind over the generations. However, other Israelites that had migrated to Ethiopia disregarded YEHOVAH's commands and married into the indigenous black pre-Adamic tribes of the area producing a people that eventually became known as the Falashas.
The Falashas practiced an archaic form of Israelite worship, and also the Christianity of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was riddled through and through with practices that were unmistakably Israelite in origin. From this we can conclude that there had been wave after wave of Hebrew immigration into Ethiopia for hundreds of years before the fifth-century B.C. -- when it is believed that the Ark of the Covenant had been brought from the island of Elephantine on the upper Nile to the island of Tana Kirkos. Since there were obviously Hebrew settlements in that area, then there would be no longer be any mystery as to why Ethiopia (rather than some other country) had been chosen by YEHOVAH God as the last resting place of the Ark before its prophesied return to YEHOVAH's Third Temple in Zion.
Isaiah 18 -- like so many sections of Isaiah -- is YEHOVAH God's message to a specific people, the Ethiopians. Messages like this usually begin with YEHOVAH's warning or condemnation, then move on to reveal His plan for them in the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God. In Isaiah 18, YEHOVAH is addressing the people who are "beyond the rivers of Ethiopia." Also, the prophet speaks prophetically of a procession traveling to Israel from Ethiopia following the future set up of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God -- when both YEHOVAH God and the Messiah return to establish the Kingdom and reside in the newly-built Third Temple on Zion.
According to Isaiah 18:7, prophecy tells us that a "present" from Ethiopia will be carried to the place (Temple) of the "name of the LORD of Hosts," to "Mount Zion" -- which clearly refers to the most holy place (Holy of Holies) in the future Temple. This "present" or offering described by Zephaniah in 3:10 is in the singular. Writes Robert Cornuke --
"Even more intriguing than the imagery of the gift is the Hebrew meaning of the word 'bring.' The term in Zephaniah 3:10 does not indicate a typical offering. The word, yabal -- cited both in Isaiah 18 and Zephaniah 3 -- differs vastly from the common term, bo, in that it implies a bringing or leading forth in an official or royal procession (Job 10:19; 21:30; Psalm 45:14-15; 68:29; Isaiah 18:7) -- a procession from Cush carrying an item of great importance to Jerusalem, from beyond the rivers of Ethiopia...
"This gift would be brought all the way into the very place where His [YEHOVAH's] Name dwells forever -- into the Holy of Holies of the Jerusalem Temple. What could be worthy of being carried such a great distance, to the inside of the Temple...especially since traditional offerings are always received outside the Temple? What, indeed, other than the Ark of the Covenant" (Temple: Amazing New Discoveries that Change Everything About the Location of Solomon's Temple, page 192).
As we covered in the first part of this article, the Book of Acts records a significant encounter with the eunuch from Ethiopia. The event occurs shortly after the Messiah's death and resurrection. "Luke, the writer of Acts, identifies the Ethiopian as a prominent official in the court of Candace, 'Queen of the Ethiopians.' The man managed her royal treasury and was on a visit to Jerusalem. Then the eunuch began his journey home. This is when Philip, guided by the holy spirit, ran up to the chariot and overheard the eunuch reading from Isaiah 53." The passage, Isaiah 53:7-8, foretold the crucifixion of the Messiah.
Most of you know by now the rest of the story: Philip asked the eunuch if he understood that which he was reading and, when he said that he didn't, Philip told the Ethiopian the Good News of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God. The encounter then ended with the eunuch professing faith in the Messiah, being baptized and continuing on his way back to Ethiopia. This account, of course, gives us a wonderful glimpse, at a God-inspired encounter, into the expansion of the ecclesia into Africa. But we have to ask, "is there more to Luke's story?" And why, of all the thousands of Israelites visiting Jerusalem from the Diaspora, was the eunuch singled out from all the rest to be featured so prominently in the Book of Acts? As Cornuke adds:
"What if we dared view the entire episode in a slightly different light -- say, from the context of Isaiah 18 -- recalling that, centuries earlier, Isaiah foresaw some great offering coming forth from Ethiopia at the Messiah's [and YEHOVAH God's] return? By adjusting the slide under this microscope, we might see an otherwise minor passage move into sharp focus. Seen through the lens of Isaiah 18, Philip's encounter on the desert road may have extreme significance" (ibid.).
The Book of Acts tells us that the eunuch was in charge of Candace's treasures (Acts 8:27). But why -- other than to worship at the Jerusalem Temple -- had this particular Ethiopian traveled all the way to Jerusalem, with a large and costly retinue? And why did Luke even bother to record it amidst the tumultuous times of which he was writing? Why did the Queen of Ethiopia send a highly-placed court official, and why was he carrying a scroll of Isaiah in his chariot? And, finally, why did YEHOVAH God tell Philip to appear beside the chariot as the eunuch happened to be reading from Isaiah 53? Coincidences? Is it possible that this incident might shed light on the question of whether the Ark, removed from the Temple in the time of Manasseh, lay in Ethiopia at that time?
Isaiah 52 might help clarify things, notice --
"The LORD has barred His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God. Depart, depart, go out from there, touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her. Purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the LORD" (verses 10-11).
The phrase "go out from there...you who carry the vessels of the LORD" jumps right out from these verses. It immediately precedes Isaiah 53 -- which prophecies of the Messiah's suffering and death on the tree. Without a doubt the Ethiopian viewed Isaiah 52 and 53 as they should be -- two parts of a whole. This being the case, could he have viewed them as marching orders to make haste to Jerusalem to see if the prophesied Messiah had indeed arrived and it was time to bring YEHOVAH God the gift foretold by Isaiah -- the Ark of the Covenant? Was the holy spirit's insistence that Philip approach the eunuch be because the Ark and Mercy Seat indeed lay hidden in northern Ethiopia?
"If the Ark were there it would likely have been registered among Candace's royal treasury. And if the monarch of Ethiopia considered those vessels a holy trust to be held and protected until the arrival of Israel's Messiah, then the eunuch's purpose in visiting Jerusalem may well have been to determine whether the King's throne (the Mercy Seat) would now be required" (Temple, p. 197).
Was this royal emissary from Ethiopia of those "who bear the vessels of the LORD" (found in Isaiah 52:10-11) actually responding to Isaiah's prophecy about a great "present" or gift to be brought to YEHOVAH God, to the Temple in the stronghold of Zion, in the City of David? We might conjecture that the eunuch returned to his Queen and when she inquired, "Has the time come?" He replied, "Not yet!"
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