What does the Bible say about Ethiopia?
Even though Ethiopia is not mentioned as often in the current news as countries such as Egypt, Libya, Syria or Iran, the Bible has much to say about the past and future of Ethiopia. As we pointed out in a recent Q&A on Egypt, Ethiopia was at one time the influential “king of the South,” as mentioned in the book of Daniel, and the Bible shows that Ethiopia will still play an important role in future world affairs. This is not that surprising when considering even the present role and status of Ethiopia, which should not be underestimated. As the Wikipedia encyclopedia tells us:
“[Ethiopia] is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 85.2 million people… When Africa was divided up by European powers at the Berlin Conference, Ethiopia was one of only two countries that retained its independence. It was one of only four African members of the League of Nations. After a brief period of Italian occupation, Ethiopia became a charter member of the United Nations. When other African nations received their independence following World War II, many of them adopted the colors of Ethiopia’s flag, and Addis Ababa [Ethiopia’s capitol] became the location of several international organizations focused on Africa… Ethiopia is one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), G-77 and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
“Today, Addis Ababa is still the headquarter[s] of the African Union, the Nile Basin Commission, the Pan African Chamber of Commerce (PACCI) and UNECA. The country has one of the most powerful militaries in Africa and Addis Ababa is the headquarter of the continental African Standby Force (ASF)… Currently, Ethiopia is the top coffee and honey-producing country in Africa, and home to the largest livestock population in Africa. Ethiopia has close historical ties to all three of the world’s major Abrahamic religions. It was one of the first Christian countries in the world, having officially adopted Christianity as the state religion in the 4th century. It has a Christian majority and a third of the population is Muslim…
“Ethiopia, which has Africa’s second biggest hydropower potential, is the source of over 85% of the total Nile water flow and contains rich soils… today Ethiopia has the biggest economy in East Africa… as the Ethiopian economy is also one of the fastest growing in the world. It is a regional powerhouse in the Horn and east Africa…”
Many commentaries recognize that Ethiopia, formerly known as Abyssinia, descended from “Cush” of the Bible (compare Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, under “Ethiopia.”). The word “Cush” means “black.”
(Please note, however, that descendants of Cush can also be found today in other parts of the world. For more information, please see our Q&A on Ezekiel 38 and 39. In this Q&A, we are strictly addressing the history and prophecy, relating to Ethiopia.)
Cush was a son of Ham, one of the three sons of Noah (Genesis 10:6). Cush was also the father of Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-12).
Cush is also identified, in Genesis 10:7, as the grandfather of Sheba (Sheba’s father was Raamah). From this it follows that the famous queen of the South, or the Queen of Sheba, who visited King Solomon to test his intelligence and wisdom, was actually the Queen of Ethiopia (compare 1 Kings 10:1-13; 2 Chronicles 9:1-12; Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31). The Queen of Sheba is known in worldly records as Queen Makeda, Empress of Axum. According to legend and tradition, the royal house of Ethiopia under, then, King or Emperor Haile Selassi (1892-1975), claimed to be descendants of a “union” between King Solomon and the Queen of the South. It is also well known that one of the royal titles of Haile Selassi was the “king of Judah.” Not that well known might be that three royal sons or princes and three royal daughters or princesses of the late emperor are still alive today.
Historically, we read that Moses, apparently prior to his conversion, had married an Ethiopian woman (Numbers 12:1). Later, during the reign of King Solomon’s son, the king of Egypt attacked Judah with the help of Ethiopia, because Judah had greatly sinned against God (2 Chronicles 12:1-3). Subsequently, Zerah the Ethiopian and his great army attacked Judah under King Asa (who was then a righteous king), but at that time, God helped Judah (2 Chronicles 14:8-13; 16:8). Later, Isaiah was given a prophecy proclaiming the defeat of Egypt and Ethiopia through King Sargon of Assyria (Isaiah 20:1-6).
At the time when Jeremiah was imprisoned and thrown into a dungeon, because he proclaimed the unpopular message of an impending defeat of Jerusalem through the Babylonians, Ebed-Melech, an Ethiopian eunuch, came to Jeremiah’s rescue and was rewarded accordingly by God (Jeremiah 38:6-13; 39:15-18). Later, the famous Persian king Xerxes I (referred to in the book of Esther as king Ahusuerus), who married Esther, reigned over Ethiopia (Esther 1:1; 8:9). And in New Testament times, we hear that “a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury…, had come to Jerusalem to worship” (Acts 8:27). God sent the evangelist Philip to that influential man to baptize him, and he returned to his country “rejoicing” (compare Acts 8:39).
We read in Nahum 3:9 that Ethiopia, as well as Egypt and Put (Libya), will be modern Nineveh’s helpers (that is, the modern Babylonian system under Assyrian or German leadership), prior to the destruction of modern Nineveh. They will help modern Nineveh to fight against Israel and Judah. Even during the time of the “day of the LORD” (a time beginning about one year prior to Christ’s return), the Ethiopians are still described as “mighty men” of war (compare Jeremiah 46:9-10).
But we also read that this particular alliance will change—as alliances change often and quickly in wars—and that the modern king of Babylon will attack and conquer Egypt and Ethiopia (Ezekiel 30:1-9; 29:10; compare also Isaiah 18:1-6). Zephaniah 2:12 tells us specifically that “You Ethiopians also, you shall be slain by the sword.” We also read in Daniel 11:42-43 that the modern king of Assyria of the Babylonian system will be ruling over the Ethiopians.
We are specifically told in Isaiah 11:11 that at the time of Christ’s return, the survivors of the modern descendants of the houses of Israel and Judah will find themselves enslaved in countries such as Assyria (Germany), Egypt, Pathros (upper Egypt), Cush (Ethiopia), Elam (Iran), Shinar (part of Babylon, Genesis 10:10), Hamath and the islands of the sea. [Regarding “Hamath,” this word designates descendants of Ham’s son Canaan—a brother of Cush (Genesis 10:18). The word has no connection to Syria or today’s city of Hama which is 200 km north of Damascus. As we pointed out in a recent Q&A, the Syrians are descendants of Noah’s son Shem (Genesis 10:21-23; 22:20-21)—not of Noah’s son Ham or his grandson Canaan.]
We don’t know when and exactly how the survivors of Israel and Judah will become captives in Ethiopia and in some of the other countries mentioned. It could begin to happen when Ethiopia fights with Assyria against Israel, or later, when Assyria fights against Ethiopia and then transfers and settles some of its Israelite captives there.
We also read that some Ethiopians will become a part of an army, led by Russia, to invade the Promised Land. This will happen just after Christ’s return to this earth; compare Ezekiel 38:5. God will supernaturally destroy this hostile army. We also find that in the Millennium, the surviving Ethiopians will turn to God.
For further information on Ethiopia and her allies, please read our Q&A on Libya.
God asks the question in Jeremiah 13:23: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots?” Even though the answer to this question is, “No,” God will nevertheless see to it that the Ethiopian will change his mind. God is not a respecter of person—he loves Ethiopia as much as Israel (Amos 9:7). And so, when God gives the Ethiopians a new heart and a mind to understand, they will respond. Isaiah 18:7 has this to say about the Ethiopians:
“In that time a present will be brought to the LORD of hosts From a people tall and smooth of skin, And from a people terrible from their beginning onward, A nation powerful and treading down, whose land the rivers divide—To the place of the name of the LORD of hosts, to Mount Zion” (compare Isaiah 2:1-4; see also Isaiah 45:14, saying that the merchandize of Cush—Ethiopia—will become Israel’s property, and that Ethiopians will come “in chains” and worship God and recognize Him as their only true God).
Finally, let us read this encouraging promise from God, relating to the future of Ethiopia, in Psalm 68:31: “Envoys will come out of Egypt; Ethiopia will quickly stretch out her hands to God.”
Sadly, much horror, pain and suffering will have to be endured first, before this glorious time can begin.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link