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Q: #80. Does the Bible mention any black people?

     A: The Bible is pretty much silent when it comes to the color of a person’s skin. God does not look at outward appearances, he looks at a man’s heart (1 Sam 16:7). All men are equal in God’s eyes (Acts 10:34)(Gal 3:28)(Rom 10:12)(Rom 2:11)(Eph 6:9)(Deut 10:17-19)(1 Cor 12:13)(Col 3:11)(Gal 2:6)(Job 34:19), so the Bible doesn’t make racial distinctions.

     This being said, however, we can make some logical assumptions about a person’s skin color based on the region in which a person came from. In speaking about black people mentioned in the Bible, Africa would be the center of attention. A part of Africa is mentioned in the Bible even at the beginning of time (Gen 2:13: Cush). The two main places within Africa that are mentioned in the Bible are the country of Ethiopia (Cush), and the city of Cyrene (located in the country of Libya).

     Ethiopians are mentioned 41 times in the Bible (all but 1 in the Old Testament). Moses wife was an Ethiopian (Cushite). Aaron and Miriam criticized Moses for marrying her, and as a result, Miriam was temporarily given leprosy (her skin was turned “white as snow” Num 12:10).

     Ebed-Melech was an Ethiopian who saved the life of the prophet Jeremiah by pulling him out of a well he was dropped into by the officials of King Zedekiah (Jer 38:7-13). Jeremiah later was told by the Lord to tell him that he would “not be given over into the hand” of the Babylonians when they captured Jerusalem because “thou hast put thy trust in me (God)” (Jer 39:15-18).

     Although there is some disagreement on this point, the Queen of Sheba, who visited Solomon in (1 Kin 13:1-13)(2 Chr 9:1-12), is thought to have been from Ethiopia (some say Arabia). Many traditions and ancient writings teach that they married, and many Ethiopians believe their child became the first king of Ethiopia. The Bible does not confirm this. There is also conjecture that  the Song of Solomon was written about the love affair between Solomon and Sheba, because in (Song 1:5) the wife says, “I am black, but comely” (this could also refer to a lady who worked outdoors in the sun). Again, however, this is also not confirmed in the Bible.

     In the New Testament, a man who was likely black was given one of the highest honors in history. Simon of Cyrene was given the task of carrying Jesus’ cross for Him when He could no longer carry it (Mt 27:32)(Mk 15:21)(Lk 23:26).

     We are told in (Mk 15:21) that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus. Rufus and his mother apparently became very good friends with Paul later on. Paul referred to Rufus’ mother as being like a mother to him (Rom 16:13).

     Philip helped convert to the Lord a eunuch, who was an official of Candace, queen of Ethiopia (Acts 8:26-40).

     Men from Cyrene went to Antioch to preach the Lord Jesus to the Greeks, and a great number of them believed and turned to the Lord (Acts 11:19-21).

     Lucius of Cyrene, and Simeon, who was called Niger (which means black in Latin) were prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1). (They were likely a part of the group that visited in Acts 11).

     Lucius also apparently worked with Paul (Rom 16:21).

     In addition, Cyrenians are also mentioned at Pentecost (Acts 2:10), as well as in (Acts 6:9).

     Contrary to popular belief today, I see no evidence that whites (Caucasians) had much of a role at all in the Bible. The pictures, movies, t.v. shows, etc… that show people from the Bible as being white are simply not accurately portraying what they actually looked like. History, geography, and archaeology all show us that people who are mentioned in the Bible tended to have darker complexions. Again, the Bible is pretty much silent on skin color, but whites should not believe they are the dominant race in the Bible.

Copyright: © Steve Shirley

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