Biblical references to Ethiopia

May 8, 2013

Do you realize how many references to Ethiopia there are in the Bible?  There are more than 30 Old Testament references to Ethiopia which was known as Cush to the Hebrews.  Moses is known to have married an Ethiopian woman (Num 12:1).  One travel writer claimed, "Even if you take into account the fact that Ethiopia and Cush were once vague geographical terms referring to Africa south of the Sahara, the parts of Africa which are most likely to have been visited by Hebrews are those which were the most accessible."  Moreover, the Ghion River (referenced in Genesis) is what is now called the Blue Nile, which forms a sweeping arc beneath the part of Ethiopia most influenced by Judaism and the source of which is still referred to in Ethiopia as Ghion. In the book of Isaiah (18:11), we read of the country ... “along the rivers of Cush, which sends envoys by sea in papyrus’ boats over the waters ... to a people tall and bronzed.'  In the 7th century BC book of Zephaniah, the Lord speaks the following words: 'from beyond the rivers of Cush my worshipers, my scattered people, will bring me offerings', which suggests some of the Jewish diaspora to Ethiopia.

Ethiopia has an incredible heritage.  And their visual arts have earned the nation international recognition.  Short figures in patterned robes, wide almond-shaped eyes, and a palette of bright yellows, reds, and greens - these are just a few of the visual features that have become identified with Ethiopian culture, appearing on everything from book covers to restaurant menus.  These colors are also those of their national flag.  Flags have always intrigued me, the symbolism as well as how they evolve over time. The green, yellow and red colors have been used in various the Ethiopian flags over the years .  This latest one, adopted in 2009, has three horizontal stripes of green, yellow, and red from top to bottom. Centered over these stripes is a blue circle, on which there is a yellow five-pointed star.  The green typically represents hope and the land's fertility, the yellow is for harmony among the Ethiopian people, and red represents valor and war, depicting the fight for independence and resistance to colonist takeover. The bright star symbolizes the future of the nation. Surrounding the five-pointed star are five yellow rays, symbolic of the equality of the diverse people of Ethiopia.

Ethiopian flag

Ethiopia is no longer just a country in Africa on my world map.  It is a land of lovely faces, gorgeous landscapes, great diversity, rich church history and deeply religious.  It defies definition, a place and people to be experienced.  It was a great journey!