“Go on and up! Our souls and eyes shall follow thy continuous rise; our ears shall list thy story. From bards who from thy root shall spring, and proudly tune their lyrics to sing of Ethiopia’s glory.”--Paul Lawrence Dunbar (1)
Is Africa where all humanity should go to discover who we are? Acts 17:26 NIV states, “He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.”
The world’s African heritage tells us what kind of people we are. Is God Black? These may be some of the questions that may be on the mind of an African-American Christian searching for biblical documentation to truly discover and align oneself with the Word of God. It may be an African-American person who is just searching for his or her identity and where he or she belongs in God’s great construction of humanity. Henry M. Turner stated in the late 1880’s that, “God is a Negro.” (2) James Cone stated, “The God of the oppressed is Black.” (3) Let us not forget Cain Hope Felder and his naming of the people of Africa as “Afroasiatic.” (4) Question: Why would an AME minister and two twentieth century theologians state God was a Negro or Black, unless there was an evaluation of evidence or support for these statements to be regarded as truisms?
In discussing the Black (African) presence of the Bible one must begin in the book of Genesis—more specifically, the Jahwist account of the creation story that is found second chapter of Genesis. God formed man from the dust of the earth. There is no historical or geological evidence to prove the existence of white dirt in this region of Africa. Therefore, the common sense of an individual should lead them to believe that the first human, Adam, being formed from “from the dust of the earth’ looked like that dust, dark and black. Thus, all the descendants of Adam were of the same color as he was, Black.
In the second chapter of Genesis, the Jahwist author states the location of the Garden of Eden. In verses 10-14 of Genesis chapter two, it states, “and a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates. (5)
Now in the commentary of this scripture Dr. Cain Hope Felder lists by name the modern day names of the ancient rivers in Genesis chapter two. The rivers are the Pishon (Blue Nile), Gihon (White Nile), Hiddekel (Tigris) and the Euphrates. (6) Now any ancient or modern map will show that the White Nile and Blue Nile rivers are south of Egypt and runs into the land of Cush just below the sixth cataract. (7) The Euphrates and the Tigris are both approximately forty-five degrees latitude and thirty degrees longitude. This is the land just northeast of the Arabian Desert.
Now from modern day topography one can clearly understand that the rivers first of all, are located within the African continent and secondly extend from Egypt to Ethiopia. Some Eurocentric scholars try to relocate the Havilah closer to the Aschenaz Mountains, which will move the Garden of Eden outside of Africa to the modern day Middle East. However, there are two Havilahs (persons) contained within the Table of Nations of Genesis Chapter 10. Also, there is a map contained within Walter McCray’s, The Black Presence in the Bible Volume 2 that annotates two areas called Havilah. There is a Havilah that is in the lineage of Ham, just east of the Red Sea and then there is a Havilah that is in the lineage of Shem, just west of the Persian Gulf. The Hamitic people were Black and the Semetic people were of a lighter skin tone. The major areas of discussion of the African continent will be Egypt (Mizraim), Ethiopia (Cush), and Libya (Phut). These land areas listed are the Greek forms of the Hebrew names in parenthesis. The land of Canaan extended from Northern Africa along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea into the Arabian Peninsula. In an effort to Europeanize Africa the Greeks changed the names from Hebrew to Greek. These landmasses are the names of the descendants of Ham, who was Noah’s second born son. (8)
Other names were also used to describe three of the four sons of Ham. Egypt is also known as Kemet; Libya as Moors or Mauris; and Ethiopia as Nubia, Abyssinia, or Seba. (9) The word Chemistry, based on the prefix Chem, comes from the Egyptian word kmt or Kemet, which means "black" in the Egyptian/Hamitic language. Kemet was the ancient name the ancestors called the country that we now call Egypt. The ancient Egyptians called themselves Kemetic, but the Greeks referred to them as Egyptians. Today, Egyptians call themselves Misr, which is of Arabic derivation. (10) During the analysis of the book of Genesis of the Bible, one will develop or redevelop a thirst for realizing that a great deal of the events that occurred in the Bible was in Africa. It will assist one in better understanding Acts 17:26 “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.” This one blood is from Adam to Noah and his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, who replenished the Earth after the flood.
According to Walter McCray in his two volume writings, The Black Presence in the Bible, he illustrates the areas where Noah’s sons populated. The descendants of Ham or Hamites populated all of Africa. It is depicted that the descendants of Shem or Semitic people populated and are geographically connected to Persia, Assyria, Chaldea, Lydia, and Syria. And finally the descendants of Japheth or Japhethites populated the land west of Palestine. This included the area from Tarshish (Spain) on the West to the Caspian Sea on the East. (11) The following will represent a breakdown of the historical biblical studies in relation to the sons of Noah, where they lived, and their descendants.
The progenitor of all the Semitic races is Shem. His name, Shem, is rendered as Sumu in the Akkadian inscriptions. (12) At the time of the scattering of the nations from Babel; the descendants of Japheth migrated to the north and northwest of Shinar, mainly towards Europe. They also migrated to the southeast towards the Indian sub-continent and thence to the Far East. The descendants of Shem and Ham however, shared between them the southern and central regions of Asia Minor and Arabia, with Ham's descendants more dominantly in the African continent. This, of course, meant that a certain amount of intermingling took place between the people of Shem and Ham and it is consequently sometimes difficult to assess whether certain early nations were predominantly Semitic or Hamitic.
Japheth is literally the progenitor of many nations, all the Indo-European people, in fact, it would be surprising indeed if his name had gone unremembered among them. As it is, we find that the early Greeks worshipped him as IAPETOS, or IAPETUS, whom they regarded as the son of heaven and earth, and the father of many nations. Likewise, in the ancient Sanskrit Vedas of India, he is remembered as PRA-JAPATI, the sun and ostensible Lord of Creation. His name was further corrupted and assimilated into the Roman pantheon as IUPATER, which eventually became that of Jupiter. None of these names are recognized as being of Greek, Indian, or Latin origin; but are rather mere corruptions of the Hebrew name of Japheth. Similarly, the early Saxon races perpetuated his name as Sceaf, (Pr. 'sheef,' or 'shaif,') and recorded his name in their early genealogies as the son of Noah, the forebear of their various peoples. (13)
There is historical information that proves that these landmasses that are associated with the name of the sons of Ham existed. The people of Ham's lineage populated the entire continent of Africa, once known as the Land of Ham and eventually the Asia Minor and the Arabian Peninsula. (14) Therefore, since the discussion is to dispel the Hamitic Curse, all of Ham’s four sons will be highlighted. Genesis 10:6 states “And the sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, and Phut, and Canaan.” The name of Cush is preserved in Egypt's hieroglyphic inscriptions as Kush, the name referring to the country that lay between the second and third cataracts of the Nile. This same land was later known as Nubia.
Additional confirmation of this location is given in an inscription of Esarhaddon of Assyria (681-668 BC), who tells us that he made himself king of 'Musur, Patorisi, and Cush. Some assert that the name of Cush was also perpetuated in that of the Babylonian City of Kish, seemingly was one of the earliest cities to be built after the Flood. (15) Josephus writes: “...time has not at all hurt the name of Chus (i.e. Cush); for the Ethiopians over whom he reigned, are even at this day both by themselves and by all men in Asia, called “Chusites.” (16) Thus, Cain Hope Felder’s naming of the people, of Africa as “Afroasiatic.”
Mizraim was a collective name for the people that settled in Egypt. Indeed Mizraim is still the Israeli name for that nation. The name is also preserved in the Ugaritic inscriptions as msrm; the Amar tablets as Misri; and in the Assyrian and Babylonian records as Musur and Musri. Modern Arabs still know it as Misr. (17) Josephus relates a curious episode that he called the Ethiopic War, an incident that was apparently well known throughout the ancient world. According to this account, some six or seven nations descended from Mizraim were destroyed, clearly a major conflict that would have had profound and far-reaching repercussions on the world of those times. Josephus lists those nations that were destroyed as the Ludim, the Anamim, the Lehabim, the Naphtuhim, the Pathrusim, the Casluhim, and the Caphtorim. (18)
The country in which the descendants of Phut settled is well known to us from Egyptian records, which render the name as Put or Punt. It is always spoken of as closely associated with Egypt and an inscription from the archives of Darius I the Great; King of Persia from 522-486 B.C., confirms its close proximity to that nation. (19) Here the land of Phut is shown as lying in the proximity of Cyrenaica that is on the North African coast to the west of Egypt. This same land was also known as Puta to the Babylonians, and as Putiya in the Old Persian inscriptions. (20)
For Ham’s last son, Canaan, his posterity settled in the land that was later to be given to Israel. At the time of the Israelite conquest, the population of Canaan consisted of all the tribes descended from him. Both Sanchuniathon and Phylo of Byblos confirm the fact that the Canaanites derived their name from their founder. The Greeks and Phoenicians knew the name as Kna'an; the Egyptians knew it as Kn'nw; and the Hurrians described certain dyed cloth as Kinahne or Canaanite cloth. Despite their Hamitic descent, however, the Canaanites spoke a Semitic language. This is an example of how a Hamitic people adopted a Semitic language. (21) It was previously noted in the section describing the descendants of Shem that there was some intermingling of the Hamites and Semites. Sometimes, for example, a people descended from Ham would adopt a Semitic language. Sometimes, a Semitic people would adopt an Indo-European (Japhetic) tongue, and this has naturally led to some confusion over certain archaeological or documentary aspects of the evidence. (22)
The Table of Nations of Genesis chapter 10 shows how the earth was re-populated after the Great Flood that occurred in Genesis chapter seven. Noah and his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth were given the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply, replenish the earth.” (23) The sons and their wives produced the earth’s population. When Noah’s sons began to multiply they went to different geographical areas. In this study, we will first focus on the sons of Ham, since his descendants are most readily identified as African (Black) people. Ham is considered the patriarch of African People, since it is his descendants who represent the African continent. In verses 23 and 27 of Psalms 105, Egypt represented all of Africa, which was called the Land of Ham. Also, Africa was called the Land of Ham because it was Ham’s sons that populated the continent.
The sons of Ham are listed in Genesis 10: 6-20. Cush, Mizraim, Phut, and Canaan are highlighted. Note the genealogy of Ham is not only a show of names of individuals but also of different races of people. Since this section is to highlight Ham, it is his name that the Psalmist uses synonymous with Egypt. The following two Psalms show this analogy. Psalms 78:51 states, “And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham” and Psalms 105:23-27 reads, “Israel also came into Egypt; and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. He increased his people greatly; and made them stronger than their enemies. He turned their heart to hate his people, to deal subtly with his servants. He sent Moses his servant and Aaron whom he had chosen. They shewed his signs among them, and wonders in the land of Ham.” (24) Therefore, many of the actions that occurred in the Bible took place in Africa.
Rev. Damon R. Jones is an Associate Minister serving at Calvary Baptist Church of Chicago, where he has been a Religious Educator for over seven years. Rev. Jones pursuing his Doctorate of Ministry focusing in Christian Education and Urban Ministries at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. He received both his Master of Divinity (2005) and M.A. in Religious Studies (2002) from The Chicago Theological Seminary, his B.S. in Sociology from Illinois State University and A.A.S. from Illinois Central College. Damon has taught as an Adjunct Professor at Trinity Christian College teaching both African American History and Sociology courses.
- Paul Lawrence Dunbar, poet. See Ode to Ethiopia, Paul Lawrence Dunbar Selected Poems (New York: Dover Publications Inc. 1997), p. 6 – 7.
- Gayraud Wilmore Black Religion and Black Radicalism, p.152.
- James Cone, For My People: Black Theology and the Black Church (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1984).
- Cain Hope Felder, Troubling Biblical Waters: Race, Class, and Family (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1989), p. 12.
- See The Original African Heritage Study Bible King James Version (KJV) (Nashville: The James C. Winston Publishing Company, 1993), Genesis 2: 10-14.
- Ibid. Commentary by Dr. Cain Hope Felder pg. 4.
- George Ernest Wright, The Westminister Historical Atlas to the Bible, (Philadelphia: The Westminister Press 1945) Plate II.
- Walter McCray, The Black Presence in the Bible Volume 2, (Black Light Fellowship 1997), p.13.
- Commentary by Dr. Cain Hope Felder. See The Original African Heritage Study Bible, p. 103.
- Jeremiah A. Wright, Africans Who Shaped Our Faith (Chicago: Urban Ministries 1995), p. 21.
- See Walter McCray The Black Presence in the Bible Volume 2 (Chicago: Black Light Fellowship 1997).
- See Merrill Unger, Archeology and the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954).
- See Cheikh Anta Diop, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality, (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books).
- Josepheus Flavious, Josephus: Complete Works, Translated by William Whiston (London: 1981)
- Unger, Archeology and the Old Testament.
- Josepheus Flavious, Josephus: Complete Works, Translated by William Whiston (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1981).
- Unger, Archeology and the Old Testament. Ibid.
- Diop The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality.
- Genesis 9:1 is sometimes referred to as the Noahic Covenant due to God’s commandment to “be fruitful and multiply, replenish the earth.”
- The land of Ham can be referred to as all of Africa, of Egypt, or Ethiopia.
Copyright© 2007 Damon R. Jones. All Rights Reserved.
Used by permission BlackandChristian.com