Ethiopian Eunuch

ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH (ē'thĭ-ō'pĭ-ăn yū'nŭk). Treasurer of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians (Acts.8.26-Acts.8.39). He was a mighty man (Gr. dynastēs) or nobleman. As a eunuch he could not be a full member of the Jewish community (Deut.23.1), but he had been worshiping in Jerusalem and was reading aloud the Book of Isaiah when Philip, sent by the Holy Spirit from Samaria to help him, met his chariot. From Isa.53.1-Isa.53.12, Philip led the African to faith in Christ, so that he asked for and received baptism and went on his way toward Gaza rejoicing.


Excavations at Gaza. The Ethiopian eunuch was met by Philip on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza on the Mediterranean.

ETHIOPIAN EUNUCH. A convert of the evangelist Philip, mentioned only in Acts 8:27-40. The ethnic term “Ethiopian” (Gr. Αἱθιοπια; Lat. Aethiopia) was applied in Rom. times to the area of E Africa, S of Egypt and beyond the mountains of the second cataract. The Acts account states that this man was the minister (Gr. δυναστὴς, Lat. potens, “ruler,” “vizier”) of Candace, the queen of the Ethiopians. This Candace was a name used frequently by the African queens of the island of Meroe, but the specific ruler is difficult to identify, the name appears on monuments as hieroglyphic, kntky. The practice of emasculation was widespread throughout the Near E, and such men served as chamberlains in the royal harem. It is most unlikely that this man was a Jew because eunuchs were forbidden to enter the congregation of Israel (Lev 21:20; Deut 23:1). However, there is no doubt that after the Pers. settlement of military colonies of Jews in the area of Meroe, numbers of “God-fearers” (Acts 10:2, et al.) sprang up around the local synagogue. The Ethiopian eunuch was prob. the treasurer or minister of trade and so traveled widely and could well have known either Heb. or Gr. sufficiently to read the Isaiah scroll. The purpose of the story is to present the oneness of all races and tongues in confession of Christ.

Further investigation into the early history of the missionary spread of the Gospel shows that both Judaism and Christianity were more widely distributed at an earlier period than has usually been accepted. The apparent faith of the Ethiopian in the OT prophecy is very important to the understanding of the current interpretation of Isaiah in the apostolic age. It is abundantly clear that the Ethiopian understood the passage in Isaiah 53:7, 8 as referring not to the people of Israel but to a unique personage, possibly the prophet himself. Philip interpreted the passage to refer to the life and atonement of Christ. The story in the Lucan narrative comes immediately after the events of the scattering of the church under Paul’s persecution, the preaching of Philip in Samaria, and the general missionary expansion of the Gospel in concentric patterns out from Jerusalem. The fulfillment of this is seen in the eunuch’s case, in the Gospel’s final outreach beyond the borders of Rome to a black man of the African world. The story logically sets the stage for the conversion of the least likely candidate of all, Paul the persecutor, and through him the presentation of the message of Jesus to the Gentiles. Historical evidence indicates that it was through such sing. converts that the national churches were planted and the universal spread of the message continued.