April 11, 2022
“There was an Ethiopian man, a eunuch, and a high official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of her entire treasury...”
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“There was an Ethiopian man, a eunuch, and a high official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to worship in Jerusalem and was sitting in his chariot on his way home reading the prophet Isaiah aloud. The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go and join that chariot.’ When Phillip ran up to it, he heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, ‘Do you understand what you’re reading?’ ‘How can I’, he said, ‘unless someone guides me”’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.” Acts 8:26-31
I have heard pastors teach that the Ethiopian Eunuch was the first Gentile convert. Because the man was from Ethiopia and had a powerful position in the kingdom, many believe he must have been a Gentile. That thought pattern disregards the stories of Joseph, Daniel, Moses, Esther, and Nehemiah, all of whom were Jews who held influential positions in foreign governments. I believe this Ethiopian was most likely a Jew.
First, he had gone to Jerusalem to worship. Now, the fact that a Gentile would worship in Jerusalem was not uncommon. There was even a Court of Gentiles in the temple complex. But there are other factors to consider.
The Ethiopian had a copy of the book of Isaiah with him, and he was reading it. There was no such thing as “Borders Books” or “Amazon.com” in Jesus’ day. Torah scrolls were very rare, and they weren’t given to just anyone. Consider Isaiah’s prophecy:
“And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will begat; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” 2 Kings 20:18
Most likely, this Ethiopian was a descendent of the dispersed Jews, and he had traveled to Jerusalem for Passover and stayed the additional 50 days for Shavuot (Pentecost). He would have likely been present when Jesus was crucified and was probably nearby when the Holy Spirit fell. Leaving Jerusalem, he had stopped and was pondering the significance of Isaiah 53: The Suffering Servant. (You should read that entire chapter)
In addition to explaining that Isaiah was prophesying of Jesus in chapter 53, Philip most likely continued reading in Isaiah and shared God’s promises to foreigners and eunuchs.
“No foreigner who converted to the Lord should say, ‘The Lord has excluded me from His people’; and the eunuch should not say, ‘Look, I am a dried up tree.’ For the Lord says this, ‘For the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths and choose what pleases Me, and hold firmly to My covenant, I will give them, in My house and within My walls, a memorial, and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give each of them an everlasting name that will never be cut off.’” Isaiah 56:3-5
Whether this Ethiopian was a Jew or Gentile, he was saved by faith in Jesus. Furthermore, he was immersed (baptized); now, his name is “remembered” in God’s Kingdom and His Word for all eternity!