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The Biblical Ethiopia
"Ethiopia Stretching out her hands unto God. Psalm 68:32"
Beide-Mariam Ejigu Retta
I was astounded by Edwin Yamauchi's shortsighted article “ Sudan's Biblical History” in which he mentioned “The name of the modern country did not acquire the name Ethiopia until the 20th century. It had been called Abyssinia. But this misleads people, including the Ethiopians themselves to connect references to Ethiopia in the Septuagint and in the New Testament to their country.” Although what Mr. Yamouchi stated is very offensive to millions Ethiopians, I am writing this not in what appeared to be a fit of pique but to confute the deliberate error made by him. It is possible to debate in great depth with regard to this issue as the Ethiopian history is so immense and lots of supporting documents are available. Yet it is beyond the scope of this article to provide comprehensive review of the whole field. However, I just briefly outlined when and where the name Ethiopia originated and who is the Biblical Ethiopia?
The term Ethiopia used in the past to describe the country south of Egypt that stretching to India. However, throughout the centuries that prodigious country dwindled to its present shape for many reasons. I leave aside why the Ethiopian empire has lost all its territories, as it is not the main objective of this article but to show the term Ethiopia did not crop up in the 20th century but has been used for centuries in our country in all aspects of life.
First, according to the Ethiopian traditions, the name Ethiopia first was used after the Ethiopian King Aethiops I who reigned around 1860 BC and the natives have been called Ethiopians after him ever since. Therefore, the name Ethiopia originated 2000 years before Christ, even before the Greeks used it to describe the people below south of Egypt.
Second, since Judaism was introduced in Ethiopia around 950 BC Ethiopians annually used to go to Jerusalem to worship the God of Israel. This is backed by St. John Chrysostom who lived in the fourth century mentioned the presence of Ethiopians in the Holy City on the day of Pentecost. We know that Ethiopians have been worshipping the God of Israel since then. And the Ethiopians at the time and even now have been making pilgrimages to the Holy Land.
Even after the conversion from Judaism to Christianity, the Ethiopians have been paying visits to the Holy Land and established monasteries in most holy places wherever our Lord Jesus Christ taught and performed great deeds. And these holy places are still in our possession. Their presence, way of life and places possessed described by many European pilgrims throughout generations who also said “the Ethiopians are the most pious of all monks” in Jerusalem. One of the earliest European accounts about the presence of Ethiopian Christians in the Holy Land was the Latin Church father St. Jerome who lived in Bethlehem around 386 AD.
Third, the famous Ethiopian Church music composer St. Yared who lived in the sixth century has used the term Ethiopia in his Hymns.
Fourth, those resplendent Ethiopian monarchs mentioned in their correspondence “…Emperor of Ethiopia….” For instance Emperor Amde Tsion (letter-1) and Emperor Zera Yacoub (letter-2) who lived in the 14th century mentioned in their letters, they were Emperors of Ethiopia. These letters are currently archived at the Vatican Library.
Fifth, the famous Emperor Lebene Dingel who lived in the 16th century composed a prayer which later on added to the early morning prayer “Seatat” or the Horologium mentioned the term Ethiopia too.
“Ethiopians shall bow down before him, and his enemies shall lick the dust.” Psalm 72: 9
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewhado Church official website.