Interesting How An Ethiopian Eunuch Is Introduced To The Love Of Christ!

 
In God’s value system, it matters not whether one’s preaches to hundreds in a city or one in the desert. Faithfulness to call is the only issue. This story of the Ethiopian Eunuch is a fascinating story of hope for all of our loved ones who don’t know our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Let’s Read Acts 8:25-40

 

Caught up in the excitement of the gospel in Samaria, Peter and John teach the Samaritans about God’s Word to give some firm foundation to their new faith in Messiah Yeshua, and then they return to Jerusalem.

 

Recall that this task of teaching God’s Word as well as witnessing for Messiah is what the 12 disciples agreed was their true calling and what they ought to spend all their time doing.

 

And this pinpoints that regular congregation members (like Phillip) do not have to be Bible scholars or experts in theology to take the Good News to those who need to hear it.

 

In fact, I think that the best protocol is for the congregation to evangelize to individuals, and for the leaders to teach and mature the new Believers.

 

Effective evangelizing is almost always one to one and relational as opposed to informational, but teaching can be (and usually is) most useful in a one-to-many environment. Why? Because God has equipped every Believer to take the Good News to non-Believers. But only some have been given the gift and responsibility of teaching.

 

An angel now instructs Phillip to journey back southward to the road that goes between Jerusalem and Gaza. Gaza was at one time one of the five major city-states of the Philistines; however, it was destroyed just after 100 B.C. and was not rebuilt.

 

So by the time of Christ, Gaza was more of a general location than a particular city or town. That said in this era the water well at the ruins of Gaza was still operating, and it was one of the few water sources available before entering the Sinai desert.

 

Very likely the road to Gaza from Jerusalem was a way to access the Via Maris trade route that more or less followed the Mediterranean Coastline. It went all the way south to Egypt, and thus when we hear of this Ethiopian eunuch that Phillip would witness to, who was on his way home, he would naturally take the Via Maris to get there.

 

This Ethiopian was a dignitary in the employ of the Kandake of Ethiopia; not of Candace the Queen of Ethiopia as many Bibles have it. Kandake is a title, and it denotes a particular dynasty of royalty over Ethiopia. It was a dynasty of female rulers: Queens.

 

 

Ethiopia was located south of Egypt and is what the Bible calls Kush. These dark-skinned people were descendants of Ham’s son Kush, thus the Biblical name for the place.

 

It is clear that this eunuch believed in the God of Israel, as he had been in Jerusalem to worship. In his royal chariot, he was reading the scroll of Isaiah when Phillip spotted him.

 

It may not seem so on the surface, but there is no doubt a divine pattern being established here, and it is interesting how Phillip is the one that is setting it.

 

A eunuch is a castrated male. There were many reasons for this castration, but none of it had to do with any punishment. Rather it prevented being able to be married, which kept his loyalty squarely upon the person whom he served. And it limited him to any other kind of vocation as well as marking him for life.

 

Often removing the male genitalia was for religious purposes especially when serving a female god or ruler.

 

We must remember that at least from a Biblical viewpoint, castration is mutilation and wrong. For one thing, it means that this man will never have offspring; his bloodline will end.

 

In the most ancient Hebrew way of thinking, that means no afterlife is possible since in some mysterious way one’s afterlife is at least partially contained in his children.

 

But a mutilation of the genitals is also seen as an affront to life itself since fruitfulness in the form of producing offspring is not possible. Even more, a castrated man may not become an Israeli national citizen because Deuteronomy says this:

 

“A man with crushed or damaged private parts may not enter the assembly of ADONAI. Deuteronomy 23:2 CJB 

 

This issue arises because a man cannot fulfill his role in the Abrahamic Covenant to reproduce; thus that man cannot be part of Israel.

 

As concerns the religion of the Hebrews, a castrated male is very limited in where he can worship and in which rituals he can participate.

 

It is likely that if this eunuch was permitted to enter the Temple Mount at all, it was in the Court of the Gentiles; or more likely he was prohibited from the Temple area altogether and only came to a Synagogue. That would explain his interest in Isaiah as that was a Synagogue favorite, particularly in this era.

 

Thus there is no doubt that this Ethiopian eunuch had not converted to Judaism and become a Jew because he wouldn’t have been allowed to; rather he was a God-fearer. He was a Gentile who worshiped the God of Israel.

 

So what we see is that Phillip has been dealing with those whom Judaism customarily wanted little to do. He was dealing with outcasts and those that normative Judaism looked down upon to one degree or another:

 

  • First the hated Samaritans,
  • Then a sorcerer, and
  • Now the castrated male gentile.

 

And what did Phillip do? He brought these outcasts into the Kingdom of God.

 

What hope, and what a God-pattern is shown to us. There is no one inferior, broken enough, wretched or ruined enough that Yeshua cannot heal their spirit and bring them into His Kingdom. No heritage or race is excluded. Submit to Christ, and God accepts us.

 

As is typical of Luke, he says that the Spirit (the Holy Spirit) directed Phillip to go up and join the eunuch on his chariot. Was this a voice Phillip heard, or some internal unction, we’re not told.

 

But when Phillip inquiries of the man what it is that he’s reading, and if he understands it, it is clear that the eunuch does not. He says someone needs to explain it to him.

 

 

We’re given the excerpt from Isaiah that the eunuch is reading and it is from Isaiah 53. The words of Isaiah 53 that we see quoted in Acts chapter 8 more resemble the Greek Septuagint version rather than the Hebrew Tanakh version.

 

And this would make sense since few outside of the Holy Land could read or speak Hebrew; however, Greek was widely known.

 

And of course, this is a Messianic prophecy that the eunuch is reading, which would be most difficult to grasp if one had not grown up in Jewish culture.

 

But even then, the Synagogues had various interpretations of its meaning, the most popular being that this suffering servant who was humiliated and denied justice was referring to Israel as a whole and not to an individual.

 

“He was like a sheep led to be slaughtered; like a lamb silent before the shearer, he does not open his mouth.
 
He was humiliated and denied justice. Who will tell about his descendants, since his life has been taken from the earth?” Acts 8:32-33 CJB

 

The eunuch sees that the plain reading of this passage indicates an individual, so he wonders if Isaiah is speaking about himself or is it someone else? And this gave Phillip the opening he needed. He, of course, informed the man that this was speaking of Messiah Yeshua and he explained the matter and the Ethiopian believed.

 

It is the Ethiopian, not Philip that seems to raise the issue of immersion. The eunuch apparently had spent sufficient time among Jews and studying the Bible that he was familiar with the mikveh and immersion in water.

 

The way the eunuch asks the question is like this: “Is there anything that should prevent me from being immersed?” And this no doubt was something he had run into before due to his condition of being castrated and being a Gentile; it may well be that he had not been allowed to immerse and was wondering if now he could.

 

 

Where they found the water to immerse, we don’t know. But wherever it was it met the requirement of it being Living Water (meaning the source of the water had to be water that moved, like the ocean, a river, or spring). And since Phillip and the eunuch entered the water together the source was of reasonable size.

 

Upon immersion of the unnamed eunuch, we are told that Phillip was suddenly snatched away, his job here completed. The Greek word used for snatched away is harpazo, the same word we find in 1 Thessalonians 4 that speaks of Believers being caught up into the air to meet Christ in the clouds.

 

So what happened here was a miraculous and unexpected act of God; Phillip didn’t just quickly leave the scene by himself, he was snatched away by God. Suddenly Phillip finds himself in Ashdod near the Mediterranean Sea.

 

There he continues to proclaim the Good News and journeys town by town northward about 50 miles to Caesarea (this is speaking of Caesarea Maritima), which was an impressive and bustling port city that had been significantly improved by King Herod.

 

There he would have met people from every sort of nationality and religion. And this concludes our chapter of Acts 8.

 

Leading other people to Christ requires that we be ready, unafraid, able to use God’s Word, and filled with the Holy Spirit.

 

Reference
Holman New Testament Commentary
http://www.torahclass.com/new-testament-studies-audio-text-and-illustrations/2058-acts-lesson-20-chapter-8-and-9

 

 

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