Top floor of Texas, Capitol.
2 July 2022
So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, Acts 8:27
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The previous verse detailed Philip’s commission by the messenger of the Lord to go on the desert road to Gaza. Luke now continues with a note concerning his immediate obedience, saying, “So he arose and went.”
Philip is being given a charge completely separate and distinct from Peter and the other apostles. He was part of the dispersion noted early in Acts 8, and he was found faithful in opening his mouth and proclaiming the gospel to the mixed-race of Samaritans. Certainly because of his zeal for telling others the good news of Christ, he is commissioned to pass on this same good news again. That is seen with the next words, “And behold, a man of Ethiopia.”
There is an immense amount of speculation concerning who this person is in relation to Judaism, but Luke – the most meticulous of chroniclers – says nothing of his being of Israelite descent or of him being a proselyte, both of which he carefully records concerning others elsewhere. Rather, he simply calls him a man of Ethiopia. Vincent’s Word Studies provides additional insights into the word “Ethiopia” –
“The name for the lands lying south of Egypt, including the modern Nubia, Cordofan, and Northern Abyssinia. Rawlinson speaks of subjects of the Ethiopian queens living in an island near Mero, in the northern part of this district. He further remarks: ‘The monuments prove beyond all question that the Ethiopians borrowed from Egypt their religion and their habits of civilization. They even adopted the Egyptian as the language of religion and of the court, which it continued to be till the power of the Pharaohs had fallen, and their dominion was again confined to the frontier of Ethiopia. It was through Egypt, too, that Christianity passed into Ethiopia, even in the age of the apostles, as is shown by the eunuch of Queen Candace.’”
As for the term anér, or man, it is a general word used to signify a male human. Nothing more should be read into it. To say anything more is to insert into the narrative something unintended by the record itself.
He is next called a eunouchos, a eunuch. The word comes from eune (a bed) and echo (to have or possess). As such, it is a person who possesses the bed of another. Scholars, in an attempt to claim he is something other than what is stated, will stretch the meaning of what Luke is clearly conveying. He is a castrated person who attended to the bed of another. He is next noted as being “of great authority.”
The Greek word is dunastés, a word connected to our modern word “dynasty.” It signifies a potentate or a mighty leader. Paul uses it in 1 Timothy 6:15 when describing Jesus as “the blessed and only Potentate.” In the case of this man, he is a member of the court “under Candace.”
Rather than a name, this is a title used only here in the Bible, Kandaké. Like the term Pharaoh, it is a term used as the dynastic title for the queens of Ethiopia. As such, the person now being described is a high-level official and a eunuch assigned under her. Next, the term Kandaké is explained with the words, “the queen of the Ethiopians.”
This would be comparable to saying, “Pharaoh, the king of Egypt,” as is seen quite frequently in the Old Testament and even once in Acts 7:10. This man, who is a eunuch under Candace is the one “who had charge of all her treasury.”
This indicates that he was not only powerful in authority, but he was a trustworthy man as well. His position put him over all her treasures. The word used, gaza, is found only here. It is a Persian word adopted by the Greeks and Latins to indicate the treasures and wealth she possessed. Finally, it says of this person that he “had come to Jerusalem to worship.”
The immediate conclusion is that some claim this “proves” that he was a proselyte. Rather, this only proves that he came to Jerusalem to worship, but that can actually mean almost anything as people go to “worship” all over the world and for a variety of reasons. Jews went up on the hills of Israel to worship and get closer to whatever god they were worshipping at the time. If he was a proselyte, Luke would have carefully stated it, as he did in Acts 2:10, 6:5, and 13:43.
Further, it is claimed that he was there to worship on Passover (Barnes), or Pentecost (Cambridge, etc.), as was stated in Acts 2. These same scholars have already said in their commentaries that a long and/or unknown time has passed since Acts 2. It could have been years at this point. There is nothing recorded by Luke concerning the reason that he came other than to worship.
Also, being a eunuch, according to Deuteronomy 23:1, he was not acceptable to be counted among the assembly of Israel. Like the Ethiopian Ebed-Melech recorded in Jeremiah, he was not a part of the assembly, even if he was living in the land. This Ethiopian Eunuch may have been worshipping the Lord, like Ebed-Melech, with his heart, even if he was not acceptable under the law. Like Ebed-Melech, he will receive a special note of favor from the Lord for his attentiveness to Him (see Jeremiah 39:15-18).
Life application: A few points about this verse, if hyperdispensationalism were true, which it is not, the church would have begun with Philip, not with Paul. This is because he is the first noted as evangelizing a Gentile. However, the church did not begin with Philip either. It began in Acts 2 and both Philip now, and Paul in the verses to come, are (or will be) carrying out the tasks set before them to continue the growth of what the Lord is doing.
There is a specific reason for the selection of this Ethiopian and the evangelization of him now. It will be noted in the verses ahead, and it is specifically to complete a pattern that was laid down in the early Genesis account.
Secondly, the words “man” and “eunuch” are both used concerning this individual. According to this account in the Bible a man, even if he is physically changed through emasculation, remains a man. Cutting off body parts or being crazy in one’s head and thinking you are not what you were born as does not change what you are.
In today’s world, people claim they are something other than what they were designed by God to be. They even go to extreme lengths to physically alter themselves in order to be “something else.” But they are what they are. The only difference is that they no longer properly conform physically to what they are.
Heavenly Father, help us to have right thinking concerning our doctrine so that our doctrine will be right. In straying from proper doctrine, our doctrine will be wrong. As such, only we will suffer, but Your word and its intent for us remains the same. Help us in this, O God. Help us to pursue Your word according to how it is presented. Amen.