on Acts 8 :27
A man of Ethiopia - Ανηρ Αιθιοψ should be translated an Ethiopian, for the reasons given on Acts 7:2.
An eunuch - See this word interpreted, on Matthew 19:12 (note). The term eunuch was given to persons in authority at court, to whom its literal meaning did not apply. Potiphar was probably an eunuch only as to his office; for he was a married man. See Genesis 37:36; Genesis 39:1. And it is likely that this Ethiopian was of the same sort.
Of great authority - ΔυναϚης, A perfect lord chamberlain of the royal household; or, rather, her treasurer, for it is here said, he had charge of all her treasure, ην επι πασης της γαζης αυτης. The apparent Greek word Γαζα, Gaza, is generally allowed to be Persian, from the authority of Servius, who, in his comment on Aen. lib. i. ver. 118: -
Apparent rari nantes in gurgite vasto,
Arma virum, tabulaeque, et Troia Gaza per undas.
"And here and there above the waves are seen
Arms, pictures, precious goods, and floating men."
The words of Servius are: "Gaza Persicus sermo est, et significat divitias; unde Gaza urbs in Palaestina dicitur, quod in ea Cambyses rex Persarum cum Aegyptiis bellum inferret divitias suas condidit." Gaza is a Persian word, and signifies Riches: hence Gaza, a city in Palestine, was so called because Cambyses, king of Persia, laid up his treasures in it, when he waged war with the Egyptians. The nearest Persian word of this signification which I find is gunj, or ganz, and gunja, which signify a magazine, store, hoard, or hidden treasure. The Arabic kluzaneh, comes as near as the Persian, with the same meaning. Hence makhzen, called magazen by the Spaniards, and magazine by the English; a word which signifies a collection of stores or treasures, or the place where they are laid up. It is scarcely necessary to remark that this name is given also to certain monthly publications, which are, or profess to be, a store of treasures, or repository of precious, or valuable things.
But who was Candace? It is granted that she is not found in the common lists of Ethiopic sovereigns with which we have been favored. But neither the Abyssinians nor the Jews admitted women in their genealogies. I shall not enter into this controversy, but shall content myself with quoting the words of Mr. Bruce. "It is known," says he, "from credible writers engaged in no controversy, that this Candace reigned upon the Nile in Atbara, near Egypt. Her capital also, was taken in the time of Augustus, a few years before the conversion of the slave by Philip; and we shall have occasion often to mention her successors and her kingdom, as existing in the reign of the Abyssinian kings, long after the Mohammedan conquest: they existed when I passed through Atbara, and do undoubtedly exist there to this day." - Bruce's Travels, vol. ii. p. 431.
It does not appear, as some have imagined, that the Abyssinians were converted to the Christian faith by this eunuch, nor by any of the apostles; as there is strong historic evidence that they continued Jews and Pagans for more than three hundred years after the Christian era. Their conversion is with great probability attributed to Frumentius, sent to Abyssinia for that purpose by Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, about a.d. 330. See Bruce as above.
The Ethiopians mentioned here are those who inhabited the isle or peninsula of Meroe, above and southward of Egypt. It is the district which Mr. Bruce calls Atbara, and which he proves formerly bore the name of Meroe. This place, according to Diodorus Siculus, had its name from Meroe, daughter of Cambyses, king of Persia, who died there in the expedition which her father undertook against the Ethiopians. Strabo mentions a queen in this very district named Candace: his words are remarkable. Speaking of an insurrection of the Ethiopians against the Romans he says: Τουτων δ' ησαν και οἱ βασιλισσης Ϛρατηγοι της Κανδακης, ἡ καθ' ἡμας ηρξε των Αιθιοπων, ανδρικη τις γυνη, πεπηρωενη τον οφθαλμον, "Among these were the officers of Queen Candace, who in our days reigned over the Ethiopians. She was a masculine woman, and blind of one eye." Though this could not have been the Candace mentioned in the text, it being a little before the Christian era, yet it establishes the fact that a queen of this name did reign in this place; and we learn from others that it was a common name to the queens of Ethiopia. Pliny, giving an account of the report made by Nero's messengers, who were sent to examine this country, says, Aedificia oppidi (Meroes) pauca: regnare faeminam Candacen; quod nomen multis jam annis ad reginas transiit. Hist. Nat. lib. vi. cap. 29, ad fin. They reported that "the edifices of the city were few: that a woman reigned there of the name of Candace; which name had passed to their queens, successively, for many years." To one of those queens the eunuch in the text belonged; and the above is sufficient authority to prove that queens of this name reigned over this part of Ethiopia.
Had come to Jerusalem for to worship - Which is a proof that he was a worshipper of the God of Israel; but how came he acquainted with the Jewish religion? Let us, for a little, examine this question. In 1 Kings 10:1, etc., we have the account of the visit paid to Solomon by the queen of Sheba, the person to whom our Lord refers, Matthew 12:42, and Luke 11:31. It has been long credited by the Abyssinians that this queen, who by some is called Balkis, by others Maqueda, was not only instructed by Solomon in the Jewish religion, but also established it in her own empire on her return; that she had a son by Solomon named Menilek, who succeeded her in the kingdom; and, from that time till the present, they have preserved the Jewish religion. Mr. Bruce throws some light upon this subject: the substance of what he says is the following: "There can be no doubt of the expedition of the queen of Sheba; as Pagan, Moor, Arab, Abyssinian, and all the countries round, vouch for it, nearly in the terms of Scripture. Our Savior calls her queen of the south; and she is called, in 1 Kings 10:1, etc., 2 Chronicles 9:1, etc., queen of Sheba or Saba; for Saba, Azab, and Azaba, all signify the south: and she is said to have come from the uttermost parts of the earth. In our Saviour's time the boundaries of the known land, southward, were Raptam or Prassum; which were the uttermost parts of the known earth, and were with great propriety so styled by our Lord. The gold, myrrh, cassia, and frankincense, which she brought with her, are all products of that country. The annals of the Abyssinians state that she was a pagan when she left Saba or Azab, to visit Solomon; and that she was there converted and had a son by Solomon, who succeeded her in the kingdom, as stated above. All the inhabitants of this country, whether Jews or Christians, believe this; and, farther, that the 45th Psalm was a prophecy of her journey to Jerusalem; that she was accompanied by a daughter of Hiram from Tyre; and that the latter part of the Psalm is a prophecy of her having a son by Solomon, and of his ruling over the Gentiles." Travels, vol. ii. page 395, etc. All this being granted, and especially the Scripture fact of the queen of Sheba's visit, and the great probability, supported by uninterrupted tradition, that she established the Jewish religion in her dominions on her return, we may at once see that the eunuch in question was a descendant of those Jews; or that he was a proselyte in his own country to the Jewish faith, and was now come up at the great feast to worship God at Jerusalem. Mr. Bruce may be right; but some think that Saba, in Arabia Felix, is meant: see the note on Matthew 12:42.
on Acts 8 :27
A man of Ethiopia - Gaza was near the confines between Palestine and Egypt. It was in the direct road from Jerusalem to Egypt. "Ethiopia" was one of the great kingdoms of Africa, part of which is now called Abyssinia. It is frequently mentioned in Scripture under the name of "Cush." But "Cush" comprehended a much larger region, including the southern part of Arabia, and even sometimes the countries adjacent to the Tigris and Euphrates. Ethiopia proper lay south of Egypt, on the Nile, and was bounded north by Egypt, that is, by the cataracts near Syene; east by the Red Sea, and perhaps part by the Indian Ocean; south by unknown regions in the interior of Africa; and west by Libya and the deserts. It comprehended the modern kingdoms of Nubia or Sennaar, and Abyssinia. The chief city in it was the ancient Meroe, situated on the island or tract of the same name, between the Nile and Ashtaboras, not far from the modern Shendi Robinson's Calmet).
An eunuch ... - See the notes on Matthew 19:12. Eunuchs were commonly employed in attendance on the females of the harem; but the word is often used to denote "any confidential officer, or counselor of state." It is evidently so used here.
Of great authority - Of high rank; an officer of the court. It is clear from what follows that this man was a Jew. But it is known that Jews were often raised to posts of high honor and distinction in foreign courts, as in the case of Joseph in Egypt, and of Daniel in Babylon.
Under Candace ... - Candace is said to have been the common name of the queens of Ethiopia, as "Pharaoh" was of the sovereigns of Egypt. This is expressly stated by Pliny (Nat. History, 7:29). His words are: "The edifices of the city were few; a woman reigned there of the name of Candace, which name had been transmitted to these queens for many years." Strabo mentions also a queen of Ethiopia of the name of Candace. Speaking of an insurrection against the Romans, he says, "Among these were the officers of queen Candace, who in our days reigned over the Ethiopians." As this could not have been the Candace mentioned here, it is plain that the name was common to these queens - a sort of royal title. She was probably queen of Meroe, an important part of Ethiopia (Bruce's Travels, vol. ii, p. 431; Clarke).
Who had the charge ... - The treasurer was an officer of high trust and responsibility.
And had come ... - This proves that he was a Jew, or at least a Jewish proselyte. It was customary for the Jews in foreign lands, as far as practicable, to attend the great feasts at Jerusalem. He had gone up to attend the Passover, etc. See the notes on Acts 2:5.
on Acts 8 :27
8:27 An eunuch - Chief officers were anciently called eunuchs, though not always literally such; because such used to be chief ministers in the eastern courts. Candace, queen of the Ethiopians - So all the queens of Ethiopia were called.