Now in this piece we will look into a small and rather insignificant piece of Scripture. However, don not be fooled we are going flesh out this seemingly small but very much informative verse. See now, the way they communicated back then in good old ancient times and in The Promised Land, was not like we communicate today. Idioms and figures of speech were very different. Even the telling of time and certainly the given directions, were different. Now that being said, we will as much as we can, glean the contents of this verse from Acts of the Apostles (Acts 8,26):
26 Then an Angel of SoNiNi said to Philip, `Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza." (This is a wilderness road.)
This to us, is a clue. It seems to talk about two things, about time and which direction to walk. Now, lets look at the Greek etymology of the word SOUTH here, because well other more literal English translations of this Greek text, imply that the translation above is not really the correct one. On inspection of the word it may just as well have said: go at noon or go at the high sun, not necessarily go towards the south. (and we know south was Negev in ancient Hebrew). But the Greek word for used in this phrase for south is Mesembrian (μεσημβρίαν), and is translated as Noontime (same word is used in Acts 22,6 and translated as noon or noontime). So it was a direction given of when to walk (around noontime), which would be a more accurate translation then merely go toward the south. So the interesting part is the turn of phrase at noontime, as it was a way of telling people which direction to walk at a certain time of day, so they would not loose their bearings. Remember no compass in those days. No watches, no north showing compasses, and certainly no smartphones. Still, let the fact be that Philip could still be going South from where he was traveling. But then, remember it must fit with other locations, as we only know Gaza more or less. Where was Philip walking from?
Now the reason we are asking this is because Philip seems to be in either the city of Samaria or he walked directly from Jerusalem, and being asked to take the wilderness road towards Gaza (ending up in the Lands of Moab, in Mozambique). Which must be the same road that you could also get to Jerusalem by backtracking, perhaps this quite road was even a shortcut. Now we have pinpointed the area known even today as Gaza, this province is still in Mozambique - and is Philips possible end location. Philistia.
Now lets say he started from Samaria, which at one point served as a capital in the northern Kingdom of Ancient Israel, after that it was captured by the Assyrian Empire, later to become a hub in Babylonian and Persian rule. Now fast forwarding to the Romans, they were said to have expanded the city and fortified under Herod the Great. The city was then renamed Sebastia after emperor Augustus. So if we are to look for remains of Samaria, we must look for Sebastia or ancient Hebrews names. And so far we have had no luck in locating this city on Southern African soil. If we go to our Bibles we find that Samaria, actually spelled Somron (which means watchman), came from the clan of Shemer ruled by King Omri. Now we know from the Bible that there was said to have been a mountainous region also called Samaria, which surrounded the city of Shechem (still in the northern kingdom). Now we have several locations suggested for Shechem, but they do not fit right and one of them would put Samaria famous mountains further towards the coast of South Africa, in the mountainous region of the Eastern Cape. However, that will not work with all these other locations in mind.
If we at least then, can place Gaza somewhat on the map. Can we then get closer to Jerusalem or even Samaria? Lets try read more into this. Now this journey that Philip was commanded by and Angel of SoNiNi, would lead him to at some point intersect the wilderness route that went from Jerusalem to Azzah (Gaza). We can find references to Azzah in Deuteronomy 2,23:
"As for the Avvim, who had lived in settlements in the vicinity of Gaza, the Caphtorim, who came from Caphtor, destroyed and settled in their place."
And in Kings, we can find a juicy quote in terms of directions (1 Kings 4,24):
"For he had dominion over all the region west of the Euphrates from Tiphsah to Gaza, over all the kings west of the Euphrates, and he had peace on all sides."
So if the Zambezi is the Euphrates, its very easy to find these lands to the west. And the HE in this quote is of course Solomon and how he had peace from Euphrates and down towards the coast. We reckon, and that is allot of landmass, as the map will show on the right.
We can find this name of Azzah being mentioned on the same level as Damascus in ancient times, which would have been somewhere in either Namibia or Angola, or futher up the West African coast. This city of Gaza was the southernmost and a so-called border-city of the Canaanites. Now lets get into the verse and see how this journey, actually a journey of several men, Peter and John in Samaria. And then Philip, who was commanded to take a quicker route across the country into this main road from Jerusalem to Gaza. Lets look at the phrase, this is a wilderness road (from the first quote in Acts) some Bibles render it it s desert, or which is desert. Written in its own sentence. Meaning, there was bound to be some deserted areas about. But who is making the remark in Acts 8,26. Is it the Angel speaking? Or is it added by the writer to emphasises the direction of which to head?
Because to us it seems, that all these extra explanations, are just more points given to use, that they must use another road then one usually everyone would use. As one called Jerusalem through Ramleh and then to Gaza, this Road was said to lead through Hebron AND then through the southern Negev (Kalahari area). Now Philip was most likely sent on this less travelled road to intercept the Ethiopian, who the Angels and SoNiNi knew, would be more than capable of spreading the Gospel in his home country. Presumably still on the continent of Africa, but further away perhaps even in modern day Ethiopian. Perhaps this man was the inspiration that spread the word and built the rock hewn churches of Lalibela. Could just be. But thats another topic, as far as who Queen of Candace was. We do have theories. There is another case of tying in Assyria (aka Samaritans, that also moved to the Promised Land after they invaded), but we wont have time to go into the Good Samaritans here.
Nevertheless the Philip did go on this less promising route from Jerusalem to Gaza, and did so without going himself into Jerusalem itself. If he did, we think it would say so in the text. Lets read the rest of the full text (Acts 8, 27-40):
27 So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32 Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth.33 In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.”
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Christ. 36 As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptised?” 38 He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptised him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of SoNiNi snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw hi m no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
There is allot to go through here. So lets get going. Philip saw the stranger, a full blooded Gentile we would say but still very much African, a courtier from a big and important house in a country far enough away. The Ethiopian had been drawn to The Promised land and SoNiNi, likely at the request of his King or Queen. He was traveling on the quiet road going from Jerusalem (important), this road would eventually lead you to Egypt. Now ask yourself this, did the Angel instruct Philip when and where to go? We would say of course. So the mysterious message that was given and obeyed in full by the convert Philip - a seemingly aimless desert wandering turned out because he was supposed to meet this high ranked official. Philips mission was now clear.
Now we cannot stress the fact that this is how things work, in real life. When we travel the country and talk to people these days, there are always delays and then the people you meet along the road. And we Make sure to give them something of what we know... Just think what if Philip had stayed quiet? Or asked the Angel why cant I just take the main road to Jerusalem? Divine Delay we call it, or rather just on time. The delay is perceived by us as mere human beings, but what we tend not to understand is that the delay is right on time for The Old One. So if you get delay dont sweat it, you just might meet someone like Philip on the road. Or you might be Philip, meeting an important person.
So then two strangers, on the same road, that presumably started some ways apart, thrown together at the right time. And just as Philip sees the man he is reading Isaiah, a book that talks about the coming of Christ ALLOT. But he even sounds defeated, the Ethiopian man (presumably castrated as the text says Eunuch) when he cannot wrap his head around what he is reading. Philip, was there able to explain as he join in his carriage. The Ethiopian was reading out aloud, which was normal to do back then actually. You see the concept of reading inside your own head is actually a very recent thing, just check early antiquity. The first recorded European that read inside himself was considered remarkable. If we have our sources correct St. Augustine was one of the first reported men in history who read silent. This is a side-note, but the reading out loud was very normal even for frequent and educated people. People have commented that this would make the Ethiopian to seem unlearned, we think not at all. The reading out loud from Isaiah, which must have seemed like a gift for a newly converted believer of Christ, who's story is outlined in Isaiah in great detail. The Ethiopian almost says: my friend Im lost here, a little help? Still its Philip who asks, do you understand what you are reading?
Now the scene has been set, a stranger on the desert road with all the time in the world to explain the Gospel to a soul clearly set on the path. The Bond between them becomes stronger as they travel on the quiet desert road, even thought hey just meet five minutes ago. No doubt allot was said, and instructions were given as they after a certain time came to water, which may have been but a few hours on the road. And then the eunuch was baptised. The rest you can read about yourself, its a wonderful story about how easy conversion can be if the soil is good and the heart is ready.
Now on our maps you can see that Jerusalem could have been in the vicinity of what is today called Northern Cape, but also in Namibia. However there are places in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Lesotho, Eswatini and southern Mozambique, that resonate very much with ancient locations and Biblical place names. Rest assured we do have some very good candidates among these, but not quite ready to reveal the full story, as we are sure people will (might) flock to these areas. Perhaps that might bug out the people already living there, so lets make sure we know the right location before giving it away. But just remember, Jerusalem was surrounded by mountains, with gates on all sides.
So lets get into these mappings, Philip went south of Samaria. Now if Ancient Israel was south of Samaria, with Zambezi in the north as its border, then went down both sides (East and West) along southern coast of Southern Africa, Samaria would have been north in the vicinity of Assyria and part of the ancient lands in between (Monomapata), that we believe would be Angola and Botswana area today. We know that Philip was working in Samaria, to the South of Samaria it even says. Now he was going to Azzah (Gaza) the Philistine city, given to Joshua to Juda (Joshua 15,47 and in Samuel 6,17). This place was near Askelon which was said to be not to far from Jerusalem.
So what do these ancient writers say about all this, well Greek sources like Strabo mentions Gaza as a desert, and another Diodorus Siculus talked about old Gaza, meaning here would have been an old settlement and a new settlement. Which coincides with Zephaniah who said that Gaza along with other Philistine towns would be forsaken (Zefania 2,4):
"For Gaza shall be deserted, and Ashkelon shall become a desolation; Ashdod`s people shall be driven out at noon, and Ekron shall be uprooted."
Now for those who want to read about most of these events of War in The Promised Land AFTER Christ was there, this is the fall of Jerusalem. Go ahead and read Josephus Antiquities Book 11 and Chapter 8, here the calamities are recorded among which how Jerusalem fell. Just move all the places Josephus mention to southern Africa, and then go ahead lots of material to sift through.
Back to the Road now, and this road did have Mount Hebron in its path. The location were all the Patriarchs lie buried. Now looking at our earlier map, you can see that the River Jordan is in that mix and such a central landmark that would not this Road have crossed the River at some point? Either way the text does not say. It talks about Jerusalem as a place everyone knew were was. So if you look at the line there we have draw, Jerusalema is more then likely somewhere along that line, hidden among mountains.
Now there are other places in Scripture as also being described as being to the South and parts of Gaza, Lydda, Jamnia and Joppa did also come under the same descriptions of being to the South. Now this area is said to have fallen to the Tribe of Juda, but was not held by the People of Juda for long. There were giants there remember, hard guys to take down. Now Gaza was formerly the border of Egypt (now this is the reasons why we draw Egypts ancient old borders much further down in Africa). Now if the Road also went through Bethlehem, we are getting much closer to the actual location of Jerusalem. Perhaps the road the Vespasian used when he took Jerusalem captive, going through Bethlehem and Ephrata, to Gaza and Alexandria, Josephus says a whole lot of captives was led to Rome on this very road. Further more, Josephus says in Galilee alone there were 240 towns spread across upper and lower Galilee, he names several of them.
Not only is Josephus a decent ancient geographical source, but he also writes about the customs (still being followed by abantu today), like having a linen curtain at your house entrance, and the Sabbath day meal to be had at the sixth hour (noon), he talks about polygamy among the Hebrews, and so much more on Maccabees, many details on King Herod (the Great as he was called). Then you have detailed descriptions of Sadducees, Pharisees and Essenes, Herods Temple, Siege of Masada, Pontius Pilate, Agrippa The Second, James brother of CHRIST ! and of course, Immanuel. Josephus mentions them all. Can be he trusted? Well, to some degree, but let us say the locations wise we think he is trustworthy as we were still on the continent and have not moved to the Levant yet. Josephus was is simply describing all the towns and customs of the southern African interior, to the best of his ability and that is why his works survived.
Now, before we got even more off track, there are some writers that say Bethlehem and Jerusalem, actually called Aella (Aelia) by the Romans, was but six miles from one another. That makes the Area in and around Lesotho, Free State and KwaZulu Natal - as highly interesting and a likely place, especially close to the Free State were we still find Bethlehem on the map today. Now Hebron would not be to far away neither. And the way to Gaza was through Hebron, Gates of Gaza and All (Judges 16,1). Some names here to go after is Bethzur and Bethhoron, which is after reports where the Ethiopian Eunuch was baptised by Philip, by the River Eleutherus. There are also talks of another road, through Diospolis (Eleutheropolis) to Ascalon and then to Gaza.
Now Arrian of Nicomedia, who wrote most of what we know about Alexander the Great (another black African man), had this to say about Gaza:
"Gaza is distant from the sea at least twenty furlongs, and the access unto it is sandy and deep, and the sea near the city is all muddy. Gaza was a great city, and was built on high ground, and encompassed with a strong wall: it was the last of those cities inhabited, as you go from Phoenicia into Egypt, "at the beginning of the desert".''