Open up nearly any English translation of the Bible and you will find numerous references to “Ethiopia.” Many of these references place Ethiopia in a negative light. In the book of the prophet Ezekiel for example, we find a prophetic oracle against Ethiopia, Egypt, Arabia, Libya, and Turkey (Lud):
A sword will come upon Egypt, and anguish will be in Ethiopia; when the slain fall in Egypt, they take away her wealth, And her foundations are torn down. Ethiopia, Put, Lud, all Arabia, Libya and the people of the land that is in league will fall with them by the sword. —Ezekiel 30: 4-5
Later in the infamous Gog of Magog oracle of Ezekiel 38 & 39, Ethiopia is included among the alliance of nations that are prophesied to invade the Nation of Israel:
Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. “I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them splendidly attired, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them wielding swords; Persia, Ethiopia and Put with them, all of them with shield and helmet. —Ezekiel 38:3-5
All of the nations of Ezekiel’s Gog oracle are destroyed. Is Ethiopia thus destined to be decimated by God?
Far from it. The truth is that the modern day nation of Ethiopia is largely unrelated to the Ethiopia mentioned by Ezekiel. The translation of “Cush” as “Ethiopia” is actually quite misleading. Yet as a result of this widely used, but faulty translation, the poor Ethiopian people today, one of the most ancient, noble and largely Christian cultures in the earth, have gotten a seriously bad rap.
How did this confusion come about? The Hebrew word translated as Ethiopia is “Cush.” Cush was the son of Ham, and grandson of Noah. Many of Cush’s descendants settled in the region of southern Egypt, from Aswan to the place where the Nile River meets the Blue and White Nile rivers. The confusion comes from the historical name swap between Ethiopia and Abyssinia. The region that the Bible refers to as Cush became known as Nubia, which the Greeks called Aithiopia. But today this region is southern Egypt and Northern Sudan. On the other hand, the ancient region of Abyssinia was much more southeast. This is where modern Ethiopia is now located. In others words, ancient Abyssinia is modern Ethiopia and ancient Aithiopia is modern day North Sudan.
Because of this confusion, many students of prophecy are awaiting the Christian majority nation of Ethiopia to join with the Islamic alliance described in Ezekiel 38-39. But a correct understanding of the name Cush points us to North Sudan, not Ethiopia.
Modern Day North Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia & surrounding nations. The grey oval around the three Nile rivers represents ancient Cush, which most Bibles translate as “Ethiopia.” The Green nations of Ethiopia and Eritrea were called Abyssinia in ancient times and do not correlate to the Biblical Cush.
But the judgment prophecies of Ezekiel concerning Cush/Ethiopia do not merely point us to the Sudan in general, but specifically North Sudan. From the perspective of Biblical prophecy, this is all very significant. The recent cessation of South Sudan, is a significant development, bringing greater clarity to Ezekiel’s prophecies. The Biblical region of Cush was centered at Meroe where the Nile river meets the White Nile and the Blue Nile roughly 75 miles northeast of the city of Khartoum, the capital city of North Sudan. Today, an ideological and military Islamist alliance is already forming against Israel, which includes the Islamic nation of North Sudan and Libya. These two nations represent the southern branch of Ezekiel’s Gog alliance.
But while North Sudan is well known as an Islamist stronghold, South Sudan has a significant Christian population. And beyond having a large Christian population, like Ethiopia, South Sudan also has a large number of believers whose faith has many distinctly Messianic-Jewish characteristics. Many of these Christian groups trace their roots back to the early Messianic Jewish communities. And many of these Messianic believers are also supporters of the Nation of Israel who would have no part in an invasion of Israel.
While this may seem a bit academic, there are actually a few essential lessons here. First, it is imperative to accurately understand what nations and regions the ancient names in Scripture are pointing us to. In my new book, Mideast Beast: The Scriptural Case For An Islamic Antichrist, I bring the reader up to date with the consensus among modern scholarship concerning many of the ancient names found throughout the prophetic Scriptures, equipping students of the Bible with an accurate understanding of which nations they correlate to today. Beyond this, an accurate understanding of what the prophets are actually saying helps the Church as we seek to join with the LORD’s purposes. Understanding these prophecies will help Christians determine where to allocate their time, resources, energy and money. Where we direct our intercessory prayers and which missionaries and ministries we choose to support should all be influenced by what we believe the LORD is doing today in the earth. It is imperative that the Church aligns its purposes with what the LORD is doing in the earth now.
Today the new nation of South Sudan is deeply in need of prayer, rebuilding and overcoming the effects of war. Beyond this, the ravaging effects of decades of United Nations miseducation has devastated families and actually ruined the faith of tens of thousands. Meanwhile, both South Sudan and Ethiopia are at the front-lines of the radical Islamic agenda to exterminate the ancient African Christian communities. While some students of prophecy today, due to the outdated and misleading translations found in most Bibles, are simply sitting back waiting for Ethiopia and South Sudan to join a forthcoming anti-Zionist, Islamist invasion of Israel, those who know the truth will understand that now is the moment for the global Church to rise up and stand with these beautiful shining gems that are the Christian communities of South Sudan and Ethiopia.