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Ethnonyms: Words That Describe Race In The Bible


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During the course of my research into Zephaniah, I ran into the name Cushi (Zephaniah’s father). It’s similarity to Cush led me to do some digging into it’s origin, which led me to the term “ethnonym”. Here’s how it’s defined:

an ethnic name ascribed to a people or group; the proper name by which a people or ethnic group is called or known.” – Dictionary.com

The following is a complete list of all of the ethnonyms in the Bible and some of the places you can find them. This page will be updated as new information comes in.

Cush / Cushite – Black

Cush was the son of Ham and father of Nimrod. He is the origin of the Cushites, who are most often associated with Ethiopia and are known for having black skin.

  • Genesis 10:6-8
  • Isaiah 11:11
Other Occurences

There is a Hebrew named Cush and Cushi, the father of Zephaniah. It is very likely that they were named so because of their skin color.

Ethiopia / Ethiopian – Burnt Face

The name Ethiopia means “burnt face”. Whenever we see Ethiopians in the Bible, we know they’re referring to “burnt face” or black people.

  • Genesis 2:13
  • Numbers 12:1
  • Isaiah 18:1

Ham – Warm, Hot, Black

Ham (Cham) is a Hebrew name, but it is also an Egyptian word that means “black”. The meaning of the name and the locations where his descendants settled is why he is easily associated with Africans.

  • Genesis 5:32
  • 1 Chronicles 4:40
  • Psalms 105:23

Kedar – Swarthy

Kedar was Abraham’s grandson through Ishmael. Swarthy is defined as “dark skinned”.

  • Genesis 25:13
  • Song of Solomon 1:5
  • Isaiah 21:17

KMT (Egypt) – Land of the Blacks

While we refer to the country as Egypt / Mizraim (misery / bondage), it was actually known as KMT to the Egyptians. It’s impossible to perpetuate the lie of a white Egypt when the ancient name literally means the exact opposite.

  • Genesis 12:10
  • Numbers 22:11
  • Ezekiel 32:12

Niger – Black Skin

In the book of Acts, Simeon is called Niger, and is listed among the prophets and teachers in Antioch.

  • Acts 13:1

Ruddy – Reddish Brown

Perhaps one of the most misinterpreted words in the Bible. The words “ruddy” and “red” are the same Hebrew word in the Bible. When it comes to animals such as the “red heifer”, people have no problem admitting that it is a brown cow, but when applied to people, they suddenly change the definition to “blushing white” or “sunburned white” without any explanation as to how it went from one extreme to the other.

  • Numbers 19:2
  • 1 Samuel 16:12
  • Lamentations 4:7

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By Black History In The Bible

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  • Did you know that one of the apostles was named Niger, which means "black skin"?
  • Did you know that the apostle Paul was mistaken for an Egyptian?
  • Did you know that the Bible describes Christ's skin color as "burned bronze"?