Acts Wednesday: Chapter 8, The Ethiopian Eunuch


It must have been such a rich and glorious time for Philip, experiencing the marvelous work of God among His beloved, seeing Peter’s and John’s amazement and great joy in the work of the Spirit. Now, God drew Philip aside and asked him to start walking down a lonely desert road, to be scattered once again.

In Philip’s day Ethiopia was a much bigger region of North Africa, just south of Egypt, the same area that was once ruled by the Queen of Sheba. Tales of Solomon’s splendor must have been handed down through the ages and now a high official in the current queen’s court had taken a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to see with his own eyes the celebrated temple of Jehovah, covered entirely in gold.  He had probably started out in life as a commoner, but showed a great deal of promise. As he rose in prominence, he was presented with an opportunity to serve in the royal court. However, in order to work in the palace, he had to submit to castration. 

Over the years he attained a position of great wealth and influence, finally to handling the queen’s entire treasury. Imagine his sorrow and regret to discover even though he was an important and honored man in his own country, he was not considered fit to enter the temple of God, because of his mutilated condition. This was not because of some later addition to God’s Law, by the way, as so much of the rule-keeping was in 1st century Judaism. This was not because of the oral law traditions, this came from the written law of God:


No one whose testicles are crushed or whose penis is cut off shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.

Deuteronomy 23:1

Yet, he still hungered for closeness with God.

As the Ethiopian eunuch walked slowly back down the temple steps, his head hung in desponcy, his shoulders slumped with chagrin, perhaps some kind Christian noticed him and spoke a few comforting words from the Prophet Isaiah to him, a prophet often referenced by the apostles. It seems the Ethiopian eunuch actually happened to have acquired a copy of Isaiah’s scroll. Now, as he began his sorrowful return trip to Africa, he read from Isaiah 53, hoping against hope these words were for him, too.

By a serendipity only God can arrange, Philip and the eunuch met, and Philip knew the Spirit was prompting him to run up to the eunuch’s chariot, to hop inside and begin a conversation.

Yet, rather than start in on a practiced spiel of morality or religion, or whip out a pamphlet, or dominate the discussion with some other formula or device, Philip took the Spirit’s lead by meeting the Ethiopian where he was, in his chariot, reading Isaiah. Rather than begin a discourse, or start with his usual (so effective in Samaria) sermon, Philip simply answered the question the Ethiopian asked.

Who is this person being led to slaughter? Who is this one like a lamb?

I picture Philip’s face lighting up, overjoyed with the beautiful opening God had provided him. And, considering the believers’ warm familiarity with the Prophet Isaiah, I like to think Philip was even more delighted to see the scroll in the Ethiopian’s hands. I can almost hear Philip saying, after he had explained about Jesus,

Five hundred years before you would ever read them, God inspired Isaiah to write something especially for you to read, today.

I see Philip gently unrolling the scroll, still in the eunuch’s hands, just a little further down the parchment, just three chapters’ worth of space, a few inches. As I close my eyes and watch with inner vision, I see the eunuch softly reading the words out loud, his eyes filling with tears, and Philip beaming beside him,


Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say,
    “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”;

and do not let the eunuch say,
    “I am just a dry tree.”

For thus says the Lord:

To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
    who choose the things that please me
    and hold fast my covenant,

I will give, in my house and within my walls,
    a monument and a name
    better than sons and daughters;

I will give them an everlasting name
    that shall not be cut off.

Isaiah 56:3-5

Prophetic words written during a time when it was utterly inconceivable for a eunuch to be accepted into the sanctuary of God.

This is a word for you and me today, who have, at one time or another, felt irrevocably condemned by something in our past, knowing with a certitude almost as hard-and-fast as Deuteronomy, that we don’t belong, that we have been permanently scarred or mutilated by something (or someone) unspeakable. Or, we know in our hearts it was us who did the unspeakable thing, and it can never be undone.

God inspired the writing of those words for you and me, too.

Yes, the Ethiopian, because of his castration, would remain ineligible to enter the physical temple in Jerusalem. It’s not as though the eunuch was restored to his pre-castrated self. He was to go back into his life as most honored treasurer to the queen. But God considered him worthy to be a living temple in whom God would put His Own Holy Spirit, as the eunuch put his faith in the risen Jesus. God made the Ethiopian into a new man within himself, the place that lasts forever, a process the Bible calls “regeneration,” or “rebirth.”

Being born again is not just “turning over a new leaf,” it is the beginning of a new life as a radically, supernaturally, renewed person.

The Ethiopian stopped his caravan as soon as he saw some water and asked Philip to baptize him, then “went on his way rejoicing.”

And Philip? He had proven himself ready to follow wherever the Lord pointed, and being especially attuned to the Lord’s voice, just the right person for God’s special missions. God had a new place to scatter Philip,


When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away…

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.

Acts 8:39-40

Ethiopian Eunuch | Uoaei1 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

Published by Joanne Guarnieri Hagemeyer

Bible Teacher and partner with Ancient Voices, Sacred Stories

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: