The story of the ten lost tribes of Israel is legendary among Bible scholars. Their whereabouts and identity is so shrouded in mystery that every major human race has claimed descent from these tribes. In continuation on my series on the identity of the lost tribes of Israel as primarily members of the negroid race, I focus on a specific African tribe. With the aid of historical accounts and ancient maps, I present my findings on the Yoruba tribe. In this article, I show that the Yoruba both fit the Biblical description and still maintain the Hebraic customs of the ten tribes. From their circumcision, marriage, childbirth, twinning, naming and traditional religious customs to the lisping among the Ibadan subgroup. The character of this tribe is in agreement with ancient maps that identify them as comprising primarily the Hebrew tribe of Ephraim.
The Hebrew Israelites origins of the African slaves shipped to the new world is a disputed topic. West Africa, the largest contributor to the slave population is a region with extensive political, ethnic and religious diversity. It is a region almost the size of continental USA that sits just above the equator. Several countries call this region home, and among these,Nigeria the most populous African country plays a very vital role. Nigeria itself consists of about 250 ethnic groups among which the Hausa/Fulani, the Igbo and the Yoruba form the three largest groups.Interestingly, these three tribes trace their ancestry to migrations from the East.
Some segments of the Hausa population track their ancestral migrations from the Yemeni Area while the Igbo (Ibo) claim ancestry from Eri, the son of Gad and grandson of Jacob also known as Israel. It is the Yoruba however that I will like to draw your attention to today. The Ooni of Ife; one of the two principal monarchs of the Yoruba has claimed ancestral background from the Middle East. Indeed the Yoruba people have long claimed migration from the Middle East through Egypt and Morocco. Several historians have searched for evidence to back this claim with some confirming it based on history and cultural practices.
I decided to take a closer look at this issue, and compare the Yoruba with the ancient Israelites using the Bible as a cross-reference. Time and space will not allow for an elaborate description of my findings, but I will briefly explain them below and ask the readers to make their own individual assessments on what I present in this article. I will point out that no single feature of the Yoruba people presented here is definitive proof of their Hebrew Israelite ancestry. Together however, the features enumerated below make a compelling case in support of their Hebrew origins. I have divided these into three parts i) Historical, ii) culture and iii) religious and other features.
The Yoruba people were given their name about two centuries ago. The only evidence of their identity prior to then is found in Hausa historian accounts. The Hausas used to call them Yarriba reportedly meaning ‘the Father’s name is among the people of the forest’.
There is an oral tradition that tells of the Bnai Ephraim who came from Morocco after the Jews were banished from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492. After the defeat of the Moors in Granada by Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand of Aragon, the Jews lost the peaceful coexistence in Spain that they had received under Moorish rule. The Catholics were not as tolerant to religious freedom so the Jews came streaming into Africa in large numbers. Between 1492 and 1692, some of these refugees settled in the environs of Lagos and Porto Novo with a large number being integrated into various tribes in the region.
These Iberian Jews who are believed to be descendants of the Jews that fled before the Romans in 70AD were thought to be joining ancient Hebrews that had been living in Nigeria and other African countries for several millennia (possibly descended from the Hebrew Israelites who left Assyria about 722 BC, see figure below and here).
Figure taken from Origin of the Yoruba and Lost Tribes of Israel by Dierk Lange
The story of these ancient Hebrew Israelites living in the Ghana, Mali and Songhai empires of Africa has been documented (see suggested readings at the end of this series). The Islamic Jihad from North Africa further pushed these Jewish empires south on the continent eventually settling in areas extending from Senegal to present day Central African Republic. As their territories moved and the empire fell, the Jewish tribes integrated many of the local tribes into their numbers. They consequently became a mixed multitude composed of many autonomous sub groups and dialects ruled by numerous princes and kings.
The Yorubas are a dark skinned wooly haired race of people living around the region that used to be called Dahomey and Blight of Benin during the slave trade. After the Transatlantic slave trade, many returnee slaves were also relocated to the marshlands of Lagos where they are believed to have constituted upto 10% of the local population. Though now a part of the confederate entity called Nigeria, they had two rival kingdoms, the Oyo and Ife Kingdoms.
During the transatlantic slave trade, countless slave ships transported millions of Africans from the west coast of Africa between 1441-1840. The overwhelming majority of these slaves were Yorubas and Igbos. Many of the slaves were kidnapped directly by the Portuguese or captured during inter-village wars. Capture was made much easier due to the loose autonomous nature of the villages and kingdoms. This autonomy is still slightly in place within the Yoruba people and is evident in the system of princes and kings that still exist in the many towns till this day.
Undoubtedly, we have all at some time heard stories or made jokes about Nigerian princes and probably asked every Nigerian we came across if they were Princes. It is interesting to know that the ancient Israelites were first known to have twelve, then countless Princes as well, especially during the days of Solomon and his many wives and innumerable concubines (Numbers 1:44, Judges 5:3, Judges 5:15 and 1 Kings 11:3). At one point, the Israelite princes were 232 in number (1 Kings 20:15).
It is important to know that the concept of Princes among the Yorubas is not the same as it is in Europe. Princes and the crown are not the exclusive right of one family, the princes are stewards that mediate in disputes and are given the responsibility of developing the town. Therefore every town and district had its own princes/king.
When the king dies, his son does not become king in his stead, rather the crown goes to another family who selects one of its members that will serve for the duration of his lifetime. In 1 kings 9:22, the Bible lists Solomon’s princes along with servants, captains and rulers of his chariots. They were not his sons, but men chosen from the various tribes for the purpose of serving the people; just like the Yoruba princes. The King’s son does not rule after him because the Royal linage among the Yoruba is not simply a ruler’s position, but he is also the Chief Priest of the Supreme God. While we are on the topic of Priests, it is worthwhile to note that in Ife (the cradle of the Yoruba civilization), there is a priestly clan known as Araba that has had an unbroken lineage of Priests for centuries.
Pre-20th century maps
Early maps that predate the formation of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in 1879 reveal a lot about the region now known as West Africa. I have posted a few of these during my previous series on the not-so-lost-tribes-of-Israel. These maps show a very large presence of Hebrews and Jews all over Africa and a specific Kingdom of Juda on the West African coast. Other maps show Bnai Ephraim (sons of Ephraim) resident where the Yoruba people are presently located and Levite cities in what is today’s Northern Nigeria (see below).
These maps were probably used by slave traders to source for slaves to be shipped to Europe and the New World between the 15th and 19th centuries. The presence of these maps is a testament to the fact that western powers obviously thought that the Hebrews and Jews were living in large numbers in the West African region. Even the 1st century Roman-Jewish historian Josephus believed the ten tribes were living at an undisclosed location in very large numbers. He did not say where, but the Romans did acknowledge that the Jews like the Egyptians were a dark skinned people (see my post on caucasian Hebrews), so it could not have taken them very long to find the tribe’s new home.
The fact that these maps existed indicates that the so-called lost Hebrew tribes had been found long before the transatlantic slave trade began, and the Yorubas were living right at the center their territory.
The main reason the 10 tribes left Assyria and refused to return to the land of Israel circa 722 BC is because they wanted to be left in peace to follow their law and their culture. Among these, circumcision is at the very core of Hebrew-ism, predating even the Law of Moses.
Circumcision is the only symbol of the covenant between Abraham and Elohim, it is so important and central to this covenant that God sought to kill Moses when he listened to his wife and did not circumcise his sons (Exodus 4:24-26). Abraham had both his sons Ishmael and Isaac circumcised and both bloodlines have kept the practice throughout their generations. History has also shown that circumcision was often used to identify Jews during their many conflicts with the heathen nations. I think it is therefore logical to expect that the Hebrews would still practice circumcision to this day.
Studies have shown that the Yoruba tribe has a prevalence of nearly 90% male circumcision though Islam only accounts for about a quarter of their population. More interesting however is that this male circumcision is done on the 8th day of birth just like the Israelites.
Unlike in the western world, the Yorubas do not do teen or adult circumcision for the purpose of preventing sexually transmitted diseases. Circumcision is so entrenched in the Yoruba system that they have proverbs and adages regarding it. One of the more popular ones is ‘won ko ra won sita bi omo ijo mejo’ meaning they were exposed like an eight-day old baby. This is an adage used to express that someone’s secret has been laid bare for all to see. Yoruba people also believe that a woman should never have sex with a man who is not circumcised.
Below is a map showing the global prevalence of circumcision (red areas have a prevalence greater than 80%).
The Yoruba have an interesting way of naming their children. Naming of a newborn is a very serious business that involves a ceremony of its own. It is believed that a person will live out the meaning of their lives (Genesis 27:35-36). A parent doesn’t just choose a fancy name or follow a prevailing fashion.
Every child is named based on the circumstances around their birth, or a prophecy concerning their life. The naming is done on the 8th day, on the morning of the circumcision if the child is a boy. You can hear a Yoruba name and immediately understand the circumstance surrounding the person’s life.
For example, a person named Taiwo/Taiyewo signifies that he/she was the first twin while Tokunbo means the child was born abroad in a foreign country. Babatunde means the child was born after the recent death of a father/grandfather and Iyabode means mother has returned implying that the grandmother died just before the baby girl was born (see Genesis 4:25).
Then there are the more God focused names like Oluwaseyi (God did this), Oluwaseun (thank God), Modupe (I give thanks/praise), Oluwasemilore (God has done me a favour), Oluwashindara (God still performs miracles) and Olushanu (God has had mercy). Abisoye (born on the throne) suggests that the child was born when a member of his family was crowned king and Kashimawo (Let us continue to watch him) implies that the child might be in a fragile condition or the family previously experienced infant mortality.
Victory in a war may lead to a male child being named Adeleke (brought victory) and being born on Sunday might give a girl the name Abosede (came at the beginning of the week). This last name incidentally suggests that the Yorubas knew that Sunday was the first day, and not the Sabbath day. The list is endless and totally new names show up every now and then. Whatever the name is, there is always a story attached to it.
But what is the relevance of this to the Hebrews? Well, serious students of the Bible will quickly realize that names in the Bible are never coincidence, they always tell us the story of the individuals and their birth or life. For example Peleg meaning earthquake (Genesis 10:25) makes us to understand that there was an earthquake on the earth when he was born. Even the patriarch was called Noah meaning rest (Genesis 5:29) because the people had been burdened with toiling for food and believed that God had brought better days when he was born.
Moses (drawing out) was so named because he was drawn out of the water (Exodus 2:10). In Hosea 1:6, God told the prophet to call his daughter Lo–ruhamah (not pitied) because God would no longer have mercy on the house of Israel, but would send them into captivity. Genesis 9 talks about the descendants of Noah and the prophesies that where proclaimed on them. Shem (name) will be the one to bear the name of the Most High; Japheth (expansion) is the one who would seize the lands of his brothers and Ham (black) was the darkest of them all. Other examples can be seen in Isaiah 8:3-4 (Maher–shalal–hash–baz) and Matthew 1:21 (Yehoshua/Jesus).
This is the exact naming style of the Yorubas. They never name their children after inanimate objects and will therefore never be called names like Stone, Wood, Forest, Snow or North. You will certainly never find a Mr. Fry or a Mrs. Tickletoes among them.
Yoruba names for their children are not the only striking things with names among the people. Some of the cities have some fascinating features to them, for example Ishaga (Issachar?), Iju (jew? from Judah?) Iba-dan, (campsite of Dan?). In Lagos, there is a locality called Yaba (Father) and another called Apatira (Apa = ward or district and Tirah = Torah) that some have called a settlement of those of the Jewish faith. Is it a coincidence that these and other cities are named after the Hebrew tribes? I’ll let you decide on it yourselves.
Marriage, Dowry and Bride Price
In the olden days, it is the parents who secured a wife for their son and their search could start as early as when he is just a boy. Today, people still declare interest in new born girls, and jokingly plead with her parents to give her to their toddler son as a future bride. In modern times however, the couple will normally have known each other and their parents only mediate the legal ceremony. Notwithstanding, there is a lot of investigation done especially by the brides family because the Yoruba until recently would not marry people from certain tribes and countries. A family history and background is therefore always explored. Marriage between blood relatives is absolutely forbidden.
There is an interesting system of traditional espousal that involves the payment of a dowry to the bride’s family. This dowry is often in the form of money and goods. This dowry can be returned to the groom if the bride is found to be ’faulty’ either because she was not a virgin, or worse still if she was already pregnant by another man.This however rarely happens today, as premarital sex is very common among adults or unwed couples.
The entire traditional ceremony takes place at the bride’s family residence. There is usually an introduction where the groom’s family state their business and if the bride’s family agree, a betrothal (idana) date is set. A groom never goes directly to ask the brides parents for her hand in marriage; his family does that for him.
At the idana, the bride’s family is seated and await the arrival of the groom’s family. Sometimes they are late, a phenomenon called African time. The bride and her maidens wait at a separate location and only enter the venue after the groom gets there. When the groom arrives, the maidens all go out to meet him and usher him into the venue (Matthew 25) but the bride along with her chief maids remain where she is.
The groom’s family then reads an official proposal and the bride’s family reads out an acceptance and a contract is signed after the bride and groom agree to the espousal and the dowry is accepted. From this moment, the espousal is considered a done deal and consummation of the marriage can come after.This entire process is a known Hebrew tradition as seen in Samson (Judges 14:1-4), Isaac (Genesis 24:2-67) and Er (Genesis 38:6).Modern day weddings however are now followed by a Christian, Muslim or civil wedding ceremony depending on the faith (or lack thereof) of the bride’s family.
Following the idana, the bride, along with her friends now go to the groom’s house for the marriage consummation. Before she enters the groom’s house, she is prayed for and her feet are washed. The washing is to purify her from any uncleanness or bad luck that she might be bringing with her (John 2:6). She is then given an igba (calabash), which she breaks and the number of pieces it breaks into signifies the number of children she will have. The tradition indicates that the guests stay outside the door straining their ears for the woman’s cry of pain as the marriage is consummated. Immediately after, the groom comes out with the sheet and shows the blood on it to indicate that the bride was a virgin and the marriage is acceptable (Deuteronomy 22:17-21).
All these traditions share unmistakable identities with the biblical Hebraic practices. If the bride was not a virgin, the groom would send a symbolic half keg of palm wine to his father-in-law then papers could be drawn out to dissolve the marriage. Numerous proverbs and jokes exist around this part of the ceremony including the use of razor blades by the groom to cut the bride to get blood on the sheets and avoid the shame of being known as the groom who got ‘duped’.
In preparation for marriage, a girl accumulates property and goods throughout her early adult life. She is expected to take these with her to her husband’s home as a bride price after the marriage ceremony. These are usually Jewellery, household goods and money that she sets aside for her future homebuilding. This also was a Hebrew Israelite practice.
Purification after Childbirth
It is customary for a new mother to be absent from worship for 40 days after childbirth. If the child is a boy, she takes him for the circumcision on the 8th day and returns home to continue her purification. 40 days after delivery, she comes into the house of God for her thanksgiving and presents her baby (boy or girl) before the congregation. This is akin to an old Israelite tradition as seen in Leviticus 12.
There are historical accounts that indicate that a Yoruba man would marry his diseased brothers wife (Deuteronomy 25:5), but having children with her was optional. In ancient Israel however, the firstborn from such a union would bear the deceased brothers name (Deuteronomy 25:6). There is no evidence that such practices are still in existence among the Yoruba today.
Polygamy is quite common and having multiple wives at the same time is neither criminal nor frowned upon till this day. The system predates the arrival of Islam in the country and is practiced among Christians, Muslims as well as practitioners of traditional African religion.
We can see this polygamous system all through the Bible among the Hebrews, the most remarkable being the patriarch Jacob (Israel) himself who married Leah, Rachel, Bilhah and Zilpah (Genesis 30:2 and 9). It is implied also in the life of Ruth the Moabitess (Ruth 4). See also Gideon (Judges 8:30).
Regardless of the number of wives a man has, the first wife is considered the wife of his youth (Proverbs 5:18) and her children get the greater inheritance. We see this in the blessing of Judah (Genesis 49:9-10), as the son of Jacob’s first wife Leah and in the fact that Leah was buried at Machpelah while Rachel, Bilhah or Zilpah were not (Genesis 49:31). We also see this with Abraham just before he died (Genesis 25:1-6).
Keturah was not buried in Machpelah, Sarah was and her children were given lots of gifts, but Isaac got the blessings of the inheritance. Even the Yoruba kings have a special place for their first wife; she is called Olori (meaning leader or Queen). The western system of monogamy is a much more recent practice that has gained popularity due to increased poverty resulting from capitalism and globalization.
Twinning and Twin Culture
The Yoruba have the highest incidence of fraternal twinning pregnancy in the world. In fact, Igbo-Ora, a Yoruba city is dubbed the land of twins and a BBC review article once named it a place where you see double. Twining is so common that a naming system has developed around it and it is not uncommon to have a nuclear Yoruba family unit with 2-3 twin sets.
Several researchers have attempted to discover the cause of the high incidence with some concluding that it is as a result of the cassava that they eat. I emphatically disagree with that conclusion on the basis that Cassava is a predominant staple food in the whole of West Africa.
None of the hundreds of other tribes that consume cassava in the region have twinning rates that even come close to the Yoruba’s. Furthermore, Cassava was brought to the region by returning slaves from Brazil and that country has a much lower twinning rate. Finally, lots of Yoruba people still have twins even though they were neither born in nor live in Nigeria for significant portions of their lives. This presumably would rule out dietary factors as a cause since access to the local Yoruba diet is very restricted in most Foreign countries.
There is nothing that the Yoruba eat that other Africans do not; their food source is the same as the other tribes in the country, so I am leaning towards a genetic factor.
Twinning in the Bible
I believe this twining rate among the Yoruba is significant because the Bible makes it clear that one of the blessings of Ephraim is his fertility. In Genesis 41:52, we see the origin of the name Ephraim ‘because God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction’.
According to the Book of Jubilees it is clear that he was the younger twin brother of Manasseh. This would explain the confusion when Israel was blessing the boys in Genesis 48:13-19. Joseph tried to guide them to their grandfather but Israel crossed his hands, and the blessings of the firstborn went to the younger twin, just like it had to Israel as the younger twin of Esau. Ephraim received the blessing to become a multitude of nations. In this previous post, I showed 18th century maps that place Bnai Ephraim right were the Yoruba live today.
Ephraim’s Double Fruit
Amazingly, the name Ephraim according to Strong’s dictionary means double fruit. Is it possible that this was God’s way of marking the seed of Ephraim; double fruit (twinning). Twinning was actually not uncommon among the patriarchs. The Bible often implies it, but a number of extra-canonical books state it clearly. For instance the book of Jubilees names a number of the patriarchs/matriarchs who were twins. These include Abel, Cain, Seth, Leah, Rachel, Esau, Jacob, Manasseh, Ephraim, Pharez and Zarah (Genesis 38).
The First is Last
However, the more interesting thing about twinning among the Yoruba is the cultural practice about inheritance. Among the Yoruba, the second twin gets the blessings of the firstborn just like Jacob and Ephraim did. According to the culture, the first twin to emerge is actually the younger that was sent to test the world by the elder. When the first has come out, then the elder will consider it safe to come out after. This is the origin of the names Taiyewo (tasted the world) and Kehinde (latecomer) given to the first and second twin respectively. We can see this in the story of Zarah who first sticks his hand out making him the elder, but then Pharez emerges first being the younger before his brother finally arrives (Genesis 38:27-30.
One Supreme God
Contrary to what many people assume, the Yoruba people do not believe or practice Polytheism. Traditionally, the Yorubas believe in one supreme God existing in three persons — Olodumare, Olofin and Olorun.
The Yoruba Trinity
Olodumare (also known as Oluwa) is the Father and creator of the universe. Olorun (owner of Orun) is the owner of heaven (Orun) and visible through the life giving warmth of the sun. He is pure energy and it was an explosion of this energy that brought the universe into existence and filled it with a mystical energy called Ashe. Olofin is the one who communicates through the Orishas to direct man in his ways. These three aspects of the one Supreme God are akin to the Trinity in the Christian Godhead — Olodumare (the Father), Olorun (the Word) through whom the world was made, and Olofin (the Holy Ghost) who teaches all things.
Manifestations of the Yoruba God
The people often address themselves as omoluabi or omo Oluwa bi (children begotten of God). It is believed that this God though existing as a three membered unit, is manifested through multiple forms that are referred to as Orishas. These are the manifestations of the attributes of the Yoruba Supreme God and include Ogun, Shango, Oshun and Obatala among many others. In fact, the Bible describes God by different attributes and by his revelation to men. He is the God of love (Oshun?), Man of War (Ogun?), Father of Lights (Shango?), and Prince of peace (Obatala?). These Orishas watch humans and notes their activities through Olofin. Each Orisha has dedicated priests who mediates for and routinely conducts animal sacrifices on behalf of the people.
Undoubtedly, from a Christian point of view, there are elements of idolatry entrenched in this system of sacrifices and the erecting of shrines to the Orishas. It is worth noting however that this forms of religious practice was prominent in ancient Israel and Judah with and without the shrines. We see an example in Judges 8:22-27 where Gideon makes an Ephod and dedicates a shrine to it in his house. Whilst I cannot state with full confidence that the Yoruba Supreme God is the same as the ancient Israelite God, I am aware that the only people in the ancient world who believed in one Supreme God where the Hebrews. In the absence of any records of the Yoruba having changed their God, one might be inclined to conclude that the Yoruba’s Father of creation is the same God of the Hebrews. The question then is this, is it possible that the Yoruba African sacrifices that we ridicule are remnants of ancient Judaism from the days of the priestly sacrifices? They certainly share some resemblance, and the heathen did consider the Jewish form of worship foolish even back then.
Casting lots and the Ephod
The Orisha priests and Babalawo are also known to consult the Ifa Odu, a system of divination that researchers claim to have some resemblance to the Hebrew use of the Ephod. It comes with an ibo, which is an instrument for casting lots. I have to admit, Ifa Odu does sound somewhat like Ephod. Both adopt a binary approach to divination. Several scholars have even gone as far as showing links between the Israelite Urim and the Yoruba Orunmila. I will leave such complicated topics for the historians and theologians to sort out.
Prostrating before the Elders
The founding patriarch of the Yorubas is called Oduduwa and together with his 16 sons founded the various kingdoms including Oyo, Ife and Benin. The Yorubas practice absolute respect for family patriarchs and the elderly. They have a unique form of greeting that entails prostrating before the elders and rulers. It is interesting that the book of Jubilees notes that Judah prostrated before his grandfather Isaac when he is introduced by Israel (Jubilees 31:28).
The blessings of the elderly and especially of dying patriarchs/matriarchs are greatly coveted among the young. We see this also in the Biblical account of the Hebrews and especially the story of Esau after Jacob had taken the blessing of the firstborn (Genesis 27:4 and Genesis 27:30-40). We see it also in the last blessings of Jacob in Genesis 49:1-33 and Joseph in Genesis 50:24-26. Yoruba men and women strive to be at the side of their dying parents to receive the last blessings just like the ancient Hebrews of the Bible.
Burial Place of the Queen of Sheba
There is a site called Sungbo Eredo close to Ijebu Ode in the Southwestern region of Nigeria that the Yoruba for a very long time have claimed to be the burial place of queen Bilikis Sungbo. Archaeological evidence points to this site as the final resting place of the Biblical queen of Sheba. This site is the largest single precolonial monument in Africa reportedly requiring more earth to be moved in its construction than the great pyramid of Giza.
Pilgrims at Eredo
The grave tagged ‘Her Royal Majesty Queen Sheba Pure Holy and Caring’ attracts pilgrims from the Christian, Muslim and African traditional religions. The link to her identity comes from the Islamic Quran that refers to the Biblical queen of Sheba as Bilqis; which subsequently led to the identification of Bilikis as the queen of Sheba. How is this related to our discussions on the Hebrews? Well, the Bible indicates that the queen of Sheba met with King Solomon and later returned to Ethiopia.
From Ethiopia to West Africa
It is widely believed that she was a factor in Introducing Judaism to Ethiopia. Bilikis according to the Eredo locals died childless and local legends claim she came from Ethiopia in her old age. This would agree with the Biblical account that she went back to Ethiopia after departing Jerusalem. Perhaps you are wondering, why is this even relevant? If the Biblical Queen of Sheba is indeed traceable this far into West Africa that far back in history, then it should not be considered improbable that Hebrew Israelites can be tracked into the same area now. The Hebrew Israelites were known to return to regions where they previously found safety in times of trouble. It is also interesting to note that there is no archeological evidence to support the burial of the Queen of Sheba in what is today’s Ethiopia.
Canaanite practices are an abomination
Among the Yorubas, homosexuality, bestiality, incest or necromancy are strictly forbidden, they are abominations that would likely get you killed for practicing them. These practices were unheard of until now following the use of the Internet and people willing to try these new ‘ideas’. Even abortion is still unlawful, though it is often done illegally. Pornography has slowly been seeping into Yoruba societal life though along with prostitution, it still carries a great element of shame associated with its practice. These acts are not indigenous to the population, but are primarily the imported culture from increased Westernization.
A peculiar practice found among the Israelites was the public execution of criminals caught in the act. This execution was mostly carried out in the form of stoning. Adultery, theft and murder were crimes that were judged in this fashion. Among the Yoruba, death for adultery is no longer the penalty, but public shaming and beating of the ‘other woman’ by the cheated partner (and her friends) are allowed and do go unpunished. The Yoruba and indeed the whole of Nigeria currently practice a barbaric act that is referred to as necklacing. A thief or armed robber caught in the market place would be beaten and a rubber tire placed around his/her neck like a necklace. The person would then be soaked in petrol and set ablaze. The perpetrators of this form of execution usually went unpunished until recently. Now under pressure from western powers, the Nigerian government is beginning to prosecute such acts.
White garment (aladura) Churches
This is a phenomenon that originated among the Yoruba, and has since spread to other parts of the world. The priests in these churches can practice a hybrid between Old Testament prophets and New Testament ministers. Their prophetic ministration comes with the good old street proclamations/lamentations against the city and its leadership (Jeremiah 11:6). It is not uncommon to be woken up at dawn by ringing bells and the voice of a prophet standing on the roof of a house calling for the people to repent and to return to God. These priests are often dressed in an all white free flowing dress with a head covering and sometimes with a breastplate to match not unlike Aaron’s priestly attire. They take off their shoes before entering the temple/church, burn incense during worship and offer meal offerings.
These prophets also referred to as woli (seer) often minister to the people individually and very commonly ask the people to go for a special wash in a flowing river nearby (2 Kings 5:9-14) or even a special ceremony with an animal sacrifice involved. They do however call on the name of Jesus and minister with water and oil. These sometimes have trainees/disciples whom people often call their sons (sons of the prophets?). They are divided into Pentecostal and Spiritualist groups. Christ Apostolic church, The Redeemed Christian Church of God and Deeper life Bible Church all started as Pentecostal Aladura Churches.
Interestingly, miracles are routinely reported to occur in these churches including the raising of the dead. One such report was in July 1930 in Ilesa when Apostle Joseph Ayo Babalola raised a dead body during a 60-day revival. The Spiritualist Churches include Celestial Church of Christ and the Cherubim and Seraphim Church. These are the more prototypical white garment Churches. They also report many healings and miracles.
This is a festival that commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son at God’s command. Admittedly, this has an Islamic undertone, and is celebrated along with the rest of the Muslim world. The reason I am adding this is because of the meaning of the word ileya (time to go home). This word has no correlation whatsoever with Abraham’s obedience to God, but it does to the Passover and the exodus of the Hebrew Israelites from Egypt to the land of promise.
The reason why this catches my attention is because historians have noted that the Jews when forced to convert by the invading Islamic or Catholic forces did so on the surface. They were known to hide their true Judaic faith within Islamic and Christian practices. This, as some historians have proposed was what resulted in the Spanish inquisition that commenced in the Iberian Peninsula eventually spreading to the Portuguese islands off West Africa.
Lamb without blemish
One very important feature of the ram/lamb to be sacrificed at ileya is that it must be without blemish. If it is hurt, sick or had its horn damaged during one of the many ram fights occurring at this time, then it would be unfit to be slaughtered for the festival. That is a requirement that is very identical to that of the Passover lamb or sin atonement. Amazingly, a ram is picked per ‘house’ (some households do combine to kill one ram) and the head and feet are also burnt/roasted by most people (Exodus 12:3-5 and Exodus 12:9).
A woman is traditionally considered unclean during her monthly cycle. At this time, she should not have sex with her husband or participate in any worship/sacrificial activity because every sacred object she touches during this time would become defiled (see Leviticus 15).
Swearing before the altar (Ibura)
When there was a major dispute such as adultery in which there was no hard evidence, the people could go before the altar and swear before God. This ibura as it is called, had consequences and often involved a meal or drink ritual. It is comparable to drinking the water of bitterness in Numbers 5:16-31.
Lisping among the sons of Ephraim
During a war between the tribes of Ephraim and the Gileadites (tribe of Manasseth) there was a description of Ephraim that we often just flip over. The Gileadites manned a bridge crossing and screened everyone escaping from the war. Each man found fleeing was asked if he was from Ephraim and if he said no, he was asked to pronounce Shibboleth. The Ephraimites had a lisp and so could not pronounce the ‘sh’ but rather said Sibboleth giving away their identity (Judges 12:4-6). Consequently, 42 000 Ephraimites were killed.
Lisping in Ibadan
I find this story fascinating because of the presence of a subsection of the population amongst the Yoruba that resides at Ibadan city. This group as a whole cannot pronounce ‘sh’ or ‘ch’ and are the butt of many pronunciation jokes. One such Joke is asking an Ibadan man to pronounce show — Omo Ibadan kin ni show (son of Ibadan, what is the show?); they will pronounce the show as ‘sow’. Another sequence of jokes goes like this:
Question: Omo Ibadan, ki le je lano (Son of Ibadan, what did you eat yesterday?)
Normal response: Eran chicken ni (it was chicken meat)
Ibadan man’s response: Eran siken ni (they cannot pronounce the ‘ch’)
Follow up question: Ki le fi joko (what did you sit on?)
Normal response: Cushion chair ni (It was a cushion chair)
Ibadan man’s response: Cusion cair ni (he cannot pronounce ‘sh’ nor ‘ch’)
Mark of Ephraim
Without a doubt, lisping occurs in people for different reasons including having a native language that does not include sh or ch making it difficult to adjust to a foreign language that does. Even then, having an entire population group having lisping is unheard of outside of this group. Could this also be a mark of Ephraim? This lisping was reportedly used to identify Ibadan people in the 19th century during the Yoruba civil war.
DNA is commonly used today to identify ancestral origins and even in paternal disputes. The Y-DNA haplogroups as well as mitochondrial DNA are now utilized to identify population migration patterns. The limitation of this scientific technique is that you compare the test results to a specific group. Such a group is assumed to be indigenous to the area and false results could be achieved if that population actually migrated there. An example is using the Ashkenazi Jew DNA as reference for Hebrew DNA when it is apparent from a historical point that they migrated to present day Israel from Europe.
One thing modern Y-DNA haplogroups have helped us to do is identify what is referred to as the Jewish DNA (J and E1b1b groups). Based on my previous posts on who the Hebrew are, it is safe to conclude that haplogroups J and E1b1b are Jewish (religious group) haplotype and not Hebrew DNA (see post on Ashkenazim is not Hebrew). So, I will rather talk about genetic homogeneity.
We know from Biblical accounts that the Hebrew Israelites married mostly among themselves and in some cases married Canaanites and Egyptians (Hamites). So, to some extent, I expect that the Hebrew Israelites will have some genetic homogeneity. A standard DNA screen for an average man will give a long list of percentages of gene mixing; some European, African, Asian and some Neanderthal genes to cap it up. The average person has their DNA so mixed that our ethnic classification is only determined by our most recent genetic pool source. For this reason, many people here in the west are questioning the rational of the Y-DNA since all the genetic pools have been total mixed together into…. a pool. Many women planning an in vitro fertilization can even choose the genetic profile and physical features of the donor sperm they want.
This rule of genetic mixing is almost absolute, except for the sub-Saharan Africans who are more than 95% homogeneous with very little genetic mixing with the bloodline of Japheth. In those cases where there was mixing, they were mostly descendants of returnees from the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Furthermore, the genographic project at National Geographic lets us understand that all humans with the exception of sub-Saharan Africans had interbred with the Neanderthals and/or Davisonians thus carrying traces of their genes.
E1b1a Y-DNA Haplogroup
The Yoruba have been identified as largely belonging to the Y-DNA haplogroup E1b1a (E-M2), the same group that is predominant among the African American population (50-75%). This latter group is now increasingly being recognized as the true original Hebrew Israelites based on the curses in Deuteronomy 28. The E1b1a haplogroup though found to have been present in ancient Egypt is thought to have waned after the Israelites left Egypt and is totally absent now.
In the place of the Hebrews, the Hamitic E1b1b now predominates in the horn and North Africa. It also occurs in the Mediterranean where it is heavily mixed with the Japhetic haplogroups of Europe. Why is this important to know? Every time the Hebrew Israelites were expelled from their homeland, the conquering empires (Babylon, Assyria, Persia, Greece and Rome) all replaced the Hebrew with other people in the land. It is safe to say that the haplogroups in the middle east today are not Hebrew in origin.
In concluding, none of the features described in this article is definitive evidence that the Yorubas are Hebrew Israelites. Cumulatively however, they make a very compelling case especially when viewed in the light of my previous series on the not so lost tribes of Israel. I will let the readers make their own assessment on this and welcome your comments whether you agree with my analysis or not. Finally, I will not be naive to conclude that all the Yoruba people are Hebrew. It is a fact that Biblical Israel was a mixed multitude and will continue to be so, I do believe that a significant part of the tribe came from the ten supposedly lost tribes as well as the fleeing Jews of Iberia.
God bless you all.
Other articles that might interest you
To return to the beginning of the series on Israel go to the-not-so-lost-trbes-of-israel