Black Hebrew Israelites: Are Their Claims True?


Joe Butta

Christian Messianic Analysis and Apologetics

Who are the Black Hebrew Israelites? Within the past year I have had encounters with two adherents to this faith. Both boldly proclaim they have the truth and that Christianity as understood by most is a satanic deception.  For informational purposes I’d like to shed some light on this subject to disclose the group’s origins and beliefs.

Church of the Living God, the Pillar Ground of Truth for All Nations founded by F. S. Cherry in 1886 in Tennessee. Cherry’s flock incorporated many Jewish practices and prohibitions along with some Christian traditions.

Church of God and Saints of Christ founded in Kansas by William Crowdy in 1896. Both claimed that they had revelations in which they believed that God told them that African Americans are descendants of the ancient Hebrews. During the ensuing decades, many more Black Hebrew congregations were established, and some of them had no connection to the Christian Church. In Harlem alone, at least eight such groups were founded from 1919 to 1931.

Commandment Keepers were founded in New York by Wentworth Arthur Matthew in 1919 who was influenced by Marcus Garvey who used Biblical Jews in exile as a metaphor for Black Folks in North America. They are noted for their adherence to traditional Judaism. Mr. Matthew taught that all genuine Jews are Black. Other groups include The Law Keepers, House of Judah, and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem.

 African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem were established in 1966 in Chicago by Ben-Ammi Ben-Israel. These Black Hebrews believe the descendants of American slaves and the indigenous peoples of the Americas make up the 12 tribes of Israel. That belief sprang from a vision that Ben Ammi says he had in 1966 when he was a Chicago foundry worker named Ben Carter. In a dream the Archangel Gabriel told him that many African Americans were descendants of the tribe of Judah. Adherents reject black Africans, who are usually seen as “traitors” who sold their black brethren into slavery. In 1986, Ben Israel and his aide, Prince Asiel Ben Israel were convicted of trafficking stolen passports and securities and forging checks and saving bonds.

Nation of Yahweh established in the 1980’s by Yahweh Ben Yahweh aka Hulon Mitchell, Jr. (1935-2007). This sect is an offshoot of African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem. Some of its members were accused of conspiring to commit RICO (Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization) violations. Yahweh was sentenced to serving an eighteen-year sentence for another crime.

RESPONSE: Similar to the beginnings of Islam and Mormonism there were angelic visitations with the founders of the BHI’s claiming that the original Israelites were black and the current Jews are usurpers. This necessitated them to ignore the suffering of the descendents of modern day Israel and those that escaped Europe and the Islamic world and focus on themselves as the truly chosen and favored among all people.


Black Hebrew Israelites [BHI] believe the Patriarch Abraham, a native of the Sumerian city of Ur in ancient Mesopotamia, was a member of the Brown Race i.e., a Negroid. They believe the ancient Sumerians were related to the modern Black Dravidians of India and they often had encounters with the Elamites who they claim were the first Semitic group mentioned in the Bible (Gen. 10:22). They believe the royal palace walls of the ancient Persian city of Susa clearly shows Elamites were a black-skinned and woolly-haired people. Therefore Abraham, the native of Sumeria and the founding father of the Israelite nation, was a black man.  Jacob (Israel) and his twelve sons and their wives, 70 in all, migrated from Canaan to Egypt around the year 1827 B.C. During their time in Egypt the Children of Israel multiplied from being a family of 70 souls to a nation of over 3 million people at the time of the Exodus which took place in 1612 B.C.

The Black Hebrews believe they are descended from Israelites who were expelled from Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70 and then migrated for more than 1,000 years before reaching West Africa and later the United States as slaves.

Response: In Gen.10:22 Elam is the first son of Shem son of Noah mentioned in the passage.  However, Arphaxad, the son of Shem is stated being born two years after the flood in Gen. 11-10. There is no mention of Elam as a descendent of Abraham. Arphaxad is the ANCESTOR of Abraham [Gen. 11:10-26].  Arphaxad, not Elam, is also the ANCESTOR of Jesus [Luke 3:36]. The next time we hear of Elam is in Gen. 14. The Elam of Gen 14 is a Canaanite city-state. The Canaanites are all descendants of Noah through Ham.  It is not the same Elam as the fairly extensive ancient monarchy of Elam which was located in what today is southwestern Iran. In this chapter the King of Elam has taken Lot, Abraham’s nephew, captive.  Abraham launches an attack against the King of Elam, defeats the Elamites and regains his nephew. If the Elamites were the kin of Abraham and Lot why would Abraham launch a war against them?

The Elamites were Indo-Europeans, not Semites.  Neither is related to the Semitic peoples that populated the Tigris-Euphrates region [Mesopotamia] in modern Iraq. Neither is related to Abram/Abraham.

Furthermore, most of the Dravidians lived in the southern part of the Asian Sub-continent. The Ancient Dravidians are considered to be the direct ancestors of the Tamils, Malayalees, Telugus, Canarese. The Ancestral North Indians (ANI) are “genetically close to Middle Easterners, Central Asians, and Europeans,” and the Ancestral South Indians (ASI) are clearly distinct from ANI and “not closely related to groups outside the subcontinent. [See ANI and ASI, Peopling of India, and Genetics and archaeogenetics of South Asia]. Therefore a migration did take place but that migration was west to east NOT east to west and the southern Dravidians were clearly distinctive from the northerners in the sub-continent. Since a Dravidian migration did not occur to Elam [Southwestern Iran] some 2400 miles away it most definitely did not occur in Ur of the Chaldeans some 2800 miles away. The people of the Indian sub-continent are mixed race NOT Negroid. Abraham was a Semitic Sumerian from Ur by way of Haran [in today’s Kurdistan].  Those who lived at Elam some 400 miles to the east were related to the Indo-European Akkadians [but were not Akkadian].  The first premise set forth by the BHI is not correct.

The BHI also claim the Israelites migrate to Egypt in the year 1827 B.C. with 70 people. By the time the Exodus took place in 1612 B.C the 70 had turned into over 3 million. They claim this is mathematically impossible. In I Kings 6:1 it states the Exodus occurred 480 years before King Solomon began building the Temple.  Solomon’s reign was from 970-930 B.C.  He started construction in his fourth year or in 966 B.C. When one goes back 480 years from that date we arrive at 1446 B.C. In Acts 7:6 St. Stephen the martyr stated the Egyptian bondage lasted 400 years. When we count back 400 years from 1446 B.C. we arrive at 1846 B.C. So not only are the BHI dates incorrect the scripture says nothing about a 215 year Exodus. Given 400 years not 215 years the 70 Israelites could multiply into 3 million. Exodus 12: 37 and Numbers 11:21 state there were 600,000 men under foot.  Numbers 1:45-46 states there were 603,550 men over 20 at Sinai and Numbers 25:51 states that 603,730 males made it to the Jordan River. If most of these men are married that gets us to approx 1.2 million. If the average is two children we are at approx 2.4 million.  If the average is three children we are at 3 million and if four children 3.6 million. In 400 years the Hebrews would not need any reproductive “help” from the Egyptians. Furthermore, an Egyptian chariot-based cavalry and Canaan massively stone-and-earth walled cities in the 17th Century B.C. would not match such an early Exodus.

Now as for the Ancient Egyptians according to a DNA study in June 2017… “Researchers from the University of Tuebingen and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, both in Germany, have decoded the genome of ancient Egyptians for the first time, with unexpected results. Publishing its findings in Nature Communications, the study concluded that preserved remains found in Abusir-el Meleq, Middle Egypt, were closest genetic relatives of Neolithic and Bronze Age populations from the Near East, Anatolia and Eastern Mediterranean Europeans. Modern Egyptians, by comparison, share much more DNA with sub-Saharan populations as well as Semites from the Arab Peninsula.” Since the descendents of Abraham were Semites when they entered Egypt and the Egyptians were Nilitic Africans who were neither white nor Semitic they therefore were not related to black Sub-Sahara Africans.


The True Israelites

The Black Hebrew Israelites believe they are suffering from the curses that are found in the law books of Leviticus chapter 26 and Deuteronomy chapter 28. The black men and women of the western hemisphere who got to this part of the world as captives in the bottom of slave ships fit the full scriptural description of Israel, any other people who are claiming Israelite heritage must fit the full description of Israel in the latter days. Furthermore, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Negroes are the real Israelites. Also Revelation 2:9 & Revelation 3:9 prove that modern day Israelites and Europeanized Jews are impostors and not the real descendants of true Israel.


Lev. 26: 2 “You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary.”

The West Africans who were sold to White slavers were sold by Arab/Black Muslims.  Those they sold were mostly animist/pagans.  There were also Christian Africans from along the West & SW African coast that were captured and sold into slavery.  Christianity was being spread by European missionaries along the coast of Africa beginning with the Portuguese in the 15th century, and followed by the French, English, and other Europeans operating in and from European enclaves along the coast.

We have no proof those slaves, who also populated the Caribbean and Latin America, were Sabbath observers. This was always an identifying marker for Jews.  We also have no record of African slaves longing for Jerusalem.  We DO know that most non-Muslim black Africans eat pork [anyone claiming Jewish religious identity would not], and the slaves in the Americas did, too.

Verse 31 “I will lay your cities waste and bring your sanctuaries to desolation.”

This can only apply to the cities of the Northern Kingdom of Israel where Samaria was the Capital which was destroyed by Assyria in 722 B.C; The Southern Kingdom of Judah destroyed by Babylon in 586 B.C. and Judea and Jerusalem destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 A.D.  There were major cities in black west Africa [in today’s Ghana, Mali, and Niger] prior to the Arab invasions from the north and east.  Remnants of these civilizations were discovered by Europeans in the 18th-19th century, and archaeology on them continues today.  But they were either polytheist or animists.  They did not have sanctuaries in the Hebrew sense of the word.

Verse 34 “The land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies land”.

According to the BHI’s the descendents of slaves currently live in their enemies lands.  The slaves who were taken did not observe the Sabbath and the land in Africa from where they came did not remain desolate.

Deut. 28:7 “The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face: they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.”

For this to apply to the BHI’s their enemies [Descendants of Arab slavers and white slave masters] would have to flee in the face of a Sub-Sahara military force.  This has never happened.

Verse 36 “The Lord will bring you and the king whom you set over you to a nation which neither you or your fathers have known and their you shall serve other gods—wood and stone.”

This was fulfilled when the Israelites were often conquered by their pagan neighbors and when the Northern Kingdom was taken to Assyria and the Southern Kingdom taken to Babylon.  This cannot apply to Caucasian or Arab nations who worshipped one God, not many gods of wood and stone.

Verse 49-50 “The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you will not understand; a nation of fierce countenance, which does not respect the elderly nor show favor to the young.”

This could apply to the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Romans.  The Christianized Caucasian nations of the West did/do respect their elderly and favor their own children. However, this comment was made referring to how the chastising nation does not respect the elderly nor favor the young OF THE ENSLAVED/PUNISHED nation — and the European and American slavers did not — they usually killed the elderly by working them to death in the ports, and shipped the young in with the adult slaves,

Verse 62 “You shall be left few in number whereas you were as the stars of heaven in multitude”.

This applies to the Israelites who were taken away by Assyria and were considered the lost ten tribes.  This applies to the Kingdom of Judah that was reduced to 10000 taken to Babylonian captivity.  This applies to the hundreds, thousands and millions of Jews who were slain by the Romans, Muslims, Crusaders, Russians and Nazi’s.  Only 5% of the transatlantic slave trade came to North America totaling 400,000.  These 400,000 have now grown to 40 million or 13% of the US population. This scripture does not apply to them.

Verse 63 “you shall be plucked off the land which you go to possess.”

This specifically applied to those who departed Egypt, those who were slaves for 400 years and who were Semites.

Verse 25 Sub-Sahara Negro armies did not fight pitched battles against the Arabs or against the Europeans. Their societies were primitive compared to both and their populations were exploited.

Verse 48 Yokes were put on the necks of black slaves; however, yokes were also put on the necks of Jewish slaves in Assyria, Babylon and Rome and put on the neck of white slaves who were taken away for 400 years by the Barbary Pirates.

Verse 68 relates to slaves being taken away in ships. The problem here is this prophecy is conditional.  BHI’s have not been taken back to Egypt on slave ships. This verse specifically states Egypt and the slaves would not be bought.  This did not happen. Now the proper application. This is a prophecy of a SECOND enslavement in Egypt, where the expelled and remorseful Israelites sell themselves into slavery to Egypt.  This happened in Jeremiah’s time, when the Jews who rejected God’s directions to be obedient to Babylon and accept the occupation and partial Diaspora to Babylon refused, and kidnapped Jeremiah and fled to Egypt, expecting assistance to attack Babylon.  But the Egyptians had been well-beaten by the Babylonians, and instead enslaved the Jewish refugees.   — None of this had anything to do with black Africans, and it happened back in the 7th century BC.

Lamentations 5:10 , written by the Prophet Jeremiah, details the horror of the aftermath of Jerusalem’s destruction. The hot/black reference describes what the survivors looked like due to famine and a lack of sustenance.  It does not mean the people were born black.  As stated previously they were and are Semites.

Native Americans are descendants of the Israelites

DNA evidence suggests that Native Americans are actually descendants from Asiatic peoples in Mongolia, who migrated to the United States via the Bering Land Straight through modern day Alaska. Native Americans are ethno-culturally related to the non-Sinitic northeast Asians whose other descendants remained in what today is Siberia.  While there could have been people who came to North America from Africa, the DNA evidence does not suggest that these Native Americans actually have Middle Eastern origins. For the Black Hebrew Israelites to argue that Native Americans in North America are descendants of Israelites, they must provide DNA evidence to support such arguments. As a result, it is quite doubtful that the Black Hebrew Israelites view of the origins of the peoples in North America is accurate.

The verses quoted from the Book of Revelation were meant for the Christian Churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia located in modern day Turkey.  Both include a statement declaring “Jews who are not Jews who belong to the Synagogue of Satan.” We learn in the Jewish Bible that the Lord God designated the Jewish people His Chosen and the Apple of His eye. This statement means those who persecute people who believe in the Jewish Messiah and do God’s will are not God’s Chosen or the Apple of His eye. God chose a people to be Godly and obedient not a people to persecute those who believe in God’s Messiah. Since this is contrary to God’s will, they belonged to Satan’s Synagogue not God’s Congregation.

Yes, Israel definitely failed to live up to the Mosaic Law in the Torah, as is obvious from their behavior and God’s chastisements in the rest of the Tanakh and is repeatedly emphasized in the New Testament.  The result of that was the permanent destruction and Diaspora of the northern tribes by the Assyrians, and the destruction and Diaspora of Judah, Benjamin, and part of Levi by the Babylonians 2 centuries later, from which they began a partial aliyah [going up … to Jerusalem] 70 years later.

Why would anyone try to pass themselves off as Jews if they aren’t Jews over the course of 2 millennia during which they were repeatedly attacked, specially taxed, ostracized, barred from social and political life, etc.?  What would be the point of the imposture?


Generally, the Black Hebrew Israelites teach that certain groups of black are the descendants of ancient Israelites and that white people (especially those in Israel today) are not true descendants.  It appears the phenomenon of the Black Israelites was a response to the situation in the United States, including slavery and racial discrimination. For these African-Americans, assuming Jewish identity was part of a rebellion against the American racial hierarchy that deemed Africans inferior. It was also a means of fulfilling their desire to place themselves in God’s most favored status. These racially motivated religious sects need racial distinction to justify their movement.  As it is true with the Nation of Islam and Black Liberation Theology, it is also true with the KKK, White Aryan Resistance and the Christian identity Movement. Many of the groups are polygamous and many have authoritarian leaders.

It is not surprising that many African American men turn to such systems of thought as espoused by the Black Hebrew Israelites. The ideas espoused by the Hebrew Israelites serve to empower and liberate them from their destitute condition….at least so they think. These issues are of eternal significance. How we view God will affect how we view everything else in our lives. A false god and a false Jesus will only provide one with false salvation. Biblical Christianity realizes that the Old Covenant was broken by people who could not keep it. The Messiah came announcing a New Covenant that was not dependent on legalistic law observance but repentance and inward acceptance of Jesus and surrender to the Holy Spirit as the guide to our lives so that we Love God, Love People and Serve the World.  Galatians 3:28 teaches, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” The New Testament is not a special book for a certain race of people, but a book for all people everywhere. Jesus sent the apostles into the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8) to make disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:19-20). Revelation 7:9 describes people of every tribe, tongue, and nation worshiping the Lamb, Jesus Christ. It does not merely describe one people group whether black, white, yellow, or red. “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands. The Lord looks to our heart not to the color of our skin or our race or our ethnic group.  His message of Salvation is for all people not a selected few.


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Filed under History, Miscellaneous, Religion, Salvation

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