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  • Writer's pictureKristina Trott

Why did the Ethiopian eunuch read aloud?


Have you ever read something a thousand times and then suddenly read something that you have never seen before? That’s what happened to me the other day when I read this passage:


26 As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah.

29 The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.”

30 Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

31 The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.

32 The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. 33 He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” 35 So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.

36 As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?”38 He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. (Acts 8:26-38).


In verse 28 it says that the Ethiopian eunuch was reading ALOUD. Have you ever wondered why he was reading this aloud?


Was it a cultural thing? Was it traditional to read the scriptures aloud?


The educator in me says he may have been an auditory learner – people who learn best by hearing things.


The linguist in me says he was reading in a second language and reading aloud is a natural route to fluency – after all, we all started reading aloud in our first language before we read silently.


Maybe ancient Ethiopian was a syllable timed language and koine Greek stress timed and he found it easier to understand if he read it aloud?


The pragmatist in me says it’s none of these. He was in a chariot. It was noisy and bumpy without any Bilstein shock absorbers and he read aloud to maintain his concentration. A pastor I know goes into his study to privately pray aloud for this very reason.


Whatever the reason, it was important that Philip heard him so he could come and answer the eunuch’s quandary. In reading Isaiah 53 the eunuch was puzzled as to how a man “died without descendants” (v 8) and yet “he will have many descendants” (v10).


Here was a man who like the eunuch would never have any descendants and ever so gently the Holy Spirit ministered to the eunuch in his own unique need and revealed to him the work of Jesus. Can you imagine the joy that filled the eunuch’s heart as he went on his way?t’s the same with us. God will meet us ever so gently in our unique needs and will reveal the healing work of Jesus in our lives.




All quotations are from the NLT.




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