Yorubas and other Canaanite/Israelites of Nigeria
By Jide Uwechia
Ancient Canaanite King
Yorubas and the neighbouring nationalities located in Nigeria have this oral tradition of an origin extraneous to West Africa.
Hugh Clapperton in 1820s reported a work by Sultan Bello, the Caliph of the Sokoto Caliphate, where he asserted that the Yorubas were descended from Canaanite tribe from Palestine.
Around the 1880s Samuel Johnson a Yoruba christian also wrote a book that made similar claims for Yoruba origins as Sultan Bello’s. In 1880, Johson naively sent this work to the Church Missionary Society in England for review and publication.
The Church Missionary Society suppressed the manuscript upon realizing the explosive information it contained. The Society declared the book lost. It was not until 1923 that Johson’s brother was able to publish an edited copy of this work. Johnson’s thesis was that the Yorubas were descended from Lamurudu (Nimrod) the first King of Mesopotamia. Johnson died in 1901.
1955 S.O. Obiaku, a Nigerian historian and scholar claimed a Meroite origin (Sudan/ancient Ethiopia-Kush) for the Yorubas. Emmanuel Uguhulu another respected Nigerian scholar claimed a Hebrew origin for the Esan tribe. Esan is part of the greater Edo nation, which is related to the Yoruba nation of Nigeria.
Efik traditions claim that the Efiks originated in Palestine, crossed the Sahara and arrived Nigeria via Sudan. The Efiks are located in the south-eastern corner of Nigeria.
Iberian Jews of Yoruba Nationality
The Bnai Ephraim (“Children of Ephraim”) from Nigeria, live among the Yoruba nationalities. Their oral history tells that the Bnai Ephraim people came from Morocco after the Jews were banished from the Iberian Pennisula sometime after 1492.
They speak a dialect that is a mixture of Moroccan Arabic, Yoruba, and Aramaic. They are known by the Yoruba people as the “Emo Yo Quaim”, or “strange people”. Unlike other African Israelite communities in Nigeria, the Bnai Ephraim have the Torah, portions of which they keep in their sanctuaries.
The name Lagos borne by the former capital of Nigeria is a Portugese/Iberian name meaning the lake. Lagos is an Island carved up by lagoons, swamps and lakes. Its traditional Nigerian name is Eko.
Thousands of black refugee Jews of Iberia re-settled in the environs of Lagos and Porto Novo (as well as in Cape Verde, Guinea Buissa, and in Sao Tome either as slaves or outlaws). Some groups eventually made it deeper inland and became assimilated into one nationality or the other.
The Bnai Ephraim provides a living and irrefutable proof of this barely known history of mass Jewish re-settlement in West Africa, between 1492 and 1692, a 200 year non-stop return of Jews to Africa. This set of Moorish refugees are not to be confused with more ancient Hebrew and Canaanite tribes that had been living in Nigeria and other African countries for thousands of years. The Black Jew series on Rasta Livewire deals with the relatively more ancient Hebrews of Africa.
The Bnai Ephraim did not settle with the Yorubas by accident or chance. They recalled that a body of their people had depart Canaan in the ancient times and had settled in the present day Yoruba areas of Nigeria, just like their own group – Bnai Ephraim – had settled in Iberia (Spain and Portugal).
So, when it happened they had to leave Iberia in a hurry to protect their lives and freedom, those Moorish Iberian Jews sailed on their network of ships to Nigeria Africa, near Lagos amongst the Yorubas, their relation by blood, their greater nationality.
Other series on this website will continue to explore the foot-tracks of the Hebrew Israelites of Africa whose stories barely get told. Now, they shall not only be heard, they shall also be seen.
Awake ye ancient Moorish Hebrews of Africa, awake! You have nothing to lose but your ignorance and weakness. The earth is your inheritance and rightful legacy. The truth lies in your history, hidden until these times…
September 1, 2009
Tudor Parfitt: “The Construction of Jewish Identities in Africa” in the book “Jews of Ethiopia” Edited by Tudor Parfitt and Emanuela Trevisan Semi. Routledge.
Abderrahman ben-Abdall es-Sadi, “Tarikh es Soudan, Paris, 1900,” (trad. O. Houdas)
Rick Gold , “The Jews of Timbuktu,” Washington Jewish Week, December 30, 1999,
Joseph J. Williams S.J., “Hebrewism of West Africa: From Nile to the Niger with the Jews”
Remy Ilona, “Igbos, Jews in Africa?,” (Volume 1), Mega Press Limited, Abuja, Nigeria, 2004,
Northern Tribes of Nigeria, Volume 1, Oxford, page 66, by C.K. Meek
See also this article
The Ewe people
HOW THE NAME ERVERH (EWE) BECAME HEBREW
As I pointed out in a previous article, the proper pronunciation of the name of my people is Erverh and not Ewe. Erverh is also the proper name of our ancestors, the ancient Israelites. The ancient Israelites were NEVER called Jews or Hebrews. How these names came about is what I will explain now.
Most people assume the ancient Israelites were called Jews. It may be surprising to people to find the literal word ‘Jew’ is not in the entire original text of the Bible. There is no name like that in either the Old or the New Testaments. The original Hebrew of the Old Testament uses the word ‘Yehudim’, meaning ‘Judahite’. The original Greek of the New Testament uses the word ‘Ioudaios,’ meaning ‘Judean.’ Earlier translations kept these original names. Unfortunately, the word ‘Jew’ has replaced them in recent times.
In fact, the mere fact that certain people identify by the name “Jew,” shows they are not direct descendants of the ancient Israelites. This is because the direct descendants of the ancient Israelites retained the name of their ancestors, which was Erverh (corrupted as Ewe).
The name, “Hebrew,” on the other hand is the English translation of the name pronounced Erverh. The Israelites wrote their name in Hebrew with symbols that are represented the letters “IVRI” in English. IVRI is pronounced Erverh. You can check this by doing a Google search on IVRI.
HOW IVRI (ERVERH) BECAME HEBREW
A direct translation of the name of the Israelites would read IVRI (pronounced Êrverh). However, in time, this true name of the Israelites took a backseat. What replaced the name of the Israelites is a great departure from the truth. To make matters worse, the name Hebrew comes from a double translation from the original name. Let me explain what I mean by all of that.
The name ‘Hebrew,’ is the English translation of the name pronounced Erverh from Latin. That means the first translation of the name of the Israelites into Latin was the first step. This first step dropped and lost the proper pronunciation of Erverh. With the proper pronunciation lost in translation, in came the second step, which is the new Latin name’s translation into what we have now in English as Hebrew.
The following is how it all unfolded. From the time of Abraham until the time of Jesus Christ, the world knew the Israelites as Erverh. In fact, Jesus and all his apostles were Erverh. This name became lost after the death of Christ, two thousand years ago, when the Roman Empire ruled the Middle East.
Around the time of Christ, Judea the home of the Israelites became a province of the Roman Empire. The national language of the Roman Empire was Latin; therefore, all the literature people wrote and read was in Latin. Available Books not originally written in Latin were all translated into it. Included in these translations were the Hebrew Scriptures. The name IVRI pronounced Erverh translated into Latin became, ‘Hebraicus.’ This name Hebraicus, as you can see yourself, is nowhere near the pronunciation of Erverh.
Some years later the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. He subsequently changed the religion of the entire Empire to Christianity – the birth of Christendom. For the next thousand years, Latin was the dominant language in Christendom and the Latin translation of the Bible was the de-facto book. If you did not read Latin, you did not know what you were missing. Salvation was in the Latin book.
The reformation in Europe, led by Martin Luther changed the status quo. Before then, only the small-educated minority who read Latin knew of what was in the scriptures. After the reformation, translation of the Bible began in other European languages including English. This opened up an unprecedented access to Bible information to anyone who could read his or her local language.
However, there was a problem. All these translations were from the Latin version instead of the original language.
Therefore, instead of using the original name IVRI (Erverh), the translated Latin name Hebraicus carried into the European languages, which included English. The name “Hebrew,” is the result of translating the Latin “Hebraicus,” into English. Thus, the name, “Hebrew” is the result of a double translation of the original name Erverh.
Had the translation been from the original texts with the name that is represented by the English letters IVRI (Erverh), you’d never have heard the name Hebrew. Instead the proper name Erverh is what people will know as the name of the Israelites.
So there you have it! The proper pronunciation in the native language of the ancient Israelites’ designation, commonly known, as “Hebrew” in English is “IVRI” pronounced Erverh (erH-VerH).
If you are interested in reading more, the story continues at:
See also The Migration of Judah
Black History Pt 1: The True Identity of the West African Slaves PT 1
The Igbo and Hebrew Jewish practises.