The Black Presence
in the Old Testament
Charles B. Copher
It is extremely difficult to deal with the subject of a black presence in the Old Testament. It is complicated by the fact that it is impossible to arrive at a conclusion that comes anywhere near universal acceptability. Among the difficulties, at points overlapping ones, confronting the investigator into this subject the following are to be noted: (1) a traditional view (influenced by ancient rabbinical interpretations of some biblical texts) often seems to have precedence over what is in the texts themselves; (2) there are differences between ancient and modern concepts of what constitutes black when as a color term it is applied to peoples; (3) confusions have arisen in the use of the terms black and Negro by different persons in modern times; (4) there are differences and confusions between socio-legal definitions of black/Negro on one hand and anthropological/physiological definitions on the other; (5) disagreements have arisen among scholars with respect to the relative significance of color terms in the biblical texts.
Any approach that would adequately deal with the difficulties encountered in determining a black presence in the Old Testament must take into account at least the following interrelated entities: (1) the significance of the color attributed to the Hamites and Elamites in the Table of Nations (Gen. 10:6-14; 1 Chron. 1:8-16); (2) the confused and contradictory modern Euro-American definitions of black/Negro that result in defining people as “literally black,” “Negroid in physical appearance,” and “socio-legal black/Negro”; these definitions are based upon