TW Viewpoint | Who Was Haile Selassie?February 04, 2022 | Javid Khan
There is an ancient prophecy that foretells of a kingly dynasty that shall never be abolished, a dynasty that was to come from the hereditary line of King David. Ethiopians claim this lineage today – by way of their former Emperor. Additionally, the Rastafarian movement has associated this person with the second coming of Christ. How true are these claims?
For thus says the LORD: 'David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel;' (Jeremiah 33:17).
However, before the 1990s, there had been much debate about the existence of King David. Many believed his story to be fictional and had disregarded its significance for us today; however, in 1993 an excavation site led by Israeli archeologist Avraham Biran led to the discovery of the Tel Dan inscription. King David was a patriarchal figure in the Bible, and a man loved by God.
The broken and fragmentary inscription commemorates the victory of an Aramean king over his two southern neighbors: the "king of Israel" and the "king of the House of David."
The discovery of this inscription shifted King David from that of a fictional character to a historical figure. But, if King David existed and the prophecies hold true, then the dynasty should still be present today.
In our previous viewpoint "Where is the Ark of Covenant?" we briefly discussed the Ethiopian legend of the supposed short-lived affair between the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, which brings us to our claim of the lineage – that of Haile Selassie I. Selassie traced his lineage back to Menelik I, the assumed son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, making him a descendant of the tribe of Judah.
In addition to this claim, the Rastafarian movement regarded him as their deity. Marcus Garvey, a beloved national hero of Jamaica and the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) believed that all black people should return to their homeland in Africa. His ideologies paved the way for the Rastafarian movement today and is considered a prophet from his statement in the 1930s:
"Look to Africa, where a black king shall be crowned, he shall be the Redeemer".
This statement was followed by the ascension of Haile Selassie I in short order. Rastafarians have looked to him as the redeemer, and the one to bring all black people back to their homeland. They have also described him as King of Kings and the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, eventually making him out as the second reincarnation of Christ. But are these two claims true? Can they hold up when carefully examined?
Let us first look at the claim to the Davidic dynasty. If the prophecies are true, then there must be a ruler present to this day; however, the Ethiopian Monarchy was abolished in 1975 which contradicts the prophecy. It is also worth noting that the kingly lineage of Solomon remained in Jerusalem until their captivity. In 2015, an excavation site at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem led to the discovery of King Hezekiah signet ring – a King of Judah. If the Davidic Line moved to Ethiopia from as early as Solomon, why were there still Kings in Jerusalem more than 200 years later? While the notion of the lineage being in Ethiopia can be fascinating, clear historical evidence shows that the lineage remained in Judah. What about the Rastafarian's view that he was the second coming of Christ? According to their teachings, which isn't unanimously agreed upon by all members, there are three advents of Christ. The first was the suffering servant, the second was to take on the role of king and the third is for judgement. Selassie was seen as the fulfillment of the second coming, becoming Emperor. However, the teachings of the Rastafarian movement do not align with the teachings of Christ himself, who described He will return a second and final time. Would Christ not have been a more reliable source to determine what he will or will not do? It is also interesting to note that Selassie himself denied being the reincarnation of Christ. In a 1967 interview with the CBC, Bill McNeil questioned the Emperor about his tie to Christ. Selassie's answer quite clearly answers the question.
"I have heard of that idea. I also met certain Rastafarians, I told them clearly that I am a man, that I am mortal, and that I will be replaced by the oncoming generation…"
Haile Selassie, is no doubt a controversial figure. Some saw him as a benevolent leader, while others saw him as a dictator. While there may be much to debate about the former Emperor, it will become quite clear when thoroughly examined that Ethiopian claims to the Davidic line, and its supposed role in generating a redeemer are inaccurate and contrary to the Biblical text.