The Yoruba and other Canaanite/Hebrew Israelites of Nigeria

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The 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…

Jide Uwechia
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

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76 thoughts on “The Yoruba and other Canaanite/Hebrew Israelites of Nigeria”

  1. Hi I came across this site by doing a search, on if Nigerians were the children of the most high. I am considered to be African-American, I and my parents born here in the US.

    I have always felt like something was missing about my life as a child. I was and am still asked by anyone I come across, where am I frim? I didn’t know until a month ago, after I took a genetic DNA test. I am by DNA: 30% Nigerian, 19% Mali, 12% Ivory Coast/Ghana and 9% Cameroon/Congo.

    I before finding out my true DNA make up, about two year’s ago. Stopped praticing the religon I was taught as a child. It just didn’t feel like that’s what I should be doing. I went and saw a man, who practice the Youruba ways. He said to me that I was by birth right a natrual in the pratice, and so I made an altar.

    I think that this is the most high, trying to bring me back to what I should know. Because I didn’t know who I was until after I did the DNA testing. I am really trying to learn more about my heritage, so that I go in the right direction and teach my children as well.

    It’s just so much in the internet, that I dint kniw where to start and what ti believe. Ehen people look at me and ask ehat am I, I now tell them that I am Nigerian, based off my DNA. Any positive and truthful information would be helpful and appreciated. Thank you all. Tiffany

    1. I used to have 2 friends that I usually call my “sisters.” They are black Americans and never been to Africa before. But as an African, they both look to me like just another Yoruba girl next door in Nigeria. I challenged the two of them to take a DNA test and they came back as Nigerians. So we came to Nigeria together on a short visit and they enjoyed it. They said they “felt at home.” They attended a Christening of a friend’s child and they were surprised how similar it is with the Jewish tradition of the 8th day christening and also circumcision. I believe this is one of many similarities of the Jewish and Yoruba tradition.

      1. yoruba people are not isrealite. show me in yoruba land any archeology. i can not see any caracteristic in them that refer in d bible.please stop deceiving ur self.u are d children of hamite frome egypte to mecca mixed up with hausa people daura.ODUDUWA was a hamite

        1. It’s very obvious you are igbo, all igbos who claims to be Israelite have an opposing view to yorubas being Israelite, u fortunately you all don’t have the license to discard yorubas as being Israelites because there’s no proof stating igbos are Israelite other than being enslaved in U.S but don’t forget yorubas were also the nslaved in U.S, South America, Portugal and the Caribbeans. You igbos can be very annoying and irritating with your manners. Yoruba culture and practises are same as the Hebrews same applies to lispins you find with ibadan people , it’s a trait found in descendants of Ephraim, so cut the crap and deal with your dumbness

        2. The Yoruba kingdom existed before the Israelites Bnai Ephraim settled in the Southwest Nigeria.
          It is true that some of the Yorubas are Israelites Jew as also some Hamite Yoruba originally came from Palestine, Mecca, Egypt’s, remember majority of the Israelites where also slaved in Egypt too.
          When Egypt got invaded the Israelites Jew and the Yoruba Hamite scattered in all directions, some Israelites Jew started their journey from Egypt to Sudan to north east of Nigeria to south east of Nigeria and finally settled there which are called the modern day Igbos.
          But for some Israelites Jews that are part of the Yoruba nation today , after the collapse of Egypt the travelled through Morocco, Mali and ended up too in the southwest of Nigeria, the are called the Bnai Ephraim who settled with the Yoruba Hamites that already habituated in the southwest Nigeria. The British were the one that co-mingled the Israelites Bnai Ephraim and the Hamite Yoruba to form a nation called the Oduduwa southwest Nigeria.
          The Israelites Jew in the Yoruba nation are the Egba people formerly know as ( Egbo people who are cousins to the Igbos in the southeast of Nigeria, you also have the Ijebu Igbo people in the Yoruba nation, who are also Israelite Jew too, you have the ondo, Esan, Ekiti people are also Israelites Jew, you also had the Igbo people from the southeast of Nigeria too migrated to the southwest of Nigeria during the slave trade that happen in the bight of Biafra during the slave trade in 1513.
          What I know is that is not all the Yoruba are Israelites Jew, but many are too in the Yoruba nation. The Hamites Yoruba can be identified by their religion as mostly Muslims, as the majority of Yoruba Muslims like Oyo, Osun and Ife are pure Yoruba Hamite and Muslims, it’s only few Israelites that we’re forced to convert to Muslims during the British and Portuguese slave trade and back then if you were not Muslims in the Yoruba nation you were sold into slavery, so some Israelites Jew hid among the Muslims Yoruba to avoid the Hausa Muslim capture as the Hamite Hausas and Hamite Yorubas was the one selling the Israelites Jew to the British and the Portuguese as slaves.

    2. Hi, I am in the same boat, I am trying to teach my children who they are. I took a dna test and I have an majority admixture mixture of 60% Nigerian and Sierra Leon but also my admixture matches those of the Lemba people which their dna has been tested to be linked to the original Hebrew people in the Bible. So I am looking for the truth by researching history so I can teach my heritage to my children. It is funny because I am adopted and I was reunited with my family when I was a teenager, now I am united with my true identity by dna. To see my test results

      This article makes sense because I took a dna test with 23andme and my marker was closer to the Mozabites than Nigeria, but also my admixture also matches a lot of Ethiopian Jews.

      33% – Lower Niger Valley
      Includes: Yoruba and Esan in Nigeria and Yoruba in (Nigeria) Ibadan Does not include: Mozabite in Algeria; Biaka (Pygmy) in Central African Republic; Egyptian in Egypt; Luo in Kenya; Ju hoan_North in Namibia; Mandenka in Senegal; Saharawi in (Morocco) Western Sahara; Luhya in (Kenya) Webuye and Mende in Sierra Leone
      32% Mende/Akan
      Includes: Mende Sierra_Leone_MSL and Mende in Sierra Leone Does not include: Ju hoan_North in Namibia; Yoruba in Nigeria; Mandenka in Senegal; Surui in Brazil; Yoruba in (Nigeria) Ibadan and Gambian in Western Gambia
      1.5% Senegal River Valley
      Includes: Mandenka in Senegal and Gambian in Western Gambia Does not include: Yoruba in Nigeria; Mende Sierra_Leone_MSL and Mende in Sierra Leone; Saharawi in (Morocco) Western Sahara; Surui in Brazil; Piapoco in Colombia and Icelandic in Iceland
      12% East African
      Includes: Bantu, Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo and Masai in (Webuye, Kinyawa and 4 other sites) Kenya; Datog in Tanzania and Luhya in (Kenya) Webuye Does not include: Mbuti (Pygmy) in Congo; Egyptian in Egypt; Ju hoan_North in Namibia; Hadza in Tanzania; Saudi in Saudi Arabia; Yemen and Yemenite Jew in Yemen; Esan in Nigeria and Sri Lankan Tamil from Sri Lanka (expat in the UK)
      1.2%Southern African
      Includes: Ju hoan_North in Namibia Does not include: Bantu and Luo in Kenya; Mende Sierra_Leone_MSL and Mende in Sierra Leone; Datog in Tanzania; Bolivian in (Cochabamba) Bolivia; Surui in Brazil; Australian in Australia; Yoruba in (Nigeria) Ibadan; Esan in Nigeria and Sri Lankan Tamil from Sri Lanka (expat in the UK)
      7.2% Finnish
      Includes: Finnish in Finland Does not include: Nganasan and Russian in Russia; Belarusian in Belarus; Estonian in Estonia; Norwegian in Norway; Ashkenazi Jew in Poland and Ashkenazi Jew from East Europe especially Lithuania (expat in Baltimore MD)
      5.4% Northwest European
      Includes: Scottish Argyll_Bute_GBR and British in England; Icelandic in Iceland; Norwegian in Norway and Orcadian in Orkney Islands Does not include: Saharawi in (Morocco) Western Sahara; Piapoco in Colombia; Estonian in Estonia; Basque/French and French in (South and 1 other site) France; Basque/Spanish and Iberian Population in Spain; Finnish in Finland and Gambian in Western Gambia
      5.2% Mediterranean Islander
      Includes: Cypriot in Cyprus; Italian/EastSicilian and Italian/WestSicilian in Italy and Maltese in Malta Does not include: Egyptian in Egypt; Tunisian in Tunisia; Albanian in Albania; Greek in Greece; Palestinian in (Central) Israel; Sardinian and Toscani in (Sardinia and 1 other site) Italy; Syrian in Syrian and Turkish in (Adana, Aydin, Kayseri and 1 other site) Turkey
      1.7% – Ambiguous West Eurasian
      West Eurasian is a very general category containing Arab/Egyptian, Ashkenazi/Levantine, Central Asian, Northeast European, South Asian, South European, Northwest European, Southwestern European and Central Indoeuropean

  2. I am puzzled? why are you trying to combine an ancient Yoruba religion with Canaanite religion ? these are two separate distinct people with there own separate customs. Hebrews are not as old as these ancient cultures that’s why they don’t have any real proof of jews/Hebrew artifacts outside of the bible. Abraham was a Sumerian . remember the jews and Hebrew are made up of several different nomadic tribes. They borrowed from Egyptians, assyrians , and canaanites. please stop trying to make them ancient people.

    1. You are right Hebrews are younger that some of the African cultures; but if you read my book The Bloody Trail of the Philistines; you will you notice that the Hebrews are descendants of Bashogora/Bachwezi who not only settled in Uganda but spread through Africa; the problem is that schools teach history piece meal; if you learn about the Yoruba you don’t learn about the Hebrews and vice-versa; It is high time history books were rewritten: what about Esau/Esan tribe which is part of the Yoruba, Cain and Enoch are associated with Nok on the Jos Plateau of Nigeria, and Noah is associated with Bor-No, in northern Nigeria near Lake Chad. The discovery of Eredo is association with the Jebu of Nigeria, it was the western boundary of the Jebu-Sheba-Joktan confederation. Furthermore when humans first went out of Africa they traveled past the Levant, and to date the Yoruba bear the oldest human species Neanderthals’ DNA; based on all this there is indeed a connection.

    2. Who are Hebrews, what does it mean and who is the father of the Hebrews. The first Hebrew is Abraham. Hebrews means River crossers. Prior to the fall of babel all men lived together in an area. As at that time, God nhad called Abraham. The living, sojourning have been that of a river crossing and tent-life until they cross the Jordan to the land of rest, then they are geographically established as a Jewish nation. So the Hebrew culture have existed about 4,000 BC. Edom, Esau may in a way be regarded as a Hebrew but not a Jew nor Israelites. Only descendants of Jacob are Jews and Israelites. Even of all the descendants of Noah, only the line of Abraham are Hebrews and only line of Jacob are Jews and double as Jews and Hebrew. I do not consider Edom as Jews cos Jews are ethno-religious group. Jews relates to Judah and Israelites. The word Judaism originates from Judah being the city of the king and host tribe of Jerusalem, the capital if Israel. Some Africans are Jews while many are descendants of Ham, Esau, Ismael, so not all that came from Abraham and Isaac. Thus Jewish culture is younger for example than Nimrod

  3. Dna analysis has proved that the Lebanese are the living descendants of the Canaanites. There are African Jews, such as those of Zimbabwe or Ethiopia, the question i have regarding the Yorubas is: if they are Jews, how did they come to venerate the pagan god called Vodun?

  4. I am an African-American woman who was curious about my ethnicity, so I took a DNA test. My results are 88% Africa. Of that, 71% is West Africa with 50% being Nigeria -Yoruba Esan. My ancestors also showed up on the Iberian Pennisula, Asia, the Americas and 9% West Eurasia. It looks like we had a ship because there is no evidence of central Africa on my results. See details below.

    Lower Niger Valley Includes: Yoruba and Esan in Nigeria and Yoruba in (Nigeria) Ibadan

    Senegal River Valley Includes: Mandenka in Senegal and Gambian in Western Gambia

    Mende/Akan Includes: Mende Sierra_Leone_MSL and Mende in Sierra Leone

    East African Includes: Bantu, Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo and Masai in (Webuye, Kinyawa and 4 other sites) Kenya; Datog in Tanzania and Luhya in (Kenya) Webuye

    North African Includes: Algerian and Mozabite in Algeria; Tunisian in Tunisia and Saharawi in (Morocco) Western Sahara

    Southwestern European Includes: Basque/French and French in (South and 1 other site) France and Basque/Spanish and Iberian Population in Spain

    Northwest European Includes: Scottish Argyll_Bute_GBR and British in England; Icelandic in Iceland; Norwegian in Norway and Orcadian in Orkney Islands

    Finnish Includes: Finnish in Finland

    Ambiguous Native American:
    Native American is a general category containing Native American and Amazonian

    Ambiguous West Eurasian:
    West Eurasian is a very general category containing Arab/Egyptian, Ashkenazi/Levantine, Central Asian, Northeast European, South Asian, South European, Northwest European, Southwestern European and Central Indoeuropean

    Ambiguous East Asian:
    East Asian is a very general category containing Southeast Asian, East Asian, Northeast Asian and East-Turkic

  5. Wow!
    I’ve learnt a lot, thanks Jide uwechai, Adeola, and many others,I also found some proofs in the Bible and based on my knowledge of history…
    European leaders from the past and present are crazy…
    Hmmm.. Mehn!!! this is deep… I love history, and I love the Bible sooooooooooo much, no book like it.
    I also read the Hebrew Greek (original) bible…
    For those who think the Bible was changed….lol….. You’re missing alot.

  6. In many of my inquisitiveness I made some research about 15 years ago and came up with a script called “the man painted black”. My research was inspired by the realization that my mother has many Jewish woman physical features. And I was willing to know African true identity. But today seeing that lot of people are stired up to discover our real identity inspired me to share some of the context of my unfinished work.
    I stayed with a friend during my university days at Ile-Ife whose father was then(not sure of now) an Ifa priest, He, my friend was a student of music and I was studying Geography. That was a good learning sphere for me for this kind of topic. I learned a myth of “Ela”, Moremi and Olodumare. The story existed hundreds of years before Christianity came into Africa but this story is exactly nature of Jesus birth, cruxifiction, ascension and the “expectations of messiah”. “in the ifa eulogy there is a phrase like “Ela rowa”. Ela mean the Holy, the intermediary between Olodumare(God) and man. Ela was taken up by a rope to heaven. And the word “rowa” mean to descend, return or come back. Ela is believed to be return and bring peace to the world. Now a typical Jew do not believe in Jesus as the messiah but believe that the Messiah will come from God to save them. The Ifa record that Ela(their own equivalent of Messiah) will come back again(after he ascended) to save the world. This is one evidence that this myth was the biblical records which have been mixed by the Yoruba Jews who have passed through many cultures, religion and generations over a thousand years. Yoruba traditional religion believe in the almighty God, resurrection to heaven and there is not believe of re-incarnation, this is the believe of Judaism, the gentile world of those days do not believe in God of heaven or resurrection of the dead, but the myth of Ela in the Yoruba culture seems to suggest to me that the Yoruba Jews were descendants of believing Jews who believed Christ died, resurrected ascended and coming back as the messiah. Another one from my manuscript is the culture of child naming . The Yorubas name their child on the 8th day of birth, and a male child is circumsized on the 8th day . This is the same with Judaism. Another is that the cultural way of giving a woman to marriage in the accient Yoruba society is exactly the same way as it was in the wedding of Isaac and Rebecca. Escort and entourage goes to the woman house, pay the dowries and bring the bride to the groom. The actual wedding feast is done in the grooms house . When I watch movies like white handkerchief and narrow path both produced by Opomulero, Tunde Kelani, although I can’t remember I meet this practice in my modern Yoruba society, this however was accient Yoruba wedding culture.
    Many research have already been carried out on DNA, migration pattern and language evolution. I do not wish to re-invent the wheel. Still digging out several other anthropology of the ancient Yoruba culture brought forward from their Jewish original.

  7. Sultan Bello asserted that the –Yarriba–, not Yoruba originated from Kanaan. The Yarriba people were inclusive of several ethnic groups. The people modernly known as Yoruba were perhaps ONE of those groups, but they were not at all the exclusive entity as an error like this would suggest. The ‘Yoruba’ ethnic designation did not exist at the time of Sultan Bello’s assertion.

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