The Lemba, a tribe of 70,000 to 80,000 members who live in central Zimbabwe and northern South Africa. Genetic tests carried out by British scientists have revealed that many of the tribesmen in southern Africa have Jewish origins, according to a report by the BBC. According to their oral tradition, the Lemba are descended from seven Jewish men who left Israel 2,500 years ago and married African women, according to the BBC.
According to Lemba tradition, their male ancestors were Jews who left Judea about 2500 years ago and settled in a place called Senna which was located on the Arabian Peninsula (present-day Yemen). According to the Lemba oral tradition, their male ancestors migrated to Southeast Africa in order to obtain gold. After ancestors intermarried with local women and became established in Africa, at some point, the tribe split into two groups, one staying in Ethiopia and the other travelling farther south, along the east coast.
The Lemba claim that this second group settled in Tanzania and Kenya, building what was referred to as another Sena, or “Sena II”. Others supposedly settled in Malawi, where their descendants reside today. Some settled in Mozambique, eventually migrating to Zimbabwe and South Africa. They claim to have constructed Great Zimbabwe, now preserved as a monument. Ken Mufuka, a Zimbabwean archaeologist, thinks that the Lemba may have contributed to this but would not have been solely responsible. Tudor Parfitt and Magdel le Roux think that they at least helped construct the massive city.
The Lemba, VaRemba, or Mwenye are native to Zimbabwe and South Africa, with smaller, little-known branches in Mozambique and Malawi. Even though speak the Bantu languages spoken by their geographic neighbors and resemble them physically, they do have some religious practices and beliefs similar to those in Judaism and Islam, which they claim were transmitted by oral tradition. The Lemba refrain from eating pork or other foods forbidden by the Torah, or forbidden combinations of permitted foods, wear yarmulke-like skull caps, conduct ritual animal slaughter, have a holy day once a week, and even put a Star of David on their gravestones. The Lemba prefer their children to marry other Lembas, and marriage to non-Lembas is being discouraged.
Members of the priestly clan of the Lemba, the Buba – which is one of 12 clans – have a genetic element also found among the Jewish priestly line, known as Kohanim. “This was amazing,” Professor Tudor Parfitt from the University of London told the BBC. “It looks as if the Jewish priesthood continued in the West by people called Cohen, and in same way it was continued by the priestly clan of the Lemba.
Their sacred prayer language is a mixture of Hebrew and Arabic. The name “Lemba” may originate in chilemba, a Swahili word for turbans worn by some Bantu peoples, or lembi, a Bantu word meaning “non-African” or “respected foreigner”
One of the most interesting and intriguing about the tribe is their religious artifact which is a replica of the Biblical Ark of the Covenant known as the ‘ngoma lungundu’, meaning “the drum that thunders.” The object went on display at the Harare museum in Zimbabwe, and it instilled pride in many of the Lemba. They say the ark was built almost 700 years ago from the remains of the original ark, which according to the Bible was used to store the Ten Commandments. For decades, the ancient vessel was thought to be lost until it was discovered in a storeroom in Harare.
Tembinkosi Mudzingiri a Zimbabwe national also am one of them the chosen people of father Abraham. However most of them are spiritually lost lets pray for our tribe to turn to God whole heartedly and follow the footsteps of our father Abraham am from Zimbabwe am a member of ZAOGA FIF ministries.
Ghana also is believed to have two main tribes who trace their ancestry from Israel. They claim to have travelled from Israel to Egypt Ethiopia to Sudan and finally Ghana, but they don’t claim to be of priestly origin. These tribes are the Ga and the Ewes. Most of their rituals are similar to that of the Israelites of old. E.g. they circumcise their male on the eight day and an uncircumcised male is seen as unclean. I would be glad if you research into the veracity of their claim.
Small drum from Congo in the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium
Lemba tradition tells of a sacred object, the ngoma lungundu or “drum that thunders”, which they brought from the place called Sena. Their oral history claims that the ngoma was the Biblical Ark of the Covenant made by Moses. Parfitt, a professor at SOAS, University of London, wrote a book in 2008, The Lost Ark of the Covenant about the rediscovery of this object. His book was adapted as a television documentary that aired on the History Channel, tracing the Lemba’s claim that the ngoma lungunda was the legendary Ark of the Covenant. Following the lead of eighth-century accounts of the Ark in Arabia, Parfitt found a ghost town named Sena in the Hadhramaut, an area inhabited by people who are genetically linked to the Lemba.
Parfitt has theorized that the ngoma was related to the Ark of the Covenant, lost from Jerusalem after the city’s destruction by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II in 587 BC. He says that the ngoma is a descendant of the Biblical Ark, theorizing that the Ark was repaired by adding more material to it as the artifact began to wear out or that it was destroyed. He says that the ark/ngoma was carried to Africa by its priestly guardians. Lemba oral history claimed that the Ark exploded 700 years ago and that they rebuilt the Ark on its remains.
Parfitt discovered the ngoma in a Harare, Zimbabwe museum in 2007. It had last been exhibited in 1949 by colonial officials in Bulawayo. They took it to Harare for protection during the struggle for independence, and it was later misplaced inside the museum. Radiocarbon dating of a portion of the artifact showed it to be 700 years old. Parfitt said he believed that the ngoma was the oldest wooden artifact in Zimbabwe. In February 2010, the ‘Lemba ngoma lungundu’ was put on display in the museum, along with a celebration of both its history and the history of the Lemba.
Parfitt says that the ngoma/ark was carried into battles. If it broke apart, it would be rebuilt. The ngoma, he says, was possibly built from the remains of the original Ark. “So it’s the closest descendant of the Ark that we know of,” Parfitt says. “Many people say that the story is far-fetched, but the oral traditions of the Lemba have been backed up by science”, he said.
The Lemba considered the ngoma as intensely sacred and too holy to be touched. It was carried by poles inserted into rings attached to each side of the ngoma. The only members of the tribe permitted to approach it were the hereditary priesthood who guarded it. Others feared that if they were to touch it, they would be “struck down by the fire of God” which would erupt from the object. The Lemba continue to regard the ngoma as the sacred Ark.