The Finger of God

Enoch Mgijima, the Israelites, and the Bulhoek Massacre in South Africa

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Robert R. Edgar
  • Charlottesville, VA: 
    University of Virginia Press
    , May
     2018.
     264 pages.
     $45.00.
     Hardcover.
    ISBN
    9780813941028.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Description

On the morning of May 24, 1921, a force of eight hundred white policemen and soldiers confronted an African prophet, Enoch Mgijima, and some three thousand of his followers. Called the Israelites, they refused to leave their holy village of Ntabelanga, where they had been gathering since early 1919 to await the end of the world. While the Israelites maintained they were there to pray and worship in peace, the white authorities viewed them as illegally squatting on land that was not theirs. After many months of fruitless negotiations, the South African government sent an armed force to Bulhoek, a village in the Eastern Cape, to expel them. In the event that has come to be known as the Bulhoek massacre, police armed with rifles, machine guns, and cannons killed nearly two hundred Israelites wielding knobkerries, swords, and spears. In The Finger of God, Robert Edgar reveals how and why the Bulhoek massacre occurred. Edgar asks: Why did Mgijima prophesize that the end of the world was imminent, and why did he summon his followers to Ntabelanga? Why did the South African government regard the Israelite encampment as a threat? Examining this clash between a government and a millenial movement, Edgar considers the Bulhoek massacre both as a signal event in South African history and as an example of similar conflicts worldwide.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Robert R. Edgar, Professor of African Studies at Howard University and Stellenbosch University, South Africa, is the coauthor of African Apocalypse: The Story of Nontetha Nkwenkwe, a Twentieth-Century South African Prophet, among other books.

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