On Thursday, Nation of Islam (NOI) leader Louis Farrakhan spoke at the funeral for Ermias Joseph Asghedom, better known by his stage name Nipsey Hussle. In his remarks, Farrakhan cited the biblical book of Revelation and the Mark of the Beast in commemorating the rapper.
Farrakhan talked about Russell Westbrook’s historic triple-double last week. In a game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the L.A. Lakers, Thunder star guard Westbrook finished the game with 20 points, 21 assists, and 20 rebounds, a second in NBA history. Westbrook dedicated the performance to Nipsey Hussle. “That wasn’t for me … that was for my bro, man. That’s for Nipsey.”
Farrakhan referenced Westbrook’s Nipsey Hussle shout-out, and added, “Now let’s look at 20, 20, 20 at sixty… In the book of Revelations, it says, ‘here is wisdom: Count the number of the beast for it is the number of a man, six hundred, three score, and six.'”
“But the beast mark is the mark of a man, that a man came up out of living the life of a beast,” Farrakhan argued. He claimed that the rapper rose out of a life of gang-related crime and that gang members bear the Mark of the Beast.
“And I am saying this to my hip-hop community, to my young brothers and sisters, you live like the Mark of the Beast is in your forehead and in your hands, for it is so easy for us to murder one another, to kill one another, to disrespect one another, to disrespect our women,” the NOI leader said. “But out of that sixty there was a man, a man rose above the mark of the beast and the mind of a beast and became a man, a giant, a spiritual man.”
“I hope that we will never dishonor the name of Ermias Asghedom, Nipsey Hussle, and go back to that life,” Farrakhan said. “If we, in the name of Nipsey, in the name of Ermias Asghedom, decide today at this memorial for him, at this home-going for him, his home-going will be a life call for us to get up from where we are and be a new man and a new woman, and take the Mark of the Beast out of our hands and out of our head … that we may fly like he flew, above the condition of the hood and above the condition of the world.”
Asghedom joined a local Crips gang at age 14 but discovered an entrepreneurial spirit on a trip to Eritrea in 2004 when he was 19.
In addition to publishing record albums, Asghedom founded the “Marathon Clothing” store and had a small acting career. Asghedom was shot outside of his store on March 31, and a suspect has been charged with murder. His story should inspire young gang members to find a better life.
However, Farrakhan’s use of Revelation and the Mark of the Beast to reference gang crime and violence is not supported by the Bible. Revelation 13 describes a beast with seven heads and ten crowned horns emerging from the sea, like a leopard but with the feet of a bear and a mouth like a lion. The dragon, the figure of the devil, gives this beast power.
This beast is traditionally interpreted as the Antichrist, the figure opposed to Jesus Christ in the End Times. While it is difficult (and arguably disingenuous) to interpret Revelation as a clear timeline of future events — in the way the Left Behind series does — the Mark of the Beast means something far larger in cosmic terms than gang violence and crime, horrific as that crime and violence are.
Farrakhan is not a Christian, and Muslims regard the Bible to be unreliable. He is also notorious for anti-Semitism. In this case, that ugly hatred did not emerge.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.