The name Cush is assigned to two men and one region. The region called Cush is usually associated or equated with Ethiopia, but more accurate is Nubia, the region south of Egypt (says the Oxford Companion to the Bible). According to BDB Theological Dictionary, Cush represents the southernmost peoples known to the Hebrews. Genesis 2:13 has the river Gihon flow around the whole land of Cush and the Pishon flow around Havilah, and together with the Euphrates and Haddakel these rivers obviously encompass the entire Fertile Crescent (see our article on the name Exodus for more details). Someone from Cush would be called a Cushite ( כושי ) and the plural ( כושים ) denotes a group of them. Only the prophet Amos uses the curious form כושיים , which would literally mean 'Cushly ones' (Amos 9:7). In 2 Kings 19:9 and regarding the Assyrian invasion foretold by Rabshakeh, the spokesman of king Sennacherib, king Hezekiah is told to count on the allegiance of Tirhakah the king of Cush. The prophet Isaiah lets Hezekiah know that not because of his alliance with Tirhakah but because of his faith in YHWH will Jerusalem be spared. Quickly after that, an angel of the Lord kills 185,000 Assyrians and king Sennacherib departs and moves to Nineveh. There he is assassinated by Adrammelech and Sharezer. The ethnonym כושי occurs usually in plural ( כושים ), to indicate the people of Cush. The singular masculine form is ascribed to a messenger of king David's army, whom Joab sent to the king to tell of their victory over Absalom (2 Samuel 18:21). Another famous Biblical Cushite is the court official of Candace, queen of Cush, to whom Philip witnessed, although author Luke uses the word Αιθιοψ (Aithiops), from which comes our word Ethiopia (Acts 8:27). The Hebrew word for Cushite occurs also as the name Cushi. The feminine form כושית is applied only to the second wife of Moses (Numbers 12:1). The land of Cush was named after the man Cush, the first son of Ham, son of Noah (Genesis 10:6). Another Cush mentioned in the Bible is a Benjaminite. We don't know anything about this Cush, but he probably wasn't a very nice guy as king David dedicates one of his bitter psalms to him; Psalm 7, "A Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the Lord concerning Cush, a Benjaminite". Etymology and meaning of the name Cush The origin of the name Cush is irretrievably obscure, and none of the translators have more to say about it than that it is related to Ethiopia, and having a dark countenance. The prophet Jeremiah rhetorically asks, "Can the Cushite change his skin?" (Jeremiah 13:23), which may or may not suggest that the Cushites were known for being black. Still, this says very little about the meaning of the name Cush.
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The first-named son of Ham and father of six sons: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, Sabteca, and Nimrod. (Ge 10:6-8; 1Ch 1:8-10) Cush and his named descendants are included among those from whom “the nations were spread about in the earth after the deluge.” (Ge 10:32) Thus, while no details are given concerning Cush as an individual in the Genesis account, his name is used throughout the Hebrew Scriptures as representing his descendants and the land or regions that they settled, as described in No. 2. It may here be noted, however, that Cush is very evidently a principal progenitor (perhaps along with Put) of the dark-complexioned branch of the human family (Jer 13:23), as is indicated by the areas of settlement of certain of his descendants. This disproves the theory advanced by those who incorrectly endeavor to apply to the Negro peoples the curse pronounced on Canaan, for Canaan, the brother of Cush, did not produce any Negro descendants but, rather, was the forefather of the various Canaanite tribes of Palestine. (Ge 9:24, 25; 10:6) There is, therefore, no Scriptural connection whatsoever between the dark complexion of certain descendants of Cush and the curse pronounced on Canaan.
The “Land of Cush.” The “land of Cush” referred to at Genesis 2:13 as the land originally encircled by the river Gihon, one of the four heads of the “river issuing out of Eden,” is of uncertain location. (Ge 2:10) The translators of the Septuagint rendered the Hebrew word for “Cush” by the Greek name Ethiopia in this text. The name Cush did become more or less synonymous with ancient Ethiopia at an early time, yet it cannot arbitrarily be said that such is necessarily the case at Genesis 2:13. Josephus, following the rendering of the Septuagint, associated the Gihon River with the Nile. (Jewish Antiquities, I, 39 [i, 3]) However, the Gihon’s having had a common source with the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers certainly does not seem to allow for such identification, unless the global Deluge is assumed to have brought about extreme changes in the topography of the area.
Though Cushites were to be found in Arabia, the name Cush as used in the Bible in most cases clearly refers to a region in Africa, and where the relationship is obvious, translators simply render “Cush” as “Ethiopia.” It is regularly associated with Egypt (Isa 20:3-5; 43:3; Jer 46:7-9) and also with Libya. (2Ch 12:2, 3; Da 11:43; Na 3:9) Isaiah 11:11 presents the ancient geographic designations for the regional divisions running southward from the Nile Delta: “Egypt” (or “Mizraim,” here, Lower Egypt), “Pathros” (Upper Egypt), and “Cush” (Nubia-Ethiopia). Ezekiel 29:10 speaks of the devastation of Egypt “from Migdol to Syene and to the boundary of Ethiopia [Cush].” Thus, Cush or ancient Ethiopia appears to have been beyond Syene (modern Aswan) and, according to archaeological evidence, continued S perhaps as far as modern Khartoum. Cush thus embraced primarily the northern half of the present Sudan and the southernmost part of modern Egypt. “The rivers of Ethiopia [Cush]” are suggested to have been the Blue and White Nile rivers, which have their junction at Khartoum, and also the Atbara River, which joins the Nile S of the fifth cataract.—Zep 3:10.
Much of the land of Cush was evidently arid desert country. “The region of the rivers of Ethiopia” is described as “the land of the whirring insects with wings” (Isa 18:1), perhaps referring to the locusts that swarm in Ethiopia and Egypt; however, some suggest the mosquitoes, and others point out that the Hebrew word for “whirring” (tsela·tsalʹ) resembles in sound the name given to the tsetse fly (tsaltsalya) by the Galla tribes (a Hamitic people living in modern Ethiopia). Ivory, ebony, gold, precious stones, iron, and aromatics were products of the land, and Biblical mention is made of “the merchants of Ethiopia” (Isa 45:14) and “the topaz of Cush.”—Job 28:19.
Later History. Cush, or Ethiopia, had come under Egyptian domination by about the time of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, and it continued thus for some 500 years. A viceroy administering this domain under the Egyptian Pharaoh was known by the title “King’s Son of Kush.” Evidently toward the close of the second millennium B.C.E., Ethiopia freed itself from Egypt’s control. The Ethiopian capital was thereafter located first at Napata, near the fourth cataract, and later at Meroë, about 210 km (130 mi) NNE of Khartoum. Ethiopian warriors formed part of Pharaoh Shishak’s forces that attacked Judah in the fifth year of Rehoboam (993 B.C.E.). (2Ch 12:2, 3) Following King Asa’s tenth year, or about 967 B.C.E., the Ethiopian Zerah marched against Judah with a million men but suffered complete defeat at Mareshah.—2Ch 14:1, 9-15; 16:8. Secular history shows that in the latter part of the eighth century B.C.E. Ethiopia conquered Egypt and dominated it for some 60 years. This was during the “Twenty-fifth (Ethiopian) Dynasty,” which included among its rulers King Taharqa, called Tirhakah in the Bible. This king came up against the forces of Sennacherib during their invasion of Judah (732 B.C.E.) but, according to the Assyrian inscriptions, was defeated at Elteke(h).—2Ki 19:9; Isa 37:8, 9. Assyrian Emperors Esar-haddon and Ashurbanipal invaded Egypt during their respective reigns, and the destruction of Thebes in Upper Egypt (called No-amon at Na 3:8-10) by Ashurbanipal (c. 684 B.C.E.) completely subjugated Egypt and also ended Ethiopian dominance of the Nile valley. This fulfilled the prophecy uttered about a half century earlier by the prophet Isaiah.—Isa 20:3-6. At the battle of Carchemish in 625 B.C.E., Ethiopian forces formed part of Pharaoh Necho’s army, which suffered defeat there at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. (Jer 46:2, 9) Nebuchadnezzar’s later invasion of Egypt (possibly 588 B.C.E.) would cause “severe pains” in Cush and “drive self-confident Ethiopia [Cush] into trembling.”—Eze 29:19; 30:4-9. Persian King Cambyses II (529-522 B.C.E.) conquered Egypt during the days of Pharaoh Psamtik III, and this opened the way for bringing Ethiopia under Persian control; thus, Ahasuerus (Xerxes I) could be spoken of as ruling “from India to Ethiopia [Cush].” (Es 1:1; 8:9) Confirming this, Xerxes states in an inscription: “These are the countries—in addition to Persia—over which I am king . . . India . . . (and) Kush.”—Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 316. Judean exiles were foretold to return to their homeland from faraway lands, including Cush. (Isa 11:11, 12; compare Zep 3:10.) In Daniel’s prophecy of “the time of the end,” the aggressive “king of the north” is described as having Ethiopia and Libya “at his steps,” that is, responsive to his direction. (Da 11:40-43) Ethiopia (Cush) also has a place in the wicked battle forces of “Gog of the land of Magog” in his stormlike assault upon Jehovah’s regathered ones “in the final part of the years.” (Eze 38:2-5, 8) Yet the psalmist favorably foretells that Cush will be counted among those bringing gifts to God.—Ps 68:29-32.
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