1. The first-named son of Ham and father of six sons: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah Sabteca and Nimrod. (Gen. 10:6-8; 1 Chron. 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.” (Gen. 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 below.
It may here be noted, however, that Cush is very evidently a principal progenitor (perhaps along with Put) of the Negroid or dark-complexioned branch of the human family (Jer. 13:23), as indicated by the areas of settlement of certain of his descendants. This fact disproves the theory advanced by some ‘racists’ 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. (Gen. 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.
2. Aside from the genealogical accounts at Genesis chapter 10 and 1 Chronicles chapter 1, and perhaps the use of the name in the introduction to Psalm 7, considered in No. 3 below, the name “Cush” is employed in all other texts to refer to the progeny of that son of Ham and the place of their habitation.
The name of Cush is associated through his son Nimrod with Babel and the kingdom that Nimrod forged in post-Flood times. (Gen. 10:8-12) Some connect Cush’s name with the ancient city of Kish, revealed by excavations in lower Mesopotamia near Babylon, and said to be the city from which emperors of the third millennium B.C.E. in Babylonia assumed the title of “king of the world.” The “Sumerian King list,” an ancient record, though highly legendary, contains the statement: “After the Flood had swept over (the earth) (and) when kingship was lowered (again) from heaven, kingship was (first) in Kish.” (Quoted from Pritchard’s Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 1955 ed., p. 265.) Referring to this ancient city, Professor Albright comments: “Unless Kish is the prototype of the Cush of Gen. 10:8, as is quite possible, it is not mentioned in the Bible. Nimrod was in any case probably considered as the first ruler of Kish.” (“Recent Discoveries in Bible Lands,” p. 14, in Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, 22d edition) Thus, although Babylonia later came fully under Semitic domination, there seems to be some historical evidence harmonizing with the Biblical record of Cushite rule in that area at an early time.
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. (Gen. 2:10, 13) The translators of the Septuagint rendered the Hebrew word for “Cush” by the Greek name “Ethiopia” in this text, as they did in all other cases where “Cush” appears, with the exception of the genealogical tables of Genesis and First Chronicles. 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 and others, following the rendering of the Septuagint, associated the Gihon River with the Nile. 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 topographical changes that logically resulted from the global deluge are assumed to have been of very extreme proportions.
The term “Cush” at Genesis 2:13 is, therefore, connected by some authorities with the Kassu or Kassites of the Assyrian inscriptions, a people of uncertain origin inhabiting the plateau region of central Asia. In an article in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies (1959, Vol. XVIII, No. 1, pp. 49-53) the author presents evidence of a Negro population in ancient times in the region of the SE corner of the Black Sea, and later in the Caucasus region farther N. He suggests a relationship between the name of the regions of Abkhazia and Khazaria, inhabited by such tribes, and the Biblical Cush. There is, of course, the possibility that the reference to “Cush” at Genesis 2:13 could apply to a region inhabited by Cushites prior to the dispersion of the people resulting from the events at Babel, as it is likewise possible that some segment of the Cushite family did not migrate southward with the main body of Cushites but settled in the region of Asia Minor described above.
Still others suggest that the “land of Cush” encircled by the Gihon was on the Arabian Peninsula, since the name “Cushan” (meaning “belonging to Cush”) is used to parallel the “land of Midian” at Habakkuk 3:7, Midian being located generally in the vicinity of the Gulf of Aqabah. It is probably with reference to such an Arabian “Cush” that Moses’ Midianite wife Zipporah is called a “Cushite.” (Ex. 18:1-5; Num. 12:1) The Hebrew lexicon by Koehler and Baumgartner (Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros, p. 429) points out that the tribe of Âl ʽAmran refer to the region of Zebid in Yemen along the Arabian coast of the Red Sea by the name of Kus.
AFTER THE TOWER OF BABEL
Following the breakup at Babel due to the confusion of language, the main body of Cush’s descendants appear to have migrated southward. Whether they reached Africa by first going into the Arabian Peninsula and then crossing over the narrow strait known as Bab el-Mandeb or whether they settled initially in Africa and then crossed over into Arabia is uncertain, although the basic association of “Cush” with Africa might favor the latter migratory movement. The name of Cush’s son Seba is related with E Africa, while those of Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah and Sabteca are generally associated with regions on the Arabian Peninsula. (See individual articles under names of sons.) It is of note that, while the names of these sons appear to have been perpetuated by tribes descended from them, this does not seem to be the case with the name of Nimrod, his name appearing in ancient history solely as that of an individual. This may indicate that Nimrod remained childless.
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. (2 Chron. 12:2, 3; Dan. 11:43; Nah. 3:9) Isaiah 11:11 aptly presents the ancient geographical 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 records, continued S perhaps as far as modern Khartoum. Cush thus embraced a more extensive and generally more southern area than that included in present-day Ethiopia. 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.—Zeph. 3:10.
The “Arabs that were by the side of the Ethiopians [Ku·shimʹ]” (2 Chron. 21:16) likely were those Arab tribes occupying the SW coast of the Arabian Peninsula and thus facing Africa across the Red Sea.
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, while 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.
At about the time of the exodus of Israel from Egypt, Cush or Ethiopia had come under Egyptian domination and continued thus for some five hundred 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 Meroe, about 130 miles (209 kilometers) N-NE of Khartoum.
Ethiopian warriors formed part of Pharaoh Shishak’s forces that attacked Judah in the fifth year of Rehoboam (993-992 B.C.E.). (2 Chron. 12:2, 3) Following King Asa’s tenth year, or about 967-966 B.C.E., the Ethiopian Zerah marched against Judah with a million men, but suffered complete defeat at Mareshah.—2 Chron. 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 sixty years. This was during the Twenty-fifth (Ethiopian) Dynasty, which included among its rulers King Taharka, called Tirhakah in the Bible. This king came up against the forces of Sennacherib during their invasion of Judah (c. 732 B.C.E.), but, according to the Assyrian inscriptions, was defeated at Elteke.—2 Ki. 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 Nahum 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 a 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 (c. 588 B.C.E.) would cause “severe pains” in Cush and “drive self-confident Ethiopia [Cush] into trembling.”—Ezek. 29:19; 30:4-9.
Persian King Cambyses (529-522 B.C.E.) conquered Egypt during the days of Pharaoh Psammetichus III, and this opened the way for bringing Ethiopia under Persian control; thus, Ahasuerus (Xerxes I; 486-474 B.C.E.) could be spoken of as ruling “from India to Ethiopia [Cush],” a fact confirmed by Persian texts of Xerxes’ time.—Esther 1:1; 8:9.
Judean exiles were foretold to return to their homeland from faraway lands, including Cush. (Isa. 11:11, 12; compare Zephaniah 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. (Dan. 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.” (Ezek. 38:2-5, 8) Yet the psalmist favorably foretells that Cush will be counted among those bringing gifts to God.—Ps. 68:29-32.
3. The seventh psalm carries an introduction stating that the psalm is “concerning the words of Cush the Benjaminite.” No other mention is made of this person. If the psalm relates to the early period of David’s history, the reference might be to some opposer of David in Saul’s court; if to a later period, the name might be used to refer enigmatically to Shimei the Benjaminite who cursed David.—2 Sam. 16:5-8.
(Cuʹshan) [belonging to Cush].
Cushan appears at Habakkuk 3:7 as paralleling the “land of Midian” and hence evidently is another name for Midian or relates to a neighboring country. As shown in the article on CUSH, some descendants of Cush appear to have settled on the Arabian Peninsula; and the name Kusi or Kushim was anciently used to describe certain Arabic peoples of that region.
A king of Mesopotamia from whose domination Othniel liberated the Israelites after eight years of servitude. He is also called “the king of Syria.” (Judg. 3:7-11) Some view the second half (“rishathaim”) of this composite name as the name of a place or region, while others translate it to mean “double wickedness.” “Cushan” is used at Habakkuk 3:7 to parallel Midian; however, King Cushan-rishathaim is stated to be from Mesopotamia (Heb., ʼAramʹ na·haraʹyim, meaning “Aram of the two rivers”; compare Genesis 24:10, where the same term is used to describe the location of the city of Nahor in Syria). A list of Pharaoh Ramses III mentions a district in northern Syria called Qusanaruma, and this is suggested by some scholars to have been the possible seat of this king’s domain. Cushan-rishathaim was Israel’s first major oppressor during the period of the judges.
As has been shown in the article headed CUSH, the term “Cushite” may refer to inhabitants of the land of Cush in Africa or may apply to people of Arabic tribes on the Arabian Peninsula, the latter identification evidently applying to Moses, wife Zipporah. (Ex. 18:1-5; Num. 12:1) Zipporah was a Shemite, descended from Abraham through Midian. (Gen. 25:1, 2) The expression at 2 Chronicles 21:16 “by the side of the Ethiopians [Cushites]” as applying to certain Arabs may also mean “under the control of the Ethiopians,” and this might indicate one basis for applying the name “Cushite” to persons not descended from Cush. Several of Cush’s sons are believed to have settled on the Arabian Peninsula. See HAVILAH No. 2; SABTAH.
Basically, however, “Cushite” refers to Africans residing in the region anciently called Ethiopia. In addition to “Zerah the Ethiopian [Heb., Cushite]” and “Tirhakah the king of Ethiopia” (2 Chron. 14:9; 2 Ki. 19:9), considered under the heading CUSH, other Cushites mentioned in the Bible are Ebed-melech (Jer. 38:7-12; 39:16-18) and the Ethiopian eunuch who became a convert to Christianity, and the queen he served, Candace. (Acts 8:26, 27) General Joab selected an unnamed Cushite runner rather than an Israelite to deliver the news to David of