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CUSH (Heb. kûsh)

The oldest son of Ham, one of the three sons of Noah (Gen.10.6-Gen.10.8; 1Chr.1.8-1Chr.1.10). Among the descendants were Seba, Havilah, Sabta, Raamah, and Sabtecha. They were mostly located in Arabia. Nimrod is likewise said to be the son of Cush, but the word “son” probably means “descendant.”“Cush, a Benjamite,” in the title for Ps.7.1-Ps.7.17, viewed as referring to King Saul, the Benjamite. Since Cush and Kish are similar in sound, they are held to be one. Saul’s father’s name was Kish.Cush, the country. The name of the territory through which the Gihon flowed (Gen.2.13), translated “Ethiopia” by KJV, but NIV margin says “possibly southeast Mesopotamia.” The wife of Moses is referred to as a Cushite, making her a target of criticism by Miriam and Aaron (Num.12.1). If this is Zipporah, the wife of Moses mentioned earlier, her origin was that of the land of Midian. The earlier passages seem to indicate Cush as African, the latter as Asian. The precise identification of either the woman or the country is an unsolved problem. See also Ethiopia.

CUSH koosh (כּ֗וּשׁ, LXX Χουσί).

1. The name of an individual in the title of Psalm 7. The person is a Benjaminite against whose words David has uttered this psalm of lament in which he “prays for deliverance from his enemies, especially from a colleague who has betrayed him” (M. Dahood, Psalms I, Anchor Bible [1966], 41).

2. One of the sons of Ham listed in the Table of Nations (Gen 10:6-8; 1 Chron 1:8-10). Cush is both a person and a nation, for from him descended the southernmost peoples known to the Hebrews.

CUSH kush, כּ֗וּשׁ; LXX Χους, and Αἰθιοπία, a land lying to the S of Egypt. See Ethiopia.

Confusion corrected.

In the OT only one word is involved—Kush, which is usually tr. as “Ethiopia,” with the exception of Isaiah 11:11, and in 2 Samuel 18:21-23, where the gentilic Kushi appears, which is rendered (KJV) as a proper noun “Cushi.” The LXX regularly trs. the word Αἰθιοπία (except Gen 10:6-8 and 1 Chron 1:8-10, where it has Χου̂ς). Even RSV is not entirely consistent for it twice uses “Cushite” (viz. 2 Sam 18:21-23 and Num 12:1).

Land and people.

Sometimes the word Kush is clearly used to refer to the land. This is the case in Isaiah 11:11; 18:1; Zephaniah 1:1, Esther 1:1. The reference of the word to the people appears in Isaiah 20:5; Jeremiah 46:9; Ezekiel 38:5.


It would appear that originally Kush referred to a piece of territory lying between the second and the third cataracts of the Nile. Then it came to refer to a broader area corresponding to what is commonly known as Nubia. Sometimes reference is made to Arabia, for in 2 Chronicles 21:16 the Arabians are said to be near the Ethiopians, which may be thought of as being two areas separated merely by the Red Sea. Ezekiel 29:10 shows that Ethiopia lay at the southern extremity of Egypt, for Syene is the modern Aswan and lies at the first cataract. Passages like Psalm 68:31; 87:4; Zephaniah 2:12; 3:10 indicate that for Israel it lay on the edge of the southern horizon. At this point some contend strongly for the claim that Ethiopia did not have a negro population, even though the Gr. word Αἴθιοψ means “burnt face,” allowing only for the possibility that they were negroid but of an olive complexion. Jeremiah 13:23 does not necessarily conflict with this claim.


As far as the earliest reference to be found is concerned, it seems to indicate that Ethiopians first appear as part of Egypt in the days of the Egyptian monarch, Sesostris I (1971-1930). Around the year 1000 b.c. Ethiopia broke with Egypt and set up an independent capital at Napata. A few centuries later in the twenty-fifth, or Ethiopian, dynasty, i.e. from 715-663 b.c., Ethiopia ruled over Egypt. During this time it was that Tirhakah “king of Ethiopia” (Isa 37:9) came up to make war against Hezekiah. He was driven off by the Assyrians, when Ashur-banipal got the upper hand of them, somewhere between 689-676 b.c.


At times the reference to Ethiopia is merely one that implies a country lying as far off as possible (cf. Ezek 29:10). During the new kingdom (c. 1570-1085 b.c.) the term Cush takes on a much wider meaning, including at least all of what later became known as Nubia. From passages like Isaiah 45:14 one may deduce that the land of Cush was a land of merchants. It may also be inferred that there may have been Arabian Cushites (2 Chron 21:16). Lastly, one may correctly assert that the Ethiopians, as Judah knew them, were a race of striking appearance (see Isa 18:2).


A few problems are encountered in connection with the meaning of the term “Kush.” The first of these is the land of Cush (Gen 2:13), which is said to be encircled by the Gihon River. This reference demands a location near Mesopotamia and lies therefore almost as far N as Cush lies S. There is also the problem of the wife of Moses, the Cushite woman of Numbers 12:1. She either came from the area adjacent to the Sinai peninsula (the Zipporah of Exod 2:21) or possibly after Zipporah’s death may have been an Ethiopian who, in a manner not known to us, came into that same peninsula. Another problem has to do with Zerah the Ethiopian, who according to 2 Chronicles 14:9, 12, 13, appeared in the land of Judah in the days of King Asa with a huge army. History has yet to find an answer to the question how in a time when Ethiopia had no power in Egypt, Zera should have been able to muster so large a force.

Prominent personages from Ethiopia.

Zerah and Tirhakah have already been mentioned as being great Ethiopian kings in their day. A character of less importance is the runner who brought the news of Absalom’s death to King David after the great battle near Mahanaim (2 Sam 18:21-23). Another Ethiopian is the foreigner employed somehow at the king’s court in the days of the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (587 b.c.), the man who took pity upon the Lord’s prophet and secured permission to draw him up out of the cistern into which he had been cast by his adversaries (Jer 38:7ff.).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


1. The Ancestor of Many Nations:

(1) The first of the sons of Ham, from whom sprang Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah and Sabtecah. He was also the father of Nimrod, who rounded Babel (Babylon) and the other great states of Shinar or Babylonia (Ge 10:6-8). The meaning of the name is uncertain.

(2) The name of the country around which the Gihon flowed (Ge 2:13), rendered "Ethiopia" in the King James Version, but in view of the distance of that country from the other rivers mentioned, this seems to be an unlikely identification.

2. A District of the Garden of Eden:

Fried. Delitzsch has suggested (Wo lag das Paradies? 74 ff) that the watercourse in question is the canal Gu-hande or Arahtu, which, coming from the South, entered Babylon a little to the East of the Euphrates, and, flowing alongside the Festival-Street, entered the Euphrates to the North of Nebuchadrezzar’s palace. Koldewey (Tempel von Babylon und Borsippa, 38) regards the Gu-hande as the section of the Euphrates itself at this point. There is no indication, however, that the district which it enclosed was ever called Kusu or Cush, and the suppression of the final syllable of Gu-hande would remain unexplained. Moreover, the identification of Cush with a possible Cas, for Kasdu, "Chaldea," seems likewise improbable, especially as that name could only have been applied, in early times, to the district bordering on the Persian Gulf (see Chaldea).

3. Probably not in Asia Minor:

Another theory is, that the Cush of Ge 2:13 is the Kusu of certain Assyrian letters, where it seems to designate a district in the neighborhood of Cappadocia. This identification apparently leads us back to an ancient tradition at one time current in the East, but later forgotten, which caused the Pyramus river to assume the name of Jihun (i.e. Gihon). This stream rises in the mountains Northeast of the Gulf of Alexandretta, and, taking a southwesterly course, flows into the Mediterranean near Karatash. Though nearer than the Ethiopian Cush, this is still too far West, and therefore unsatisfactory as an identification--all the streams or waterways of the Garden of Eden ought to flow through the same district.

4. The Ethiopian Cush:

5. Negroes Probably not Included:

In the opinion of W. Max Mailer (A, und East, 112), the Egyptians, when they became acquainted with the Negroes, having no word to express this race, classed them with the nechese, which thereafter included the Negroes. If the Hebrew name Phinehas (Pi-nechas) be really Egyptian and mean "the black," there is still no need to suppose that this meant "the Negro," for no Israelite would have borne a name with such a signification. The treasurer of Candace queen of Meroe (Ac 8:27-39)--the Ethiopian eunuch-- was an Abyssinian, not a Negro; and being an educated man, was able to read the Hebrew Scriptures in the Greek (Septuagint) version. Cush (mat Kusi, pr. Kushi) is frequently mentioned in the Assyrian inscriptions in company with Melubha (Merohha) to indicate Ethiopia and Meroe.

See Eden; Ethiopia; Table of Nations.

A Benjamite, perhaps he that "was without cause" the "adversary" of David (compare Ps 7:4).

See Cushi.