CUSHAN-RISHATHAIM koo’ shăn rĭsh’ ə thā'əm (כּוּשַׁ֣ן רִשְׁעָתַ֔יִם). (Rendered Chushan-rishathaim in the KJV.)
The king of Mesopotamia (Hebrew, Aram-naharaim) in the period of the Judges (Judg 3:8). He ruled over Israel for eight years. The occasion of his oppression was the sin of the children of Israel. They did evil in God’s sight and forgot God, serving instead the Baalim and the Asheroth (Judg 3:7).
God consequently sold Israel into the hands of Cushan-rishathaim, soon after the death of Joshua, a little later than 1200 b.c.
After eight years of subjection to this king, the Israelites cried to God who gave to them a deliverer, Othniel, the nephew of Caleb. Othniel, by God’s Spirit, prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim.
The identity of this king and his kingdom are much in dispute. There are two basic views concerning his identity, however:
He is from the area of the two rivers (the Tigris and Euphrates) as the Hebrew would seem to imply (Aram-naharaim means “Aram of the two rivers”). Such a country is known from Egyptian manuscripts as well as from Tell-el-amarna. The people of this land could have been the Mitanni. It is also possible that he was a Hittite ruler of that area.
He is from Edom and the word “Aram” is a mistake. It should read, “Edom-of the two wickednesses” (Rishathaim from the Heb. רֶ֫שַׁע, H8400, “wickedness”) or “Rêsh-hattêmānî, chief of the Temanites.” In support of this latter view it is argued that the ending-an is like many Edomite tribal names and consequently the corruption to “Rishathaim” is a deliberate attempt of the writer to corrupt the name and denounce him before the people of Israel as the English might later corrupt the name Adolf Hitler to be “Adolf Hater.”
Since the latter is highly speculative, the former is more probable. The first view does no violence to the text. Furthermore, the 12th century b.c. witnessed the rise of the Assyrian empire. In the latter part of the cent., both in Assyria and Babylonia, forerunners of the great empires came into power. In Assyria there was Tiglath-pileser I and in Babylonia, in the same period, was Nebuchadnezzar I. Cushan-rishathaim was possibly from one of these dynasties, both properly in the Mesopotamian area.
J. Bright, A History of Israel (1960), 156ff.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
Mentioned in Jud 3:8-10 as a king of Mesopotamia who was chosen by God as his tool to chastise the Israelites for their idolatry. After Joshua’s death the children of Israel soon began to affiliate themselves with the heathen peoples among whom they dwelt. This was the fertile source of all their troubles. God delivered ("sold") them into the hands of the heathen. C.-r. is the first whose name is given in this connection. Barring this short passage in Jud nothing is known of the man. Eight years the Israelites were under his dominion, when the Lord raised up a deliverer to them, Othniel, the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother--the first of the judges.