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Cush (Kush)

(1) Cush was the name of an ancient kingdom in N.E. Africa. The portion of the Nile Valley between the First and Sixth Cataracts was called Cush by the pharaonic Egyptians, though western nations preferred the Greek appellation Nubia. One of the earliest mentions of the name Cush is found on an inscription of the early Middle Kingdom (c. 1970 B.C.E.). During the second millennium B.C.E. Cush was absorbed into the Egyptian empire, first as far as the Second Cataract under the Middle Kingdom rulers and then as far as the Sixth by the New Kingdom pharaohs. When the New Kingdom disintegrated (c. 1050 B.C.E.), Cush, which had been thoroughly Egyptianized, gained its independence under a line of native kings. It was probably the Cushite king Shabako (c. 707–696) who encouraged *Hezekiah of Judah to resist the Assyrians under Sennacherib and sent the relief army that the Assyrians crushed at the battle of Eletekh in 701 B.C.E., since Taharka ( *Tirhakah ), mentioned in II Kings 19:9 and Isaiah 37:9, had not yet come to the throne. In fact, the biblical account is believed by some scholars to be a conflation of two campaigns. After the Assyrian conquest of Egypt in 666 B.C.E., Taharka's successor Tanwentamani at first succeeded in freeing Upper Egypt as far as Memphis from the Assyrians in about 663–662 B.C.E., but he was driven out by the avenging armies of Ashurbanipal. The ancient capital of Thebes was so savagely plundered that 50 years later it served the prophet Nahum as an example for the forthcoming destruction of Nineveh (Nah. 3:8, 10). From this time on, Cush ceased to intervene in the affairs of Egypt.

(2) According to the Bible, Cush was the son of Ham (Gen. 2:13; 10:6–8; Ezek. 38:5; I Chron. 1:8–10) and the eponym of the N.E. African people. In several verses the name refers to other peoples; the distinction is not clear in every single case (Num. 12:1; II Chron. 14:8; 21:16). In the Septuagint the name appears in two forms: in those verses in which it designates the son of Ham it appears in the form Χονς while in other cases it is Αιθιοπια, i.e., Ethiopia. Most modern translations follow the Septuagint. The whole of East Africa was called Cush by the Greeks, and in modern times "Cushi" is a Hebrew term for a black person.

Sources:A.J. Arkell, History of the Sudan (19612), 55–173; Lambdin, in: IDB, 2 (1962), 176–7 (incl. bibl.); Wilson, ibid., 4 (1962), 652 (incl. bibl.).

[Alan Richard Schulman]

Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.