CUSHAN-RISHATHAIM (Heb. כּוּשַׁן רִשְׁעָתַיִם), the first oppressor of Israel in the period of the Judges (Judg. 3:8–10). Israel was subject to Cushan-Rishathaim, the king of Aram-Naharaim, for eight years, before being rescued by the first "judge," *Othniel son of Kenaz. The second element, Rishathaim ("double wickedness"), is presumably not the original name, but serves as a pejorative which rhymes with Naharaim. The combination Aram-Naharaim is not a genuine one for the period of the Judges, since at that time the Arameans were not yet an important ethnic element in Mesopotamia. In the view of some scholars, the story lacks historical basis and is the invention of an author who wished to produce a judge from Judah, and raise the total number of judges to twelve. Those who see a historical basis to the story have proposed various identifications for Cushan-Rishathaim: (1) Cushan is to be sought among one of the Kassite rulers in Babylonia (17th–12th centuries; cf. Gen. 10:8). Josephus identifies Cushan with an Assyrian king. Others identify him with one of the Mitannian or Hittite kings. (2) Cushan is an Egyptian ruler from *Cush in Africa (Nubia; cf. Gen. 10:6; Isa. 11:11, et al.). (3) The head of the tribe of Cush, which led a nomadic existence along the southern border of Palestine. Such Cushite nomads are mentioned in the Egyptian Execration Texts of the first quarter of the second millennium B.C.E. and in the Bible (Num. 12:1; Hab. 3:7; II Chron. 14:8; 21:16). (4) Aram (Heb. ארם) is a corruption of Edom (Heb. אדום) and Naharaim is a later addition. Thus, Cushan is an Edomite king who subjugated the tribe of Judah whose territory was adjacent to Edom. (5) Cushan is from central or northern Syria, and is to be identified with a North Syrian ruler or with irsw, a Hurrian (from the area of Syria-Palestine) who seized power in Egypt during the anarchic period at the end of the 19th dynasty (c. 1200 B.C.E.). In his campaign from the north to Egypt, he also subjugated the Israelites. Othniel's rescue of the Israelites is to be understood against the background of the expulsion of the foreign invaders from Egypt by the pharaoh Sethnakhte, the founder of the 20th dynasty.
E. Taeubler, in: HUCA, 20 (1947), 137–42; A. Malamat, in: JNES, 13 (1954), 231–42; S. Yeivin, in: Atiqot, 3 (1961), 176–80.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.