1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cush

CUSH, the eldest son of Ham, in the Bible, from whom seems to have been derived the name of the “Land of Cush,” commonly rendered “Ethiopia” by the Septuagint and by the Vulgate. The locality of the land of Cush has long been a much-vexed question. Bochart maintained that it was exclusively in Arabia; Schulthess and Gesenius held that it should be sought for nowhere but in Africa (see Ethiopia). Others again, like Michaelis and Rosenmüller, have supposed that the name Cush was applied to tracts of country both in Arabia and in Africa, but the defective condition of the ancient knowledge of countries and peoples, as also the probability of early migrations of “Cushite” tribes (carrying with them their name), will account for the main facts. The existence of an African Cush cannot reasonably be questioned, though the term is employed in the Old Testament with some latitude. The African Cush covers Upper Egypt, and extends southwards from the first cataract (Syene, Ezek. xxix. 10). That the term was also applied to parts of Arabia is evident from Gen. x. 7, where Cush is the “father” of certain tribal and ethnical designations, all of which point very clearly to Arabia, with the very doubtful exception of Seba, which Josephus (Ant. ii. 10. 2) identifies with Meroë.[1] Even in the 5th century A.D. the Himyarites, in the south of Arabia, were styled by Syrian writers Cushaeans and Ethiopians. Moreover, the Babylonian inscriptions mention the Kashshi, an Elamite race, whose name has been equated with the classical Κοσσαῖοι, Κίσσιοι, and it has been held that this affords a more appropriate explanation of Cush (perhaps rather Kash), the ancestor of (the Babylonian) Nimrod in Gen. x. 8. Although decisive evidence is lacking, it seems extremely probable that several references to Cush in the Old Testament cannot refer to Ethiopia, despite the likelihood that considerable confusion existed in the minds of early writers. The Cushite invasion in 2 Chron. xiv. (see Asa) is intelligible if the historical foundation for the story be a raid by Arabians, but in xvi. 8 the inclusion of Libyans shows that the enemy was subsequently supposed to be African. In several passages the interpretation is bound up with that of Mizraim (q.v.), and depends in general upon the question whether Ethiopia at a given time enjoyed the prominence given to it.

On Num. xii. I see Jethro; and consult H. Winckler, Keil. u. das alte Test., 3rd ed., p. 144 sq., and Im Kampfe um den alten Orient, ii. pp. 36 seq., and the literature cited under Mizraim.  (S. A. C.) 

  1. For Seba, see Sabaeans, and cf. generally the commentaries on Gen. x. 7. In Hab. iii. 7 Cushan (obviously a related form) is parallel to Midian.