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Biblical Cush

From Academic Kids

See also: Kush, Kushites

Cush (כּוּשׁ "Black", Standard Hebrew Kuš, Tiberian Hebrew KŻš) was the eldest son of Ham, brother of Canaan and the father of Nimrod, mentioned in the "table of nations" in the Book of Genesis (x. 60) and in I Chronicles (i. 8), usually considered the eponym of the people of Kush. Six Arabian tribes are also sons of Cush.

Another person named Cush in the Bible was a Benjamite, mentioned only in Psalm 7, and believed to be a follower of Saul.

Josephus gives an account of the nation of Cush, who is the son of Ham and the grandson of Noah. "For of the four sons of Ham, time has not at all hurt the name of Chus; for the Ethiopians, over whom he reigned, are even at this day, both by themselves and by all men in Asia, called Chusites." (AotJ I:6.) The wife of Moses was a Kushite according to the Book of Numbers.

The locality of this area has been questioned, with some believing it refers to countries south of the Israelites, and others stating it refers to part of Africa, such as Ethiopia, in ancient inscriptions written as Kesh. Samuel Bochart maintained that it was exclusively in Arabia; Friedrich Schulthess and Heinrich Gesenius held that it should be sought in Africa.

Others again, like Johann Michaelis and Rosenmuller, have proposed that the name Cush was applied to tracts of country on both sides of the Red Sea, in Arabia (Yemen) and in Africa. In the 5th century AD the Himyarites, in the south of Arabia, were styled by Syrian writers as Cushaeans and Ethiopians, and it is certain that the present-day areas of Yemen and Eritrea were both ruled together by one dynasty (see Aksumite Kingdom) at that time.

The existence of a historical Kush between Egypt and Nubia cannot reasonably be questioned, though the term is employed in the Old Testament with some latitude. The African Kush covered Upper Egypt, and extended southwards from the first cataract. In addition, the Cushitic peoples, who live around the Horn region of Africa and today comprise the Somali, Afar, Oromo and several other tribes, are popularly asserted to be the offspring of the Biblical Cush.

That the Biblical term was also applied to parts of Arabia is suggested by Genesis, where Cush is the eponymous father of certain tribal and ethnic designations that tend to point to Arabia (though Sheba may be an exception, held by some to refer to Shewa in Africa).

Babylonian inscriptions mention the Kashshi or Kassites, and it was once held that this signified a possible explanation of Cush, the ancestor of Nimrod in Genesis chapter 8.

Although decisive evidence is lacking, it is still alleged by some that the several references to Cush in the Old Testament do not refer to Ethiopia; however, its frequent inclusion with Libya and Mizraim (Egypt) strongly suggests that it was at least considered to be African. Views on their precise location generally depend on how willing certain scholars are to concede that Ethiopia could have enjoyed the prominence claimed for it by others.

It is logical to assume that the Black Cushites of East Africa, including Aksum in Ethiopia, branched out and settled in Arabia or elsewhere - thus forming an extra-African civilization - from the fact that one can find references to "Cushites" outside of Africa. This is taken seriously by those that feel that Black Cushites were able to venture outside of Africa. It seems fairly certain that many Cushites intermingled with other peoples, both at home, with Semitic peoples from Yemen, and in other lands where they settled.

Until certain eurocentric scholars also accept it as a serious possibility that Biblical Cush refers to Africa proper, some skeptics continue to assert that it refers to a "non" Black Cushite race of dark-skinned caucasians. Obviously, the biased assumption that historically, Blacks cannot settle independently outside of Africa except as slaves or soldiers, has yet to be debunked. If we pretended for a moment that the Cushites were Asian or Nordic, it would not be an argument of whether Cush is "in" Africa or "in" Arabia. It might then have been acknowledged that throughout history, the civilization of "Cushites" in that region crossed the Red Sea and settled on both sides. But alas, we must continue with the "all or nothing" approach to reason in regards to Black African people. Please see Eurocentrism for a more detailed explaination of this psychological problem that interferes with reasonable historical investigations.

The rhetorical question "Can the Cushite change his skin?" in Jeremiah 13:23 implies people of a markedly different skin color from the Israelites, probably an African race; also, the Septuagint Greek translation of the Old Testament, made by Greek-speaking Jews between ca. 250 BC and 100 BC, uniformly translates Cush as "Ethiopia".

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