BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

The Kingdom of Cush

The Hebrew Bible’s Forgotten Civilization

The Kingdom of Cush, Egypt’s neighbor to the south, played an important role in biblical history despite being one of the lesser known kingdoms. According to 2 Kings 19:9, “Tirhakah, King of Cush” came to the aid of Hezekiah against Sennacherib, king of Assyria, when his forces laid siege to Jerusalem in 701 B.C.E. Without such aid, it is hard to imagine that the Kingdom of Judah would have survived. Judah would have likely gone the way of the Kingdom of Israel—spread to the four winds, never to return.

Rulers of Kush

Statues of various rulers of the late 25th Dynasty to the early Napatan period. From left to right, these statues represent – Tantamani, Taharqa (rear), Senkamanisken, Tantamani again (rear), Aspelta, Anlamani, and Senkamanisken again. Taharqa is mentioned in 2 Kings 19:9 as “Tirhakah, King of Cush,” a ruler who came to the aid of Hezekiah against the invasion of Assyria.
Credit: Matthias Gehricke, CC BY-SA 4.0

The land of Cush has been known by many names throughout history. The Egyptians knew the land as Cush. To the Greeks and Romans it was Aethiopia (or Ethiopia—though not to be confused with the modern nation located on the Horn of Africa). The medieval Arabs referred to the country as Nubia.

Regardless of the name by which it was known, Cush played an interesting role in the history of Canaan, Egypt, and the wider ancient Near East as a whole. Mentioned some 54 times in the Hebrew Bible, Cush features in the historical books—specifically Kings and Chronicles—as well as the prophets. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekial, and Nahum all make mention Cush or the Cushites.


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No modern nation corresponds exactly to ancient Cush. Located along the middle course of the Nile—between the junction of the Blue and White Nile and the First Cataract—the territory of Cush lies partly in Egypt and partly in the Republic of Sudan. Much like its powerful neighbor to the north, Cush benefited from the Nile and its life-giving waters, although the Nile flood plains of Egypt are broader and more continuous. And during the mid-eighth century to the mid-seventh century B.C.E., Cush managed to take control of Egypt and ruled as the pharaohs of the 25th Dynasty.

It was also during this time—the reign of Hezekiah and the Cushite 25th Dynasty—that Isaiah wrote of Egypt in his prophetic messages. This Egypt, mentioned several times in Isaiah 1–40, was an Egypt controlled by the Cushites. Isaiah even rebukes the Israelites for paying tribute to (Cushite) Egypt and putting their trust in the Egyptians instead of God for deliverance from the Assyrians (Isaiah 30:1–7; 31:1). Ironically, it was this trust that ultimately led to Jerusalem’s salvation from the Assyrians.

To learn more about the Cushites and their role, both within history and the Hebrew Bible, read “Representing Cush in the Hebrew Bible” by Kevin Burrell published in the Winter 2020 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

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Read more in Bible History Daily:

The Elusive Kingdom of Kush  In the 8th century B.C.E., the Nubian Kingdom of Kush took over its politically fragmented northern neighbor, forming Egypt’s twenty-fifth dynasty, known as the Nubian dynasty or the Kushite Empire. While the Kushites ushered in an era of prosperity while creating the largest Egyptian empire since the New Kingdom, archaeologists know little about the origins of the Kushite kings.

The Elusive Kingdom of Kush  In the 8th century B.C.E., the Nubian Kingdom of Kush took over its politically fragmented northern neighbor, forming Egypt’s twenty-fifth dynasty, known as the Nubian dynasty or the Kushite Empire. While the Kushites ushered in an era of prosperity while creating the largest Egyptian empire since the New Kingdom, archaeologists know little about the origins of the Kushite kings.

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2 Responses

  1. I am on radio in four states and have written hundreds of articles in the #1 paper in my state. These all deal with evidence for our Bible coming from archaeology and science. I have just finished an article on Tirhakah of Cush and the battle for Jerusalem under Hezekiah. I understand that the Egyptian Cushite empire was very strong, but I gave the victory to God, believing the Bible about an angel killing much of Sennacherib’s army, and him fleeing home only to die at the hands of his two sons.

  2. Steve says:

    “Ironically, it was this trust that ultimately led to Jerusalem’s salvation from the Assyrians.”

    I think it might be more accurate to say that God enabled the backing of the Cushite kingdom to save his chosen people. But who is to say that had the Israelite’s relied on their God to save them, they might have seen another example of his great power and caring for his chosen ones.

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


2 Responses

  1. I am on radio in four states and have written hundreds of articles in the #1 paper in my state. These all deal with evidence for our Bible coming from archaeology and science. I have just finished an article on Tirhakah of Cush and the battle for Jerusalem under Hezekiah. I understand that the Egyptian Cushite empire was very strong, but I gave the victory to God, believing the Bible about an angel killing much of Sennacherib’s army, and him fleeing home only to die at the hands of his two sons.

  2. Steve says:

    “Ironically, it was this trust that ultimately led to Jerusalem’s salvation from the Assyrians.”

    I think it might be more accurate to say that God enabled the backing of the Cushite kingdom to save his chosen people. But who is to say that had the Israelite’s relied on their God to save them, they might have seen another example of his great power and caring for his chosen ones.

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