Biblical Cush
Cush was the eldest son of Ham
Ham, son of Noah
Ham , according to the Table of Nations in the Book of Genesis, was a son of Noah and the father of Cush, Mizraim, Phut and Canaan.- Hebrew Bible :The story of Ham is related in , King James Version:...

, brother of Mizraim (Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

), Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

 and the father of Nimrod
Nimrod (king)
Nimrod is, according to the Book of Genesis and Books of Chronicles, the son of Cush and great-grandson of Noah and the king of Shinar. He is depicted in the Tanakh as a man of power in the earth, and a mighty hunter. Extra-Biblical traditions associating him with the Tower of Babel led to his...

, and Raamah
Raamah or Rama is a name found in the Bible , means "lofty, exalted, that also may mean "thunder".The name is first mentioned as the fourth son of Cush, who is the son of Ham, who is the son of Noah in Gen. 10:7, and later appears as a country that traded with the Phoenician city-state of Tyre, in...

, mentioned in the "Table of Nations" in the Genesis 10:6 and I Chronicles 1:8. He is traditionally considered the eponymous ancestor of the people of Cush, a dark-skinned people inhabiting the country surrounded by the River Gihon
Gihon is the name of the second river mentioned in the second chapter of the biblical Book of Genesis. The Gihon is mentioned as one of four rivers issuing out of the Garden of Eden that branched from a single river within the garden. The name may be interpreted as "Bursting Forth, Gushing"...

, identified in antiquity with Arabia Felix and Ethiopia.

Hebrew Bible

According to Genesis, Cush's other sons were Seba, Havilah
Havilah is in several books of the Bible referring to both land and people.The story of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:11: "And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads...

, Sabtah, Raamah
Raamah or Rama is a name found in the Bible , means "lofty, exalted, that also may mean "thunder".The name is first mentioned as the fourth son of Cush, who is the son of Ham, who is the son of Noah in Gen. 10:7, and later appears as a country that traded with the Phoenician city-state of Tyre, in...

, and Sabtecah.

The wife of Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 was a Cushite, according to the Book of Numbers
Book of Numbers
The Book of Numbers is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible, and the fourth of five books of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch....

 12:1. Exagoge 60-65 by Ezekiel the Tragedian (fragments reproduced in Eusebius) has Zipporah describe herself to Moses as a stranger in the land of Midian, and proceeds to describe the inhabitants of her ancestral lands in Africa:
"Stranger, this land is called Libya {an ancient name for the African continent}. It is inhabited by tribes of various peoples, Ethiopians, dark men. One man is the ruler of the land: he is both king and general. He rules the state, judges the people, and is priest. This man is my father {Jethro} and theirs."

The rhetorical question "Can the Cushite change his skin?" in Jeremiah
Book of Jeremiah
The Book of Jeremiah is the second of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, following the book of Isaiah and preceding Ezekiel and the Book of the Twelve....

 13:23 implies people of a markedly different skin color from the Israelites, probably an African people; also, the Septuagint  uniformly translates Cush as Αἰθιοπία "Ethiopia."

Another person named Cush in the Hebrew Bible is a Benjamite who is mentioned only in Psalm 7, and is believed to be a follower of Saul
Saul the King
According to the Bible, Saul was the first king of the united Kingdom of Israel. He was anointed by the prophet Samuel and reigned from Gibeah. He commited suicide to avoid arrest in the battle against the Philistines at Mount Gilboa, during which three of his sons were also killed...


Later identifications

It is possible that the Hebrew name is derived from Kash, the Egyptian name of Lower Nubia
Lower Nubia
Lower Nubia is the northern portion of Nubia, downstream on the Nile from Upper Nubia. It lies between the First and Second Cataracts, roughly from Aswan in the north to Wadi Halfa in the south. A great deal of Lower Nubia was flooded with the construction of the Aswan High Dam and the creation...

 and later of the Nubian kingdom at Napata
Kingdom of Kush
The native name of the Kingdom was likely kaš, recorded in Egyptian as .The name Kash is probably connected to Cush in the Hebrew Bible , son of Ham ....

, known as "kingdom of Kush" in modern literature. At the time of the redaction of the Hebrew Bible, and throughout classical antiquity, the Nubian kingdom was centered at Meroe
Meroë Meroitic: Medewi or Bedewi; Arabic: and Meruwi) is an ancient city on the east bank of the Nile about 6 km north-east of the Kabushiya station near Shendi, Sudan, approximately 200 km north-east of Khartoum. Near the site are a group of villages called Bagrawiyah...


Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

 gives an account of the nation of Cush, son of Ham and grandson of Noah
Noah was, according to the Hebrew Bible, the tenth and last of the antediluvian Patriarchs. The biblical story of Noah is contained in chapters 6–9 of the book of Genesis, where he saves his family and representatives of all animals from the flood by constructing an ark...

: "For of the four sons of Ham, time has not at all hurt the name of Cush; for the Ethiopians, over whom he reigned, are even at this day, both by themselves and by all men in Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, called Cushites." (Antiquities of the Jews
Antiquities of the Jews
Antiquities of the Jews is a twenty volume historiographical work composed by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in the thirteenth year of the reign of Roman emperor Flavius Domitian which was around 93 or 94 AD. Antiquities of the Jews contains an account of history of the Jewish people,...


The introduction of the term "Cushitic
Cushitic languages
The Cushitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family spoken in the Horn of Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan and Egypt. They are named after the Biblical character Cush, who was identified as an ancestor of the speakers of these specific languages as early as AD 947...

" for a branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family dates to the 1870s.
The Cushitic-speaking peoples today comprise the Somali
Somali people
Somalis are an ethnic group located in the Horn of Africa, also known as the Somali Peninsula. The overwhelming majority of Somalis speak the Somali language, which is part of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family...

, Afar
Afar people
The Afar , also known as the Danakil, are an ethnic group in the Horn of Africa. They primarily live in the Afar Region of Ethiopia and in northern Djibouti, although some also inhabit the southern point of Eritrea.-Early history:...

, Oromo
Oromo people
The Oromo are an ethnic group found in Ethiopia, northern Kenya, .and parts of Somalia. With 30 million members, they constitute the single largest ethnic group in Ethiopia and approximately 34.49% of the population according to the 2007 census...

 and several other tribes, and were considered offspring of Cush in Masudi's Meadows of Gold from 947 AD The Beja people
Beja people
The Beja people are an ethnic group dwelling in parts of North Africa and the Horn of Africa.-Geography:The Beja are found mostly in Sudan, but also in parts of Eritrea, and Egypt...

, who also speak a Cushitic language, have specific genealogical traditions of descent from Cush.

The Persian historian Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari
Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari was a prominent and influential Sunni scholar and exegete of the Qur'an from Persia...

 (c. 915) recounts a tradition that the wife of Cush was named Qarnabil, daughter of Batawil, son of Tiras
Tiras was, according to and Chronicles 1, the last-named son of Japheth who is otherwise unmentioned in the Hebrew Bible. According to the Book of Jubilees, the inheritance of Tiras consisted of four large islands in the ocean....

, and that she bore him the "Abyssinians, Sindis and Indians".

Scholars like Johann Michaelis
Johann David Michaelis
Johann David Michaelis , a famous and eloquent German biblical scholar and teacher, was a member of a family which had the chief part in maintaining that solid discipline in Hebrew and the cognate languages which distinguished the University of Halle in the period of Pietism.-Life and work:J. D...

 and Rosenmuller have pointed out that the name Cush was applied to tracts of country on both sides of the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

 in the Arabia
Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

) and in Africa. In the 5th century AD, the Himyarites in the south of Arabia were styled by Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

n writers as Cushaeans and Ethiopians.

Explorer James Bruce
James Bruce
James Bruce was a Scottish traveller and travel writer who spent more than a dozen years in North Africa and Ethiopia, where he traced the origins of the Blue Nile.-Youth:...

, who visited the Ethiopia highlands c. 1770, wrote of "a tradition among the Abyssinians, which they say they have had since time immemorial", that in the days after the Deluge, Cush, the son of Ham, traveled with his family up the Nile until they reached the Atbara plain, then still uninhabited, from where they could see the Ethiopian table-land. There they ascended and built Axum
Axum or Aksum is a city in northern Ethiopia which was the original capital of the eponymous kingdom of Axum. Population 56,500 . Axum was a naval and trading power that ruled the region from ca. 400 BC into the 10th century...

, and sometime later returned to the lowland, building Meroe
Meroë Meroitic: Medewi or Bedewi; Arabic: and Meruwi) is an ancient city on the east bank of the Nile about 6 km north-east of the Kabushiya station near Shendi, Sudan, approximately 200 km north-east of Khartoum. Near the site are a group of villages called Bagrawiyah...

. He also states that European scholars of his own day had summarily rejected this account on grounds of their established theory, that Cush must have arrived in Africa via Arabia and the Bab el Mandab. Further, the great obelisk of Axum was said to have been erected by Cush in order to mark his allotted territory, and his son Ityopp'is
Ityopp'is is, according to the 15th century Book of Aksum, a son of Cush, son of Ham, who founded the city of Axum....

 was said to have been buried there, according to the Book of Aksum
Book of Aksum
The Book of Aksum or Mats'hafa Aksum is the name accepted since the time of James Bruce for a collection of documents from the St. Mary Cathedral of Aksum providing information on Ethiopian history. The earliest parts of the collection date to the mid-15th century during the reign of Zar'a Ya`qob...

, which Bruce asserts was revered throughout Abyssinia equally with the Kebre Negest.
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