An empire ignored
by historians but implied in the Bible has been rediscovered.
Cush was the
ancient Egyptian name for the land to Egypt's south, now identified
with southern Nubia (the Nile valley of Sudan). The civilization of
Cush flourished for 2500 years and built more pyramids than Egypt – 300
are known compared to 60 in Egypt.
The Bible implies
Cush ruled an empire because Cush:
Judah twice (II Chronicles 14:9-13; II Kings 19:9) which would have
required the defeat of Egypt;
2. Is called in the
Bible "a nation mighty and conquering" (Isaiah 18:1-2);
3. Challenged the
great Assyrian Empire (II Kings 19:9; Isaiah 37:9).
According to the
Bible Cush was a grandson of Noah through Noah’s son Ham. (Genesis
10:6-8; I Chronicles 1:8-10) Cush’s descendants settled in Mesopotamia
(Genesis 2:13), Arabia (Habakkuk 3:7), and Africa.
The Cushites we're concerned with
were dark-skinned people (Jeremiah 13:23) south of Egypt. The King
James Bible translates the Hebrew "Kush" as "Ethiopia" – an error that
resulted because Africa was virtually unknown. Some recent translations
have "Sudan" or "Cush".
In 1913 to 1916
Harvard Egyptologist George A. Reisner (1867-1942) discovered a
previously unknown Sudanese civilization and the first archaeological
evidence that Cushite kings ruled Egypt.
black Africans could not have built the monuments he was finding and
that therefore Cush was an Egyptian outpost and its people slaves of
Egypt. Cushite rulers of Egypt, Reisner thought, were light-skinned
Egyptians who had intermarried with Blacks.
The Modern World
Encylopaedia (1935) mentions neither Cush nor its greatest ruler,
Taharqa. Egyptologists Keith Seele and George Steindorff in When Egypt
Ruled the East (1942) devoted only three sentences to Cushite pharaohs
generally believed there's no history in Cush. The picture started
changing with archaeological salvage efforts during the building of
Egypt’s Aswan Dam in the 1960s.
excavated the abandoned city of Kerma near the Third Cataract of the
Nile. He gained international attention in 2003 upon discovering seven
stone statues of Cushite pharaohs.
Kerma was the main
city of Cush from 2500 to 1502 BC. Its cemetery has 30,000 graves.
Deceased rulers were laid in multi-roomed tombs and surrounded by
hundreds of servants ritually-sacrificed.
Kerma traded in
ivory, gold, jewellery and bronze artifacts, managed extensive
farmlands and herds, and manufactured pottery.
The Los Angeles
have unearthed a 4,000-year-old gold-processing centre along the middle
Nile in Sudan that suggests the ancient kingdom of Kush was much larger
than scholars previously believed and would have rivalled the domain of
the Egyptians to the north.
Kush, which was
called Nubia by the Greeks, was the first urban civilization in
sub-Saharan Africa. The discovery of the gold centre and a related
graveyard is providing new information about…the capital city, Kerma…
Believed to have
flourished from about 2400 BC until the 2nd century AD, Kush "is
gradually coming out of the shadow of Egypt," said archaeologist Derek
A. Welsby of the British Museum...
(T. H. Maugh II
Ancient Kush rivalled Egypt, experts say, The Los Angeles Times, June
Cush occupied 650 miles of the Nile valley, as much as Egypt did.
Egypt built huge
forts to protect its southern frontier but abandoned them around 1750
and Cushite forces moved in. An inscription at El Kab reveals that
around 1650 the Cushites rampaged through Egypt and reached the Nile
Delta. No known Egyptian inscription, however, records this defeat.
Egypt under its 18th Dynasty
(1539-1292) regained dominance. Pharaoh Thutmose I won decisively in
1502 and destroyed Kerma. A layer of ash and mud-bricks fired red are
evidence of the destruction.
ruled Cush, forts and temples were built across the land, and children
of elite Cushites were educated in Egypt. Cush adopted Egyptian
language, burial customs, and gods, and began building pyramids.
The Bible says
little about Cush in this period – only that Moses had a Cushite wife.
Egypt's control of
Cush ended about 1100BC, but Cush retained Egyptian culture and
religion. A new kingdom of Cush arose.
regarding this period states that:
military commander Joab had a Cushite slave around 1000BC. (II Samuel
- When Rehoboam
(David’s grandson) ruled Israel (c.920) Pharoah Shishak of Egypt
attacked Jerusalem and his army included Cushites. (II Chronicles
- Cushites led
by "Zerah: invaded Judah when Asa was king (c.900). (II Chronicles
14:9-13) The Cushites would have had to advance through Egypt – but as
yet there’s no proof of Cushite control over Egypt at this period.
By 750 Egypt,
according to secular history, was militarily weak. It was ruled by
Libyans and petty warlords, its culture and religion in ruins.
In 730 Cushite
forces under Piye conquered Upper Egypt. His successor conquered the
rest of Egypt (712) and founded Egypt’s 25th Dynasty. Black pharaohs
reunited Egypt, regenerated Egyptian culture, and ruled Egypt until
656. The Cushite Empire stretched from Khartoum to the Mediterranean.
The fourth Cushite
pharaoh, Taharqa (721-664), is mentioned in the Bible as "Tirhakah". He
reigned 26 years (690-664) and built numerous monuments from Napata
(Cush’s capital) to Egypt’s delta.
In 701 Assyria
invaded Judah. (See Investigator #71) The Bible reports that "King"
Tirhakah intervened (II Kings 19: 9; Isaiah 37:9) but apparently was
defeated. Tirhakah was not actually "king" in 701, but commander of the
army. Probably the Bible uses his later royal title because that’s how
subsequent generations referred to him.
The Assyrians under King
Esarhaddon attacked Egypt in 674 but the Cushites beat them back. The
Assyrians returned in 671 and after bloody battles took Memphis. In
conquered towns Esarhaddon erected "piles of their heads". The
Assyrians transported cattle, horses and captives to Assyria "in
countless numbers" including Taharqa's royal family. Isaiah wrote:
So shall the king
of Assyria lead away the Egyptians as captives and the Ethiopians
[Cushites] as exiles, both the young and the old… (ch.20)
Taharqa escaped to
Cush but returned in 669 and slaughtered the Assyrian garrisons. A
third Assyian invasion (665BC) recaptured Memphis and advanced to
Thebes. Taharqa again fled to Cush where he died.
Taharqa's stepson Tantamani retook
Egypt from Assyria and became Egypt's last black pharaoh. Again the
Assyrians returned and defeated the Cushites.
After that Assyria
itself declined. Egypt regained independence and invaded Cush (590BC).
Mesopotamia the Babylonian Empire arose. Under King Nebuchadnezzar it
conquered Egypt in 588. The Bible describes the devastation of Egypt
and says Cushites took part. (Ezekiel 29:10-14; 30:4, 5, 9-12; Jeremiah
In 539 the Persian
Empire conquered Babylon and reached Cush in 522. The Bible says Persia
ruled from India to Cush. (Esther 1:1; 8:9)
to Cush's history the Old Testament also prophesied about Cush's future:
In that day the
Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will
rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. In that day the
Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that
is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt,
from Cush… (Isaiah 11:10-11)
The "Root of Jesse"
was a future Jewish ruler understood by Christians to be Christ.
Therefore, at some stage after Christ lived, Jews from many lands,
including Cush, would return to Israel.
indicates that in Cush people will serve God. Possibly this occurred
with the Jewish presence in Cush or in the 6th to 14th centuries AD
when the area was Christianized.
mentions Cush at the "time of the end". Ezekiel 38:5 predicts a final
attack on Israel by numerous nations, including Cush.
The rediscovery of
Cush is threatened by Sudan's Merowe Dam hydroelectric scheme which
will create a 150km-long lake. European, American and Sudanese
archaeologists are hurriedly examining ancient remains facing
inundation. The Gdansk Archaeological Museum alone surveyed 700 sites
in just one year.
The past century
has seen hundreds of claims in the Bible confirmed by science. If even
an empire could become lost and rediscovered, then what else?
Draper, R. National
Geographic, February 2008, pp 35-59.
Wilford, J. N. The
New York Times, June 19, 2007.