A LOST EMPIRE
(Investigator 124, 2009
An empire ignored by historians but implied in the Bible has been
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:
Invaded 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.
Reisner concluded 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
The Modern World Encylopaedia (1935) mentions neither
its greatest ruler, Taharqa. Egyptologists Keith Seele and George
Steindorff in When Egypt Ruled the East (1942) devoted only
sentences to Cushite pharaohs of Egypt.
Historians generally believed there's no history in Cush.
started changing with archaeological salvage efforts during the
building of Egypt's Aswan Dam in the 1960s.
Charles Bonnet 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
The Los Angeles Times reported:
Kush rivalled Egypt, experts say
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.
By 2000 BC Cush
occupied 650 miles of the Nile valley, as much as Egypt
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…
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...
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
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.
Egyptian viceroys 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
The Bible says little about Cush in this period – only that Moses had a
Cushite wife. (Numbers 12:1)
Egypt's control of Cush ended about 1100 BC, but Cush retained Egyptian
culture and religion. A new kingdom of Cush arose.
Biblical comment regarding this period states that:
commander Joab had a Cushite slave around 1000 BC. (II Samuel 18:21-32)
(David's grandson) ruled Israel (c.920) Pharoah Shishak of Egypt
attacked Jerusalem and his army included Cushites. (II Chronicles
Egypt, according to secular history, was militarily weak. It was
ruled by Libyans and petty warlords, its culture and religion in ruins.
"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.
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
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
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
king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians as captives and the Ethiopians
[Cushites] as exiles, both the young and the old… (ch.20)
to Cush but returned in 669 and slaughtered the
Assyrian garrisons. A third Assyian invasion (665 BC) recaptured
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
After that Assyria itself declined. Egypt regained independence and
invaded Cush (590 BC).
Meanwhile in 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 46:2, 9)
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)
Besides references to Cush's history the Old Testament also prophesied
about Cush's future:
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)
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.
Zephaniah 3:9-10 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.
Daniel 11:43 mentions Cush at the "time of the end".
Ezekiel 38:5 predicts a final attack on Israel by numerous nations,
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
Draper, R. National Geographic, February 2008, pp 35-59.
Wilford, J. N. The New York Times, June 19, 2007.
(Investigator 125, 2009
In Investigator 124 I contrasted 300 pyramids
found in Cush
with a mere 60 in Egypt.
This may need revision. The Weekend Australian reported the
recent discovery of the mummified remains of Queen Sesheshet (c. 2300
BC) in the sarcophagus of a pyramid and says: "The pyramid is the 118th
found in Egypt so far but only a handful are intact." (January
10-11, 2009, p. 12)
If an empire could
become lost for 2000
years and rediscovered, then what else?
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