(Investigator 124, 2009 January)

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:

1.  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 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 of Egypt.

Historians 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.


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 pottery.  
The  Los Angeles Times reported:
Ancient Kush rivalled Egypt, experts say
Archaeologists 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...
(June 19, 2007)
By 2000 BC 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.

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 pyramids.

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:
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 (665 BC) 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 (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:
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.

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, 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.


(Investigator 125, 2009 March)

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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