Some Recent Pieces on Cush and the Cushites

“Can Ethiopians change their skin or leopards their spots?”
– Jeremiah 13:23a, NRSV


In December I came across three pieces discussing the subject of biblical Cush and the Cushites. The word “Cush” is a transliteration of the Hebrew word kûš, a term used a couple of dozen times in the Hebrew Bible. An individual from Cush is kûšî, another term that shows up a couple of dozen times in the Jewish scriptures. But who were the Cushites and where was Cush? In “Representing Cush in the Hebrew Bible,” Kevin Burrell notes that “[t]he vast majority of references to Cush as a geographical region denote the African land on the southern border of ancient Egypt, known most commonly today as Nubia.”[1] In that piece, Burrell goes on to describe the various ways in which Cushites/Nubians are represented in the Hebrew Bible. For example, Isaiah 18:2 (NRSV) describes them as “tall and smooth” and Jeremiah 13:23 depicts them as having distinctive skin. Moreover, he notes that “Cushites appear predominantly in military contexts” and are thus seen “as a martial nation,” a reputation attested to in other ancient Near Eastern depictions.[2]

Cush is also the subject of another article Burrell wrote for ASOR back in December.[3] There Burrell goes over much of the same material he covered in his piece for BAR but there are helpful maps and charts that readers may be interested in. 

Finally, Reginald O’Donaghue wrote a piece over at his blog in December asking the question, where was biblical Cush?[4] O’Donaghue’s focus is specifically on the reference to Cush found in Genesis 2:13 and the otherwise unattested Gihon River. He thinks that the Gihon River is something akin to the cosmic sea found in various ANE mythologies since it is said to encompass Cush, “very strange for a normal river, but exactly what we would expect for a cosmic sea.”[5]


[1] Kevin Burrell, “Representing Cush in the Hebrew Bible,” Biblical Archaeological Review, vol. 46 no 5 (Winter 2020), 62. 

[2] Kevin Burrell, “Representing Cush in the Hebrew Bible,” 64.

[3] Kevin Burrell, “The Cushites: Race and Representation in the Hebrew Bible,” asor.org

[4] Reginald O’Donaghue, “The Location of Biblical Cush” (12.3.20), riderontheclouds.wordpress.com.

[5] Cf. Rodney Steven Sadler, Jr., Can a Cushite Change His Skin? (New York: T&T Clark, 2005), 23-25.


Featured image: Mary Harrsch (Wikimedia Commons)

2 Comments on “Some Recent Pieces on Cush and the Cushites

  1. Pingback: Some Recent Pieces on Cush and the Cushites | Talmidimblogging

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