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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

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The translation in the Authorized Version, following the ancient versions, of a name covering three different countries and peoples, viz.: (1) Ethiopia proper; (2) parts of northern Arabia; and (3) the regions east of Babylonia. See See CUSH for this name and the problems involved.

The versions, beginning with the Septuagint, did not know any other country than Kûsh (Egyptian, "Ko[']sh"), that is, Nubia south of Egypt. In the Bible "Cush," the son of Ham and brother of Mizraim (Egypt; Genesis 10:6; 1 Chronicles 1:8), evidently means the ancestor of the Nubians. Originally the Egyptians used the name Ko[']sh only of tribes living south of the second cataract, extending it after 1500 B.C. to the whole valley of the Nile south of Egypt; never, however, to the highlands of Abyssinia, which, by a late literary usurpation, and much to the confusion of modern scholars, acquired the name "Ethiopia."

The Greeks often included under the term "Ethiopians" (dusky-faced ones) all nations of eastern or central Africa, but designated as Ethiopia proper the Nile valley from Syene (compare Ezekiel 29:10) to the modern Khartum. The inhabitants of this country were more or less pure negroes. Isaiah 18:2 (R. V.) calls them "tall and smooth"; but it is very doubtful if that obscure description of a land "rustling with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia" (ib. 18:1), could mean Nubia.

Those barbarous tribes were at an early period tributary to the Pharaohs who made the northern part of the country a real Egyptian province after 2000 B.C., and the southern half after 1600. The viceroys of this province became independent about 1000 B.C. Napata and Meroe were the capitals. The Ethiopian kings occupied Thebes about 800, and P'ankhy attempted to conquer the whole of Egypt some fifty years later; but actual possession could only be effected by Shabako about 700. After Shabatako, the third Ethiopian Pharaoh, Taharḳô came to the throne (the Tirhaka of 2 Kings 19:9 and Isaiah 37:9). His meddling with Syrian affairs caused the Assyrian conquest of Egypt, which country he and his successor, Tanut-amon (Tandamani), were unable to regain permanently (compare Nahum 3; Isaiah 20:3). Cambyses fulfilled the threat of Ezekiel 30:4, and made Ethiopia tributary (compare Esther 1:1, 8:9; I Esd. 3:2). About 210 King Ergamenes broke the power of the high priests of Amon, who, by means of their oracles had virtually been rulers until this time.

Under Augustus a violation of the Roman frontier at Syene caused the punitive expedition of Petronius and the destruction of Napata. A few miserable remnants of the kingdom and of ancient Egyptian culture existed in Meroe for a while; the wild tribes of the Nobades and Blemmyans took the place of the Ethiopians, whose language and race are usually assumed to be represented by the modern Nubas.

The Bible, furthermore, mentions Ethiopia as the type of a remote land (Psalms 68:31, 87:4; Amos 9:7; Zephaniah 2:12, 3:10; Daniel 11:43). Isaiah 43:3 seems to imply Ethiopia's wealth, probably in gold, precious stones, etc. (compare Job 28:19, "the topaz of Ethiopia"; Isaiah 45:14, "the merchandise of Ethiopia"). Ethiopian mercenaries in Egypt are mentioned in Jeremiah 46:9. also Cush.

E. G. H.
W. M. M.
Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Ethiopia'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​e/ethiopia.html. 1901.
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