A nation whose founder is mentioned in Gen. x. 6; I Chron. i. 8 as brother to Mizraim (Egypt) and as a son of Ham; with the exception of the passages in Genesis, A. V. renders it "Ethiopia." This African country is evidently meant in Gen. x. 6, but in the next verse six Arabic tribes are mentioned as sons of Cush, and in verse 8, Nimrod, the representative of Babylonia (Assyria), appears as his descendant. These three verses present the vexing problem, much discussed by scholars, arising from the fact that nations identical in name extend over parts of Africa, Arabia, and Babylonia. In regard to the passages referring undoubtedly to Ethiopia, see Ethiopia. In a great many cases it is very difficult to determine whether the translators have used this Greek name correctly, or which of the two other divisions, Arabia or Babylonia, mentioned in the table of nations given in Genesis is meant.
The Arabian branch seems to be intended in II Chron. xxi. 16, where Judah, under Jehoram, is plundered by "the Arabians that were near the Ethiopians." These evidently did not come from the southwestern end of Arabia. In Num. xii. 1, Moses' wife, the Midianitish woman Zipporah, is called an Ethiopian (margin and R. V. "Cushite"). In Hab. iii. 7 the tents of Cushan (the Septuagint reads "Cushim"; the name evidently is the same as "Cush") and the land of Midian are mentioned (compare verse 3 for other names of northwestern Arabia). There are doubtful references in Isa. xliii. 3, xlv. 14, xx. 3, xviii. 1. Some critics place also the Cushite "Zerah" in northwestern Arabia (II Chron. xiv. 9).
Winckler, "Muṣri, Meluḥḥa, Ma'in," ii., in "Mitteilungender Vorderasiatischen Gesellschaft" (1898, pp. 169 et seq.; see also Schrader, "K. A. T." 3d German ed., p. 144), throws light on these passages. He shows that the Assyrians speak of this people as "Kusi" (Kûsh) in northern Arabia, subjected by Esarhaddon. See also Friedrich Delitzsch, "Die Sprache der Kossäer," Leipsic, 1884.
For the Babylonian "Cush" compare Gen. x. 6-8 (see above), and ib. ii. 13, where one of the four rivers of Paradise, the Gihon, "compasseth the whole land of Cush." The old attempts to see in this river the Nile lead to impossible geographical identifications; it must have belonged to the system of the Euphrates and Tigris. In Isa. xviii. 1 (Hebr.) the very obscure verses speaking of the land "beyond the rivers of Cush" can not mean Ethiopia, as Winckler, who refers the chapter to Merodach Baladan's legation to Hezekiah ("Alttestamentliche Untersuchungen," p. 146), has asserted. Since Schrader's "K. A. T." 1st ed., p. 87, this name of the Babylonian Cush has been explained by the Kashshi, a warlike nation from the Median Mountains, who conquered Babylonia in the seventeenth century
As confirmation of the Biblical statements connecting peoples so remote, the following parallels have been adduced: the Greeks speak of eastern or Asiatic Ethiopians on the Red Sea in Gedrosia (compare Homer, "Odyssey," i. 23). Assyriologists since Rawlinson have often tried to find negro or nigritic types on the sculptures representing Elamites, and French explorers (F. Houssay and Dieulafoy) have recently contended that traces of dusky tribes, relatives of the nigritic aborigines of India, are recognizable in modern Susiana. Various tribes of southern Arabia seem to show African, non-Semitic descent; on Assyrian reports of "dark Arabians" see Winckler, ib. p. 144. Glaser, however ("Skizze der Geographic und Geschichte Arabiens," ii. 326-329), treats Cush as a brown-red race, extending in earliest time through Elam, Arabia, and eastern Africa. Others deny the possibility of connecting the three groups, and assume that their names possessed only an accidental similarity, completed by the ancient, vowelless orthography.
"Cush" in rabbinical literature is taken to be Ethiopia. According to an old Haggadah known to the pre-Christian Hellenistic writers, the wife of Moses, "the Cushite" woman, was the Queen of Ethiopia. Rashi claims that she was merely designated as an Ethiopian on account of her beauty, in order to protect her from the evil eye, but Onkelos makes her a "beautiful" woman, following in this the Talmudic application of the derivatives of the name, such as "Cushi," "black" persons of "negro" race, distinguished thus by their color from other men, to draw a lesson from a comparison for Israel. , the "distinguished Cushite" (= negro), is a standing expression in these Talmudic analogies (Yer. Mo'ed Ḳaṭan 16b). In Sifre to Num. § 99, the question is raised, "Was Moses' wife an Ethiopian?" and the answer is given, "She was 'beautiful' and thus 'distinguished' as the Cushi is by his color, by her beauty." In further development of this identification of "Cushite" with "negro," the former becomes simply a synonym for "black" (Suk. 34b; B. B. 97b). In Isa. xi. 11 Targum renders "Cush" by ("India"), and in their discussion of Esth. i. 1 (Meg. 11a), Rab and Samuel dispute whether Cush is at the furthest extremity of the world or very close to India. The latter opinion rests on the confusion of Cush with the name of a province extending to the borders of India, Huzistan probably (Neubauer, "G. T." p. 386).