Among the first territories to be mentioned in the scriptures is the country of Cush. It was well known when the Torah was written from the references made to it. By that time, the geography of Africa was beginning to be understood by the Israelites who had traveled the continent as far as Egypt. The River Gihon (Nile) flowed through it and still does (Genesis 2:15). This land south of Egypt derived its name from Cush who was the first of Noah’s three sons. In the scriptures, depending on the Bible version one is reading, Cush is sometimes called Ethiopia or Sudan. Cush was also the name of a Kingdom – known as Merowe – one of the ancient civilizations in Africa. In fact, the Ethiopian official who met the Apostle Philip was an official of the Queen of Merowe (Acts 8:26-40).
At this point, one can wonder: How did another country come to be called Ethiopia? Looking at it historically, Ethiopia was not the name of a particular country as is the case today. It was a Greek word meaning “burned faces” – a description of the dark complexion of the people south of Egypt. The old map of Cush changed over time to cover most parts of present day Ethiopia and Sudan. Otherwise, historically even the name Sudan in the earlier years was also not the country it is today. That name was at some point used to refer to the ancient kingdoms of Ghana, Mali and Songhai in West Africa. The prefix sud in Arabic is the root of the word Aswad– which means black.
In fourth century of King Ezana of Aksum (or Axum) converted to Christianity and changed the name of his kingdom from Abyssinia to Ethiopia preferring the biblical name. Over the years the name Ethiopia prevailed as the kingdom emerged into an empire over a wider area. However, this does not make present day Ethiopia the only Ethiopia in the eyes of the prophets. In reality it is the entire Sub-Saharan Africa which had no known name in the scriptures. The prophets seeing people of dark complexion receiving the word of God in the future would have had no name to call them apart from Egypt, Phut, Ethiopia, or Cush – for those were the people occupying the continent. Their complexion was their identity. Thus Jeremiah asks: Can an Ethiopian change his skin or leopard its spots? (Jeremiah 13:23). Moreover, when a prophecy talks of God’s people beyond the rivers of Ethiopia, the description can rightly point to the rest of the continent (Zephaniah 3:10).
Isaiah Chapter 18 begins by talking of people called Cush they are noted as great warriors as did the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 46:9). Just like their Egyptian brothers in the next chapter, the wrath of God falls upon them. Whether they sent ambassadors out by boats over the seas in those early days is not clear. It is possible that this is a prophetic expression referring to ships and even aircraft at a later time - which probably look like paper a product of papyrus from the earliest days. The other description tall and smooth skin can well allude to the tall people in the continent. In South Sudan itself there are impressively tall people. Smooth skin could imply that they have less facial or body hair. Whether or not, the tallest people in the world are still beyond the rivers of Ethiopia around the great lakes region in countries such as Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC. Whatever country or people they are, whether in Nigeria or Kenya or elsewhere, the point is that all this focuses of one continent - Africa.
From Cush to the rest of the world, a banner will be raised on the mountains and a trumpet sounded – meaning they will be visible and audible. These verses bring to mind the flags that were raised on the mountains across the continent when independence was attained. It happened in Tanganyika (Mt Kilimanjaro), Uganda (Mt Ruwenzori) Kenya (Mt Kenya) and more recently South Sudan (Mount Kinyeti). More likely, the signal could be a more important message relating to the word of God which descended on the continent as prophesied and already described. So in verse the prophet tells us that at some time the Cush will bring their gifts to the LORD God. For it is indeed the same sequence that outlines Egypt’s fate. At some point they will face the LORD’s wrath but will turn to him. There will be an altar in the midst of Egypt (Isaiah 19:19) - a destination for offering and gifts even from Cush.
Having said this,once again let everyone reflect on the current state of the world. For over a year, the Covid-19 pandemic has ravaged the globe. It has not spared even the most developed countries. Africa today is surviving purely by grace. Much as people may use different measures, nobody can say that the continent is a monopoly of these. In fact, it is disadvantaged in many regards including not having the best health infrastructure. So in almost all African countries people are working. The continent cannot afford some of the measures other countries have put in place – especially some of the prolonged lock downs. African countries do not have huge multinationals abroad so locking down the economy for a lengthy period would simply kill more people from hunger, debt, and other causes.
Today, scientists around the world are looking for what has spared the continent from total destruction. This is not to forget that many in Africa have felt the pain of losing loved ones. Many people, even those in Africa itself froze, panicked and were pained to see the trucks transporting the dead to mass burials in Europe and other places. Why have fewer people been affected in Africa than in any other continent? It will not be found as long as people are fixated with science. It will only be understood when people come to a realization of what God has invested in the continent and he is protecting his investment by all means. Therefore, may the grace of God enable all to realize, where the entire world is in God’s time.
Let all remember that serving the LORD faithfully brings a reward. For Zephaniah 3:8 tells reminds us once again that after the whole world consumed by fire, God’s people from beyond the rivers of Cush will bring him offering. This is quite an honor for a people to be noticed in the new world. When God’s kingdom comes on earth, all mankind will come and bow down before the LORD (Isaiah 66:22) for they will hear the trumpet call from beyond the rivers of Cush (Zephaniah 3:10, Isaiah 18:3).
Photo Credits Nu Maroone
Photo Credits Nu Maroone