Cush and Sheba

The ancient nations of Cush and Sheba, both located several hundred miles south of Israel, were often regarded by the people of Israel as the ends of the earth. Cush was known by the Israelites for its dark skinned people (Jeremiah 13:23) and its precious gems (Job 28:19). Cushite leaders occasionally led military campaigns in Israel (2 Kings 19; Isaiah 37; 2 Chronicles 14), and under the Persian Empire the northern border of Cush formed the southwest border of the Perian Empire (Esther 1:1). Over time many Cushites (later called Ethiopians) became followers of the Lord, which is why during the New Testament Philip the Evangelist met an Ethiopian royal official who was traveling home by way of Gaza after worshiping at the Temple of the Lord (Acts 8:26-27). Other notable Cushites include a wife of Moses (Numbers 12:1) and a Judean royal official named Ebed-melek, who rescued Jeremiah from imprisonment in a cistern (Jeremiah 38-39). The nation of Sheba was located on the southwest coast of the Arabian peninsula and traded frankincense, myrrh, gold, and precious stones throughout the Ancient Near East. During Solomon’s reign, news of his great wealth and wisdom traveled as far as Sheba (perhaps carried by Solomon’s fleet of trading ships), and the queen of Sheba came to visit him and ask him many questions (1 Kings 10; 2 Chronicles 9).

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