Wednesday, March 21Exploring The Black Presence In The Bible

Zephaniah The Prophet: Son of A Cushite Man

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Zephaniah the prophet may have been the son of a Cushite man. We often overlook seemingly boring genealogies in the Bible, but sometimes they can be the most interesting part. One interesting find is located in the first verse of the book of Zephaniah:

“The word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hizkiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.” – Zephaniah 1:1

At first glance there’s nothing “special” about the verse, but when we look at the names, we find something odd. The name “Cushi” is an ETHNONYM:

  • Ethnonym: An ethnic name ascribed to a people or group; the proper name by which a people or ethnic group is called or known. –
  • Ethnonym: An ethnonym (from the Greek: ἔθνος, éthnos, “nation” and ὄνομα, ónoma, “name”) is the name applied to a given ethnic group. Ethnonyms can be divided into two categories: exonyms (where the name of the ethnic group has been created by another group of people) and autonyms or endonyms (self-designation; where the name is created and used by the ethnic group itself). As an example, the ethnonym for the ethnically dominant group in Germany is the Germans. –
  • Ethnonym: A name used to refer to an ethnic group, tribe, or people. – Merriam Webster

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I will readily admit that I’d never heard of an ethnonym until I started research into this subject. However, the above sources make it clear that it is a description of an ethnic group. With that in mind, let’s look at what the name Cushi means in Hebrew.

  • Cushi (Strong’s #3569): Patronymically from Kuwsh; a Cushite, or descendant of Cush — Cushi, Cushite, Ethiopian(-s).
  • Kuwsh (Strong’s #3568): Probably of foreign origin; Cush (or Ethiopia), the name of a son of Ham, and of his territory; also of an Israelite — Chush, Cush, Ethiopia.


When we digest the information presented and break it down, we are left with two possible, logical conclusions, as to why Zephaniah’s father was named Cushi:

  1. He was possibly a Hebrew with dark skin that resembled Kushites, and was named such because of his skin. Kedar, Abraham’s grandson was also named so, because of his dark skin.
  2. His father was actually a Kushite (Sudan or Ethiopia geographically) that had a child with a Hebrew woman.

If you think this is a coincidence or an exception to the rule, you’d be wrong. There are at least two other people in the Bible that were named for their dark skin:

  1. Kedar (Abraham’s grandson) – Genesis 25:13
  2. Niger (Simeon, a prophet and apostle of Christ) – Acts 13:1

Share Your Thoughts

Please feel free to share your thoughts and findings on the subject. All information is welcome, but please provided sources. Thanks.

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  • Vicky

    It confirms Zephaniah was a cushite. But What I don’t understand is that Shem was not cushites but a lot of Shemites in the Bible were marrying the Hamites. How can you separate the two of them.

    • Black History In The Bible

      Lineage is traced through the father and not the mother. It’s possible for someone to be a Jew in the religious sense and still not be a Hebrew. It’s also possible that the word “cushi” may just describe his black skin.

  • Ehud of the Islands

    There was a benjamite mentioned in Psalms 7 whose name was Cush, the theory that you put forth, that the name was given to them because of how they looked makes more sense as opposed to as a reference to where they were from.

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