The Bible and the Kingdom of Cush - so called "Ethiopia"
(The missing New Testament queen and accuracy of bible history)

Aha!  If I can show you one error in Scriptures, the idea of Biblical inerrancy falls and your faith has nothing to stand on.  Or so the widespread mindset of the internet and much of modern academia plays out on a daily basis.

An example of such thinking would go like this.  You know that Ethiopian eunuch spoken of in the one history book in the New Testament, the book of Acts?  The one who worked for the Ethiopian queen Candace, or so the text claims?  Well she never existed.  There is no evidence whatsoever that there was a queen Candace in Ethiopia at that time, circa 34-35 A.D. (and even evidence that another Ethiopian ruler spanned that entire timeframe, Akaptah Tsenfa Ared).

Before further considering this matter, the entire account should be read from the Book of Acts:

Acts 8:26-39   Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road - the desert road - that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it."  30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked.  31 "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.  32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:

"He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.  33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth." 

34 The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.  36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?"  38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.  (NIV)

Their dispute focuses on verse 27.  Specially:

#1. An Ethiopian eunuch

#2. Candace, queen of the Ethiopians

In search of answers for both of these we must start with the Greek wording of the Biblical text.

The Greek word here translated "Ethiopian" is Aithiopos and not Aithiopia, the latter properly being Ethiopia in the Greek language.  Some have historically felt that the word Aithiopos was derived from Aithiopia, so Ethiopia would be a legitimate translation of this word in Acts.  We should note that this word, Aithiopos, only appears in the New Testament two times, both here in this verse of Acts, so there is no way to establish usage elsewhere in this book or in the New Testament as a whole.

Aithiopos (masculine of Aithiops) is a compound word, Aithoo + ops, which literally means "To burn" + "the face."  This is well recognized as the primary meaning of the word, from a time when politically correct didn't exist, graphically representing these Africans by a distinct feature, their exceedingly dark skin color.  

While this descriptive word would legitimately apply to Ethiopia it also would extend across much of that region including the beautifully dark complexion of the Nubians of Sudan (north of Ethiopia and south of Egypt).

Some Old Testament passages are worth considering too, because they appear to reference Ethiopia, at least by some translators.

Isaiah 18:1-2   Woe to the land of whirring wings along the rivers of Cush ["Ethiopia" in KJV, NLT, CJB, NRSV, NKJV],  2 which sends envoys by sea in papyrus boats over the water. Go, swift messengers, to a people tall and smooth-skinned, to a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers.  (NIV)

Jeremiah 13:23   Can the Ethiopian ["Cushite" in HCSB, ASB, NCV] change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.  (NIV)

Ezekiel 30:4  A sword will come against Egypt, and anguish will come upon Cush ["Ethiopia" in NASU, NET, ISV, KJV, CJB, GW, CEV, NLT].  When the slain fall in Egypt, her wealth will be carried away and her foundations torn down. (NIV)

The word various translated in all three of these representative verses is the Hebrew word transliterated as "Cush."  And yet, a majority of translators use Ethiopia as a direct equivalent and substitute for this Hebrew "Cush."  Why is this relevant to Acts 8:27?  Because the Septuagint, the Greek language translation of the Hebrew Scriptures that the apostles would have commonly used in the first century A.D. translated that Hebrew word into:

Isaiah 18:1   Aithiopías

Ezekiel 30:4  Aithiopía

Jeremiah 13:23   Aithíops

Regardless of the specific spelling and variation of Aithiopos, the place in view is the Kingdom of Cush (alt. Kush).  One particular passage in the Old Testament allows us to directly know what country and region is in view for Cush, mostly because it gives us a ruler's name that has been well identified by archaeology and history.

2 Kings 19:9  Now Sennacherib received a report that Tirhakah, the Cushite king [of Egypt], was marching out to fight against him. So he again sent messengers to Hezekiah with this word:  (NIV)

The Hebrew word here translated as "Cushite" is "Cush," as are the previous Old Testament passages.  The Septuagint uses still another form of Aithiopos, specifically "Aithiopon."   Many English translators leave the place name as "Cush" or "Cushite" (NIV, NCV, NASU, ESV, HCSB, TNIV), leaving it to the reader's understanding in trying to identify the place (which no longer exists today).  Other translators add to the confusion, characteristic of other passages using the Hebrew word Cush, here translating this word as "Ethiopia" (NET, ISV, KJV, CJB, ERV, CEV, NKJV, WEB).  A very few translate this place to be "Sudan" (God's Word, TEV).

The Pharaoh Tirhakah (alt. Taharqa) is indeed from the area of modern Sudan, so the few translators who chose that place name for their translation are working to give modern understanding of the region involved.  One reason that some translators would not use this is because the name Sudan is a modern construct, representing a modern county and region, and though it includes the area of the kingdom of Cush it is not a direct substitute (or equivalent). 

The translators using the name Cush are perhaps the most correct - this is the title of the ancient kingdom and region.  The Septuagint translators were not wrong in using variations of Aithiops, when rendering this to Greek, because the viewed all the lands south of Egypt as being a land of dark skinned people. Their term was mostly descriptive.  What has caused modern confusion is that we have a long-time specific geographic and political entity called Ethiopia End Note 9 - named directly with a related offspring of the descriptive word Aithiopos.

Another problem with kingdoms and countries is that they sometimes shrink or grow over time.  A specific region may legitimately be considered to be part of a country in one timeframe, but then be part of another country in a later timeframe.  Some have tried to obscure the issue of what country is in view here by making broad statement which merge the territories cover by much of modern Sudan and Ethiopia as though they were one region in ancient times - as if this justifies using the modern name Ethiopia for the whole.

The only way to know for certain what region, kingdom or empire is in view for any Bible passage is to know the extent of entity being reference in the timeframe of that specific text.  Specifically, what was the kingdom of Cush when the aforementioned passages were being penned?

Since we have one passage that very clearly identifies a well-known Cushite ruler, namely 2 Kings 19:9, this is a great place to start.

Timeframe: 

Associated with Sennacherib who ruled Assyria c. 705-681 B.C

Taharqa/Tirhakah was Pharaoh of the 25th Dynasty of Egypt, c. 690-664 B.C. End Note 1

Associated with Hezekiah who ruled Judah c. 716-687 B.C. (and likely earlier as co-regent)

Like most dating of ancient personages, those dates may vary by a view years and are, as such, estimates (hence the "circa" used in association with them).  Regardless, something very clearly is identified in this passage: Taharqa was a ruler over Egypt, in a dynasty of Cushite kings, was clearly identified as coming from another land/kingdom, namely Cush.  We know this also from hieroglyphics and inscriptions which identify this man as the Pharaoh of two lands.  The timeframe in question here is clearly the early 7th century B.C.

To understand the Kingdom of Cush, a brief journey through earlier history is necessary.  The Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III extended his kingdom all the way to a place called Napata (near Jebel Barkal) in kingdom directly south of Egypt known as Nubia. End Note 6  To this day, the very dark skinned people of this region from the southern border of Egypt to north of Khartoum are known as Nubians.  During the New Kingdom Egypt viewed Napata as its southern border.  Egypt governed Nubia as two separate regions, Wawat and Cush.

As the Egyptian New Kingdom crumbled into the instability of the Third Intermediate Period, around 1070 B.C., the Nubian people were able to regain an increasing level of autonomy.   The governors of Cush now became independent kings.  The entire nation was known as The Kingdom of Cush (alt. Kush).  Their capital was the city of Napata and so they were also known as the Napatans. End Note 7  By 750 B.C. the Cushite (Napatan) king Kashta had turned the tables and was attacking Upper Egypt.  Rulers such as Piye (alt. Piankhi), Shabaka and Taharqa solidified and maintained control over Egypt, only losing it late in the time of Taharqa (due to Assyrian intervention in Egypt). End Note 5

The entire period of Cushite history now known as the Napatan period was as era characterized by the Nubians diligently imitating Egyptian forms of art, architecture, burial rites, and religion.  The Egyptian god Amun was the primary state god.  All royal inscriptions were written in the Egyptian language using hieroglyphics.

This kingdom of Cush, outside of Egypt, based in Napata was the area in view when the Hebrew word for Cush was translated into a variant of Aithiops. 

While this Kingdom of Cush would contract and expand slightly (and control all of Egypt for a time), take note that the modern county of Ethiopia is outside of the area of the Kingdom of Cush.  Some scholars think that a portion of modern Ethiopia may have been controlled by Cush for a brief time, but Ethiopia as a whole was certainly a different country and dynasty. End Note 9

Moving through the first three Old Testament passages we referenced, each of them is also in reference to the Napatan kingdom of Kush.  Besides the inconsistent translation shown earlier, utilizing Cush or Ethiopia, each is again shown below with the third forth translation possibilities. For reference I've also included the approximate timeframe for each writer.

Isaiah, prophesied circa 742-700 A.D.

Isaiah 18:1   Beyond the rivers of Sudan there is a land where the sound of wings is heard.  (TEV, God's Word)

Jeremiah is prophet, lived circa 646-575 B.C., and prophesied from 626 B.C. onward.

Jeremiah 13:23   Can a black man change the color of his skin, or a leopard remove its spots? If they could, then you that do nothing but evil could learn to do what is right.  (TEV, also ERV)

Ezekiel is prophet, lived circa 622-570 B.C., prophecies ranging from 593 - 571 B.C.

Ezekiel 30:4   There will be war in Egypt and great distress in Sudan. Many in Egypt will be killed; the country will be plundered and left in ruins. (TEV)

The Easy to Read Version and Today's English Version each notably focus on the skin color, the primary meaning of the word Aithiopos, something that is could be warranted by context, without delving into the specific nation that might be in view.   Perhaps best illustrating the inconsistency of translation, God's Word turns the reference to Cush in Ezekiel 30:4 into Ethiopia and the repeated reference in 30:5 (not shown above) into Sudan, perhaps trying to cover all the bases.  

Yet, across the board, all four Old Testament references we have looked at were in reference to the peoples of the Kingdom of Cush - something the Hebrew text directly conveys.  The Septuagint translator, rendering Cush into Greek, choosing to use variations of a word that focused on a descriptive, namely their skin color, was a legitimate translation in their day.  Variations of this word are shown to be used in regard to the people of Cush from other contemporary literature as well.  And yet, the Greek speaking world did not appear to be concerned with specificity or national accuracy, they also use the term for most of the world south of Egypt.  Perhaps this first set the stage for the later confusion which still infects our English language translations.

Word study dictionaries are often not a great help here either.  For example, try this entry for the Old Testament Hebrew word Cush:

Cush probably refers to the territory of southeast Mesopotamia, although the northern Upper Nile region is not impossible. Most often the term Cush seems to refer to the Upper Nile regions (Est 1:1; Job 28:19; Ps 68:31[:32 ]), north of Ethiopia. Tirhakah, a Cushite king of Egypt, reigned in the time of Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:9).   (The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament)

This entry is a mess, having Cush reference a portion of Asia (southeastern Mesopotamia), suggesting it could include the upper Nile regions north of Ethiopia (in Africa) and then giving a majority of examples that that do reference this area - namely the ancient Kingdom of Cush (in the area of modern Sudan).  The latter, of course, is correct and Tirhakah was a Cushite king from that region, but this is not made clear in this entry.

We now need to return to the New Testament and its sole two-part reference to Aithiopos.  

Continuing our history of the Kingdom of Cush; the specific kingdom centered in Napata (the Napatans) continued to thrive, following their losing control of Egypt, until around 591 B.C. (around the time Ezekiel was prophesying).  The kingdom had now somewhat weakened, with Persian conquest of Egypt affecting their primary trading partner and a devastating Egyptian raid on Napata itself in 591 B.C., with Napata being burned.  Whether due to the destruction of Napata or for strictly economic reasons, another city now began to function as the economic capital of the Kingdom of Cush, namely Meroë.  The Island of Meroë (about 275 km to the southeast) was an area rich in Iron which not only was a source of wealth but also strength.  While the Napata (Jebel Barkel) area retained some significance, for royal burials and coronations and other religious functions, by the mid-third century BC Meroë finally became the official center of a new dynasty and era.

This was still the Kingdom of Cush, but now it is referenced as the Meroitic Period.  During this time Meroë became the site for royal burials (pyramids), new gods were introduced to their Egyptian pantheon, plus a markedly different cultural and artistic style became evident.  In fact, a Cushite alphabetic script and the use of a local language ("Meroitic") became part of formal inscriptions.  (Efforts to better understand and translate the Meroitic language are still ongoing).   

This Meroitic Kingdom of Cush continued to grow and thrive, reaching its peak around the time of Christ, continuing until around the fourth century A.D. (Meroe as a city was abandoned between c.  300-350 A.D.)

The references to the Eunuch in the Book of Acts do not pertain to the country of Ethiopia.  The New Testament Greek word Aithiopos, following suit with the Septuagint of the Old Testament, continues to refer to the Kingdom of Cush, specifically the dynasty now located at Meroë.  And yet, English translations do not reflect this whatsoever (consider NIV, NASU, ESV, NET, ISV, KJV, CJB, HCSB, God's Word, ERV, CEV, GNT, NKJV, NCV, NLT, TEV, WEB). 

Some footnote the word with a generic "That is, from the upper Nile region (NIV)" but this would still allow the reader to think that the nation of Ethiopia is still in view.

Once again, word study dictionaries offer little help:

(derivative of "Aithiopia" 'Ethiopia,' not occurring in the NT) a person who is a native of Ethiopia - 'an Ethiopian' (Acts 8:27).  ("Aithiops" from Greek-English Lexicon Based on Semantic Domain. Copyright © 1988 United Bible Societies, New York. Used by permission.)

While the preceding entry is completely incorrect, focusing on a misinterpretation of the Greek word as we have already seen, these following entries all appear to utilize a common, but outdated, source for their conclusion:

Ethiopian Acts 8:27, here the reference is to upper Ethiopia, called Habesh or Abyssinia, a country of Africa adjoining Egypt and including the island Meroe  ("Aithiops" from Thayer's Greek Lexicon, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2000, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Ethiopian (Hebrew "Kuwshiy"): Acts 8:27, here the reference is to upper Ethiopia, called Habesh or Abyssinia, a country of Africa adjoining Egypt and including the island Meroe; (see Dillmann in Schenkel i. 285 ff; Alex.'s Kitto or McClintock and Strong's Cyclopaedia under the word Ethiopia . Cf. Bib. Sacr. for 1866, p. 515).   ("Aithiops" from Thayer's Greek Lexicon, PC Study Bible formatted Electronic Database. Copyright © 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

Aithíops; gen. Aithíopos, masc. proper noun from aíthomai (n.f.), to burn, and ops (n.f.), face. Ethiopian. In Hebr., a Cushite. Found twice in Acts 8:27. The Ethiopia referred to here, as in Isa 18:1; Jer 13:23; Ezek 30:4,5,9, is what is called Upper Ethiopia or Habesh, lying south of Egypt on the Nile, and including the island of Meroe.   ("Aithiops" from The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament © 1992 by AMG International, Inc. Revised Edition, 1993)

The last entry is closest to the truth, making proper note of the word's meaning and ties to the Old Testament term "Cush", but the kingdom based on the Island of Meroe was never "Upper Ethiopia" or "Habesh" or, for that matter, "Abyssinia."  End Note 10   It was the Kingdom of Cush or the Meroitic Kingdom.   Usage of anything else is misleading.

(The next major kingdom controlling the geographic area of Cush was the Christian Kingdom of Makuria.  See End Note 11 for some details.)

Now that we know that the Meroitic Kingdom of Cush is in view, during New Testament times, we next must consider "Queen Candace." 

There is no Queen Candace, using Candace as a proper name.  Candace is a title, similar to the title Pharaoh in Egypt (or even ancient Cushite usage).  It would better transliterate into English as Kandake, rather than substituting c for each k, as is commonly done.  A number of Meroitic queens had this title.

One translation even uses Kandake as a title, yet sadly continues to use Ethiopia for the place:

Acts 8:27-28   So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship,   (New Living Translation)

The twin footnote of the New English Translation (NET Bible) is perhaps one of the best at trying to explain this and yet the translation itself does not incorporate this knowledge into the wording:

tn Or "the Candace" (the title of the queen of the Ethiopians). The term Kandakes is much more likely a title rather than a proper name (like Pharaoh, which is a title); see L&N 37.77. A few, however, still take the word to be the name of the queen (L&N 93.209 ). BDAG 507 s.v. Kandakes, treats the term as a title and lists classical usage by Strabo (Geography 17.1.54) and others.

sn Candace was the title of the queen of the Ethiopians. Ethiopia refers to the kingdom of Nubia in the northern Sudan, whose capital was Meroe (not to be confused with Abyssinia, which was later called Ethiopia and converted to Christianity in the  4 th century A.D.). Classical writers refer to several queens of Meroe in the 1st century B.C. and 1st century A.D. who had the title Candace (Kandake). The Candace referred to here was probably Amantitere, who ruled  A.D. 25-41.   (from The NET Bible)

These footnotes still try and keep the word Ethiopia while describing a country that is not Ethiopia.  In fact, the NET's translated "a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians," should be better rendered as "a court official of the Kandake, queen of the Meroitic Cushites (or even 'queen of Cush' for brevity and as a more literal translation)."

For clarification, the specific queen in view is either one called Amantitere or Amanitore.  Circa 1 A.D. a King Natakamani and Kandake Amanitore began to rule (see temple images below).   Normally, when we hear of a King and Queen we think of a husband and wife.  But in the Meroë period this was not necessarily so.  There were a number of Queens that ruled of their own right, some as co-regents with a son and some who shared power equally between siblings.  End Note 2

We do not know if Natakamani and Amanitore were brother and sister or mother and son. End Note 3  Some historians view Amanitore as ruling from 1 A.D. until a successor took the throne around 50 A.D. End Note 4  For the first 20 years (1-20 A.D.) Natakamani ruled with her as equals.  There is even a possibility that she was regent and that he was her son.  Regardless, around 20 A.D. she ruled alone, following the death of Natakamani.  An alternate view has another Kandake, with a very similar name (Amantitere) ascended to the throne, at that time (perhaps a daughter).  Without additional evidence it's just as probable that Amanitore ruled by herself until A.D. 50 (with the alternate spelling merely being a variation on her name).

How does Amanitore (or Amantitere) ruling from circa 20-50 A.D. line up with what is predicted by the Biblical account in Acts?  Consider that the Eunuch was said to be "an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake, queen of Kush."   If a king had been ruling simultaneously, or this Kandake had been a queen married to a king, this man would not have been looking after the treasury of a queen.  The text clearly predicts that there was only a queen ruling Cush at this timeframe and that is exactly what archaeology has shown.

Rather than presenting a perceived problem, the account of "Candace" and the "Ethiopian" Eunuch, when properly understood (or, should I say, properly translated) actually affirms the historicity of the Biblical account.


END NOTES

1. Dates and specifics (including name spellings) of the history of the Cushite Kingdom, whether Napatan or Meroitic, are still being debated and revised as new materials are coming to light and better translations are made available.  This is similar to how Egyptian history, and especially dating, is still commonly debated.  Archaeology in Sudan is about 100 years behind that of Egypt.  Nubian rulers associated with Egypt are perhaps the best studied thus far.

2.  These Kandakes (queens) were known to rule the Meroitic Kingdom of Cush, some unilaterally, others as equals to simultaneous male rulers.  These women are known as Nubian warrior queens, queen regents, and ruling queen mothers.  Like many things associated with Cush, there are a number of alternate spellings for Kandake, including Kendake, Kentake, and the biblical variation Candace. 

  • Shanakdakhete (circa 177-155 BC).  Earliest known ruling queen.  She is shown in reliefs as wearing armor and wielding a spear in battle.  Her husband was her consort and not a king.  Her son inherited the throne on her passing.

  • Amanirenas (circa 40-10 BC).  In 23 BC the Roman governor of Egypt, Petronius, invaded Nubia in response to her attack on southern Egypt, pillaging the north of her territory and razing Napata to the ground (circa 22 BC)

  • Amanishakheto (circa 10 BC-1 A.D.).  Known for defeating the Roman invasion of Nubia by Roman Caesar Augustus and arranging a favorable peace treaty with Rome.  Augustus bragged in his "The Deeds of the Divine Augustus" that "a penetration was made as far as the town of Napata, which is next to Meroe."

  • Amanitore (circa 1-20 A.D.)  (Alt. circa 1-49 A.D. and skip...)

  • Amantitere (circa 20-49 A.D.).  Her successor, Amanitaraqide was in power by A.D. 50.

  • Amanikhatashan (circa 62-85 A.D.)

  • Maleqorobar (circa 266-283 A.D.)

  • Lahideamani (306-314 A.D.)

Each of these Kandakes had the honor that a king or Pharaoh would have including being buried with treasure in their own pyramids.

Pyramids of Meroe (north) in 2014,
site includes pyramids of Kandake Amanitore,
 Kandake Amanishakheto, and Kandake Shanakdakhete.      

3. It is improbable that Amanitore was a spouse of Natakamani as they are portrayed as being equals, truly co-regents.  A queen married to a king was not shown as having this equality, nor are consorts to Kandakes where the Kandake was the primary authority. 

4.  Egyptian hieroglyphics record the throne name of Amanitore as Merkare.  Showing that Napata (Gebel Barkal) still played a strong role in the later Meroë kingdom, Amanitore's royal palace was at this ancient location, yet her burial was at Meroë.   Not only does she appear as a ruler in inscriptions at the Lion Temple but also on a Napatan temple and another temple near Shendi.  Images of Natakamani frequently include Amanitore.  Amanitore was one of the last great builders of Kush - restoring the large temple of Amun at Meroe and the Amun temple at Napata after it was destroyed by the Romans, plus building additional temples to Amun at Amara and Naga.  Beyond buildings she had water retention reservoirs constructed at Meroe too.  The period of her reign (1-50 A.D.) is considered to be the greatest, in terms of prosperity, out the entire Meroitic Period.  The kingdom had large resources of gold, jewelry, exotic animals and textiles, many that were exported and traded.

5. Major Kings of Natapa include:

  • Alara (circa 780-755 B.C.).  First ruler to overthrow Egyptian control.

  • Kashta.  Attacked Upper Egypt, extended his influence as far as Thebes.

  • Piye/Piankhi.  Conquered all of Egypt in his 20th year.  Ruled all of Egypt (25th Dynasty of Egypt)

  • Shabaka (circa 721-707 BC).  Ruled all of Egypt.  Built many monuments in Egypt & Nubia (Cush)

  • Taharqa/Tirhakah (circa 690-664 BC).  Last ruler of all Egypt (end of 25th Dynasty of Egypt). Assyria (King Esarhaddon) invaded Egypt and sacked Thebes and Memphis (circa 670 BC), enabling Lower Egypt to establish a kingdom apart from Cushite control.  When Esarhaddon died (circa 669 B.C.) and was succeeded by Assurbanipal, Taharqa convinced some local rulers of Lower Egypt to break with the Assyrians but Assurbanipal defeated the coalition, deported the ringleaders to Niniveh and installed Necho I as ruler of Lower Egypt.

  • Tanutamun/Tantamani (circa 664-653 BC).  Cousin of Taharqa.  Killed Egyptian Pharaoh Necho I (first of the 26th dynasty), who had been backed by the Assyrians.   Invaded Lower Egypt but was unable to defeat the Assyrians and the Pharaoh they backed (Necho's son).  Though Tantamani abandoned his efforts to retake Lower Egypt, with a retreat to Napata, his authority over Upper Egypt was acknowledged until the 8th year of his reign (656 BC) when the Egyptian pharaoh succeeded in placing all Egypt under his control.

At excavation of Pyramid of Pharaoh Piankhi (alt. Piye) in 2014

6.  The Nubians in the geographic area of the Kingdom of Cush had a developed kingdom prior to Egypt encroaching on their territory, with a goal of plundering their resources, during the New Kingdom.  In fact, during the time of the Egyptian Old Kingdom pyramids they had a major civilization based at Kerma (above the third cataract) where they constructed huge religious/administrative buildings, the largest of which is the western Deffufa.   This Kerma Kingdom was the earliest Kingdom of Cush, existing through Egypt's Old Kingdom (started c. 2667 BC) to Egypt's Middle Kingdom (started c. 2030 BC) and it reached its zenith during Egypt's Second Intermediate Period (started c. 1783 BC).   Most of what we know of this ancient Kingdom of Cush comes from Egyptian interaction.

The Egyptian Pharaoh Mentuhotep II (the 21st century BC founder of the Middle Kingdom) is recorded to have undertaken campaigns against Cush late in his reign. This is the earliest Egyptian reference to the name Cush, with this Nubian region having been referenced by other names in the Old Kingdom (such as "the people of Yam").

Thutmose I, who ruled Egypt circa 1526-1514 B.C., was the first to make major inroads into Nubia, effectively making them subservient to Egypt.  From this time forward they became a big source of resources to Egypt, especially gold.  This was the end of the Kerma period.

7.  The Napatan Kingdom dates from the reign of Alara (780-755 B.C.), the ruler who successively rallied the Cushite kingdom and fully overthrew Egyptian control.

8.  A traditional list of rulers of the country of Ethiopia has been widely circulated.  This complete list was said to have been given to a traveler (Charles Rey) in 1914 by Ras Teferi Makonnen, Regent of Ethiopia.   Most scholars view it as a traditional list as it appears to draw in rulers from nearby kingdoms and key historical figures to try and elevate the history of Ethiopia.  Note that this history claims the Queen of Sheba as being Ethiopian and that she had a son by King Solomon, beginning a Solomonic dynasty outside of Israel.  (Many areas have been claimed to be Sheba, perhaps the most promising to include the south western tip of the Arabian Peninsula).  See End Note 9 for a possible explanation as to why histories of other lands may have been merged with theirs.

I include this Ethiopian list for reference and to show, that by it, that there was no Ethiopian Queen Candace at the time of the Ethiopian Eunuch.  Notice that the list also utilizes the title Kandake (and variants) in regards to some of the queens on their list.   Unlike the Kingdom of Cush (Sudan), little independent evidence exists to support the historicity of the names on much of this list.

Rulers of Ethiopia 4470 B.C. to 1930 A.D.

I. TRIBE OF ORI or ARAM: Years are in BC

1. Ori or Aram 4470 2. Gariak I 4404 3. Gannkam 4321 4. Queen Borsa 4254 5. Gariak II 4194 6. Djan I 4114 7. Djan II 4054 8. Senefrou 4034 9. Zeenabzamin 3976 10. Sahlan 3916 11. Elaryan 3836 12. Nimroud 3776 13. Queen Eylouka 3731 14. Saloug 3701 15. Kharid 3629 16. Hogeb 3529 17. Makaws 3459 18. Assa 3429 19. Affar 3379 20. Milanos 3317 21. Soliman Tehagui 3244. The line continues with Kam.

II. TRIBE OF KAM: BC

1. Kam 2635 2. Kout (son of Kam) 2585 3. Habassi 2545 4. Sebtah 2515 5. Elektron 2485 6. Neber 2455 7. Amen 2434 8. Queen Nehasset Nais 2404 9. Horkam 2375 10. Saba II 2345 11. Sofard 2315 12. Askndou 2290 13. Hohey 2255 14. Adglag 2235 15. Adgala 2205 16. Lakniduga 2180 17. Manturay 2145 18. Rakhu 2115 19. Sabe I 2085 20. Azagan 2055 21. Sousel Atozanis 2035 22. Amen II 2020 23. Ramenpahte 2000 24. Wanuna 3 days 25. Piori I 1985 . The line continues with the Agdazian Dynasty.

III. AGDAZYAN DYNASTY of KINGDOM of JOCTAN: BC

1. Akbunas Saba II 1930 2. Nakehte Kalnis 1871 3. Queen Kasiyope 1890 4. Sabe II 1856 5. Etiyopus I 1800 6. Lakndun Nowarari 1770 7. Tutimheb 1750 8. Herhator I 1730 9. Etiyopus II 1700 10. Senuka I 1683 11. Bonu I 1675 12. Queen Mumazes 1671 13. Aruas (daughter of Mumazes) 7 months 14. Amen Asro I 1641 15. Ori (or Aram) II 1611 16. Piori II 1596 17. Amen Emhat I 1556 18. Tsawi 1541 19. Aktissanis 1531 20. Mandes 1514 21. Protawos 1481 22. Amoy 1460 23. Konsi Hendawi 1455 24. Bonu II 1453 25. Sebi III (Kefe) 1438 26. Djagons 1418 27. Senuka II 1408 28. Angabo I (Zaka Laarwe) 1358 29. Miamur 2 days 30. Queen Helena 1347 31. Zagdur I 1307 32. Her Hator II 1277 33. Her Hator (Za Sagado) III 1276 34. Akate (Za Sagado) IV 1256 35. Titon Satiyo 1246 36. Hermantu I 5 Months 37. Amen Emhat II 1241 38. Konsab I 1236 39. Sannib II 1231 40. Sanuka III 1226 41. Angabo II 1186 42. Amen Astate 1156 43. Herhor 1140 44. Wiyankihi 1131 45. Pinotsem I 1114 46. Pinotsem II 1073 47. Massaherta 1057 48. Ramenkoperm 1043 49. Pinotsem III 1036 50. Sabi IV 1026 51. Tawasaya Dews 1013 52. Queen Makeda 982 . Son of Makeda (Queen of Sheba or Saba) begins Solomonic line.

IV. MENELIK I SOLOMONIC DYNASTY: BC

1. Menelik I 957 2. Hanyon 956 3. Sera I (Tomai) 930 4. Amen Hotep Zagdur 899 5. Aksumay Ramissu 879 6. Awseyo Sera II 841 7. Tawasya II 820 8. Abralyus Wiyankihi II 788 9. Aksumay Warada Tsahay 765 10. Kashta Hanyon 752 11. Sabaka II 740 12. Queen Nicauta Kandake 13. Tsawi Terhak Warada Nagash 681 14. Erda Amen Awseya 675 15. Gasiyo Eskikatir ? 16. Nuatmeawn 671 17. Tomadyon Piyankihi III 659 18. Amen Asero 643 19. Piyankihi IV (Awtet) 609 20. Zaware Nebret Aspurta 568 21. Saifay Harsiataw II 556 22. Ramhay Nastossanan 542 23. Handu Wuha Abra 531 24. Safelya Sabakon 500 25. Agalbus Sepekos 478 26. Psmenit Waradanegash 457 27. Awseya Tarakos 445 28. Kanaz Psmis (son of preceding) 432 29. Apras 422 30. Kashta Walda Ahuhu 402 31. Elalion Taake 392 32. Atserk Amen III 382 33. Atserk Amen IV 372 34. Queen Hadina 362 35. Atserk Amen V 352 36. Atserk Amen VI 342 37. Queen Nikawla Kandat 332 38. Bassyo 325 39. Queen Akawsis Kandake III 315 40. Arkamen II 305 41. Awtet Arawura 295 42. Kolas II (Kaletro) 285 43. Zawre Nebrat 269 44. Stiyo 255 45. Safay 242 46. Queen Nikosis Kandake IV 232 47. Ramhay Arkamen IV 222 48. Feliya Hernekhit 207 49. Hende Awkerara 187 50. Agabu Baseheran 177 51. Sulay Kawawmenun 157 52. Messelme Kerarmer 149 53. Nagey Bsente 139 54. Etbenukawer 129 55. Safeliya Abramen 109 56. Sanay 99 57. Queen Awsena 88 58. Dawit II 78 59. Aglbul 70 60. Bawawl 60 61. Barawas 50 62. Dinedad 40 63. Amoy Mahasse 35 64. Nicotnis Kandake V 25 65. Nalke 20 66. Luzay 8 67. Bazen BC YEAR 8 to AD YEAR 9

Non-Christian Rulers After Christian Era (AD):

1. Sartu Tsenfa Assegd 30 2. Akaptah Tsenfa Ared 38 3. Horemtaku 40 4. Garsemot Kandake VI 50 5. Hatosza Bahr Asaged 78 6. Mesenh Germasir 85 7. Metwa Germa Asfar 94 8. Adgale II 104 9. Agba 6 mo of Adgale + 6 mo 105 10. Serada 121 11. Malis Alameda 125 12. Hakabe Nasohi Tsiyon 131 13. Hakli Sergway 143 14. Dedme Zaray 153 15. Awtet 155 16. ALaly Bagamay 162 17. Awadu Jan Asagad 192 18. Zagun Tsion Hegez 197 19. Rema Tsion Geza 200 20. Azegan Malbagad 207 21. Gafale Seb Asagad 208 22. Tsegay Beze Wark 212 23. Gaza Agdur 221 24. Agduba Asgwegwe 229 25. Dawiza 230 26. Wakana (Queen) 2 days 27. Hadawz 4 months 28. Ailassan Sagal 233 29. Asfehi Asfeha 247 30. Atsgaba Seifa Arad 253 31. Ayba 270 32. Tsaham Laknduga 279 23. Tsegab 289 34. Tazer 299 35. Ahywa Sofya (Queen) 306 . The line continues with Christian rulers and Ethiopia becomes a Christian nation.

Christian Rulers After Christian Era (AD): 

1. Ahywa (Sofya, mother of Abreha Atsbeha). 2. Abreha Atsbeha (partly with his mother) 332 3. Atsbeha (alone) 344 4. Asfeh Dalz 351 5. Sahle 365 6. Arfed Gebra Maskal 369 7. Adhana I (Queen) 374 8. Riti 375 9. Asfeh II 376 10. Atsbeha II 381 11. Amey 396 12. Abreha II 7 months 13. Ilassahl 2 months 14. Elagabaz I 398 15. Suhal 402 16. Abreha III 412 17. Adhana II (Queen) 418 18. Yoab 428 19. Tsaham I 430 20. Amey II 431 21. Sahle Ahzob 433 22. Tsebah Mahana Kristos 436 23. Tsaham II 438 24. Elagabaz II 444 25. Agabi 445 26. Lewi 447 27. Ameda III 450 28. Armah Dawit 464 29. Amsi 469 30. Salayba 478 31. Alameda 486 32. Pazena Ezana 493 . Kaleb continues the line as a Dynasty until Emperor Gedajan.

Kaleb Dynasty:

1. Kaleb 523 2. Za Israel 1 month 3. Gabra Maskal 537 4. Kostantinos 565 5. Wasan Sagad 580 6. Fere Sanay 603 7. Advenz 623 8. Akala Wedem 631 9. Germa Asafar 646 10. Zergaz 656 11. Dagena Mikael 682 12. Bahr Ekla 701 13. Gum 725 14. Asguagum 730 15. Latem 746 16. Talatam 767 17. Gadagosh 780 18. Aizar Eskakatir 1/2 day 19. Dedem 78520. Wededem 795 21. Wudme Asfare 825 22. Armah 830 23. Degennajam 849 24. Gedajan 850 25. Gudit (Yodit, a Jewish Queen) 890 26. Anbase Wedem 910 27. Del Naad 920 . Events ends Solomonic dynasty and begins the Zagwe (line of Moses) Dynasty

V. ZAGWE Dynasty

1. Mara Takla Haymanot (Zagwe) 933 2. Tatawdem 973 3. Jan Seyum 1013 4. Germa Seyum 1053 5. Yermrhana Kristos 1093 6. Kedus Arbe (samt) 1133 7. Lalibala 1173 8. Nacuto Laab 1213 9. Yatbarak 1230 10. Mayrari 1245 11. Harbay 1253

(Israelite rulers during Zagwe Dynasty:1. Mahbara Wedem 2. Agbea Tsion 3. Tsinfa Arad 4. Nagash Zare 5. Asfeh 6. Yacob 7. Bahr Asagad 8. Edem Asagad).

Yekuno Amlak throned and continues the Solomonic line.

VI. YEKUNO AMLAK AND HIS SOLOMONIC POSTERITY

1. Yekuno Amlak 1268 2. Yasbeo Tseyon 1277 3. Tsenfa Arad 1278 4. Hesba Asagad 1279 5. Kedme Asagad 1280 6. Jan Asagad 1281 7. Sabea Asagad 1282 8. Wedma Ared 1297 9. Amda Tseyon 1327 10. Saifa Ared 1355 11. Wedma Asfare 1365 12. Dawit 1395 13. Tewodoros 1399 14. Yeshak 1414 15. Andreyas 6 months 16. Hesba Nafi 1418 17. Bedl Nafi (6 mo with Andreyas) 1419 18. Amde Tseyon 1426 19. Zara Yacob 1460 20. Boeda Maryam 1470 21. Iskender 1486 22. Amda Tseyon 1487 23. Naod 1500  24. Lebna Dengel 1532 25. Galawdewos 1551 26. Minas 1555. The Emperors and Empresses moved around the realm until the establishment of Gonder as a Capital City. The line continues as House of Gondar.

VII. THE HOUSE OF GONDAR

1. Sartsa Dengel 1589 2. Yakob 1598 3. Za Dengel I 1599 4. Susneyos 1627 5. Fasil 1662 6. Degu-Johannis 1677 7. Adyam Sagad Iyasu 1702 8. Takla Haymanot 1704 9. Tewoflus 1707 10. Yostos 1711 11. Dawit 1716 12. Bakaffa 1725 13. Birhan Sagad Iyasu 1749 14.Iyoas 1764 15. Johannis 5 months + 5 days 16. Takla Haymanot 1772 17. Solomon 1774 18. Takla Giyorgis 1779 . The accession line continues by Princes who claimed the throne as Emperors. These Princes began the Zemene Mesafint Era.

VIII. RULERS of ZEMENE MESAFINT ERA 

1. T. Yasus 1784-88 2. Takla Haymanot 1788-89 3. Iskias 1789-95 4. Baeda Maryam 1795- 97 5. Junus 17976. Adimo 1797-99 7. Egwala Sion 1799-1818 8. Joas 1818-21 9. Gigar 1821-26 10. Baeda Maryam III 1826 11. Gigar (again) 1826-30 12.Iyasu IV 1830-32 13.Gabra Kristos 1832 14.Sahala Dengel 1832-40 15.Johannes III 1840-41 16.Sahala Dengel (again) 1841-55 . The end of Zemene Mesafint begins with Tewodros.

IX. RULERS of MODERN ETHIOPIA

1. Theodore 1855-68 2. John IV 1868-89 3. Menelik II 1889-1913 6. Lej Yasu 1913-16 7. Zauditu (Empress) & Ras Tafari Makonnen (Regent & Heir) 1916 Negus Tafari Makonnen (King) 1928-1930 8. Haile Selassie I 1930-1974. The Royal line is terminated by Marxist and Tribalist Unknowns

9. Ethiopia's ancient history is not well attested by archaeology.  The following is a brief history of the modern country of Ethiopia to illustrate key portions of its history and other names associated with it.  This history is not based in the traditional history (listed in End Note 8) and though elements of it intersect, not all of it matches up, especially dating. 

    5th Century B.C.  - The Kingdom of Axum (alt. Aksum) was established along the Red Sea coast, seafarers trading with India.

    1st Century B.C. - Circa 30 B.C. Axum became known to the Romans with established trade in the time of Augustus.  Subsequent trade included silk from China.

    4th Century A.D. - Axum became a Christian country (during the reign of King Ezana, circa 320-356 A.D., 333 A.D. given as the date when Christianity was formally adopted).  Axum conquered the neighboring and declining Meroitic Kingdom of Kush (circa 350 A.D.). As such, this is the end of the Kingdom of Cush.  This expanding kingdom controlled land south and west of it in Africa as well as onto the Arabia Peninsula.  (The absorbed histories of these expanded regions are likely why their dynastic history includes elements that likely belong to these other lands - see end note 8).  See End Note 11 on the rise of the Makurian Kingdom in the area of Cush.

    c. 478 A.D.  The Bible was translated into the local Ethiopian language of Ge'ez.

    c. 960 A.D. The Axumite kingdom fell (conquest by Queen Gudit or Yodit, who ruled the land for 40 years).  They portray this time period as a Jewish persecution of the Christians.

    [1137 - 1975 A.D. The Ethiopian Empire spanned a geographical area covered by present day Eritrea and the northern half of present Ethiopia.  This country was also known as Abyssinia (it did not include the territory of Sudan)]

    1137 A.D. The Zagwe Dynasty Founded

    1270 A.D. Zagwe Dynasty overthrown by a king claiming lineage with the Axumite emperors - as such to be a descendant of Solomon.  This Solomonic Dynasty was ruled by the Habesha, from which Abyssinia gets its name.  With little interruption the Habesha reigned until 1975 A.D.

10.  Word Study dictionaries or footnotes that use the term "Habesh" or "Abyssinia" as a description of their usage of Ethiopia (as a translation of Aithiopos), are combining a relatively new name and dynasty with ancient history.  See how new these names are by viewing the history in end note 8, taking special note of the timeframe beginning at 1270 A.D. where the names Habesha and Abyssinia come into view.  Habesh or Abysinnia did not include the territory of Meroe, unlike the Aumite kingdom which preceded it.

11.  The Christian Kingdom of Makuria existed from about 580-1450 A.D.   Some believe it began to form by the mid 4th century A.D. and others see its termination earlier, using 1312 A.D., for the reasons listed below.  Certainly, by 1412 A.D. the kingdom was solidly under Muslim control.

It appears that the Makurian Kingdom arose in the time following Axum's invasion and control of the former Meroe Kingdom of Cush.  Little is known of this period.  The Makurians appear to have first come on the scene in the area between the third and fifth or sixth cataracts of the Nile, with its capital at Dongola.   There is no indication that they overthrew the Axumite kingdom or its rule, so they may have taken power following a withdrawal of Axum (which had weakened) or even initially as a local power supported by Axum, finally assuming full control with the Axum in decline.

    c. 536-555 A.D. (alt. some cite 543-545 A.D.) Known missionary endeavors in the area of central Sudan, an area then known as Nobatia (inhabited by Nobatae) by a Byzantine missionary Julian.

    c. 580 A.D. (alt. some cite 590 A.D.)  Most of the geographic are of the Kingdom of Cush has now became the Christian Kingdom of Makuria (which first included an area south of Nobatia already then known as Makuria plus an area south of the sixth cataract then called Alodia).  This kingdom has no ties to Axum (see End Note 9).  The northern portion of the former area the Kingdom of Cush, the previously referenced Nobatia, closest to the Egyptian border, did not fall under Makurian control until later. 

    c. 642 A.D.  Makuria successfully repulsed a Muslim invasion, led by the Rashidun Caliphate, when they defeated the Arab army at the first battle of Dongola (who had previously taken over Egypt in 641 A.D.).

    c. 652 A.D. Makuria fends off a second Muslim attack, the second battle of Dongola.  Makuria now takes control of the northern region of Nobatia.

    c. 8th and 9th centuries A.D.  Makuria was at its strongest.

    c. 1171-1272 A.D. A prolonged period of decline in the Makurian empire, much of the north became more Arab and Islamicized; frequent Bedouin attacks.

    c. 1276 A.D. Makuria became a vassal of Egypt (though still a Makurian ruler in power)

    c. 1312 A.D. The Mamluks of Egypt invaded and occupied the kingdom, placing a Muslim ruler on the throne, beginning a systematic conversion of the people to Islam.  This was not accepted by the people and began a long period of resistance (functionally a civil war) until at least 1397 (when there was still a recorded call for aid by the Makurians).

    c. 1317 A.D. The Cathedral of Dongola was converted into a Mosque.

    c. 1412 A.D. A group of Arab Muslims, known as the Banu Kanz took over Makuria having gradually married into the royal family line.  A member of the Banu Kanz inherited the throne of the kingdom in this year. 


Article by Brent MacDonald of Lion Tracks Ministries, 2014.  All images utilized are originals by
Brent & Angie MacDonald, or graphics created by Brent MacDonald,
excluding the Sudan map which is believed to be public domain.