November 25, 2002
Brit-Am understands that after the Assyrians conquered the northern ten
tribes they took them into exile:
a. Part were taken (on behalf of the Assyrians) in Phoenician and
Philistine ships to Spain, Gaul and possibly Britain. Those in Spain later
moved to Ireland, Britain, and Gaul.
b. Most went to the north where they became identified with the Cimmerians,
Scythians, and Goths. These peoples first appeared in the Middle East and
then moved out eventually going to the west where they became part of the
Celtic and "Germanic"-speaking peoples. A segment remained in southern
Russia where they mostly later either moved westward (to Finland and
Scandinavia) or became part of the Khazars.
We wrote several times concerning the Israelite origin of the Khazars -and
we have additional material yet to publish on this matter. We also showed
how the Khazars were considered a "Saxon" people, where related to Viking
groups, and also had given rise to the Agathyrsi who moved to Scotland and
were identified with the Picts.
Immanuel Velikovsky was a researcher who claimed that in the past the earth
had been struck by cosmic bodies that several times caused the extinction
of life forms (dinosaurs, mammoths, etc) and also changed the course of
human history several times over. Velikovsky attempted to prove that the
Chronology of Ancient history currently accepted is often more than 500
years too far back.
Some of Velikovsky's claims have been proven correct, some are still
uncertain, and some now appear quite doubtful.
At all events Velikovsky was a pioneer of great importance. His work on
Chronology may not have been entirely correct but it set the scene for
others who came after him and justified his approach in principle.
Velikovsky also wrote on the Lost Ten Tribes whom he identified with the
Velikovsky differs from us in so far as he:
1. Makes identifications of the places of exile (Gozan, Khalakh, etc) that
disagree with ours.
2. Claims the exiles were taken directly to southern Russia whereas we say
that they were first taken to northern Syria and the southern Caucasus area
though the possibility that they were also taken to areas of Russia also
exists as we explained in Lost Israelite Identity.
Nevertheless the article by Velikovsky is worth considering.
Immanuel Velikovsky on the whereabouts of the ten tribes:
Beyond the Mountains of Darkness
This short discourse is not a part of the chronological problem discussed
in the work of reconstruction of ancient history; it deals with historical
geographythe whereabouts of the places of exile of the Ten Tribes of Israel.
The sentence (II Kings 17:6) which relates
how the King of Assyria took
Samaria and carried Israel away into Assyria and "placed them in Halah and
in Habor by the river Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes," caused much
deliberation among the historians. The mystery of the Ten Lost Tribes
produced also fantastic convictions such as the belief that the Britons are
the descendants of the Lost Tribes who, after much wandering, reached Albion.
The sentence in II Kings 17:6 is repeated
almost verbatim in 18:11. In I
Chronicles 5:26, the exile of the Transjordan tribesReuben, Gad and the
half-tribe Manassehto Halah, and Habor and Hara, and to the river Gozan is
ascribed to "Pul king of Assyria" and to "Tilgath-pileser king of Assyria."
Modern scholars consider Pul and Tiglath-pileser to be one and the same
king, Pul having been his name in Babylonia.(1)
It is generally agreed that the location
of Halah (in Hebrew with two
letters kheth, transcribed as h in scholarly texts), or Khalakh, is not
given to identification.(2) As to Gozan, the texts of II Kings 17:6 and
18:11 speak of Habor by the river Gozan; also I Chronicles 5:26 speaks of
the river Gozan. In Isaiah 37:12 it can be understood as a region or a
people of a region. The correct translation of the two passages in the
Second Book of Kings is "to the confluence (habor)(3) of the river Gozan."
Biblical scholars who sought for the
place of exile of, first, the two and
a half tribes of Israel by Tiglath-Pileser and then of all the tribes of
Israel by Sargon upon the fall of Samaria, decided that the river's name
was Habor and Gozan was the region. They have therefore identified Gozan
with Guzana, modern Tell Halaf in northeastern Syria. But this
interpretation is a violation of the texts. Looking for a river Habor, they
thought to identify it with the tributary of the river Euphrates mentioned
in Ezekiel I:3 "the word of the Lord came . . . unto Ezekiel . . . in the
land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar." However the spellings in Hebrew
of Habor and Chebar are different, the river Khvor (Chebar) is not Habor,
and the latter is not a river at all. Furthermore, the co-called river
Chebar is actually an irrigation canal.(4)
In explaining why the misfotune of exile
befell the population of the
Northern Kingdom, the Book of Kings says that the Children of Israel
"worshipped all the host of heaven and served Baal," and "caused their sons
and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and
enchantments," and therefore "the Lord was very angry with Israel, and
removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah
only" (II Kings 17:17, 18).
"Removed them out of his sight" seems
to signify that the people of Israel
were removed far away, out of every contact with the remnant Judah, not
even by a chance messenger.
When one hundred and thirty-eight years
later, in the beginning of the
sixth century, the people of Judah were also led into exileby
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylonthey did not find the exiled tribes of
Israel in Babylonia, though they dwelt by the river Chebar (Khvor, i.e.,
Khabur), which flows in the central region of that country.
It appears that the places to which
the Ten Tribes were removed by the
Assyrian kings must have been far more remote than northeastern Syria.
Assyria, with its capital cities of
Nimrud (Calah), Dur Sharrukin
(Khorsabad), and Ninevehall on the Tigrisexpanded greatly in the days of
its warrior kings Tiglath-Pileser, Sargon, and Sennacherib. Repeatedly, the
Assyrian kings led their troops across the Caucasus northward. Not
satisfied with the passage along the coastal road of the Caspian Sea, they
also explored the mountainous passes. Sargon, the conqueror of Samaria,
wrote in his annals:
I opened up mighty mountains, whose passes were difficult and countless,
and I spied out their trails.
Over inaccessible paths in steep and terrifying places I crossed . . .(5)
The descriptions of Tiglath-pileser and Sargon of their campaigns in the
north lead us to recognize that they passed the mountains of the Caucasus
and reached the steppes between the Don and the Volga. When the barrier of
the mountains was overcome, they could proceed northward in a scarcely
populated area barren of natural defenses, where they would have met less
resistance than in the foothills of the mountains. It is unknown how far
they may have let their armies of conquest march across the steppes, but
probably they did not give the order to return homeward until the army
brought its insignia to some really remote point: it could be as far as the
place of the confluence of the Kama with the Volga, or even of the Oka,
still farther north. The middle flow of the Volga would be the furthermost
region of the Assyrian realm.
The roads to the Russian steppes along
the Caspian and Black seas were much
more readily passable than the narrow path along the river Terek and the
Daryal Canyon that cut the Caucasus and wind at the foot of Mount Kazbek,
over sixteen thousand feet high.
The fact that the "confluence of the
river Gozan" is considered a
sufficient designation suggests that it must have been a great stream.
A large river in the plain behind the
crest of the Caucasus is the Don, and
a still larger riverthe largest in Europeis the Volga. If the Assyrians did
not make a halt on the plain that stretches immediately behind the Caucasus
and moved along the great rivers without crossing them to conquer the great
plain that lies open behind the narrow span where the rivers Don and Volga
convergethen the most probable place of exile might be reckoned to be at
the middle Volga. The distance from Dur Sharrukin to this region on the
Russian (Scythian) plain is in fact much less than the distance from
Nineveh to Thebes in Egypt, a path taken by Assurbanipal several decades
later. Under Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal, Assyrian armies repeatedly
invaded "Patursi and Kusi" Upper Egypt and Ethiopia (Sudan). But Assyrian
occupation of Scythia is not a mere conjecture: it is confirmed by
archaeological evidence. "The earliest objects from Scythia that we can
date," writes a student of the region's antiquities, "referred to the VIIth
and VIth centuries B.C., are under overwhelming Assyrian influence. . ." (6)
The exiles who were removed from Samaria,
a city of palaces and temples, no
doubt, bewailed the capital they had heroically defended for three years
against the army of what was, in its time, the world's most powerful
nation. Accordingly they might have called their new settlement Samaria (in
Hebrew Shemer or Shomron; Sumur in the el-Amarna letters).
On the middle flow of the Volga, a city
with the name Samara exists and has
existed since grey antiquity. It is situated a short distance downstream
from the point where the Volga and the Kama join. Russian conquerors of the
ninth century found this city in existence. The medieval Arab geographer
Yakubi, basing himself on accounts of the ninth-century traveller Ibn
Fadlan, speaks of the Khazars who dwelt in Samara.(7) This people dominated
southern and eastern Russia possibly as early as the third,(8) but
especially during the tenth and eleventh centuries. They passed the
Caucasus mountains to participate in the wars of the Romans and the
Persians, dominated the Ukraine as far as Kiev, concluded treaties with the
emperors of Byzantium, and the! ir influence and suzerainty sometimes
reached as far west as Sofia.(9)
The ruling class of the Khazars used
Hebrew as its language, and the Hebrew
faith was the official religion in the realm of the Khazars. There was a
system of great tolerance, unique in the Middle Ages, in respect to other
religions; the Supreme Court was composed of two persons of Jewish faith,
two Moslems, two Christians, and one idolater of the Russian population;
but it was not a confusion of creeds as it had been in old Samaria, which
tolerated many creeds, the monotheism of Yahweh being a protesting
ingredient of the confusion.
Were the Khazars or their ruling aristocracy
converted to Judaism in a
later age? This position was based on what was said in a letter of the
Khazar king Joseph, written about the year 961, to the Jewish grandee,
Hasdai ibn-Shaprut, at the court of Cordoba. 'Abd-al-Rahman al-Nasir, the
Moorish ruler of Spain, had asked the King of the Khazars to provide any
available information about his people, Hasdai's brothers in religion. In
the letter of reply the Khazar king recited a tradition or a legend;
advocates of three religions came to some prior king of the Khazars, and he
picked the Jewish faith because the Christian and the Mohammedan alike gave
preferrence to the Jewish religion above that of their respective rival.(10)
The story exposes its mythical character.
In the seventh or eighth
centuries of the present era, the adepts of the Jewish faith were
persecuted by the Christians and also by the Moslems, and would hardly be
chosen to become the religion of the state. A similar legend of "choosing"
a religion is told about Vladimir of Kiev: in this legend the Khazars were
the delegates representing the Jewish faith.
Had the Khazars been converted to Judaism,
it would be almost incredible
that they would call their city by the name Samara. Samaria was a sinful
city from the point of view of the nation that survived in Palestine after
the fall of Samaria, and out of which eventually grew the rabbinical
Judaism of later centuries.
The conversion to the Jewish religion
would also not imply the adoption of
the Hebrew language. It is remarkable that the state language of the
Khazars was Hebrew; the king of the Khazars was quite capable of reading
and answering a Hebrew letter.
Long before the correspondence between Joseph and Hasdai of the tenth
century, the Khazar monarchs had Hebrew names. The dynasts previous to king
Joseph were in the ascending order: Aaron, Benjamin, Menahem, Nisi,
Manasseh II, Isaac, Hannukah, Manasseh, Hezekiah, and Obadiah. A conversion
to Judaism in the seventh or eighth century of the present era would bring
with it names common to Hebrews in the early Middle Ages, like Saadia or
Nachman; the Judaism of the early Christian age was rich in names like
Hillel, Gamliel, while Hellenistic names like Alexander, or Aristobul were
not infrequent. Again, the Biblical names of an early period would give
prominence to names like Joab, Gideon, or Iftach, and still an older group
of names would be Gad, Issahar, Zwulun or Benjamin.
It is peculiar that some of the king
of the Khazars were called by the
names used in Israel at the time that Samaria was captured by the
Assyrians. Hezekiah is said to have been the king of Jerusalem at that time
(II Kings 18:10), and the name of his son and successor was Manasseh.
Obadiah was one of the most common names at that time and in the preceding
century. It seems not arbitrary to assume that the Khazars absorbed, or
even originally were, the remnants of some of the tribes of Israel.
It is most probable that the religious
reform among the Khazars, about
which some tradition was preserved until the tenth century, is to be
interpreted as an act of purification of the half-pagan religion that the
exiles from Samaria brought into and developed in their new abodes on the
Volga, and as an act of return to the old Hebrew religion of Yahweh. This
might have been performed with the help of some Hebrews who perchance left
the schools of Sura and Pumbadita, where the Babylonian Talmud was
composed. Old Jewish authors(11) actually mention the fact that teachers of
rabbinical Judaism were invited to the kingdom of the Khazars as early as
the eighth century. Possibly, the name "Khazars," despite a difference in
writing, is to be interpreted as "Those Who Return." A long, probably
illiterate period, when Hebrew was used only in s! peech, may have preceded
the period of revival of learning and purification of faith.
I would like to express here the belief
that excavation in or around Samara
on the Volga may disclose Hebrew signs of the eighth and seventh centuries
before the present era. Other sites of old settlements on the Volga, too,
may disclose remnants of old Hebrew culture.
The Hebrew (most probably also Assyrian)
name for the Volga, Gozan, seems
to have survived in the name Kazan. The city Kazan is located to the north
of Samara, a very short distance beyond the place of confluence of the
Volga and the Kama, two equally large streams. A tributary by the name
Kazanka, or "small Kazan," flows there into the Volga.
In the days of the Khazar realm, the
river Volga was called not by its
Assyrian, nor by its present name, but by the name Etel (the name is given
also as Itil or Atil). This name appears to derive from a Semitic root; it
is also used by the medieval Arab geographers.
Many place names in southern Russia
seem to be of Hebrew derivation. The
name of the river Don may go back to the name of the Israelite temple-city
Dan. The Caspian Sea is best explained as "The Silver Sea" from the Hebrew
caspi (of silver). Rostov means "The Good Harbor" in Hebrew. Orel, read in
Hebrew, would mean "uncircumcised" ; Saratov may mean "to make an
incision." (12) With our identification of Gozanone of the places of exile
of the Ten Tribesas the Volga, we may now investigate the question, what
place is Khalakh, the other place of exile mentioned in II Kings 17:6? This
place name is generally regarded as unidentifiable.
The eastern coast of the Black Sea was
the goal of the Argonaut expedition
in its search for the Golden Fleece. This expedition, engineered by Jason,
was undertaken on the boat Argo. The land on the eastern coast of the Black
Sea was called Colchis in ancient times, and the region is still known by
this name. In Russian literature it is called Kolkhida.
I consider western Georgiato which Colchis
belongs, to be the Biblical
Khalakh. Those of the expatriates of Samaria whose destination was Khalakh
arrived there some decades after the Argonaut expedition, which was
regarded by the later Greeks as an historical event and chronologically
placed two or three generations before the Trojan War.(13)
In the mountainous region of western
Georgia, adjacent to the Colchian
coast, live the so-called Georgian, or Mountain Jews. They claim to be of
the Ten Tribes of Israel, their ancestors having been exiled there upon the
destruction of the kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians. Ben Zvi (the second
president of the modern state of Israel) tells of these people and their
claims.(14) He writes that "there is no reason to doubt the existence of a
continuous Jewish settlement in both the north and south of Caucasia, whose
roots were laid in very ancient times, perhaps as early as the days of the
Second Temple, perhaps even earlier." Yet he does not express any suspicion
that Khalakh may have been Colchis.
The third place of exile of the Ten Tribes according to the Book of Kings
were the "cities of the Medes." Is it possible to locate also this last
destination? The Medes first appear in Assyrian annals in the time of
Shalmaneser III: it was in his days that they started to penetrate across
the mountains of Iran to infringe on the boundaries of the Assyrian
kingdom. They appear once again in the annals of Sargon II, who claims to
have repelled "the distant Medes on the edge of the Bikni mountain." (15)
Some scholars maintain that the homeland of the Medes before their
occupation of the Iranian plateau in the seventh and sixth centuries was in
Turan, that is, West Turkestan. Sargon's reference to "distant Medes" would
then designate their homeland in Turan.
In this context it is interesting to
note that the Jews of Bukhara, the
great trading city and metropolis of West Turkestan, (Turan) claim direct
descent from the Ten Tribes.(16) Some writers are even prepared to admit
the possible veracity of this claim,(17) though no one so far seems to have
attempted to place the "cities of the Medes" in this region. While the
greater part of the Jewish community of Bukhara may well be descended from
migrants from the time of the Babylonian Exile or the Diaspora of Roman
times or even later, it is not excluded that the oldest group among them
are remnants of those tribes dispatched by Sargon to the "cities of the
1. E.g., H. W. F. Saggs, The Greatness that was Babylon (New York,
1966), pp. 104, 557.
2. H. Graetz, History of the Jews, Vol. I (Philadelphia), p. 265.
3. [Cf. Strong's Concordance of the Bible, p. 36 where (Hebrew
section) habor is translated from the root word meaning "to join." ]
4. [See Atlas of the Bible, (ed. by J. L. Gardener, 1981), p. 145;
also consult W. Gesenius, Hebrew Lexicon (Brown, Driver, Briggs), p. 140,
"Kebar" "a river (or perhaps a canal) of Babylonia, not at present
identified . . ." LMG/WBS]
5. Luckenbill, Records of Assyria II, par. 54.
6. Ellis H. Minns, Scythians and Greeks (Cambridge, 1913), p. 263.
7. Yakubi, Kitab al-Buldan, 262 (in Bibl. Geogr. Arab, VII, ed. De
8. Masudi hands down a tradition that the Sassanid king Ardashir
fought against the Khazars. Masudi, Muruj al-Dhabab, ed. Barbier de Meynard
and Pavet de Courteille (Paris, 1861-78), VI, 124ff.
9. For general discussion and sources, see D. M. Dunlop, The History
of the Jewish Khazars, (Princeton, 1954).
10. Cf. A. Koestler, The Thirteenth Tribe, pp. 63-64.
11. Jehudah bar Levi, The Khazar. [Such names were perhaps chosen to
describe the inhabitants of the respective areas.LMG]
13. [Herodotus (II. 104) reports that in his time the people of Colchis
practiced circumcision and claimed descent from Egypt. Although his
inquiries in Egypt evinced no remembrance of the Colchians from among the
Egyptians, Herodotus concluded that they must have been descended from the
remnants of the army of the semi-legendary Sesostris. It seems to me that
the Colchians may have told Herodotus the Mosaic tradition of the Exodus
from Egypt if they were Jews, they would have had to answer in the
affirmative the question posed by Greek historian, as to whether their
ancestors had come from Egypt.JNS]
14. Itzak Ben-Zvi, The Exiled and the Redeemed (Philadelphia, 1957), p.
15. Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria II, par. 54. The location of
"Bikni mountain" is uncertain.
16. See the eighteenth-century report of Joseph Maman of Tetuan,
summarized in A. Ya'ari, "Emissaries of the Land of Israel" (Hebrew)
(Jerusalem, 1951), p. 664.
17. Itzak Ben-Zvi, The Exiled and the Redeemed, p. 62.
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