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Germania and Tacitus: Israelite Origins

A Brit-Am Study

The following applies to the inhabitants of Germany rather than to the Celts. Some of these so-called Germanics were actually Celtic and had Celtic customs and culture. Many of them moved out of Germany and are not to be identified with the present-day Germans.

Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus (56 117 CE) was a Roman Senator and an historian. Tacitus (in "Germania") described the ancient inhabitants of Germany. Tacitus is sometimes suspected of romanticising the German Barbarians as a polemic tool against what he perceived to be the degeneration of his fellow Romans. The description of Tacitus helps us in finding parallels to the Ancient Hebrews.

In the extracts below we bring direct quotes from Tacitus followed by comments of our own showing what we understand to be linkages to the Israelite past.

Tacitus: Germania
In their old ballads (which amongst them are the only sort of Registers and History) they celebrate Tuisto, a God sprung from the earth, and Mannus his son, as the fathers and founders of the Nation. To Mannus they asign three sons, after whose names so many people are called; the Ingeones, dwelling next the Ocean; the Herminones, in the middle country; and all the rest, Isteones. Some, borrowing a warrant from the darkness of antiquity, maintain that the god had more sons; that thence came more denominations of people, the Marsians, Gambrians, Suevians, and Vandalians, and that these are the names truly genuine and original. For the rest, they affirm Germany to be a recent word, lately bestowed: For that those who first passed the Rhine, and expulsed the Gauls, and are now named Tungrians, were then called Germans: And thus by degrees the name of a tribe prevailed, not that of the Nation; so that by an appellation at first occasioned by terror and conquest, they afterwards chose to be distinguished, and assuming a name lately invented were universally called Germans. They have a tradition that Hercules also had been in their country, and him above all other heroes they extol in their songs, when they advance to battle.

Brit-Am Comment:
The name Tuisto is derived from a root connoting "two" or "double". It has been proposed that the name means "The Twin". Jacob and Esau were twin brothers.
Mannus we understand to be another form of the name "Mannaseh".
Amongst the three groups of Peoples we find the Istaeones. This name it has been suggested (by "Tim" on Germanic-L) is mispelt and should actually by Iscaevones from the root "Isca" or "Ash" meaning the First Man. Its source could also be from the name Isaac. So too, we find in the Scythian Region numerous names applied to the Scythians such as Isak-Guli, Zohak, Saka, etc, all of which appellations derive from Isaac.
The term "Saxon" also ultimately comes from Isaac.
Hebrew Patriatrchal Names: Isaac.
Later the term "Saxony" shifted to different regions of Germany and almost any German could be referred to as "Saxon".
The Saxons in the Anglo-Saxon forces who invaded England were however of different origins. They identified as Angles rather than as Germans.

Of all the Gods, Mercury is he whom they worship most. To him on certain stated days it is lawful to offer even human victims. Hercules and Mars they appease with beasts usually allowed for sacrifice. Some of the Suevians make likewise immolations to Isis. Concerning the cause and original of this foreign sacrifice I have found small light; unless the figure of her Image formed like a galley, shew that such devotion arrived from abroad. For the rest, from the grandeur and majesty of Beings celestial, they judge it altogether unsuitable to hold the Gods inclosed within walls, or to represent them under any human likeness. They consecrate whole woods and groves, and by the names of the Gods they call these recesses; Divinities which only in contemplation, and mental reverence, they behold.

Brit-Am Comment:
The Israelites were exiled for worshipping idols and going in the way of the Canaaanite and other Gentiles nations around them. They had combined Hebraic practices with pagan ones. In their places of Exile they continued to do so.

In the extract above, the god identified as Mercury is believed to be Woden or Odin.
We find the ancient Germans described as worshipping the Egyptian goddess "Isis".
They retained an aversion to images such as we also find amongst the "Celts" and pertained to the Ancient Hebrews.
They worshipped in woods and groves as the Ancient Hebrews in their idolatry had done (2-Kings ch.17).

Neither does the dress of the Women differ from that of the Men, save that the Women are ordinarily attired in linen embroidered with purple, and use no sleeves, so that all their arms are bare. The upper part of their breast is withal exposed. Yet the laws of matrimony are severely observed there; nor in the whole of their manners is aught more praise-worthy than this: For they are almost the only Barbarians contented with one wife, excepting a very few amongst them, men of dignity who marry divers wives, from no wantonness or lubricity, but courted for the lustre of their family into many alliances.

They therefore live in a state of chastity well secured, corrupted by no seducing shews and public diversions, by no irritations from banquetting. Of learning and of any secret intercourse by letters they are all equally ignorant, men and women. Amongst a people so numerous adultery is exceeding rare, a crime instantly punished, and the punishment left to be inflicted by the husband. He, having cut off her hair, expells her from his house naked, in presence of her kindred, and pursues her with stripes throughout the village. For, to a woman who has prostituted her person, no pardon is ever granted. However beautiful she be, however young, however abounding in wealth, a husband she can never find. In truth, no body turns vices into mirth there, nor is the practice of corrupting and of yielding to corruption, called coldly, the custom of the age. Better still do those Communities in which none but Virgins marry, and where to a single marriage all their views and inclinations are at once confined. Thus, as they have but one body and one life, they take but one husband, that beyond him they may have no thought, no further wishes, nor love him only as their Husband, but as their Marriage. To restrain generation and the increase of children, is esteemed an abominable sin, as also to kill infants newly born. And more powerful with them are good manners, than with other People are good Laws.

Brit-Am Comment:
We find them maintaining a relative high degree of sexual morality such as the Torah requires and as some of the Hebrews maintained though others went to the opposite extreme.
The Ancient Hebrews allowed polygamy but most men in practice had only one wife.

Slow and late do the young Men come to the use of Women, and thus very long preserve the vigour of youth. Neither are the Virgins hastened to wed. They must both have the same sprightly youth, the like stature, and marry when equal and able-bodied. Thus the robustness of the parents is inherited by the children. Children are holden in the same estimation with their Mother's Brother, as with their Father. Some hold this tye of blood to be most inviolable and binding, and in receiving of hostages, such pledges are most considered and claimed, as they who at once possess affections the most unalienable, and the most diffuse interest in their family. To every Man, however, his own children are heirs and successors: Wills they make none: For want of children his next akin inherits; namely, his own Brothers, those of his Father, or those of his Mother. To ancient Men, the more they abound in descendents, in relations and affinities, so much the more favour and reverence accrues. From being childless no advantage or estimation is derived.

Of all the Suevians the Semnones recount themselves to be the most ancient and most noble. The belief of their antiquity is confirmed by religious mysteries. At a stated time of the year, all the several people descended from the same stock, assemble by their deputies in a wood consecrated by the idolatries of their forefathers and by superstitious awe in times of old. There, by publicly sacrificing a Man, they begin the horrible solemnity of their barbarous worship. To this Grove another sort of reverence is also paid. No one enters it otherwise than bound with ligatures [leather binding], thence professing his subordination and meanness, and the power of the Deity there. If he fall down, he is not permitted to rise or be raised, but grovels along upon the ground. And, of all their superstition this is the drift and tendency, that from this place the Nation drew their original; that here God, the supreme Governor of the world, resides, and that all things else whatsoever are subject to him, and bound to obey him. The potent condition of the Semnones has increased their influence and authority, as they inhabit an hundred towns; and from the largeness of their Community it comes, that they hold themselves for the head of the Suevians.

Brit-Am Comment:
The Semnones derive their name from the Israelite Tribe of Simeon.
The description of their worship though barbaric and involving human sacrifice still suggests the concept of Monotheism.
The Ancient Hebrews worshipped in the Temple in Jerusalem. It was on the Temple Site that the first man was created. It was here that Abraham showed himself willing to sacrifice Isaac and thus earned the Promise of National Greatness for his offspring. Within the Temple Complex was the central building divided into the main hall or "Kodesh" (Holy) and an inner sanctuary named "Kadosh HaKadoshim" or "Holy of Holies". The High Priest, once a year (on the Day of Atonement, i.e. Yom Kippur) would enter the Holy of Holies to offer incense. A cord was tied around his waist lest he have a heart-attack or some such mishap and so would be dragged out by the cord.

The various tribes of the Semnones also gathered themselves together once a year in a place where they believed their nation had its birth. They came to worship in this place where,
"God, the supreme Governor of the world, resides, and that all things else whatsoever are subject to him, and bound to obey him."
So too a cord was tied around the waist of whosoever entered the sacred precint. If they had a heart attack they would be pulled out by the cord as was the practice in the Holy Temple at Jerusalem.

We therefore see a combination of Israelite and Canaanite type customs amongst the Ancient Germanic Peoples.

The Scottish Gael by Donald MacClean, 1912, Chapter XIV:
Of the Suevi we are told the Semnones reckoned themselves most noble and ancient, and the belief of their antiquity was confirmed by religious mysteries. At a certain time of the year all the people descended from the same stock, assembled by their deputies in a wood, consecrated by their fathers, and by superstitious awe in times of old, and began there their worship by sacrificing a man. To this grove another sort of veneration was paid; no one entered it unless bound; from that circumstance evincing his own subordination and meanness, and the power of the deity. If any one fell down he was not permitted to rise or be lifted up, but grovelled along on the ground. They believed that in that place God resided, that from this place they drew their origin, and that all things are subject to the deity.

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Israelite Tribes Amongst Germanic Linguistic Groups: Foreword and List of Contents

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