The Other Lost Israelites
We at Brit-Am do not feel that the Phoenicians were all Israelites. Neither were the Ancient Greeks. Nevertheless, as John Salverda points out in the article below, the Israelites influenced both groups as well as being influenced by them. Archaeological Findings attributed to these peoples in some cases should really be assigned an Israelite Provenance. We do not think that all the citizens of Athens were of Israelite Descent. Some of them however may have been and they definitely had been influenced by their contact with Israelites.
The Greek debt to Israelite or Jewish Influence was discussed by Josephus:
John Salverda in the following article does apparently consider many of the Ancient Greeks to have been Israelites. This is not our opinion but the arguement put forth is worth considering and taking cognizance of.
The Other Lost Israelites
Here at Britam a lot of effort is spent tracing the origins of the Western peoples back to the deportation of the northern ten tribes by the Assyrians in the late 700's BC. There seems to be much evidence, not only historical but also Scriptural, for their whereabouts. May God bless this effort.
A prophecy made by Ahijah the Shilonite, explaining why they were scattered, was made about 200 years before this Assyrian deportation. "For the LORD shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river, because they have made their groves, provoking the LORD to anger. And he shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, who did sin, and who made Israel to sin." (1st Kings 14:15,16)
I propose that it was during those 200 years, between the sin of Jeroboam and the final deportation of Israel, that much of the "scattering" took place. Historically this was the time of the greatest expansion from the Levant westward over the Mediterranean. I further suggest that most of Greek mythology reflects the events of that time period. The influence of Greece and Rome, (whom I suppose to be Israelite emigrants ) over the traditions and institutions of the Western civilizations, is largely recognized with an historical continuum (not to downplay the influence of the Scythians and the other Nordic "barbarians"). Of course at the Assyrian deportation any Mediterranean colonies that Israel had established would have been suddenly cut off from their homeland, thereby becoming more "lost" than even the Assyrian deportees were. At least the Scriptures recorded many of the places to which the Assyrians sent those of the kingdom of Israel, whereas the colonial Israelites were left unrecorded and eventually forgotten.
The Israelites had the means and the impetus to colonize Greece and the rest of the Mediterranean lands. Solomon had a fleet of ships based at the seaport of Joppa, and Israelites used them right up through the days of Jonah. The Danites were well known to be sea faring, and other Israelite tribe members, no doubt, sailed with the Tyrians. In fact, there is good reason to believe that those whom the Greek called "Phoenicians" included people that we would call Israelites. It is evident that many, such as the Danites, did not wait until the Assyrian deportation to scatter themselves. Not only were there trading colonies, but there were other reasons for Israelites to emigrate during those turbulent times. The dynasty of Jeroboam was displaced by the dynasty of Baasha, they were in turn ousted by the Omri Dynasty which was subsequently purged by Jehu. Disenfranchised adherents and followers of ousted dynasties remained in Israel at the risk of their very lives. It is logical to assume that each of these displaced groups had colonies overseas to flee to such as in places like Cypress, Asia Minor, Crete, Greece, Italy, Sicily and northern Africa. Carthage was founded in 813 BC. Ischia in 760 BC., Cumae in 750 BC., Rome traditionally founded in 753 BC., was said to have been built upon the ruins of a much earlier foundation that was called "Saturnia," and Syracuse, probably founded under the pressure of the Assyrian conquests, was founded in 733 BC.
Anywhere that "Phoenicians" went, so too, out of favor Israelites could have gone. In fact I would submit that the Greek term "Phoenician" applies mostly to Israelites as the kingdom of David had encompassed all of Phoenicia (including Tyre and Sidon) and the Greeks were not very particular when it comes to national nomenclature. The alphabet used by Hebrews was known to the Greeks as the "Phoenician" alphabet. It arrived in Greece when the kingdom of Israel was dominant in the land of Canaan. Could the Alphabet have been imported to Greece without bringing along also the stories that were written with it? Herodotus ("Histories" book 5, Pages 57-61) calls the specific group of "Phoenicians" who brought the alphabet to Greece, the "Gephyraei" (Hebrew') he says they were part of the Athenian population. Tarshish, usually thought to be Spain, was a regular destination spot for Israelites in the 10th and 9th centuries BC. So much so that the usual name for the ships of Solomon's fleet was "Tarshish ships." Solomon was known to use "Phoenicians" to man his fleet, "Hiram sent him ... servants that had knowledge of the sea ..." (II Chron. 8:18). So called Nimrud ivories from the Levant of the 9th and 8th centuries were found all over the Aegean, in Athens, Corinth, and Sparta, some 200 pieces were found in one Spartan temple alone. This was the "Ivory age" in Israel when King Ahab's house was paneled with Ivory (II Kings 22:39) and those in Zion slept in Ivory beds (Amos 6:4). Likewise so called "geometric" styled pottery from Greece of the 9th and 8th centuries were found all over the Levant. The proto-Aeolic Column of Greece was earlier known at Megiddo and later at Samaria. The "cyclopean" masonry works, found all over the Mediterranean, are often attributed to the "Phoenicians."
The myths of the Greeks have come down to us, from a time long before the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, and help us to identify some of these apostate Israelites. Consider the Athenians for instance. The people of Athens were a special breed, they had superior conditioning during their early developmental stage, by virtue of their ancient religion. The culture and institutions that were advanced by them were instrumental to the evolution of Western civilization in general and of free societies everywhere. Athens is considered to be the birthplace of Democracy, and the Western nations (predominantly lost Israelites) owe much to this ancient Greek city. What religion shaped this remarkable populace? They thought the people of their city to be the most ancient of all civilizations (Everyone else were considered to be 'barbarians' even the Egyptians.). They believed that they had been tested at the foundation of their civilization by a great and jealous god as to whom they should worship, instead of the god they chose a serpent woman and her tree, making her their goddess of knowledge. This was done by the free choice of a woman. For their insubordination they endured a great flood sent by the angered god. They spent some time in Egypt, and considered themselves to be part of a great multitude that was lead up out of the place by a famous ancestral law giver. He taught them to worship the highest god, instituted patriarchal monogamy, invented writing and began an annual festival of cakes. He divided them into twelve groups and settled them in their new land. They had with them had an ark that contained the promise of an immortal king as a cult object. They were warned not to look upon the secret contents, under penalty of death, but they had disobeyed. They set the capitol of their land at a city, represented by the olive tree (the symbol of peace), with a mountain, upon which they built their holy temple (the Parthenon, named for the 'virgin,' upon the Acropolis). They placed in their temple their extraordinary ark. This city became the seat of wisdom for their nation. These were obviously Israelites, lost to history, but it is apparent, because of their myths (which didn't become lost but were somehow preserved to this day), that they were not meant to be lost entirely.
I urge anyone who will search for these earlier "lost" Israelites to study Greek mythology in conjunction with your Scriptural studies (Of course, your Scriptural studies should take precedence), I promise that your efforts will be richly rewarded.
-John R. Salverda
For more articles by John R. Salverda on the Hebraic Connections of Greek Mythology, see:
"Helleno-Yishurin. The Hebrew Origin of Greek Legends"
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