Europeans Are Descendants of the Ancient Hebrews: Historical Evidence
By Reed Benson
Where are the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel? What happened to these people? Can they be found? Indeed they can. Using the Bible and careful, honest research, the direct descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes can be identified. They are none other than the Nordic people found primarily in northwest Europe. However, there were actually portions of all twelve tribes that were taken away from their original Israelite homeland. The tale of their forced deportation and slow migration to Europe is a bit tedious for those who do not care for details. Yet, conclusions are only as good as the facts, and a detailed chain of historic facts is necessary to yield a reliable result.
Do we believe something simply because we wish it to be true? Unfortunately, many people do just that. Some believe that the Lost Tribes of Israel are found among Negro tribes in Africa. Others sincerely argue that the Meso-Americans are the Lost Tribes. Still others suggest that they are in Japan. And, of course, many purport that they were absorbed into neighboring groups of people and are consequently lost permanently. It is my hope that I can present enough of the details of the known story to persuade the reader that the bulk of the Lost Tribes are embodied by the Caucasian race of northwest Europe. The evidence is taken from four types of sources: first, the biblical record, which I consider inspired by God and thus perfect. Second, primary sources, which are writers who were contemporary, or nearly so, to the events they were describing. The third source is historians of such long-standing reputation and universally acclaimed caliber that their studied opinion is considered expert. Fourth, we shall consider archaeological evidence and the local traditions associated with it, which sometimes provides unique insight.
Middle East Politics in the Eighth Century Before Christ
Israel and Judah, the two nations of Israelites, had been politically separate for about two centuries. The northern kingdom, usually referred to as Israel, was larger in territory, population, and economic resources. Nine of the twelve tribes were spread across a fertile swath of land. (Simeon was somewhat scattered from its original geographical holdings.) Its ruling dynasties were unstable, however, and it had fallen into gross idolatry. It was ripe for Godís judgment. The southern kingdom, Judah, was comprised of one large tribe, Judah, a small one, Benjamin, and remnants of Simeon, which had nearly dissolved. Poorer in natural resources, it had a smaller population of mostly pastoralists. However, it did boast the prosperous and historic city of Jerusalem and its ruling dynasty was unbroken since David. It was a conservative, traditional nation. Elements of the tribe of Levi were found in both the northern and southern kingdoms.
The two great powers of that period were the Assyrians to the northeast and the Egyptians to the south. Both Israel and Judah were forced to play a risky game of diplomacy to play these two great powers off one another as well as form temporary shifting alliances with their small neighbors in the hope of political advantage. As the century progressed, the power of Assyria grew and the goal became one of finding allies to hold the mighty Assyrians back.
The Assyrian Invasions: Phase One
The first important phase of Assyrian conquest over the Israelite nations was in 741 B.C. During the reign of Israelís King Pekah, Tiglath-pileser invaded the northern kingdom and captured all of the land east of the Jordan River and the fertile region around the Sea of Galilee. The two and one-half tribes east of the Jordan River, Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh, were taken into captivity, as well as portions of the tribes of Naphtali, Asher, and Zebulon that lived in the Galilee hill country. Dan, in the far north, was also almost certainly taken as it was quite vulnerable to attack from that direction. The biblical description of this invasion is found in 2 Kings 15:29: "In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abel-beth-maachah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria."
The surviving portion of the northern kingdom was Ephraim, Issachar, the western half of Manasseh and the southern half of Dan, as well as overlooked pockets of other northern tribes. The invasion might have been complete but Pekah was assassinated by Hoshea, who took the throne and managed to secure a humiliating peace with the Assyrians.
The Bible specifically states where the tribes east of the Jordan River were taken: "And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and he carried them away, even the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, and brought them unto Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river Gozan, unto this day" (1 Chonicles 5:26).
The Assyrian Invasions: Phase Two
The next important advance of Assyrian military might into Israelite areas was completed in 721 B.C. Emperor Shalmaneser sent his forces, led by his commander and co-regent Sargon, to finish the conquest of the northern Israelite nation. After a horrific three-year siege of the capital city of Samaria all resistance was crushed. An unknown number perished in the siege from famine and disease. All outlying areas that had been missed in the first invasion fell under the terrifying yoke of Assyrian dominion. Many people from these pockets were swept up and deported. Tobit, for example, a man from Naphtali who survived the first invasion was taken in this one: "This book tells the story of Tobit . . . of the tribe of Naphtali, who in the days of Shalmaneser of the Assyrians was taken into captivity from Thisbe, which is to the south of Kedesh Naphtali, in upper Galilee . . ." (Tobit 1:1-2, Apocrypha).
The fall of Samaria was the final act in this successful campaign and is described in 2 Kings 18:10-11: "And at the end of three years they took it: even in the sixth year of Hezekiah, that is the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken. And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria, and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes." Sargon also recorded his activities: "In the beginning of my reign the city of Samaria I besieged, I captured . . . 27,290 of its inhabitants I carried away" (The Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylon, D.D. Luckenbill). These miserable survivors, according to the biblical record, joined their countrymen who had been taken away two decades earlier to Halah, Habor, by the River Gozan, and in the cities of Medes.
The Assyrian Invasions: Phase Three
The northern kingdom of the Israelites was no more. To fill the void, the Assyrians had imported ". . . Thamudites, the Ibadidites, the Marsiminiites, and the Khapaijans" (ibid.). These foreign and pagan peoples "were transported to the midst of the land of Beth-Omri" (ibid.) Beth-Omri means House of Omri, after one of the more prominent among the kings of the northern kingdom of Israel. The Bible records the importation of foreigners to replace the deported Israelites: "And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel" (2 Kings 17:24). The mix of these various peoples in the region became the Samaritans of the New Testament.
But the southern kingdom of Judah still remained essentially intact and the Assyrian thirst for conquest had not been slaked. In 701 B.C. Sennacherib led a successful campaign along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea capturing the Phoenecian city of Tyre and the Philistine cities of Ashkelon and Ekron. He then invaded Judah and captured, according to his records, forty-six walled cities of the southern kingdom. He had hoped to cap off this campaign with the capture of Jerusalem, but righteous Hezekiah appealed to Jehovah and God heard his pleas. A death angel was sent to destroy the besieging Assyrian army around Jerusalem, massacring one hundred eighty five thousand (2 Kings 19:35-36; 2 Chronicles 32:1-23). The kingdom of Judah had been preserved, but not without a fearful cost. Sennacherib tries to cast as positive a light as possible on this campaign stating that he had shut up Hezekiah and his army "like a bird in a cage," and specifically stating that he carried away as captives 200,150 inhabitants of the forty-six Judean cities he captured (ibid).
Yet another subsequent invasion by Sennacheribís son Esar-Haddon in 676 B.C. forced Hezekiahís son Manasseh to yield completely to the Assyrians. However, Jerusalem was not destroyed, and although Judah became a subservient vassal state to the Assyrians, the nation, its institutions, and its people survived.
But what of the 200,150 Judean captives taken by Sennacherib? They were resettled in the northern reaches of the Assyrian empire alongside their brethren from the northern kingdom of Israel. There, in Halah, Habor, by the River Gozan, and in the land of the Medes, all twelve tribes of the children of Israel were resettled by the Assyrians. This was intended to be their permanent residence; separated from their ancient homeland and having had their former institutions and customs completely disrupted, the Assyrians believed they would remain quiescent.
Where Are Halah, Habor, Gozan, and the Land of the Medes?
This is not difficult and is information available as close as the nearest Bible Dictionary. It was a region of the Assyrian Empire to the northwest of their capital city Ninevah. Gozan was a region called Guzanu by the Assyrians and Gauzanitis by the Roman historian Ptolemy. On the banks of this river, the German archaeologist Baron von Oppenheim discovered the ruins of the city of Halah, known today as Tell Halaf. The river today is not called Gozan, but is known as Khabur, after the ancient city of Habor. Today these locations are found in what is now the border area of southeast Turkey and northern Syria. Historians often refer to this area south of the Caucasus Mountains as Greater Armenia. The Khabur River is a tributary of the Euphrates and the irrigated area was capable of supporting a large population in ancient times. The entire northern portion of the Assyrian empire, of which Halah, Habor, and Gozan were a part, was the land of the Medes. The Medes had been subjugated by the Assyrians and were eager to rebel against their cruel overlords. Later, in sixth century B.C., along with their cousins the Persians, the Medes established the Medo-Persian Empire. By that time the deported Israelites had already reasserted their independence and were moving to a new location.
Where Did the Twelve Deported Tribes Go Next?
This is not as difficult a question to answer as some suggest. Ancient writers give us clear pieces of information. In 2 Esdras 13:40-45 we find this: "These are the nine tribes that were taken away from their own land into exile in the days of Hoshea, whom Shalmaneser king of the Assyrians, made captives; he took them across the river, and they were taken into another land. But they formed this plan for themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the nations and go to a more distant region, where no human beings had ever lived, so that they might keep their statutes that they had not kept in their own land. And they went by the narrow passages of the Euphrates river. For at that time the Most High performed signs for them, and stopped the channels of the river until they had crossed over. Through that region there was long way to go, a journey of a year and a half; and that country is called Arzareth."
In following the "narrow passages of the Euphrates river," these Israelites went northward following the gorges of the Euphrates, gradually moving into "Arzareth," a place "where no human beings had ever lived." It would take "a year and a half" to travel there in a northward direction. Where was Arzareth?
The natural northern boundary of empires in the Middle East was the large range of mountains called the Caucasus. Very high, and not easily traversed, and spanning the distance from the Black Sea to the Caspian, this range separated the settled and populated regions to the south from the empty plains to the north. Prior to Christ, permanent towns did not exist in these steppes. Although many nomadic people traversed them, no one permanently dwelled there until later. During the period under discussion, the sixth and seventh centuries B.C., these prairies in what is now Russia and the Ukraine were analogous to a sea, with a number of ethnic groups passing through on their way to somewhere else. Even in recent centuries, the steppes have fostered empty nomadic lifestyles as illustrated in the Russian Cossack culture.
The historian Josephus, writing in the first century A.D., stated that the Israelite tribes of the northern kingdom were not lost to the world or absorbed amongst other people, but were found beyond the perimeters of the Roman Empire on the other side of the Euphrates river, i.e., to the north: "So there are but two tribes in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while the ten tribes are beyond the Euphrates until now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers" (Jewish Antiquities, Book 11; 5:2). By "Asia," Josephus, like other ancient writers, meant what we now call the Middle East. If the ten tribes he referred to were not in the portions of Europe and Asia controlled by the Romans, but were "beyond the Euphrates," the most likely location is what was the region then called Scythia by some Greeks and Romans. Arzareth, therefore, was Scythia, or the plains of southern Russia and the Ukraine. Is there other evidence to support the idea that the deported Israelites went there?
Local tradition offers this. There is a mountain pass through the Caucasus that was widened into a modern highway in 1856. Called Dariel Pass, it is also called by the local inhabitants as the Pass of Israel. On the northern slope is a prominent mountain adjacent to the pass the villagers call Zion. It received its name Dariel Pass because the Persian king Darius unsuccessfully attacked through the pass to avenge the death of Cyrus I, the founder of the Medo-Persian Empire. According to the great historian James Ussher, who quotes Herodotus and Valerius Maximus in his tome Annals of the World, Cyrus "was decapitated by Tomyris, the queen of the Scythians or Massagatae" (p.119). Tamyris is the Greek form of Tamar, a common Israelite name. The ruins of a castle known by her name still can be observed guarding this pass.
Another remarkable bit of information are the gravestones from antiquity found in the Crimea, a peninsula in the Black Sea and an adjunct of ancient Scythia. According to Professor Chirolson of St. Petersburg, over seven hundred have been deciphered. One translation reads: "I am Jehudi, the son of Moses, the son of Jehudi the Mighty, carried captive with other tribes of Israel by Shalmaneser . . . to Halah and Habor, to Gozan and to the Cheresonesus."
The Jewish Encyclopedia states this: " . . . the Sacae, or Scythians, who, again, were the Lost Ten Tribes" (Volume 12, p.250). This is a plain assertion that the Israelites, subsequent to their deportation, moved into the region called Scythia, and indeed were called Scythians. Notice that the Sacae and the Scythians are used synonymously. Many scholars have determined they were one and the same people.
Sir Henry Rawlinson, the renowned archaeologist and linguist who deciphered the Behistun Rock, asserted the following: "We have reasonable grounds for regarding the Gimirri, or Cimmerians, who first appeared on the confines of Assyria and Media in the seventh century B.C., and the Sacae of the Behistun Rock, nearly two centuries later, as identical with the Beth-Khumree of Samaria, or the Ten Tribes of the House of IsraelÖ" (Rawlinson, The Origins of the Nations).
Much more solid information could be presented, but it becomes redundant. The summation of our story thus far is this: the Israelite tribes, after their deportation, made their way northward into what is now the steppes of Russia and the Ukraine along the shores of the Black and Caspian Seas, into a region called Scythia. They were numerous enough to interact with powerful neighbors to their south who called them variously Beth-Khumree ( means House of Omri, after a notable king of the northern Israelites), Gimirri, Cimmerians, Scythians, Sacae, Massagatae or Gatae.
Then What Happened to the Twelve Dispersed Tribes?
This need not be considered a mystery for there is abundant evidence that identifies the Nordic race of northwest Europe as direct descendants of the aforementioned people found first in Greater Armenia, the region south of the Caucasus, and later in Scythia, the region north of the Caucasus. A few sources will demonstrate this, although many more could be cited.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is one of the few major primary sources that narrate the events of pre-Norman Britain. Compiled in the ninth century, during the reign of Alfred the Great, it states the following about the original inhabitants of Britain: "The first inhabitants were the Britons, who came from Armenia, and first peopled Britain southward. Then happened it, that the Picts came south from Scythia, with long ships . . ." (p.1). This remarkable piece of information reveals that the two dominant ethnic strains of the British race prior to the Romans came from the region exactly where the deported tribes of Israel had been. Is this coincidental?
Hardly, for the Declaration of Arbroath makes a very similar argument, but with the added usefulness of a timeline. Also known as the Scottish Declaration of Independence, this intriguing document was written to the Pope in 1320 A.D. to ask for his recognition of Scotland as an a nation distinct from England and English ambitions. In describing their long history of independent activity the Scots stated: "Most Holy Father and Lord, we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that among other famous nations our own, the Scots, has been graced with widespread renown. They journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long course of time in Spain among the most savage tribes, but nowhere could they be subdued by any race, however barbarous. Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they still live today." Not only does this place the ancestors of the Scots in Scythia, but it indicates that this migration was completed from Scythia to Scotland via Spain no later than than 291 B.C., for the Israelites crossed the Red Sea in 1491 B.C. Although the elapsed time in Spain is unstated, the movement out of Scythia is identical to the period when a broad movement of Scythians (i.e. Israelites) westward into Europe was occurring, as will be shortly discussed. And although the document does not state that the Scots are directly descended from the Israelites, we can deduce that they must be. They were in Scythia when the Israelites were there. Furthermore, why else would the Scots mention such a landmark event as Israelís crossing of the Red Sea if they were not Israelites?
Another document of antiquity, The Brut or The Chronicles of the Kings of Briton, has a remarkable comment regarding a Scottish chief name Bathlome, a commander of thirty ships who was speaking to Gwrganr, an ancient king of Britain: "This chief related to the king the whole of their adventures, from the time they had been driven from Israel their original country, and the manner and circumstances in which their ancestors dwelt in a retired part of Spain, near Eirnia, from whence the Spaniards drove them to sea to seek another abode" (p. 60). This statement corroborates the whole idea that the Scots are Israelites as inferred in the Arbroath declaration.
Next we shall consider Sharon Turnerís The History of the Anglo-Saxons from the Earliest Period to the Norman Conquest. Originally published between 1799 and 1805, it has long been considered the definitive work regarding the early history of Europe. Continuously referring to ancient writers whenever possible, Turner elaborates in painstaking detail the movement of the Saxon race out of Greater Armenia and Scythia into western Europe.
With respect to the origins of the Saxon race, consider Turnerís comments: "The Anglo-Saxons, the lowland Scotch, Normans, Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, Germans, Dutch, Belgians, Lombards, and Franks have all sprung from that great fountain of the human race, which we have distinguished by the terms, Scythian, German, or Goth . . . The first appearance of the Scythian tribes in Europe may be placed, according to Strabo and Homer, about the eighth, or according to Herodotus, in the seventh century before the Christian era . . . Their general appellation among themselves was Scoloti, but the Greeks called them Scythians, Scuthoi, or Nomades . . . the Sakai, the Massagatai drew their origin from them" (Turner, History of the Anglo-Saxons, p. 57).
As can be seen, the timeline that Turner suggests is exactly when the northern tribes of Israel were moving out of Palestine into Greater Armenia and Scythia. Notice also the names he identifies them as: Scythians, Sakai, Massagatai, and interestingly, Scoloti, a name remarkably similar to Scots. Coincidental? Surely not. He continues and identifies the geography more precisely: "The emigrating Scythians crossed the Araxes, passed out of Asia . . . and suddenly appeared in Europe, in the seventh century before the Christian era" (ibid., p.58). The Araxes River is a major stream in Greater Armenia, just south of the Caucasus Mountains in what is now the country of Turkey, only a short distance north from the biblical locations of Halah, Habor, and Gozan.
Concerning the etymology of names, Turner states: "It would be impertinent to the great subject of this history to engage in a minuter discussion of the Scythian tribes. They have become better known to us, in recent periods, under the name of Getae and Goths, the most celebrated of their branches . . . The Saxons were a German or Teutonic, that is, a Gothic or Scythian tribe; and of the various Scythian nations which have been recorded, the Sakai, or Sacae, are the people from whom the descent of the Saxons may be inferred, with the least violation of probability. Sakai-suna, or the sons of the Sakai, abbreviated into Saksun, which is the same sound as Saxon, seems a reasonable etymology of the word Saxon" (ibid., p. 58, 59). Despite Turnerís passing reference to brevity, he has much more to say regarding the Gothic and Saxon tribes of western Europe as the direct descendants of the Scythians or Sacae from Greater Armenia and Scythia in the seventh and eighth centuries before Christ. There is just not enough space in this article!
The Twelve Tribes Are Caucasian Europeans
As a final observation, consider what the Huguenot scholar and refugee Dr. Jacques Abbadie had to say on the topic in1723: "Unless the ten tribes of Israel are flown into the air, or sunk into the earth, they must be those ten Gothic tribes that entered Europe in the fifth century B.C. . . . and founded the ten nations of modern Europe" (The Triumph of Providence as taken from the National Message, 6/1957, p. 188).
Much more solid information could be presented, but the summation of the matter is this: the twelve tribes of Israel were the parent stock of most of the modern nations of Europe.
To insist that the Lost Tribes of Israel were completely absorbed by other nations is simply at odds with historical and archaeological evidence. Other claims regarding the identity of the lost tribes, connecting them to the Japanese, the Meso-Americans, or African tribes is not merely inaccurate, but either dishonest or incompetent. If you are a person descended from the Anglo-Saxon race of nations of Europe, you have a fabulous inheritance that resides in your genes. Do not let it slip away from you!