- Category: History
- Published on Wednesday, 19 March 2008 14:59
by Colonel J.C. Gawler, 1875
"Our Scythian Ancestors" is a common term which may be found in the most epitomised history of our origin: but though it takes us half way to our goal, the second half is not so easily bridged; and the problem is before us to identify these our Scythian ancestors with the lost tribes of Israel.
There is in our national status and mission more than sufficient to convince any thinking person that we are in the position assigned by God to the seed of Abraham, doing, in fact their duty, and enjoying the blessings promised to them. It seems unreasonable, and worse than unreasonable, to suppose that God, who foreknew the backslidings of Israel, would have held out promises and hopes to Abraham regarding his seed, when He had foreordained or foreknew that that seed should not attain to them; and that declining to use any longer the seed of Abraham as His main instruments, He purposed to pick up, and about the time of Moses was actually preparing, a gang of obscure wanderers, with whom He decided to continue, in this more blessed dispensation, as plan for the regeneration of the human race.
"I called him (Abraham) alone." (Isaiah 51:2)
"Ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth; and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it; Hath God assayed to go and take Him a nation from the midst of another nation?. . . Unto Thee it was showed that thou mightest know that the Lord He is God: and, because He loved thy Fathers, therefore He chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in His sight with His mighty power out of Egypt." (Deut. 4:32)
"Thy Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love upon you because ye were more in number than any other people; for ye were the fewest of all people. But because the Lord loved you, and because He would keep His oath which He had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand." ( Deut. 7: 6-8)
"Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and He chose their seed after them, even you, above all people, as it is this day." (Deut. 10:15.)
I say it is delightful and encouraging in these times when infidelity is gaining such a hold in the world, to have such a brilliant light thrown over God's word, to be able to prove to the scoffer that our God keeps covenant to the most infinitesimal part of the spirit and letter of what He has uttered; that He is the God of Truth that He declares Himself to be. I say it is a most triumphant answer to be able to point to His dealings, His watchfulness, and care during upwards of 2,500 years; and the discovery should make every earnest believer exult at the power thus given him at a moment when the hosts of hell are almost assailing the Throne of God. It should raise us individually and nationally in self respect, and renew our energies, to find that we have a status in the eyes of the most High, and a mission and a duty to perform to the world.
In bringing forward points of identification between "our Scythian Ancestors" and the lost Tribes, it must be understood that the subject is yet in its infancy. A good amount of evidence has been obtained, but it is a mere drop in the ocean to what we may expect. We want more research, more persons who will apply themselves studiously to the investigation of the subject. We invite questioning for the very purpose of testing any apparently weak points, by which we shall obtain a clue as to the evidence most needed; for, be it understood that we have no idea of bolstering up a case which will not bear scrutiny.
Scythia proper, then, in the times of Herodotus (book iv. cap.101) is described as lying between the Danube and the Don. The Scythian nation was made up of various tribes having different names, though all are classed under one general name. Herodotus distinguishes, moreover, between tribes belonging to the Scythian nation, and tribes living among them having Scythian habits, but who were not Scythians by tradition or language. This distinction is not drawn by all writers.
"The ancient Greeks," says Strabo, (book i. ii. 27) "classed all the northern nations with which they were familiar under the one name of Scythians, or according to Homer, Nomades."
Dreadful stories are told by Herodotus of the barbarous customs and sanguinary disposition of the Scythians, contrasting rather strangely, however, with many good points ascribed to them, and particularly with the descriptions of those of their tribes who were more in contact with the rest of the world, and who, although dreaded as great warriors, were decidedly in good repute. The contrast is so great that it seems most probable that some of the worst reports were manufactured for them by those jealous of them; fostered also possibly by the Scythians themselves to deter other nations from attempting to explore their country. Strabo (book vii. iii. 9) seems to account for this by again pointing out how diverse races inhabiting those parts were all classed by the Greek writers under the name of Scythians. "Ephorus, in the fourth book of his history, which is entitled 'of Europe,' concludes by saying that there is a great difference in the manner of life, both of the Sauromatae (a mixed race, Herod. iv. 110-117) and the other Scythians; for while some of them are exceedingly morose, and are indeed cannibals (see Herod. iv. 106) others abstain even from the flesh of animals. (See Strabo, xvi. ii. 37, regarding superstitious innovations-abstinence from meat, &c.,- among the followers of Moses.) Other historians, he observes, descant upon their ferocity, knowing that the terrible and wonderful always excite attention; but they ought also to relate the better features of these people and point to them as a pattern." The Latin races especially are remarkable even in modem times, for framing gross libels reflecting on the characters of people of whom they are jealous.
At various times from very early periods, and during their later march westwards, the Scythians threw off in all directions, principally southwards and behind them, vast swarms, which, after sweeping all before them for a time, were in some cases cut off and broken up, though not destroyed, but losing their coherency, were eventually absorbed among the nations; of this description, I think, was the irruption which upset the empire of the Medes, B.C. 630.
ORIGIN AND DATE OF APPEARANCE OF THE SCYTHIANS
Diodorus, book ii. cap. 8, says, "The Scythians anciently enjoyed but a small tract of ground, but through their valour, growing stronger by degrees, they enlarged their dominions far and near, and attained at last to a vast and glorious empire." (An expression certainly meaning something more than a barbarous nomad race.) "At the first, a very few of them, and those very despisable for their mean original, seated themselves near the river Araxes. Afterwards, one of their ancient kings, who was a warlike prince and skillful in arms, gained to their country all the mountainous parts as far as Mount Caucasus, and all the campaign country to the ocean and the lake Moeotis, and all the rest of the plain to the river Tanais. Sometime after, their posterity, becoming famous and eminent for valour and martial affairs, subdued many territories beyond Tanais."
Herodotus, book i. cap. 15, mentions the Scythians driving out the Cimmerians, who in turn possessed themselves of Sardis, as being in the reign of Ardys, who is stated by Sharon Turner (note p.25, vol. i.) to have lived somewhere between 680 and 630 B.C.; though he observes that we can scarcely reduce facts of history before the Persian war to exact chronology. Herodotus (book iv, cap. 5-7) states that the Scythians say that theirs "is the most recent of all nations. They reckon the whole number of years from their first beginning, from King Targetaus" (about whom more presently) "to the time that Darius crossed over against them, to be not more than a thousand years, but just that number."
Now Darius' expedition against the Scythians was about 500 B.C., and 1000 years before that brings us to the time of Moses.
Thus, their being, according to their own account, "the most recent of all nations," reminds us forcibly of several passages in Deuteronomy, where they are told that they were once few, and were taken from the midst of another nation. Also in offering their first-fruits they were commanded to say (Deut.26:5), "A Syrian and ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous."
The date assigned by them to their first existence as a nation under a king or chief., the place whence they sprang so far as their neighbours would be able to trace them; and the date when they began to make themselves felt in that locality, correspond exactly with Israel in the time of Moses; with the place of Israel's captivity, and the date of the same (740-720), allowing thern nearly one hundred years to increase and "feel their own feet."
Herodotus (book iv. cap. 24) speaking of some very remote people, apparently Tartar races, lying at the foot of lofty mountains, states, "The Scythians frequently go there, from whom it is not difficult to obtain information, as also from Greeks belonging to the part of Borysthense, and other ports in Pontus. The Scythians who go there transact business by means of seven interpreters and seven languages."
Again (book iv. cap. 46), Herodotus says, "The Euxine Sea, to which Darius led an army of all countries except the Scythians, exhibits the most ignorant nations; for we are unable to mention any one nation of those on this side Pontus that has any pretensions to intelligence; nor have we ever heard of any learned man amongst them, except the Scythian nation and Anacharsis."
In Keating's Irish history, translated by Dermond O'Connor in 1723, I find at p.24, "Epiphanius says that the laws, customs, and manners of the Scythians were received by other nations as the standards of policy, civility and polite learning."
"AEschylus too .... says, 'but the Scythians governed by good laws and feeding on cheese of mare's milk.' And this is still the opinion entertained of them by the Greeks; for we esteem them the most sincere, the least deceitful of any people, and much more frugal and self-relying than ourselves." (Strabo, book viii., iii. 7)
Now, whence this energy in commerce, these laws, this refinement, learning, and intelligence as a nation so markedly superior to the other very ignorant people who dwelt in their neighbourhood?
Another remarkable feature was their knowledge of architecture. The Irish historians note these Scythians coming there as being highly skilled in architecture; and according to the reports of the Russian Archaeological Society, the tornbs and tumuli ascribed to the Scythians, along the shores of the Black Sea, reveal the finest turned arches imaginable; and it is scarcely necessary to remind any European that the Goths had a style of architecture which bears their name, and excites admiration to this day. To say the least of it, it was a very strange acquirement for a people commonly supposed to have been a set of wild nomads.
Herodotus iv. 63. "Swine they never use nor suffer them to be reared in their country at all."
Spelt from the Latin with a "C," they are often called Sacae, which is not the proper pronunciation. The letter used in the Greek, is the k. The word Sakai, or Sacoae, is fairly, and without straining or imagination, translatable as Isaacites. It has been pointed out by Wilson and others that the initial I, or Hebrew character , is only a prefix. The Hebrew for "laughter" is " tsahhak," and this conveys Sarah's meaning (see Genesis 21:6) as accurately though not so forcibly as Itsahhak. The Hebrew character before a verb denotes a tense, and before a noun it indicates " permanence," "strength," "excellence." But, supposing it were not so, people would very soon for brevity's sake drop the initial I and call them Tsaki, in preference to Itsaki.
Of the SAKAI Herodotus says (book vii. cap. 64) "The Persians call all the Scythians Sakai." By other writers the SAKAI are frequently called Sakans, Saccassani, Saccassuni, and Saxones. Wilson "Watchmen of Ephriam," at p. 310, vol. i. says that the Nineveh marbles record the rebellion of a people called Esakska, who had called themselves in their own country " Beth Isaac," or "House of Isaac." God's promise to Abraham was, "In Isaac shall thy seed by called," and in Amos 7: 9-16, " Israel" and the "House of Isaac" are used synonymously, and distinct from Judah.
Strabo mentions Saccasena as a district of Armenia, in several places, and says (book xi. cap. 8, sec. 4), "The Sakai got possession of the most fertile tract in Armenia, which was called after their own name Saccassene."
Plane (book vi. cap. 16) says that the Sakai were among the most distinguished people of Scythia, and (book vi. cap. 11), that those who settled in Armenia are named "Saccassani."
Ephorus "cites Choerilus who, in his passage of the bridge of boats which Darius (Xerxes?) had made, says, 'And the sheep-feeding Sakai, a people of Scythian race, but they inhabited wheat-producing Asia: truly they were a colony of nomads, a righteous race.' " (Strabo vii., iii. 9)
Sharon Turner quotes Ptolerny as mentioning a Scythian people sprung from the Sakai named Saxones. (S.T. "Anglo-Saxons" vol. i p. 100)
I find it stated in Ortellius' Thesaurus, "Armeniam quando Saccacenam appellatam fuisse, scribit idem Eustathius a Sacis nimirum occupantibus:' which accords with Diodorus' and Herodotus' statements already quoted regarding the first appearance of the Scythians and their conquests in Asia Minor.
I therefore identify the Sakai with the Scythians on the statements of the most distinguished ancient historians, and their name seems to denote an Israelitish origin.
The locality in which they make themselves best known, vis., Asia Minor, near the Caspian, is held by most writers to be the place to which the Israelites were transplanted. See II Esdras 13:43, which says that they crossed the Euphrates by the narrow passages of the river, i.e., to the N.N.E of Palestine. Again in Ezra 8:17, we find that, having no Levites, Ezra, sent messengers to Iddo, the Chief of the Casiphia, "that they should bring unto us ministers for the house of God." Casiphia is stated in Dr. Henderson's Russian researches to be a country bordering on the Caspian.
Here, then, some of the Israelites were in power in Ezra's time.
From "The Saxons of the East and West," with translations of the rock records in India, by Dr. Moore, printed in 1861, I have gathered some valuable facts. In Alexander's time we hear of some of the Sakai on the confines of India. These Eastern Sakai are connected with the Western Sakai, because the "White Island, England, Sacam or Saxum, as pronounced by our Saxon ancestors is stated in the Purana named Veraha to have been in the possession of the Sacs, at an early period." The rock and pillar inscriptions of the Sakhs, who also introduced Buddhism into India, are to be found in Afghanistan, Bombay, Delhi, Allahabad, and elsewhere. They are in the so-called Aryan character, and become intelligible by "transliteration" into Hebrew. They appear to be the utterances of people who have been brought through great trials, who are groping in the dark though believing they have a Divine mission. "Sak," their deity, after whom they call themselves, is apparently a man and an ancestor. Sometimes they call themselves " Budh;" and Moore points out that the Budii are mentioned by Herodotus as a Scythian people living in Media, and that in Hebrew it signifies "separated." The inscriptions contain occasional mention of the Getae, Goths, and Gotha, the tribe of Dan, and the Nethinim. (I Chron. 9:2)
The Afghans, Pathans, Karens, and some people in the mountains of China, are traced as the descendants of the Indo-Saxons. The Afghans call themselves Beni-Israel. And there is one section called Yusufzai, and another Isakzai.
The Gatae were a portion of the Scythian nation, of whom, as having been more in contact with the Greeks, we have more details. Herodotus describes them in book iv. cap. 93, as "the most valiant and most just of the Thracians."
When Darius made his expedition against the Scythians, B.C. 500, he calls those occupying the south bank of the Danube Gatae, and those on the north bank he calls Scythians. Arrian, in his account of Alexander's expedition, gives the name of Gatae to the people who occupied both banks (Arrian, cap. iii.). He says that there were many boats on the Danube for fishing, commerce, and piracy. But the fullest description embodying the accounts of various authors is given by Abraham Ortellius in his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. (British Museum, c. 46 I., under head of Dacia et Moesia.)
"The Inhabitants of Dacia, the Greeks call Daci, the Latines Gatae, as Pliny, Doin, Stephanus, and others do testify: (this also Cottiso, sometime the king of that nation, doth confirm; whom Suetonius nameth the king of the Getes; Horace calleth him Dacum a Dake:) item Iornandes saith that the Romans indifferently called thern Daci, or Gothi. I do observe that Herodotus and the writers about that age generally, comprehended them under the name of the Scythae, Scythians; to whom also the aforesaid Iornandes doth wholly assent and agree.
"Moreover, Arrianus writeth that the Gatae were also called Apanthonizontes; but it is to be amended, and out of Herodotus' first book to be written Athanatizontes, as who say immortals, for they [sic] do verily believe that they shall never die, but after their departure out of this life go presently unto one Zamolxis, a saint or idol which they do specially worship and adore."
"..... Strabo in the seventh book of his Geography, and Virgil in the third of his Georgicles, do speake of the desertes and wildemesses of the Gatae. The same author calleth it 'gentem idomitam' au unrulie nation. Statius saith that they are hairie, unshorne, furred or clad in skins, inhumane, sturdy, stern, wearing long side breeches and mantles (like our Irishmen)." I read in Pliny, that they used to paint their faces ( like unto our Britains). That there is not a more stern nation Ovid the poet very truly wrote of them. Vegetius, who wrote of the art of war, saith that it is a very warlike people, having, indeed, as the prince of poets testifieth, God Mars for their lieutenant and governor. Of Claudian it is named Bellipotens, a mighty nation for warlike men.
"They were in time past so strong, as Strabo writeth, that they were able to make an army of 200,000 men. Josephus, in his second book against Appian " (Antiq. xviii. 1,5 ?), "writeth, There are a certain kind of Dakes, commonly called Plisti, whose manner of life be compareth to the course of life of the Essenes. These I do verily believe are the same with those which Strabo calleth Plistae, and were of the stock of the Abii" ( a Scythian tribe mentioned by Arrian as "the justest people in the world.")
These Essenes were a highly moral and sedate sect of the Jews: very much resembling our Quakers in their manner of life; they were very much attached to the books of Moses. They are described by Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews (book xviii., cap. i., ii., and viii.). In cap i sec. 5 he says of them:- "They ascribe all things to God, they teach the immortality of souls, and esteem that the rewards of righteousness are to be earnestly striven for. They exceed all other men that addict themselves to virtue, and this in righteousness. They do the most resemble those Daci who are called Polistae."
It has been conjectured that the Zamolxis of the Gatae may stand for Sar Moses, the chief or prince Moses. Herodotus states that the Greeks say that Zamolxis was a slave who acquired great riches, obtained his freedom and then preached, to his own countrymen immortality. Strabo adds that he acquired his knowledge in Egypt. (vii. iii. 5).
As already stated, we learn from Herod. iv. cap. v., that the Scythians speak of their first king or progenitor as Targetaus, which, I think, helps to prove the family connection between the Gatae and the Scythians. The name may stand for Sar-getaus, and I find in Ortellius' Thesaurus, "Zagathai est Scythia intra Imaus, " or Zagathai is Scythia within the Imaus; i.e., west of an imaginary spur form Mount Taurus."
Sharon Turner, vol. i., book ii., cap. i., says distinctly, "The Scythian tribes have become better known to us in recent periods under the name of Getae or Goths."
In connection with the saint, idol, or deity of these Gatae, and their pedigree, Nennius, who wrote his Historia Brit. in the tenth century, or the fifth year from Edmund king of the Angles, says, at sec. 31: - "Three vessels exiled from Germany arrived in Britain. They were commanded by Hors and Hengist brothers, and sons of Guictlis; Guictlis was the son of Guicta, Guicta of Guecta, Guecta, of Woden, Woden of Frealof, Frealof of Fredulf, Fredulf of Finn, Finn of Folegauld, Folegauld of Geta, who as they say, was the son of a god, not of the omnipotent God, but the offspring of one of their idols, and whom, blinded by some demon, they worshipped according to the custom of the heathen."
Woden, or Odin was one of their renowned chieftains, and was perhaps more worshipped that Geta. As regards this Geta, in a footnote of the Bagaudae, Sharon Turner, vol. i. p. 184, says: " To Scaliger's note on the Bagaudae, Animad. Euseb. 243, we may add that Bagat in Armorie is a troop or crew. (Lhuyd. Archaiol. 196) Bagach in Irish is warlike; in Erse is fighting. Bagad in Welsh is multitude." (Gen. 30:11.) "And Leah said bagad, (with a troop) and she called his name Gad." This may suggest the origin of the name Gatae, i.e., Gadi, Gadites. (I Chron. v. 18, Heb.)
Agnes Strickland, in vol. i. of her "Queens of England" mentions that the pedigree of Matilda, of the Saxon line of Edgar Atheling, was traced through Woden to the Jewish patriarchs. Whether true or false, therefore, there was the early Saxon belief in the descent from Israel.
As to the relative merits of the Goths and Romans, Sharon Turner, vol. i. p. 184, quotes Salvian, an ecclesiastic of Marseilles, who, writing of his own times, says: "there is one consenting prayer among the Roman population, that they might dwell under the barbarian Government. Thus our brethren not only refuse to leave these nations for their own, but they fly from us to them. Can we then wonder that the Goths are not conquered by us, when the people would rather become Goths with them than Romans with us?" (Salvian, p. 92)
Much Scythian history was transmitted through the centuries
by specially trained Bards.
A solid gold comb from the Solokha Tumulus
(This example of Scythian art is hardly the mark of an uncivilized people)
A Jewish gentleman of great learning, who possesses a great amount of information upon these subjects, and who was present at a meeting at Kensington, recommended our perusal of a book written by a Jew, the Rev. M. Sailman, in 1818, entitled "Researches in the East; an important account of the Ten Tribes." I think I am right in saying that our friend was no participator in our views, and that he recommended the book by way of setting us straight.
The book exhibits great research, and has proved a most valuable acquisition by the references which it gives to various authors, and rivets, I may say, a previously weak link. It states at page 25, that "on the authority of several Armenian historians, the ten tribes passed to Tartary." It also quotes Ortellius, who, it says, " in his description of Tartary, notes the kingdom of Arsareth, where the ten tribes retiring" (see also II Esdras 13:45), " took the name of Gauthei" because, he says, they were very jealous of the glory of God.
Sailman also cites " Eldad" a Jewish writer, who sent to the Spanish Jews his memoirs of the ten tribes. He is said to have lived in the ninth, or fourteenth century. He states (pp. 20-21) that many of the people did not go into captivity, but evaded the calamity, going off with their flocks, and turning into nomads, and that the chief or prince whom they appointed could muster 120,000 horse and 100,000 foot.
I observe that Wilson has independently suggested such a thing. He says: "By mention being made in Isaiah 10:20 of the escaped of the house of Jacob, as well as remnant of Israel which had been taken by the Assyrians, it seems to be intimated that a considerable number had fled from the land, rather than remain to be led way at the will of the enemy."
Note the account of the Simeonites (I Chron. 4:39) also the common cry, " to your tents, 0 Israel;" see also I Sam. 31:7, which induce the belief that large numbers of the Israelites never "took kindly" to the cities, but preferred the independent open-air in which their fathers had been reared.
Before proceeding to more important points, it may not be amiss to examine one or two legends. Ancient history is often little better than a collection of traditions, but even in the greatest extravagances of mythology we can sometimes detect the fact or truth upon which a story is based.
The Scythian account of their king, "Targetaus," according to Herdotus, book iv., cap 5, is that he was a son of Jupiter and a daughter of the river Borysthenes. The Grecian account of this progenitor of the Scythians is (Herod. iv. cap. 8) that he was one Skuthees, the son of Hercules and a woman half human half viper.
These two traditions I am inclined to consider as vestiges of the story of the "drawing" Moses out of the water (Ex. 2:10), as expressed by Pharaoh's daughter; and one of those never-to-be-forgotten events which happened to the Israelites, that type of the God-man, who was made sin for us, the elevation of the brazen serpent in the wilderness; with the wanderings of the Israelites, in which, as I shall presently show, the name SKUTHIS seems to have a distinct connection.
ETYMOLOGY OF THE WORD "SCYTHIAN"
Herdotus, book iv. cap. 6, says that it is the Greeks who call them Scythians or Skuthia, from this SKUTHIS, but that they call themselves "Scoloti." Now, as to the origin and meaning of this word SKUTHIS: in Greek it has no signification, but was merely the name of the mythical son of Jupiter and the half serpent woman. But it has nevertheless been so employed to designate a wandering people, that Mr. P. Smith, in, "Ancient History of the East," p.472, conjectures that Scythian "was not an ethnic name but rather as we now use 'nomad,' a generic designation of certain wandering or pastoral tribes."
It no doubt came to be so applied by writers about the time of Strabo; but, as before observed, Herodotus, who lived some four hundred years earlier, discriminates between tribes of the Scythian nation and the tribes of Scythian habits, who were not Scythian by tradition or language.
Again, the name of Scotland, or Scotia, applied to Scotland and the North of Ireland, has been conjectured by some to be derived from SKOTOS "darkness," because people in those latitudes got among the fogs; but it is, on the most conclusive evidence, an ethnic or tribal name. The people were called Scoti in Spain before they came to Ireland, and regarding this, one legend is that their chief married a Daughter of Pharaoh named Scota, and on her account called his people Scoti; another Irish legend states that they were called Scoti "from their leader Ebur Scut, or Ebur the Scythian latinised Scoti"
Now, Sandford, Lancaster Herald of Arms in the time of James II, states that when Edward I brought the coronation stone from Scotland, there was a piece of wood attached to it, on which were cut in Latin the Following lines:-
"Ni fallet fatum Scoti hunc quocunque locatum,
Invenient lapidem regnare tenentur ibidem."
"If fates go right, where'er this stone is found,
The Scots shall monarchs of that realm be found."
Sir Walter Scott's translation of Irish lines, regarding the same stone into English, writes thus: -
"Unless the fates be faithless grown, or prophet's voice be vain,
Where'er is found this sacred stone, the wanderer's race shall reign."
Hence Scots, Scythians, or Skuthai, and wanderers appear to be synonymous terms. Now in Greek Skuthai has no meaning; but if I find a language in which such a word has a meaning which indicates wandering, I have grounds for assuming that the people to whom that language belongs are the owners or originators of the name.
In Hebrew S'cots means "booths" (see Genesis 33:17) or temporary dwellings, such as gipsies would use, and the dwellers in them would be as we should say, Succothites.
In Leviticus 23:33-43, I find, "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of S'coth (Tabernacles) for seven days unto the Lord.... And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days: all that are Israelites born shall dwell "ba S'cot," that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell "ba S'cot," when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."
Thus, besides S'coth meaning a temporary abode, we have here the institution of a feast of S'cot to commemorate the wanderings in the wilderness, when the Israelites were S'cothi, or dwellers in booths; and this seems to give the origin of the Greek Skuthai, and to give a reason for the legend regarding the divine origin of Skuthees and his half viper mother.
It should be here noted that so much importance is attached by the Almighty to this S'coth, or commemoration of the wanderings, that in Zechariah 14:16 it is stated that, after the final overthrow of all infidel powers at Jerusalem, all nations will be required to come up yearly to Jerusalem to keep the feast of S'coth.
Herod., book iv. cap. 6, says that the Scythians called themselves "Scoliti," which I submit as probably representing Succoti or Succothi.
Englishmen acquainted with Hebrew may object to my calling S'cot, what they would call Succoth, but singularly enough, the Sephardim, or Spanish Jews, pronounce it S'cot, and the Scoti, or Scots, actually came from Spain. The Ashkenazim, or German Jews, would call it S'cos, or S'coth.
I extract the following from transactions of the Biblical Archaeological Society. (Vo. iii. Part I.)
"The old gravestones in the Crimea," writes Neubauer, "which are now recognized as genuine by all men of learning, attest that there were Jewish (?) communities in the Crimea as early as the year A.D. 6, and that the Jews there help themselves to be descended from the ten tribes. Three different eras are recorded on these monuments, as well as in many ancient manuscripts of the Karaites: first, the era of the captivity of the ten tribes, B.C. 696; second the Karaite era of the creation, B.C. 3911: third, the era according to the reckoning of the inhabitants of Metarcha, that is, the common rabbinical era of the creation, B.C. 3760."
There are also facsimiles of three of the gravestones, out of several which have been carried up to St. Petersburg, with these inscriptions:
"This is the tombstone of Buki, the son of Izchak, the priest. May his rest be in Eden at the time of the salvation of Israel. In the year 702 of the years of our exile (A.D. 6)."
"Rabbi Moses Levi died in the year 726 of our exile (A.D. 80)."
"Zadok the Levite, son of Moses, died 4000 after the creation, 785 of our exile (A.D. 89)."
It was a part of God's plan of mercy in the darkest periods of Israel's history to keep Himself among them witnesses for the truth. Thus when Elijah thought that he alone was left a servant of Jehovah, God told him that He had reserved to Himself seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal (I Kings 19:14-18); and when the tribes escaped or went into captivity, such men would be among them; Ezekiel and Daniel, to wit. With reference to these tombstones in what was then Scythia, it is more than probable that communication was kept up through their tribes across Armenia, as well as by sea, with the whole of the civilized world, and with their brethren both in Palestine and Babylon. In these tombstones we seem to recognize that, barbarised and paganised as large numbers of the Scythians must have been, there was yet among them, according to God's mercies of old, a goodly leaven of God's elect, who witnessed for Him, stood out against sin, and maintained amidst much barbarism, laws, civilization, and learning which astonished the Greek, and puzzled many writers and more readers by the strange contrast and seeming contradictions.
Christianity early took root among these Scythians or Goths. A Gothic bishop was present at the Council of Nicaea, A.D. 325, and Bishop Ulfilas, in the same century, translated the whole, or very nearly the whole old Testament, and the Lord's prayer into Moeso-Gothic. They were so far in advance of the Romans that the laws of the Visigoths were digested onto a regular code fifty years before the pandects of Justinian.
To summarize then the evidence regarding our Scythian ancestors:-
Date of appearance.
The date assigned by themselves to their first existence under a king corresponds with the date of the Israelites under Moses, i.e., one thousand years before the expedition of Darius.
The date assigned by Herodotus to disturbances among the peoples of Asia Minor, caused by the movements of the Scythians, affords ample time, subsequent to some of the invasions of Palestine, within which a people of powerful mind, with the training of the Israelites, whether refugees or transplanted by a conqueror, could have rallied and asserted themselves.
Place of appearance.
The place of their appearance as a "despicable people" (Diodorus) i.e., as captives or refugees might be called, enjoying a small tract of ground, corresponds with the place to which the Israelites were carried captive.
(a) Their learning, as mentioned by Herodotus, in strange contrast with the ignorance of the other people of the Pontus; their laws and customs mentioned by Epiphanius as being the standards to other nations; and their knowledge of architecture, as attested by Irish history and Russian research, show them to have been something better than the mere wild nomads they are sometimes supposed to have been. They must have had a history and a schooling.
(b) Their abhorrence of swine accords with Israelitish customs.
The legend of their first king being the son of a river; the Greek legend of their king SKUTHIS being the son of Jupiter and a half serpent mother; the legend of a legislator Zamolxis, a slave who obtained learning in Egypt and preached immortality, have all a strong resemblance to principal points in Israelitish history.
Their various appellations.
Scythian - What we call Scythian has an intelligible meaning in Hebrew in special connection with the history of Israel.
Sakai - the Persian name for the Scythians, has also an intelligible meaning in the language and history of the Israelites. It accords with the name applied to the ten tribes in the Bible; and the country where a large body of them dwelt, viz., Armenia, called Saccassina, accords with the position of the captive tribes of Israel. And the rock records of India-the records of the Sakai-are intelligible in Hebrew by "transliteration," and have frequent allusions to the tribe of Dan, the Nethinims, the Gatae, and the Goths.
Getae or Goths - Western Scythia has been shown to have been called Sagathai, and the ten tribes are stated upon Jewish authority to have crossed into Tartary, and called themselves Gauthai.
- The evidence of the tombstones in the Crimea.
- The early Saxon belief in the descent of their princess through Woden from the Jewish Patriarchs.
Let us now consider the progress and mission of these Scythian or Gothic tribes, and compare them with the plans and purposes of God towards the seed of Abraham.
We find the world, almost immediately after the flood, having a downward tendency; some of the nations indeed, rose very high in art and so-called civilization, but they were living, so to speak, on their capital; on knowledge and acquirements which had been furnished to them from some source, but which, from their lacking the foundation or beginning of wisdom - the fear of the Lord - they could only abuse for a few centuries, but had no ability to retain.
The tendency of mankind from the first was to congregate and build, and the first check to this was the confusion of languages.
Sharon Turner, speaking of the two classes in the early history of mankind, which he distinguished as the "Civilized" and "Nomadic," says of the "Nomadic," vol. i., p 18, "Their primeval state was, in some, that of the shepherd, and in others of the hunter.... they became fierce, proud and irascible, easily excited, rugged in manners, boisterous in temper and implacable in resentment.... Revolting as these habits are to our better and happier feelings, yet they served at that period to penetrate the wild earth.... They leveled forests, and made roads through others; they found out the fords of rivers, the passes of the mountains, and the permeable parts of the insalubrious marshes. . . . their vicissitudes, though perpetuating their ferocity, yet kept them under particular excitement and nourished hardy and active bodies ... Liberty was the spring and principle of their political associations: influence, not authority, was the characteristic of the shadowy government which they respected; and it was the sacred custom of almost all their tribes, that a national council should be an inseparable portion of the sovereignty of each; in which all measures of the state should be considered and determined, and all taxes imposed, and to which every freeman that was aggrieved might appeal for redress.
"Hence, while a political submission became the mark and practice of the civilized, individual independence and political liberty became the characteristic of the nomadic. A fierce and jealous spirit of control never left them... Yet amid these habits a fearless and enterprising spirit, and a personal dignity and a highminded temper were nourished; and the hardy and manly virtues became pleasing habits. In this life of constant activity, want, privation, courage, vigilance, endurance and exertion, the female virtues were called perpetually into action; and their uses were felt to be so important that the fair sex obtained among all the tribes of ancient Germany a rank, an estimation, and an attachment which were unknown in all the civilized world of antiquity, and which the spirit of Christianity has since matured and completed."
Page 9, - " Our ancestry sprang from this great barbaric, or nomadic stock."
Of the "civilized" class he says, p.7: - "In the plains of warm and prolific climates, where men first appeared and multiplied, ease, abundance, leisure, and enjoyment produced an early civilization with all its advantages and evils ... They became studious of quiet life, political order, social courtesy, pleasurable amusements, and domestic employments. They exercised mind in frequent and refined thought; perpetuated their conceptions and reasonings by sculptured imagery, written language, and an improving literature... They promoted and preserved the welfare of their societies by well-arranged governments - by a vigilant policy, and by laws, wise in their origin and general tenor, but often pursuing human actions with inquisitorial severity, with vindictive jealousy, with sanguinary punishments, and with a minuteness and subtlety which destroyed individual freedom, and bounded public improvement.
"They have usually loved religion, though they have made it a slavery, whose established superstitions it was treasonable to resist. They erected temples, oracles, and altars; they divided the energies and attributes of the Supreme Being into distinct personalities which they adored as divinities; made images and mythologies of each.. . But these civilized nations, notwithstanding all their improvements, and from the operation of some, have degenerated into sensuality, into the debasing vices, and to effeminate frivolities."
"The love of money, and a rapaciousness for its acquisition, and the necessities which continual luxuries create, have dissolved their social morality, and substituted a refined selfishness for that mutual benevolence which reason desires, which Christianity now enjoins, and which our best sympathies suggest. Superstition, irreligion, and despotism increase as the moral attachment to probity and order lessen ... till states have subsided from secret and selfish disaffection into feeble and disunited masses, which enemies have shaken, and powerful invaders at last subdued."
"Their mental progress, from all these causes, has been usually checked into that limited and stationary knowledge, soon becoming comparative ignorance, into which even the cultivation and social comforts of civilization have hitherto invariably sunk; and from which the irruptions, spirit and agencies of the Nomadic tribes, or the newer kingdoms which they have founded, have repeatedly rescued the human race."
Now, by what human agency did it please God to say that He would "rescue the human race?" Was it not by the seed of Abraham? The Saviour truly is the chief corner stone of the plan - once to suffer, by and by to reign. But that plan has very many elaborate details, and it is not yet worked out. How did God begin? The Bible tells us that he called one man, Abraham, and made a nomad of him! and his first lessons were intended to give him confidence in his God, and then to test, strenghten, and confirm it. Lot abandoned the nomadic life, returned to the luxuries of cities, and lost his all. Isaac and Jacob, i.e., three generations, were Nomads (S'coti), and were further confirmed in faith and taught of God. Then the enlarged family is sent to school in Egypt to gain some worldly wisdom in arts and sciences, but under the severest discipline; and again they become S'cothee to be taught of God, and are given laws, institutions, principles, and an organization which are the foundation of all modern civilization. "Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself," was the second golden commandment given to these nomads. They were drilled to everything calculated to make them a clean, hardy, courageous, active, healthy, independent, God-fearing people, sound in mind as well as in body.
Then they inherit their land to give them a status in the world as a nation; and, assuming the Scythians to be their representatives, we can understand their saying "that they are the most recent of all nations," that the laws, customs, and manners of the Scythians were received by other nations as the standards of policy, civility, and polite learning."
In their land they quieted down again comparatively, at one period at least, to books, arts, and sciences; but ease and splendour and a rich country were yet too much for human nature; idolatry, tyranny and corruption overspread them, and God broke them up again; not at once, but in batches. A remnant was restored to the land to receive the promised Saviour, but they rejected Him, and have occupied a secondary position ever since.
I say advisedly "a remnant," for until within the last few years, when people have begun to despair of finding the lost tribes, no one ever thought of calling the 50,000 who returned under Ezra as "all Israel." Why he (Ezra 7:15-20) had to send to Iddo the chief of Casiphia to send him Levites. And in the Manual of Ancient History, p. 347, I read, "the number of those who returned under the decree of Cyrus, B.C. 536, appears not to have execeeded 50,000 and hence the Jewish traditions declare that "only the bran came out of Babylon, while the flour stayed behind."
This I find mentioned in "History and Literature of the Israelites," by the Misses C. and A. de Rothschild, (London 1870,) who, at p. 538, state: "It must not be supposed that the appeal (in Cyrus' reign) was responded to by all classes of captive Jews alike; on the contrary, it was chiefly welcomed by the poorer people, while many of those who had found happy and prosperous homes in Babylon, hesitated to entrust their fortune to what they considered a hazardous enterprise, especially as they urged with apparent justice that they were merely to change their place of abode, but not their condition of dependence; that they were not to become a really free people with their own ruler and their own laws, but that they were destined to remain under the yoke of Persia, which they would feel in Jerusalem as much as in Babylon. Thus as later Jewish writers expressed it, "the chaff only returned to Palestine, while the wheat remained in Babylon."
Hastened by the disturbances in their land, and favoured by their excellent education as nomads, the Israelites broke, according to the tendency of mankind, into the sections before described, viz.: the civilized and the barbaric or nomadic. And to my mind St. Paul recognizes this when he says (Colossians 3:11). . . " where there is neither Greek (civilized Gentile) nor Jew (civilized seed of Abraham) barbarian (barbaric Gentile) nor Scythian (barbaric seed of Abraham)." If otherwise, where is the comparison? and what were the Scythians as distinct from Greek, Jew, or barbarians? It will be recollected that the Greeks are quoted as the types of Gentile civilization and wisdom.
Now, with regard to our ancestors, are we to suppose that these learned, hardy shrewd, independent tribes, whose laws and institutions are the foundation of those which we now enjoy, came self-instructed out of some hole or corner, stepped into Israel's shoes, and supplanted him in the Divine favour? or, from the very exact time that God was leading and teaching the Israelites by the hand of Moses, reiterating His promises, and calling them a peculiar people, and himself a Covenant-keeping God, are we to suppose that He was also leading, guiding, and educating another people, viz., these Scythians, purposely to supplant Israel in His favour, and to give them the mission He had assigned to the seed of Abraham? or are we to adopt the more reasonable conclusion that the breaking up of Israel from the promised land, was merely leading them away to "plead with them again in the wilderness" (Ezek. 20:35): to consolidate all the good they had acquired as a race, and to purge out evil by continual siftings, and that the Anglo-Saxon race, though there is much yet to improve, is the present result of one continuous plan of God in the educating and perfecting of one race as his working instruments.
If we examine the works of God around us, we see wonderful method in all His plans, - no indecision or change of purpose; and as the redemption of man has been God's principal work on earth, to which all else is subservient, it is difficult to believe that in this His chiefest work, He could have pursued an unstable policy. (Isaiah 51:1,2.) "I called him (Abrahani) alone."
Jer. 31:35, 36."If those ordinances depart from before Me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever."
Ps.80: "Give ear, 0 Shepherd of Israel, Thou that leadest Joseph like a flock," written at a time when Joseph was supposed to have been two centuries in hopeless captivity!
Isaiah 45:15. "Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, 0 God of Israel, the Saviour. . . But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation . . . .For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God Himself that formed the earth and made it ... He created it not in vain, He formed it to be inhabited... I am the Lord, and there is none else: I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth; 1 said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain."
And lastly, Ezekiel 11:15,16 written after the captivity of Israel, but before that of Judah, B.C. 594.
"Son of man, thy brethren, the men of thy kindred, and all the house of Israel wholly, are they unto whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said. Get you far from the Lord, unto us is this land given possession. Therefore, thus saith the Lord: although I have cast them far off among the heathen and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come."