Posted on 27 May 2021

The article below is from
The National bible College
www.tnbc.org.uk / admin@tnbc.org.uk

W.E. Filmer

THE BIBLE tells us that in the days of Pekah, Tiglath-pileser, King of Assyria, invaded the  northern tribes of Israel who dwelt in Galilee and Gilead, and carried them away captive to  Assyria (2 Kings 15:29). In 1 Chronicles 5:26, we are told that "he carried them away, even the  Reubenites, and the Gadities, and the half tribe of Manasseh, and brought them unto Halah, and  Habor, and Hara, and to the river of Gozan". Gozan is believed to be the Assyrian town Guzana  on the river Habur. The Arab name for the mound covering its ruins is Tell Halaf, suggesting  that a town of similar name once existed in the neighborhood as the original of Halah. Habor  may be either the river Habur, or a town of the same name; Hara is probably Haran (cf Isa  37:12).

Eleven years later, a second deportation of Israelites took place when Shalmaneser "the king of  Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years.  In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into  Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of  Medes' (2 Kings 17:5,6). Thus, in addition to the places in Assyria to which the first captives  were taken, others were also taken to Media.

Now Israel had long been known to the Assyrian as Beth-Khumri, meaning "the people of  Ommri". Omri in Hebrew began with the letter ayin or gayin. This letter used to be pronounces  as a guteral H or GH; for example, Gomorrah in Hebrew begins with the same three consonants  as Omri. So Omri used to be pronounced Ghomri, which became Khumri in Assyrian. For  example, on the Black Obelisk, now in the British Museum, an earlier king of Assyria, more than  a century before the captivity, recorded that he received tribute from Jehu, and above the  panel depicting the event, the inscription read, "The tribute of Jehu, son of Khumri, followed by  details of what he brought.

So also Tiglath-pileser, in his Annals, tells how he took the first Israelite captive at the time  when he captured Damascus and conquered Syria: 'The towns of Gilead and Abel-beth-maacah  on the frontier of Beth-Khumri, and the widespread district of Hazael to its whole extent, I  turned into the territory of Assyria.' Syria is here named after Hazael, a former king of that  land, just as Israel is called Beth-Khumri, after the king who founded Samaria.

The Assyrian Eponym Canon places the capture of Damascus, and therefore by implication the  first captivity of Israelites in 732 B.C. The Bible tells that Shalmaneser next began to besiege  Samaria, but it is known that he died in December 722 B.C., so King Sargon II, his successor,  rightly claimed in his Annals to have captured the city in the beginning of his reign, that is, 'in  the first quarter of 721 B.C. On a nine-sided prism (K.1681), to be seen in the British Museum,  ,he calls the 'the land of the house of Omri (Khumri). After this the name Khumri is never again  mentioned in Assyrian records. However, close to the place in norther Media where some of  the Israelites were placed in captivity, a people called at first Gamir, later Gimira or Gimirra  received their first mention in the Assyrian archives.

This name Gamir may well have been derived from Ghumri by the reversal of the final syllable - ri to -ir, a type of spelling error that sometimes occurs in other cuneiform documents (e.g. king  Rusas of Urartu is sometimes spelled Ursa). Historian are agreed, however, that Gimira is the  Assyrian equivalent of the Greek Kimmerio (called Cimmerians in English), who are known to  have been active Asia Minor during the seventh century B.C. The first Assyrian documents to  mention the Gimira indicate, however, that some of them were actually living in northern Iran,  near Lake Urmia, as early as 707 B.C., only fourteen years after the fall of Samaria. But these  documents lend no support to the theory given in history books that the Cimmerians originated  in south Russia, north of the Black Sea, whence they migrated through the Caucasus into Media  and Asia Minor.


The earliest documents to mention the Gimira are a series of cuneiform tablets in which  Assyrian spies, keeping watch on their northern frontier, reported on the movement of Urartian  troops, and said that the Urartians were defeated by the Gimira south of Lake Urmia. These  tablets, about twenty in number, are part of a collection of some 23,000 recovered about a  century ago from the library of Ashurbanipal in the ruins of Nineveh. They were published in  English in The Royal Correspondence of the Assyrian Empire (1930), by L. Waterman, among  1,471 miscellaneous letters, but owing to the relevant texts being mixed up in complete  disorder among so many others, no historian has hitherto published a reconstruction of the  events to which they refer.

Concerning them the Cambridge Ancient History (Vol III, p. 53) says, 'The collection of letters  preserved in Ashurbanipal's library serves to inform us of events in the years 707-706 which are  of great interest. From a report of the Assyrian officer Ashur-risua, we learn that Argistis (king  of Urartu) was engaged in 708 in collecting a considerable army, which it was supposed he  intended to use against Assyria. The next spring, however, saw him otherwise engaged. The  people called Gimirrai by the Assyrians, Kimmerioi by the Greekswere beginning to move into  Asia, Minor, and to meet their attack Argistis marched northward. All that we know is that Argistis suffered a great defeat in battle, apparently delivered in territory acknowledged to  belong to the Cimmerians.'

In fact, there is nothing in any of these letters to suggest that the Gimirra were moving through  the Caucasus into Asia Minor, or that Argistis marched northward to meet their attack. This  notion derives from a misleading statement made by the Greek historian Herodotus who said  that when the Cimmerians were driven out of south Russia by the Scythians, they migrated  round the eastern end of the Black Sea to enter Asia Minor. The archaeological evidence clearly  shows that no Scythians appeared in south Russia until after 600 B.C., whereas the Cimmerians  are know from various historical sources to have been in Asia Minor throughout the seventh  century, and from these Assyrian spy reports to have been in the region Lake Urmia before 700.  There is no reason to believe that they had been displaced from Russia at this time, whether by  a Scythian or 'Proto-Scythian' people, for Russian archaeologists have produced no evidence to  suggest that the lands north of the black Sea had been invaded from the east by any fresh  people between the arrival of the 'Srubna Culture' in the thirteenth century B.C., and the  Scythians in the sixth century.


The location of the battle that took place in 707, when the Urartians were defeated by Gimira,  may be established by piecing together the reports of the Assyrian spies. These were received  in Nineveh by Sennacharib, then crown prince, and passed on to his father, king Sargon, who  was absent from the capital at the time. Evidently the spies had been sent to keep a watch on  Urartian activities in the summer of 708, but they reported (in letters H.123 and 148) no troop  movements until the autumn, when Sennacharib wrote to his father saying that 'On the  eleventh day of the month Elul a letter came to me from Ashur-risua, saying, "The king of  Urartutogether with his forces, entered the city of Uesi." 'He added that the Mannai, south of  Lake Urmia, had also come to him with a similar report, as well as others from the hill country  bordering on Urartu (H.198).

Now Uesi, originally a Urartian fortress, had been captured by Sargon in 714 on his way home  from a campaign that had taken him as far north as Lake Van. On that occasion, after taking  Uesi, he had made a diversion to bring into subjection Urzana, the chieftain of Musasir, who  had failed to pay him tribute. The ruins of Musasir have been identified by the German  archaeologist Lehmann-Haupt, so its position, which is important, is well known. Lehmann Haupt also showed that Uesi is to be identified with modern Basch-Kalah on the west bank of  the upper Zab river, and that in ancient times a road ran through the mountains from Lake Van  via Uesi to Musasir. His book, however, was apparently published too late to be available to  the authors of the Cambridge Ancient History, who identify Uesi with Bitlis, far away to the  northwest.

Early in the following spring, the Urartian forces began to muster in Uesi, for Ashur-risua  reported that the Urartian king had left the capital Turushpa at the beginning of Nisan, and that  Kakkadanu, his commander-in-chief, had arrived in Uesi (H.492). In a further letter he says that  'five of the governors of the land of Urartu have entered the city of Uesi'', and among their  names Kakkadanu is again mentioned. He says that they came from the capital and entered  Uesi, and now that they have brought up their forces their army is strong (H.444).

In his next report Ashur-risua says that 3,000 troops had crossed 'the Black River' (Upper Zab?)  and had set out for the city of Musasir with their pack animals. The king himself was moving  into Uesi (H.380). When this news reached the Assyrian palace, an enquiry was evidently sent  to Musasir for further details, for we have the reply (H.409) from Urzana, the local chieftain, saying that the Urartian troops, after offering sacrifices in the temple, had passed through. The  king, he said, was still in Uesi where he had met more of his leaders, all of whom were expected  to come and offer sacrifices in Musasir. Sennacharib immediately forwarded this information  to his father, adding the startling fresh news that the governor of Uesi had been slain, and that  the troops of Urartu were in full flight. His letter (H.1079) ends, 'When we have investigated,  we shall send you our further report.'

In his next letter (H.197), Sennacharib quotes three reports from his spies, two of whom said  that 'when the king of Urartu went into the land of Gamir (Cimmerians), his army was utterly  defeated, while the third, from Ashur-risua, added that Kakkadanu, the commander-in-chief,  had been captured. Another letter (H.646) from an unknown writer lists nine of his generals,  including the governor of Uesi, who had been killed, and says that the king himself had fled to 
the mountains.

These documents confirm that Uesi lay on the road from Turushpa to Musasir. They also reveal  that in the autumn of 708 B.C., the Urartians had reoccupied this fortress, and then in the  spring of 707 advanced through Musasir toward the south of Lake Urmia, apparently with the  object of recapturing the Mannai territory which the Assyrians had conquered seven years  earlier. It was there they were defeated by the Gimira. This location is confirmed by a further  report to the palace overseer which says that in their counterattack 'the Gomera went forth out  of the midst of the Mannai into the land of Urartu' (H.12). This last tablet would alone be  sufficient to prove that the 'Gamera', when first heard of, were located in Mannai territory,  immediately adjacent to Media, where the Israelites had been placed in captivity only fourteen  years earlier.

Now in 719 B.C., only two years after the Israelite exile, Sargon says in his Annals that he  invaded this district and deported many of the Mannai to the west. This would have left a  partial vacuum into which the homeless Israelites would naturally tend to drift. There is good  reason, therefore, to expect that some Israelites would be found in this area. The slight change
in the name from Khumri to Gamir or Gamera in the spy reports is easily explained in view of  the excitement caused by the unexpected defeat of the Urartian army.


When the house of Israel was taken into exile in 732 and 721 B.C., the Bible tells us that they  were deported to two different places, one around Gozan and the river Habur in northen  Assyria, the other among the Medes in northern Iran. From the Apocrypha (2 Esdras 13: 40-45)  we learn that some of the ten tribes escaped through the gorge of the Euphrates, which would  bring them into Asia Minor.

Although at first the Assyrians called the Israelites Khumri, this soon became Gamir after the  captivity, and later Gimira, equivalent to the Greek Kimerioi, or the English name Cimmerian.  According to Greek historians, the Cimmerians made their first appearance in Asia Minor when  they overthrew Midas, king of Phrygia. This was dated by Julius Africanus and Eusebius in the  first quarter of the seventh century B.C. Archaeologists, excavating the ruins of Gordium, the  Phrygian capital, have confirmed that the city was destroyed by fire about 700 B.C. or soon  after. These dates agree well with the view that the Cimmerians were actually Israelites who  had been taken into exile in 732 NS 721 B.C., and then escaped through the gorge of the  Euphrates.

We have also the evidence of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria 681-669 B.C., who recorded a battle  with the Cimmerians in the second year of his reign. 'Teushpa, the Gimira', he says, a barbarian  who home was afar off, I cut down with the sword in the land of Hubushna, together with all his  troops'. Hubushna, was the region in central Asia Minor north and west of the Euphrates  gorge. After listing other people who dwelt in the mountains, he ends his account saying, 'On  the rest of them who were not guilty of rebellion and insubordination, I imposed the heavy  yoke of my sovereignty.' This suggests that the Gimira had been guilty of rebellion, which  implies that they had previously been subject to Assyria, and not intrusive invaders, as modern  history books make out.

A large prism of Ashurbanipal who succeeded Esarhaddon records that subsequently, about the  middle of the seventh century, the Cimmerians had made raids on the kingdom of Lydia in  western Asia Minor.


Now the Assyrian spy reports from the reign of Sargon showed that some Gimira, or  Cimmerians, were living among the Mannai south of Lake Urmia in northern Media as early 707  B.C. A further letter found in the archives of Nineveh confirms that they were still there in the  reign of Esarhaddon some twenty years after they had defeated the Urartian invaders. This is a letter (H.1237) addressed to Esarhaddon by an officer evidently in command of troops sent to  collect tribute from the Mannai. He appears to be advising caution on account of threats from  the Gimira, and says, 'Although the king sent an order to his troops saying, "Enter into the midst  of the Mannai", all the troops should not enter. Let the cavalry and the Dakku invade the  Gimira who have spoken saying, "The Mannai pertain to you, we have not interfered".  Certainly this is a lie. They are the offspring of outcasts; they recognize neither the oath of a  god nor any human agreement'.

The remark about 'the offspring of outcasts; may be just a piece of invective, but it could have  been based on the knowledge that the Gimira were, in fact, exiles from their native land. The  letter goes on to advise the king that his chariots and baggage wagons should remain on the  frontier pass, from whence cavalry raids should be sent to plunder both the Mannai and the  Gimira.


The Gimira are also mentioned in another series of tablets recovered from the ruins of Nineveh.  These are the prayers of Esarhaddon to the sun-god Shamash, in which he wrote to the priests  asking for divine guidance about the operation of his troops sent to collect tribute in the  territory of the Medes and Mannai. To these he received answers in the form of liver omens, a  practice mentioned in Ezekiel 21:21. At least half a dozen of these texts mention hostile bands  of Gimira both among the Mannai and in Media that made the collection of tribute very  hazardous at that time. One such text mentions them in association with the Medes  threatening Bit-Hamban as far south as the modern city of Kermanshad. If the Gimira were  Israelites place in cities of the Medes, this just what we might expect.

Now the fact that the Gimira made their appearance in such widely separated places as central  Asia Minor and Media within fifty years of the Israelites arriving in these very places, can only  be accounted for on the hypothesis that they were Israelites. The mountain barriers of the  Caucasus, as well as along the southeastern coast of the Black Sea, and the political barrier  formed by the powerful kingdom of Urartu, exclude the possibility that the Gimira were a  people who had migrated from south Russia, as history books say.


Now in addition to the Gimira being reported among the Medes and the Mannai, another name  Iskuzza also occurs in this connection in the Assyrian archives. For example, Esarhaddon, in his  Annals, claimed victory over them: I scattered the Mannaean people, intractable barbarians,  and I smote with the sword the armies of Ishpaki, the Iskuzza; alliance with them did not save  him.' They are again mentioned in association with the Mannai in a prayer text asking, 'Will the  Iskuza warriors who live in a district of the Mannai, and have moved to the frontier of the  Mannai, succeed in their plan? Will they march out from the pass of Hubushkia, and reach the town of Harrania and Anisuskia, and take great booty and heavy spoil from the borders of  Assyria? Hubushkia was the chief city of the hill country called Nairi, lying between Assyria and  Urartu.

These two texts clearly place the Iskuza among the Mannai in the north. But at the same time  two further prayer texts mention them in the south threatening Assyrian expeditions sent to  collect tribute in Media. One asks whether someone whose name is illegible, 'his son, or the  Iskuza warriors, or anyone else who is with him, will attack the nobles and governors of Bitkari  and Saparda who are going into a district of the Medes and are returning? In the other text,  the king enquires, 'Will the governors, nobles, warriors, horses and troops of Esarhaddon king  of Assyria, which are in Bitkari, and which have invaded the land of the Medes to collect the  tribute of horses, be attacked by the hand of Iskuza warriors?"

It is evident from these texts that during Esarhaddon's reign, hostile bands not only of Gimira,  but also of Iskuza, were operating among the Mannai and the Medes. From the Bible we know  that Israelites had been placed in the same region less than half a century earlier. It seems  unlikely that three distinctly different people, the Gimira, the Iskuza and the Israelites would all  arrive in the same small area within such a short space of time. It seems more likely that these  are different names for the same people, for just as Gimira could be derived from Khumri, so  Iskuza could have been derived from Isaaca or house of Isaac, as the Israelites may have called  themselves (cf Amos 7:16).

This derivation finds support in the fact that Iskuza was the Assyrian name for the people whom the  Greeks called Scythians, and Herodotus (VII,64) informs us that the Persians called all Scythian tribes  Sacae. The initial I in the name Isaac, though retained by the Assyrians, was dropped by the Persians,  probably because in Hebrew the accent fell on the last syllable. Since the Persians called the Israelites in  Media Sacae, the name Sacae or Scythian was retained for them in later literature, but those is Asia  Minor retained the Assyrian name Gimira or Greek Cimmerian.


Tangible evidence for the presence of Scythians in Media during the seventh century B.C. came  to light in 1947 when a royal treasure was unearthed by the inhabitants of the village of Ziwiye,  some seventy miles south of Lake Urmia. In his book Iran, R. Ghirshman writes, "The collection  fails into four very distance groups: the first is undoubtedly Assyrian in inspiration and  execution; the second is typically Scythian; the third AssyroScythian in inspiration, but was  probably executed by Assyrian artists; and finally the fourth group consists of products of lobal  workshops, probably Mannian' (Pelican edn. P. 106 f.).

Girshman goes on to express his opinion that 'part at least of the treasure may have been the  gifts made by the king (Eaarhaddon) on the occasion of the marriage of an Assyrian prince's to the Scythian king Partatua. The treasure had been packed into a bath-tub and buried,  presumably at the time, towards the end of the seventh century B.C. when the Medes joined  the Babylonians in overthrowing the Assyrian empire, and drove the Scythian out of Media.  The bath-tub was almost identical with one now shown in the British Museum which dates  from the time of Ashurbanipal (669-627 B.C.). The treasure of Ziwiye would thus be the most  ancient of ll Scythian remain, being almost half a century earlier then anything found in  Romans.


Final proof that Gimira, Iskuza, or Sacae were only different names for the same people is  provided by several Persian tri-lingual inscriptions dating from the reign off Darius the Great,  some two centuries after the Israelite exile.

The first is the famous rock inscription of Behistun on the road from Hamadan (Ecbatana) to  Babylon which provided Sir Henry Rawlinson, a century ago, with the key to the translation or  Assyrian cuneiform writing. The text in three languages, Persian, Susian and Babylonian,  includes a list of the peoples over whom Darius ruled, and among these were the Sakka or  Sacae in central Asia. In both the Persian and Susian version these are called Sakka, but in the  Babylonian version the same people are called Gimiri, translated Cimmerians. This seems to  have been a puzzle to the experts, for King and Thompson who published the test, added a  footnote saying that the word 'Gimiri' is clear upon the rock.

A second tri-lingual inscription, on a thin sheet of gold, was published in the Journal of the  Royal Asiatic Society (1926) by Sidney Smith of the British Museum. In it Darius proclaims that  his kingdom extended 'from Scythia which is beyond Sogdiana to Kush (Ethopia), and from India  to Sardis.' In the Persian and Elamite versions the original for Scythia in Sakka, but in the  Babylonian it is once again Gimira.

Finally, an inscription in the tomb of Darius again lists the nations over whom he ruled, but here  three different groups of 'Scythians' are mentioned. Each time they are called Sakka in the  Persian and Elamite texts, but all three times they are called Gimira in the Babylonian  translation. The simplest, and in fact the only way to explain this is that the Persians knew that  all the people they called Sakka were known as Gimira in Babylonia and Assyria. But since the  Assyrians included the Cimmerians in Asia Minor among the Gimira, they must all originally  have been the same people. That they were, in fact, Israelites is evident from the fact that all  made their first appearance immediately after the Israelite exile, and in exactly those places  where the Israelite exile, and in exactly those places where the Israelites vanished.  Furthermore, both names can be derived from names for Israel.

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