The Bible Insights Weekly e-letter is freely available upon request.

Yes! Please Subscribe Me

Bible Insights Weekly

Enrich your spiritual thinking.

UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, October 07 2021

The mysterious Scythians

After the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians and transported from their homeland, they largely disappeared from history. About the same time, a group of people, identified as Scythians by the Greeks, suddenly appeared on the Eurasian steppes.

The mysterious Scythians
Approximate extent of the Eurasian Steppe grasslands ecoregion, and Eurasia cultural region.

Modern scholars have suggested three theories to explain the sudden and mysterious appearance of the Scythians in the steppe region adjacent to the Black Sea. Some believe they migrated there from the north, others from the east. A third opinion suggests the Scythian migrations came from the south, when they emerged about the same time and near the same area where the Israelite tribes had disappeared.

The Scriptures plainly tell us that the Israelites, after the Assyrians forcibly deported them from their homeland, relocated "in Halah, on the Habor, the river of Gozan [in northern Assyria], and in the cities of the Medes" (2 Kings 18:11). This is not far from the region of Urartu, between the Black and Caspian seas, where the Scythians had established a temporary kingdom.

The Encyclopedia Americana explains the Scythians first occupied the territory near the Black Sea around 700 B.C. and, from their first beginnings, they presented a "cohesive political entity" (Vol. 24, 2000 edition, "Scythians," p. 471). Records from the Caucasian kingdom of Urartu, which controlled the northern reaches of the Euphrates River, also noted the appearance of a group they referred to as Cimmerians. Historian Samuel Lysons spoke of "the Cimmerians seeming to be the same people as the Gauls or Celts under a different name" (John Henry and James Parker, Our British Ancestors: Who and What Were They?, 1865, pp. 23, 27).

Before the early 20th century, European and American historians assumed the Scythians were of the Mongol people from Asia. Modern anthropological research, however, shows this to be false. The Saka Scythians dominated the steppe region from 700 to 500 B.C. accompanied by a smaller mixture of other tribes of Middle Eastern origin such as displaced Medes, Elamites and Assyrians. From the seventh century B.C. forward, it was the Saka, or Sacae, tribes that defined what it meant to be Scythian from the Black Sea all the way to the mountains of Mongolia.

God promised the sinful ten Israelite tribes that although they would be severely punished for their sins, He would not utterly wipe them out and they would still continue to exist: "Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth; yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, says the LORD" (Amos 9:8).

Through the prophet Hosea God also foretold the Israelites would become "wanderers among the nations" (Hosea 9:17). This explains why the exiled Israelites seem to have vanished as a people. They simply reappeared in history under new names—as a vagabond people, separated into independent clans, wandering over the Eurasian plains.

"For the Lord will strike Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water. He will uproot Israel from this good land which He gave to their fathers, and will scatter them beyond the Euphrates River..." (1 Kings 14:15, NASB).

Considerable evidence connects the Celts of Europe with the Cimmerians who fled from the Near East to Asia Minor at the time the armies of Babylon were conquering the Assyrian Empire. From Asia Minor the Cimmerians migrated by way of the Danube River into Europe, where they became known as the Celts. The Celtic and Scythian cultures interacted with each other much like modern Britain and America. Archaeologists have uncovered some remarkable sites of Celtic and Scythian cultures showing that the two groups mingled and worked closely together.

When we compare what we know about the Scythians to the promises God made to the exiled Israelites we can see that He faithfully kept His promises to them in spite of their disobedience and rejection of His way of life. Addressing them as the "house of Isaac" (Amos 7:16), God promised that during their captivity they would not be destroyed as a people (Amos 9:8-14; compare Hosea 11:9; Hosea 14:4-7). Instead He promised to greatly multiply them after their exile (Hosea 1:10) and show them loving-kindness and mercy because of His covenant -- a prophecy which was fulfilled when the captive Israelites, known as Scythians and later Cimmerians, eventually moved from their land of exile in northern Mesopotamia to ultimately settle in Northwestern Europe.