Identifying Israel Part Four: The Scythian Connection

By Jim Jester

Complete series available in book format:  Will the Real Israel Please Stand Up?

Acts 26:6-7, “And now I am here to be judged because of the hope given by God's word to our fathers; For the effecting of which our twelve tribes have been working and waiting night and day with all their hearts.  And in connection with this hope I am attacked by the Jews, O king!”

Herodotus records that the Scythians were very zealous in forbidding idolatry and the worship of “foreign gods.”  In one instance, King Saulius of Scythia executed his own brother for participating in the rites of a Greek “mother-goddess” festival and wearing “images” associated with the mother-goddess (The History,  4.76).  In another instance, a Scythian king (Scyles) participated in forbidden, pagan rituals of the Greeks in which devotees allowed “Bacchus” to possess them in frenzied rites.  King Scyles tried to prevent any Scythian from learning about his “secret life.”  His actions were discovered; however, and the Scythians rejected him as king, selecting his brother, Octamasades, as the new king.  With an army, Octamasades pursed his paganized brother, and beheaded him in Thrace (the modern Balkan region of Europe), where Scyles had sought refuge (Ibid, 4.78-80).

The fact that the Scythians executed, without mercy, even their own rulers and royalty who worshipped pagan gods or who kept images of them and that they avoided swine’s flesh shows that they were practicing two features of the Law of God given to the Israelites under Moses.  They evidently had experienced a “revival” in their new homeland near the Black Sea.  And what is t he matter with Americans”  Can’t they control their own government?  It will take actions like this to bring America back from the precipice of destruction.

It is plainly seen that the other supposed “lost” tribes were “beyond Euphrates” and some were in Palestine during King Josiah’s reign.  This Paul knew when he testified before King Agrippa about the “hope given by God’s word to our fathers...our twelve tribes….”  American need to realize, as descendants of the tribes of Israel, we are responsible before God to follow his Laws.

This is part of Paul’s testimony before King Agrippa; approximately 63 A.D.  It is evident that he did not think the 12 tribes were lost from history.  To him they were very real and he was to be the messenger to them as seen in v. 23, “unto this people (Geneva Bible) and the Gentiles.”  Who are “this people” (which most translations say “the people”)?  It was those who had him arrested, the Jews.  He was being obedient to his heavenly vision and witnessing to his brothers in Judea as well as the Gentiles (the dispersed 10 tribes of Israel).  This is confirmed in v. 20, “But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.”  Once again we see that the Bible makes a distinction between those in Judea and those of Israel who were not present at that time (previously scattered).

In fact, even before Israel was divided and went into the various captivities, “at least three times as many Israelites had left their homeland before the captivities began, either compelled by the increase in population or, beginning with the ninth century, for fear of the Assyrian. 

We now know what happened to that larger body of Israelites that did not escape the Assyrians.  They formed an alliance with King Esarhaddon, when he came under attack of the Medes and the Persians.  This treaty allowed the Israelites to establish colonies in Sacasene in the north and Bactria in the east.  As the Medes advanced their attack, those in the north moved through the Dariel Pass into south Russia and became known by the Greek name, “Scythians.”  Those in the east (Bactria) were forced to move north and east, and the Persian records called them Massagetae and Sakka.

Thus archeology has solved two of the greatest archeological problems: 

  1. What happened to the hundreds  of thousands of Israelites who disappeared south of the Caucasus? 
  2. What was the origin of the Cimmerians and mysterious nomadic tribes, known as Scythians, who suddenly appeared north of the Caucasus; both  at the same time in history? 

They were one and the same people; they were Israelites.

Our history books pick up the story at this point recording the westward migrations of the Scythians and their contact with the Cimmerians, who had earlier settled west of the Black Sea.  Their kinship lost over the centuries and ensuing battles forced them westward to become the Celts, Gauls, and Cimbri.  By the end of the fourth century B.C. the Scythians had established a great and prosperous kingdom (From “Heirs of the Promise”, Sheldon Emry, p. 17).


There was a huge mass of people called Scythians whose western border was the Euphrates River.  Many inhabitants of Israel’s capitol city, Samaria, were taken to Halah and Habor (Caspian Sea area) and the cities of the Medes (2 Kings 18:11, above).  There is an account by the Medes that the Assyrian King Esarhaddon in 674 B.C. was confronted by an alliance of “Mannaean, Median, and newly-arrived Cimmerian forces” (Culican, The Medes and the Persians, p.46).  Notice the phonetic similarity between “Samarians” and “Cimmerians” and that they had just recently arrived.  Wouldn’t they likely be the Israelites from Samaria taken captive by the Assyrians just a few decades earlier?  Certainly they would be anti-Assyrian and would logically join an alliance against them.

There were many related clans of Scythians north of the Black Sea region and some far to the east next to the Russian border with China and Mongolia.  The appearance of the Scythians in Asia occurs in the reign of King Sargon of Assyria (722-705 B.C.), the same time period of the fall of the kingdom of Israel and the flight of Israelites out of Palestine into “Asia.  Besides being called “Scythians: they were also known as “Sacae” or “Saka.”  The bible said in Genesis  21:12, “ is from Isaac that your seed will take its name.”  The Hebrew language did not list vowel sounds, therefore the name “Isaac” would be represented by the consonants S-C or S-K (reflecting the fact that the “c” is pronounced like a “k”).  The word “Sacae” represents “Isaac” with the Latin plural “ae” attached.

In approximately 624 B.C., the Scythians launched a massive invasion to the south, and occupied Asia Minor, Syria, Media, Palestine and much of Assyria.  They conquered as far south as Egypt, but spared that nation when the Egyptians offered them tribute money.  The Scythian attack upon the Assyrian city of Calah was noteworthy.  The Encyclopedia Britannica notes that Calah was the headquarters of the army in Assyria.  By directly attacking the Calah the Scythians were clearly “going for the jugular” of Assyria.  Though Assyria struggled on for a few years, the Scythian invasion dealt them a mortal blow.  Babylonia also revolted against Assyria, and the eastern Scythians joined in this revolt.

The northern Scythians from the Black Sea held Western Asia and the Mideast under their dominion for only a short time (28 years according to Herodotus).  Why did Scythia attack the whole territory of the Assyrian Empire, and then leave after so short a time?  Both answers come clearly into focus when one  understands that the Scythians were the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel.

The motive for the invasion was likely two-fold.  The primary motive was the desire for revenge against the Assyrians who had force them off their land and destroyed the old kingdom of Israel.  It was ironic justice that after Assyria invaded and destroyed the kingdom of Israel; Assyria was invaded and given its death-blow by Scythia (the offspring of the Israelites that had originally fled from Assyria).  A second possible reason fro Scythia’s invasion was the old-timers reminiscing about the “good old days” and the “land of milk and honey” which was only about a century earlier.  Perhaps they considered living there once again if it proved suitable. 

It is significant that while marching through Palestine, the Scythian motive was simple conquest, why did they spare the capital?  The oblivious conclusion is that  the Scythians chose to spare Jerusalem.  This makes sense only if the Scythians were the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel, who knew the Jews (better translated “Judahites”) were one of their related tribes.  This indicates that while the Scythians were intent on destroying Assyria, their purpose was to liberate Palestine.  One city in Palestine (Beth-Shan) was renamed “Scythoplis” in honor of the Scythians, and  the local population retained that name even after the Scythians left the area...When a city is renamed  it is done to honor the memory of the person or nation.  Since the Scythian presence among the Judahites was a gentle one, and liberated them from the Assyrian Empire, Beth-Sham was likely renamed Scythopolis to honor the Scythian liberation of the region.

That the Scythians completely ravages Assyrian territory while sparing Judah’s cities clearly indicates that the Scythians looked upon the Judahites more favorably than the other nations it invaded.  This would make no sense if the Scythians were wild nomads from northern Asia who were in Palestine for the first time.  However, it is completely logical when one realizes that as descendants of the ten tribes of Israel, the Scythians were blood relatives of the Jews.  The Scythians’ artwork depicted Scythians as having bearded, Semitic faces, clearly indicating that they originated in the Fertile Crescent (the traditional Semitic homeland), not in the Asian interior.  To assert that these Scythians had a Mongoloid origin from northern or eastern Asia, one must ignore the facts.

This Scythian occupation, which included Palestine, occurred during the reign of King Josiah (circa 639-608 B.C.).  The Bible does not mention “Scythians” in Palestine at that time because “Scythians” was a Greek term, but the Bible refers to them as “Israelites.”  During the reigns of previous evil kings, the Jews had lost the knowledge of their God.  When a copy of God’s laws was found in the Temple restoration project of Josiah, the nation again learned about God’s laws (2 Chronicles 24:8-33).  When King Josiah learned what god’s laws were, he was aghast at his nations’ degenerate condition.  2 Kings 23:4-20 records that King Josiah’s reforms included the destruction of s un-god and mother-goddess images, forbid human sacrifices tearing down brothels of homosexual prostitutions, slaying pagan priests and even destroying the altars for pagan gods which King Solomon had built for his foreign wives.   

Josiah also re-established the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.  Notice the curious record of who kept these festivals along with Josiah and his nation in  2 Chronicles 35:17-18:

And the children of Israel that were present kept the Passover...and the Days of Unleavened Bread...there was no Passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Josiah kept...and all Judah and Israel that were present

Here the Bible makes the distinction between Israel and Judah.  Since  2Kings  17:18 says God “removed them out of his sight:  there was none left but the tribe of Judah only.”  How was it possible that portions of the ten tribes were again in Palestine at the time of Josiah and devout enough to participate in God’s Holy Days?  The answer is simple.  The “Israelites” from the ten tribes “who were present” in Palestine at the time of King Josiah’s revival were the Scythians who were then occupying everything from Palestine to Mesopotamia!  If t he Greeks had written this passage in 2 Chronicles it likely would have read, “All the Jews and Scythians that were present….”

The Assyrian capitol, Nineveh fell in 612 B.C.  The Scythians eventually withdrew from Palestine having accomplished their goal and satisfying their curiosity.  They were not interested in imperialistic expansionism.  They liked their freedom and independence.  Seeing that Palestine was too small for their population, they preferred their wide open spaces rather than the burden of ruling over other nations of foreigners with unwanted customs and lifestyles.   Herodotus records that Scythia ruled “Asia” (Mesopotamia, Asia Minor and Palestine) for almost three decades.  After they were gone the Babylonians became the dominant force and it was during this time that Jerusalem fell and the remainder of Judah went into captivity.  Later, the Medo-Persian Empire replaced the Babylonians and it was King Cyrus which allowed a portion of Judahites to return under Ezra and Nehemiah. 

While  most  of  the Scythians (Sacae, Saki, Saks) were  power, which was invading the land of the Hittites and Syria.”  (Haberman, Tracing Our Ancestors, p. 122).  This puts us in the time frame 900-800 B.C. (reigns of Ahab and Jehu) that the disintegration of the Kingdom of Israel began.  The Bible confirms this in 2Kings 10:32-33:

In those days the LORD began to cut Israel short:  and Hazael smote them in all the coasts of Israel; From Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the river Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan.

The various wars and deportations of Israel are found in chapters 16-18 of  2Kings.  The following is one of the accounts and why: 

And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria, and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes:  Because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed his covenant, and all the Moses the servant of the LORD commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them (2Kings 18:11-12). 

Pagan empires used force evacuation to prevent rebellion at a later date.  They also put other peoples in the vacated land and cities.  Over a period of a few  years and two conquests of Assyria, millions of Israelites had been relocated.  By 700 B.C. only a small group of Judahites remained in Jerusalem.  Jeremiah the prophet warned them that because of their sin God would abandon Jerusalem as well.  Jerusalem was destroyed about 586 B.C. and those left were taken to Babylon for 70 year captivity.  After the 70 years Ezra brought back less  than 50,000 (Ezra 2:63-65).

What happened to the millions of Israelites who never returned to Jerusalem?  Are they lost forever to the covenant promises of Yahweh?  The apostle Paul asked this same question 500 years later in Romans  11, “Hath God cast away his people?  God forbid...God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew.”  The question boils down to this: what happened to the millions of Israelites driven from Palestine 700 years before the time of Christ, and where were they?  The Bible doesn’t tell us what happened to this major portion of Israelites after this account in 2Kings, so we must depend on secular history to find out.  We know that God cannot lie.  His people and covenant must continue.  Someone has been lying to us about our history by saying the tribes of Israel are “lost.”

The historian Josephus of the first century A.D. knew the ten tribes of Israel existed.  He wrote:

Wherefore there are but two tribes in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers (Antiquities, XI, V, 2).

In the prophet of Hosea  1:6-10 God said that He would “Utterly take them away” [from Palestine]; and yet after their removal would make them “as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered.”  God keeps His word.


The Phoenician name for the “House of Isaac” was Beth-Sak.  On the Armarna Tablets the Habiru, Habiri, or Abirir (sounds like Hebrew), who conquered Palestine under Abdasherah (or Joshua) are also  referred to as the Saga or Saka men (Bristowe, The Oldest Letters In The World, p. 32).  So it appears from this that Israel was  their Bible name only, while their  heathen neighbors and enemies spoke of them as Habiru or Sakai (Hebrew or sons of Sac or Isaac); that is one of the reasons they were so easily lost from historians.

In 1900 there were cuneiform tablets found in Nineveh (published in 1930).  Many of the tablets were Assyrian frontier post reports, dated about 707 B.C.  They describe the activities of the people called “Gimira” who lived in the land of Gamir.  One tablet stated that when the king of Urartu came into the land of Gamir, his army was routed, as the Gamira counter-attacked, entered the land of Urartu, and killed their commanders.

In another tablet, of about 30 years later, during the reign of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, reported that a large number of Gimira seeking freedom escaped to the shores of the Black Sea.  The Greeks also recorded the same activity, including an invasion of Sardis, the capital of Lydia, in 645 B.C.  In their records they refer to the Gamira as ”Kimmerioi” which we translate into English as “Cimmerian.”

About 600 B.C. the Lydians drove the Gamira or Cimmerians out of Asia Minor where they settled in the Carpathian regions west of the Black Sea.  These Israelites were called in the book of 2 Esdras (13:40-44), the people of Ar-Sareth.

To the north we should not forget some of them remained in the south in “the cities of the Medes” (2 Kings 18:11).  Professor Waddell in his amp of Eastern Asia gives western Media as the home of the Guti or Catti, which is derived from Gadil or Gad and therefore either men of God or Judah or both.  These Guti mixed with the Saks and together they formed the backbone of the growing power of Media.  It was the Guti of King Cyrus’ army, under general Gobryas, who took Babylon in 536 B.C.  This was that memorable destruction on the night of Belshazzar’s feast as told in the book of Daniel.  This is just one of many instances where Israel is fulfilling her destiny as God’s “battle axe.”

Jeremiah 51:20, 24, 25, 28 and 29,  Thou art my battle axe and weapons of war:  for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms; … And I will render unto Babylon and to all the inhabitants of Chaldea all their evil that they have done in Zion in your sight, saith the LORD.  Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain, saith the LORD, which destroyest all the earth:  and I will stretch out mine hand  upon thee, and roll thee down from the rocks, and will make thee a burnt mountain….Prepare against her the nations with the kings of the Medes, the captains thereof, and all the rulers thereof, and all the land of his dominion.  And the land shall tremble and sorrow:  for every purpose of the LORD shall be performed against Babylon, to make the land of Babylon a desolation without an inhabitant.


Not all people who lived on the Russian steppes designated by the name “Scythian” were descendants of the tribes of Israel.  “Scythian” became a term in that region for any tribe with a nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle.  The Isrealites and Scythians had this trait.  Many historians tend to paint the Scythians as wild and uncivilized, and there were many of those tribal groups to the far north.  Many theorize that the Scyths came from thenorth and modern students are educated into thinking that the Greeks and Romans were the most civilized pwople of the anciet world.  But Strabo, a Greek writer of the first century (Geography, viii, iii, 7), had this to say:

...but the Scythians governed by good laws...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. 

The “Sacae” Scythians had nothing in common with the wild uncouth nomads of the northern steppes, buy had much in common with the civilized cultures of the south.  Tamara Rice in her book, The Scythians, p. 22 wrote:

...their wealth and love of finery won them the good will of the great Hellenic merchants established along the shore of the Black Sea...the Scythians...displayed an extraordinary [ability] to appreciate and assimilate the best in the art of their day. 

Not all of them were agriculturalists, some were merchants and others had mining and manufacturing pursuits.  They produced some of t he ancient world’s most beautiful works of gold art.  This was also a part of their Israelite/Phoenician heritage.  Collin in his book, The Lost Ten Tribes of Israel Found, p. 197, addresses the significance of language in identifying Israel:

"Virtually all historical accounts speculate that the Scythians originated in northern Asia and migrated southward to South Russia.  However, the evidence strongly points to an opposite conclusion.  Their linguistic traits (they all spoke “the same Iranian tongue”) indicate that they originated in the Mesopotamian/Fertile Crescent region, and that they had migrated northward into South Russia.  If they had originated in the dim recesses of northern Asia, their common language would be in the Mongolian family of languages, not the “Iranian” family of ancient languages.  Also, their own artwork depicts the Sacae/Scythians as a bearded, Semitic race, further confirming their origin was in the Middle East.  The only Semitic nation which “disappeared” from the Fertile Crescent just prior to the arrival of the Scythians in the Black Sea region were “the ten tribes of Israel.”  As soon as the ten tribes of Israel “disappeared” from their old territory, the Scythians (bearing the name of Isaac) “appeared” near the Black Sea and spread throughout the Russian steppes.  The connection between the Israelites and Sacae/Scythians is not hard to understand."