Watchman's Teaching Letter #77 September 2004
This is my seventy-seventh monthly teaching letter and continues my seventh year of publication. At this point in time, I am compelled to write additional lessons on Herodotus that I didn’t originally plan to write. As a result, I’m going to have to advance the numbers and dates on my next four lessons. All of this happened when I visited a used book store and found a book entitled History Of Assyria by A. T. Olmstead. This is the same Olmstead who wrote a very informative book the History Of The Persian Empire. On the book History Of Assyria, the title page was missing, but gave the name of the author on page xvi of the preface, along with a date of 1923. The reason I’m compelled to address this subject one additional time is because a very dear friend of mine tried to dissuade my effort in publishing William Finck’s presentation on the Genesis 10 nations. Upon checking out Finck’s postulations, most of my sources vindicated his thesis.
My friend tried to convince me that the Medes and Persians were Israelites and that Herodotus and Josephus were bad guys, and that their histories couldn’t be trusted. Now, as much as I value this person’s friendship, I absolutely will not digress from what I comprehend to be the truth. I have since resolved that if the truth costs me a dear friendship, that’ll be the price I’ll have to pay, for the Kingdom comes first and foremost above everything else! I have reason to believe, though, it’s a third party’s bad influence that’s causing all the trouble! Anyway, it now becomes my responsibility to expose such false premises in order to protect others from these dangerous pitfalls.
While it is true that most of the Israelites taken captive by Assyria were settled in Media (II Kings 17:6), it is not true, however, that the Medes, as a people, were of any of the tribes of Israel! Rather, the Medes were White descendants from Japheth rather than Shem. On the other hand, a good share of the Persians were made up of Elamites, though surely there were a few pockets of Israelites who settled in both Media and Persia.
The land of Elam was called elamtu by the Assyrians and Babylonians and Elymais by the classical Greek writers, who also at times referred to it as “Susiana” after the city of Susa, or Shushan, at one time evidently the capital of Elam. Under the Persian Empire, Susa (Shushan) was a royal city, Neh. 1:1; Est. 1:2. (Insight On The Scriptures, vol. 1, pages 701-702). The Collier’s Encyclopedia, vol. 15, page 628, though some editing is needed, says the following:
“MEDIA, the name given in antiquity to the kingdom in northwest Persia ruled by the Medes, or Madai. At the height of their power, for about a century, they ruled the whole area from Susiana in southern Persia to the Halys River in the central plateau of Asia Minor. The Medes were the largest of a number of Indo-European-speaking tribes which emigrated ... into the highlands of Armenia and Persia, probably between 1000 and 900 B.C. They appear as a seminomadic people in the Assyrian annals of the ninth and eighth centuries B.C.; successive kings of Assyria campaigned against them and their kinsmen, the Mannai, south of Lake Urmia in Persia, and carried back, among the booty, sturdy war horses bred on the grassy steppes.
“Herodotus (Book I, 95 ff.) preserved the legend that the Medes originally lived in scattered villages and were united by Deioces, who was made king over the six Median tribes and built Ecbatana (modern Hamadan, in western Iran) as the new capital of his kingdom; Deioces may be the historical chieftain Daiaukku, whom the Assyrian king Sargon II deported in 715 B.C. In Esarhaddon’s reign (681-669 B.C.) a number of Median chieftains, or ‘city rulers,’ were vassals of Assyria; tablets bearing treaties with nine of these were found in 1956 at Nimrud, the site of a former Assyrian capital in northern Iraq.
“The unification of the kingdom and perhaps the building of Ecbatana must have taken place later, perhaps in the time of Phraortes (died c. 625 B.C.), whom the Assyrians called Kashtariti. Early in the reign of his son, Cyaxares (Persian Uvakhshatra), Scythian hordes overran Iran; according to Herodotus they were expelled after twenty-eight years by Cyaxares, who reorganized the Median army and extended his rule over the Persians in the south of Iran, and perhaps also eastwards. Forming an alliance with Nabopolassar, the king of Babylon, Cyaxares turned to attack the enfeebled Assyrians. The pact between Cyaxares and Nabopolassar was sealed near Nineveh by the marriage in 613 B.C. of Nabopolassar’s son Nebuchadnezzar to Cyaxares’ granddaughter. In the following year the combined armies took and sacked Nineveh; the great Assyrian Empire tottered and fell, and the victors divided the spoils, the Medes taking the northern and eastern parts. After five years of indecisive war in Cappadocia, the frontier between the Median Empire and the kingdom of Lydia was set at the Halys River (modern Kizil Irmak).
“Babylonia meanwhile had secured Syria, Palestine, and Arabia, and Elam in southern Persia. For nearly half a century the two powers confronted each other across a strong line of frontier forts. Then Nabonidus, king of Babylon, entered into an alliance with Cyrus, the ambitious young king of Persia and Anshan, who in 553 B.C. rose in revolt against his Median overlord. The war lasted three years. According to Herodotus, Astyages, the Median king, was afterwards betrayed by his general, Harpagus; Ecbatana was sacked, and Cyrus, ‘the Persian, the Achaemenid,’ became master of the Median Empire. Ecbatana was rebuilt as a capital city of the new realm; and the Medes retained a privileged position in the Persian Empire, though they were brought to rebellion by heavy taxation on several occasions.
“The Median epoch has been called the darkest in Iranian history. No records of the Median kings have survived, and we know almost nothing of Median society; no Median city has been excavated, and the capital, Ecbatana, lies unexplored beneath the modern city of Hamadan. Herodotus’ description of the seven concentric walls of different colors is not that of an eyewitness and may be based on his impression of a Babylonian temple-tower. Assyrian reliefs show the Medes as heavily bearded, wearing high laced boots and fleece cloaks. On the bas-reliefs of the ancient Persian city of Persepolis, Median archers are shown alternating with Persians in the royal bodyguard.”
As can plainly be seen, Herodotus, among many other significant subjects, testifies to the origin of the Medes. It is found at Book 1. 95, and I will quote through Book 1. 109 from David Grene’s translation:
“95. Our story must now go on to inquire who this Cyrus was who took the empire from Croesus and how it came about that the Persians became the leaders of all Asia. I will write my account according to the evidence of those Persians whose desire is not to make solemn miracles of all that concerns Cyrus but to tell the very truth. But I know three other ways to tell the story of Cyrus.
“When the Assyrians had held sway over upper Asia for five hundred and twenty years, the first to begin the revolt against them were the Medes: these, in fighting the Assyrians, proved themselves right good men, cast their slavery from them, and were free again. After them, other of the nations did the same as the Medes.
“96. Now all of them on the mainland were free, but they relapsed into one-man rule, as I shall show. There was a man among the Medes, a clever man, whose name was Deioces, and he was the son of Phraortes. This Deioces had fallen in love with royal power, and this is what he did. At this time, the Medes lived in villages, and in the particular village of Deioces he had always been a man of note, and now he set himself to practice justice ever more and more keenly. There was at the time great lawlessness throughout Media, and Deioces did what he did because he knew that injustice is the great enemy of justice. The Medes in his own village, seeing the manner of the man’s life, chose him to be a judge among them. And he, since it was power that he was courting, was always straight and just and, for being so, won no small praise from his fellow citizens – so much so, indeed, that the people in other villages learned that Deioces was the one man for judging according to the rule of right; these people had before met with unjust sentences, and when they heard the good news about Deioces they flocked to him to have their own cases decided by him; and at last they would entrust their suits to none but him.
“97. As those who had recourse to him grew ever more in number (for they all heard that the cases he tried came out according to the truth of the facts), Deioces came to realize that now everything hung upon himself. Whereupon he refused to sit as judge any more and said that he would serve no longer. It did not profit him at all, he said, to decide cases for his neighbors all day long to the manifest neglect of his own affairs. So robbery and lawlessness grew even more in the villages than before. The Medes all came to a meeting place and conferred with one another on what they should do now. I suppose that those who spoke most were Deioces’ friends. What they said was, ‘If we go on as we are going now, we will not be able to live in this country at all. Let us therefore set up a king over us. The country will then be well governed, and we shall betake ourselves to our own business and shall not be undone by lawlessness.’ These were the arguments with which they persuaded one another to be ruled by a king.
“98. Then at once the question was proposed as to whom to make king. Deioces was so much in everyone’s mouth, people both putting him forward and praising him, that all ended by agreeing that he should be their king. For his part, he bade them build him houses worthy of royalty and to strengthen him with a bodyguard. The Medes did all this. They built him great secure houses wheresoever in the country he indicated, and they gave him the privilege of selecting bodyguards for himself from all the people of Media. When he got the power, then, he compelled the Medes to make one fortress and, attending to this, to neglect the rest. Again, the Medes did as he told them; he had built for him those great strong walls that are now called Ecbatana, one circle of them inside the other. The building was so contrived that each circle of walls is higher than the next by the battlements only. The fact that the place chosen was itself a hill helps the design, but it was also much strengthened by contrivance. The circles of walls were, in all, seven, and within the final circle are the royal palace and the treasuries. The longest wall is about the length of the wall that surrounds the city of Athens. The battlements of the first circle are white, the second black, the third scarlet, the fourth blue, the fifth orange. Thus the battlements of these five circles are painted with colors; but of the last two circles, the one had its battlements coated with silver, the other with gold.
“99. These walls, then, Deioces built for himself and about his own palace, but the rest of the people he ordered to build houses outside the walls. When all was built, Deioces was the first who established this ceremony: that no one whatsoever should have admittance to the king, but that all should be transacted through messengers and that the king should be seen by none; moreover, to laugh or to spit in the royal presence was shameful for all alike. These solemnities he contrived about his own person so that those who were his equals and of the same age, brought up with him, and of descent as good, and as brave as he, might not, seeing him, be vexed and take to plotting against him but would judge him to be someone grown quite different – and all because they did not see him.
“100. When he had ordered these matters and had strengthened himself in the royal power, he was very exact in his observance of justice. Men would write down their suits and send them in to him, and he would judge what was brought in and send the decisions out. Such were his arrangements with the lawsuits; but he had other matters of discipline in hand, too. As often as he heard of someone as a man of insolent violence, he would have him apprehended and do justice on him according to the merit of each offense; and his spies and eavesdroppers were everywhere throughout the land.
“1O1. Deioces, then, united the Median nation, but this one only, and this he ruled.* The Median tribes are as follows: Busae, Parataceni, Struchates, Arizanti, Budii, Magi. That is all there is of them.
“[* Footnote: By this remark Herodotus is differentiating Deioces not only from his immediate successors but from the rest of the Eastern despots: Astyages, who extended the power of Media to conquer Persia but then fell victim to his Persian grandson, Cyrus; Cyrus, who, after a successful career of conquest, died trying to annex the Massagetae; Darius, in the same position with respect to the Scythians; and finally Xerxes, in the expedition to Greece. All exemplify the pattern of the monarch who cannot refrain from pushing his domains beyond their natural or inherited boundaries and finally, in his last and usually most frivolous annexation, meets disaster. Many of these cases are marked by Herodotus by a conversation between the monarch and a ‘wise adviser’ who points up, especially, the irrationality of the last deadly moment of expansion of the monarch’s empire.]
“102. The son of Deioces was Phraortes, who took over the rule on Deioces’ death, which happened after he had ruled for fifty-three years. When Phraortes succeeded, it did not content him to rule the Medes only. He attacked the Persians. These were the first he set upon, and they were the first people whom he made subject to the Medes. Once he had these two peoples – and both of them strong – he began to subdue all Asia, going from people to people, until, in his campaigning, he came against the Assyrians, and especially those of the Assyrians who held Nineveh. These Assyrians had formerly ruled all of Asia but were now quite isolated, all their allies having dropped away from them. But in themselves they were as strong as ever, and when Phraortes fought them, he himself was killed, after a reign of twenty-two years, and also much of his army.
“103. On the death of Phraortes, Cyaxares, the son of Phraortes, the son of Deioces, succeeded. He is said to have been a far better military man than his forebears. He was the first to organize the Asian army into regiments and the first to establish separately each unit of arms – as spear-bearers, archers, and cavalry. Before this they were all mixed up, pell-mell, together. It was Cyaxares who fought the Lydians when day turned into night upon their fighting, and it was Cyaxares who drew together under his own rule all Asia beyond the river Halys. Then, collecting all his subject peoples, he attacked Nineveh, and in vengeance for his father’s defeat he wanted to destroy the city utterly. He had defeated the Assyrians in battle; but then, when he was beleaguering Nineveh, there came upon him a great host of Scythians, whose leader was their king, Madyes, the son of Protothyes. They had first expelled the Cimmerians from Europe, and it was in pursuit of the fleeing Cimmerians that the Scythians came into Median territory.
“104. From the Maeotic lake to the river Phasis and the territory of the Colchians is a thirty days’ journey for an active traveler. From Colchis it is no great distance to cross over into Media; in between there is only one nation, the Saspires; pass them, and you are in Media. But the Scythians did not invade by this way but turned off onto the upper road, which is far longer, keeping the Caucasus Mountains on their right. There the Medes met the Scythians and were worsted in the battle and deprived of their rule, and the Scythians took possession of all Asia.
“105. From there the Scythians marched on Egypt; and when they got to Syrian Palestine, the king of Egypt, Psammetichus, met them and with entreaties and bribes turned aside their forward march. They then retreated; and when in their retreat they came in Syria to the city of Ascalon, the majority of the Scythians marched by, doing no harm to anyone, but a few, left behind, plundered the temple of Aphrodite Urania. This temple, as I learned from my inquiries, was the oldest of all those belonging to this goddess; for the shrine in Cyprus was founded from it, according to the Cyprians themselves, and the one on Cythera was founded by Phoenicians who came from this land of Syria. Now, on these Syrians who plundered the temple at Ascalon and on their descendants forever the goddess has sent the ‘female sickness.’ As to this, the Scythians say that this is why these people have fallen sick; and they also say that those who come to their country of Scythia can see the condition of those whom the Scythians call ‘Enareis.’
“106. For twenty-eight years, then, the Scythians were masters of Asia, and all was wasted by their violence and pride; for apart from their exacting of tribute, which they laid upon each man, apart from the tribute they rode around and plundered whatsoever it was that anyone possessed. Cyaxares and his Medes massacred most of these Scythians after first entertaining them and making them drunk, and so the Medes recovered their empire and were again lords of those they ruled before; and the Medes also took Nineveh (but how they took it I will show in another part of my book), and they made the Assyrians their subjects, except for the province of Babylon. [C. E. Note: In your own research, you may find some sources disagree with the placement of the above mentioned 28 year period.]
“107. After all this, Cyaxares died, having been king for forty years (if you include those years when the Scythians held sway), and Astyages, his son, succeeded him.
“Now Astyages had a daughter whose name was Mandane, and Astyages saw her in a dream making water so greatly that she filled all his city and flooded, besides, all of Asia. He confided this dream to those of the Magi who were dream interpreters, and, when he learned the particulars of their exposition, he feared greatly. When Mandane was ripe for a man, Astyages, since he dreaded his dream, gave her to no one of the Medes who were worthy to marry into his house but to a Persian called Cambyses, whom he found to be a man of good house and peaceable temper; and he thought this Persian was much below a Mede of even middle class.
“108. When Mandane was living with her husband in their first year, Astyages saw another vision; it seemed to him that out of his daughter’s privy parts there grew a vine, and the vine shaded all Asia. This, then, he saw; and again he entrusted the matter to the dream interpreters and sent to recall his daughter from where she lived among the Persians, she then being big with child. When she came, he kept her under ward, because he wished to destroy whatever should be born of her. For from his vision the interpreters among the Magi had read the signs to mean that the child of his daughter would become king in his place. It was against this that Astyages guarded, and so when Cyrus was born he summoned Harpagus, his kinsman, the faithfullest of the Medes and the steward of all that he had. ‘Harpagus,’ he said, ‘here is a matter I am entrusting to you; by no means mishandle it, nor yet deceive me and choose others: should you do so, you shall thereafter bring upon yourself a fall into ruin. Take this child that Mandane bore and bring it to your own house and kill it, and afterwards bury it in whatever way you please.’ Harpagus answered, ‘My lord, never yet have you seen even a hint of what is untoward in me, and I shall give heed that in the time to come, too, I shall not offend against you. If it is your pleasure that this be so, then it shall be mine to serve you duly.’
“109. So Harpagus answered him. When the baby was given him, all decked out for his death, Harpagus went weeping to his house, and on coming there he told his wife all the story that Astyages had told him. ‘And now what is in your mind to do?’ she asked. ‘Certainly not what Astyages has ordered me,’ was his answer; ‘not though he shall be even more frantic and mad than now he is will I fall in with his judgment and be his servant in such a murder. There are many reasons why I will not murder the child: because he is akin to me and because Astyages is an old man and childless in male issue. If it should happen that after his death the crown should devolve upon his daughter, whose son Astyages has killed by my hands, what is left for me, from then on, but the greatest peril? Yet for my own safety the child must die; but it must be one of Astyages’ folk that will be its murderer and none of min’.”
As can be observed here, Herodotus has just supplied us with substantial background of both the emergence of the Medes and the birth of the Persian Empire. Not only that, but he furnishes us with evidence of the Scythians and Massagetae, who were Israelites among the lost tribes in dispersion! We should also be starting to comprehend how important Herodotus’ testimony is to Biblical history and prophecy, especially Daniel. Therefore, it is the utmost folly to brush Herodotus’ witnessing aside! If you are a serious Bible student, I would highly recommend you get your own copy of Herodotus’ Histories. Otherwise, guard your unlearned opinions until you do! Sometimes it only takes one faulty premise to wreck one’s entire theology; for an unending number of flawed premises must be adopted to prop-up the original! This is dangerous, as then pride steps in, and many lack the humility to admit they were wrong!
Is it any wonder then, that at Proverbs 3:5 we are admonished: “Trust in Yahweh with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” And is further impressed upon us at Proverbs 21:16: “The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.” The only way to avoid being among “the congregation of the dead” is to prove every man’s words whether they be true or false! Otherwise, put it on the back-burner until the correct answer is found! Remember, there wouldn’t be so many liars around if there weren’t so many willing listeners! Therefore, the willing listener of lies is the more guilty!
The object of my next citation is to show that Media existed before the first of the ten northern tribes were taken captive to Assyria by Tiglath Pileser, 745-727 B.C. Therefore, there is absolutely no way the Medes were Israelites. You will now be prepared to rebuff any such assertion when you hear or read it. From the book History Of Assyria by A. T. Olmstead, pages 161-162 we read:
“Punitive expeditions were directed by Adad-nirari against the Medes in three groups of two years, beginning with 801, 795, and 790, and in 787 [B.C.] as well; Namri was invaded in 798, and about the same time Elli, Harhar, Arziash, and Mesu were attacked. The collapse of Assyrian influence in the barren mountains of Media seemed for the moment more than offset by successes obtained in the south and west. A more or less valid claim to Babylonia might be put forward by Adadnirari on the basis of his mother’s Babylonian birth, but no attempt was made to render it effective until after Semiramis was deposed. Already in 796 and 795 we have expeditions to Der, but no serious attack was made until 786 ...
“Progress of the Assyrians west of the Euphrates was checked by the pestilence, and it was not until 797 that Mansuate, now the dominant city in north central Syria, was in danger. The whole Hittite land, Amurru, Tyre, Sidon, Israel, Edom, and Palastu, the first instance of the use of the Philistine name in the sense of the later Palestine, recognised the Assyrians as their masters. The willingness with which Israel and Edom made submission was further increased by their desire to see their revenge on their enemies Judah and Damascus.
“So low had Hazael brought Israel in the last days of Jehu that his son Jehoahaz (814-800) possessed but fifty horsemen and ten chariots out of the two thousand Ahab had led into battle at Qarqara. Passing without fighting through a thoroughly cowed Israel, Hazael won for himself the whole of the Philistine land from the western sea to Aphek. The equally Philistine Gath was taken from Judah, and Jehoash (836-799) saved himself from complete ruin only by sending to Hazael all the treasures of temple and palace. Hazael’s son, Bar Hadad III, was a man of lesser caliber, and Jehoahaz resumed his independence. Bar Hadad made another attempt to restore Aramæan control when the young Jehoash became king in Israel (800-785). Samaria was besieged, and for a time the famine was severe, but there came to the camp of the invader a rumour that Hittite and Egyptian kings had been hired against them, a great panic befell, and they fled in dismay. In three pitched battles, the greatest at Aphek, all the cities taken by Hazael were recovered.”
It is simply amazing how anyone with a sense of responsibility could make the claim that the Medes were Israelites! A. T. Olmstead in his History Of Assyria, page 110, mentions “the Median tribes just appearing on the eastern sky-line” near 860 B.C.! Again, on page 117, Olmstead speaking of a period from 845-828 B.C. says, “This at least is worthy of our most careful notice, for it is the first appearance of the Medes in history.” Under a chapter heading “Sargon And The Syrian Settlement” we read on pages 208-209:
“Twenty-seven thousand of the leading citizens were deported to Mesopotamia and settled in Guzana, Halah, and the country along the Habur River. Thus was formed the nucleus for that community of Jews [sic. Israelites] which long made Mesopotamia the real focus of Jewish [sic. Israelite] thought. Not long after, Tab-sil-esharra, governor of Ashur, reports a field in Halah whose revenues were given to the Nabu temple of Dur Sharrukin. The serfs who paid these dues were probably Hebrews.
“Samaria was too important a site to be abandoned. The survivors were treated as Assyrians and ordered to pay the usual tribute to their governor. The system of deportation was in full swing and no less than four instances occur in this reign. Immediately after the uprising of 720, two Aramæan tribes from Der were settled. Three years later, two Hittite tribes were placed in Damascus, two Arab tribes were assigned to Samaria, and Deioces of Media and Itti of Allabria were interned in Hamath.
“Again the Hebrew scriptures illustrate the process. The men of Hamath who were settled in Samaria were doubtless participants in the revolt of 720, and perhaps the same is true of the men from Sepharvaim in north Syria and the unknown Avva. The men of Cutha and Babylon must have been forced to emigrate at a later period. At the first, so the naïve account runs, they feared not Yahweh; for this, Yahweh sent lions among them, and some of them were killed. So they sent to the Assyrian king, saying: ‘The nations which thou hast carried away and placed in the cities of Samaria know not the law of the god of the land; therefore hath he sent lions among them, and behold they slay them, because they know not the law of the land.’
“Sargon recognised the reasonableness of this request and ordered one of the exiled Hebrew priests sent back to teach them this very necessary religious system. At Bethel, where the eponymous ancestor of Israel had seen the ladder and where Israel’s first king had set up the golden bull of Yahweh, the cult was reorganised. One of his sacred sites was thus preserved for Yahweh, the remainder of the high places were handed over to the gods brought in by the new settlers ...”
It should be noted that among the deportees from Assyria was “Deioces of Media”, the same mentioned by Herototus or perhaps a relative (but maybe only someone of a similar name) who was interned at Hamath in the old Canaanite capital of Syria north of Aram. It is ridiculous to assert that the Medes were Israelites, for why would Sargon take Israel captive, only to send them back to their homeland again? In other words, some of the Medes made up the collection of tribes later to be referred to as “Samaritans.”
No doubt, some with a universalist view may argue that the Medes were Israelites based upon Acts 2:9, which says: “9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” Yet they forget to consider Acts 2:5!
Once again, we come face to face with the reality of how important the testimony of Herodotus continues to be. Without this invaluable evidence, the Israel Identity Message would be floundering hopelessly without a sense of direction. But with the confirmation of various classical historians and evidence from archaeology we can present our message with confidence and entirely without shame. We find ourselves with everything working in our favor; having a message that no one can gainsay. To disqualify such great historians, such as Herodotus and Josephus, ties both of our hands behind us. Further, to take such an incompetent position aids and abets our enemy!