1: The Identity Of Rosh
A Biblical Case For A Russian Invasion Of Israel
Jeremiah and other prophets predicted a great invasion of Israel "from the north". These prophecies had some primary fulfillments which pointed forward to the final denouement of the latter days. Around the time of Jeremiah, the Scythians had marauded much of the Middle East, including Israel. Although this is barely recorded in Biblical history, it is a well attested historical fact. When Jeremiah spoke of an invasion from the North, and Ezekiel spoke of marauding bands of Scythian-related tribes attacking the land, everyone would've thought of the recent attacks by the Scythians. As John Skinner put it: "In these events, especially the Scythian incursion into Palestine, most historians have found the suggestion and background of Jeremiah's prophecies of the Foe from the North" (1). Significantly, "Jeremiah's ministry is stated to have begun at approximately the time to which Herodotus assigns the Scythian invasion" (2). It could be argued that Jeremiah and Ezekiel's prophecies of a northern invader had a primary fulfillment in the lives of the prophets in the Scythian invasion, which were then to be understood as a type of the latter day invasion "from the north". This would be in keeping with the Mosaic test of a true prophet- his predictions must come to pass, otherwise he is to be seen as a false prophet. It could therefore be the predictions of the Biblical prophets about a northern invasion had to have a short term fulfillment, which had relevance to their ultimate 'fullerfilment' in the events of our last days. Whilst the prophecies do have some application to the Babylonian invasion of Judah, we must recall that Ezekiel was prophesying after that event, as Israel sat by the rivers of Babylon; and Jeremiah's descriptions of the northern invasion have some elements which fit better with the Scythian incursions than the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem. Not least the sudden, unexpected nature of the attacks is better fitted by far to the Scythians than to the Babylonians. It could be that his prophecies had an immediate primary fulfillment in the Scythian invasions, and then another dim fulfillment in the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem, both of which primary fulfillments look forward to the final denouement in the latter days.
Who, then, were the Scythians? The question is important to understand because their invasions are a shadow of the latter day invasion of Israel. Much Soviet and Eastern European archeological research into the Scythians remains only in Russian and has never been released in English. If it had been, the Scythian invasions would perhaps have featured more prominently in the prophetic thinking of the Western brotherhood. Excavations of Scythian settlements throughout Russia and the Ukraine have yielded various objects which have also been found in the Middle Eastern areas which the Scythians invaded around the time of the Old Testament prophets. The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, the USSR's answer to the West's Encyclopedia Britannica (although much larger), has a wealth of information about these findings. Here are a few examples:
- The Scythians had a very specific style of bronze arrowhead. The Soviet archaeologist A.M. Leskov discovered many of these in sites around Kakhovka and Lubimovka in the Ukraine- incidentally, the location of thriving Christadelphian ecclesias today. The very same style of arrowhead was unearthed in Samaria, Lachish and Amman (Jordan).
- The same goes for Scythian horse bridles and iron axes.
- The Scythians had very specific and distinctive styles of burial. Being horsemen from the steppes of Ukraine and southern Russia, the forerunners of the Cossacks, their leaders were buried with many horses. Thus there was the mass slaughter of horses, which were then buried with the dead leader. Throughout the former Soviet Union, such burial mounds have been unearthed- from the southern Ukraine to the frozen Scythian tombs in Pazryk in the Altai mountains (in Siberia, central Russia) (3).
- The layout of Scythian burial chambers from the Ukraine through Russia and down to modern day Israel and Iran has been found to be identical (4).
The various studies also contain the observation that the Scythian remains in Russia and Ukraine include not only loot they had taken back with them from the Middle East (e.g. Persian carpets preserved in the frozen burial mounds of Scythian villages in Siberia), but also reflect evidence of how the Scythians became influenced by Middle Eastern culture. This indicates how the Scythians made some alliances with some of the local powers during their time 'down South'. In some of the Scythian sites, notably Pazryk in Siberia, there are the motifs of the eagle, gryphon, winged lion etc.- which were all associated with Assyria and Babylon (5). This indicates some degree of co-operation between the Scythians and the Babylonians, rather than raw conflict between them. Indeed, there is both historical and archaeological evidence that the Scythians were mercenaries used by Nebuchadnezzar in his attack upon Jerusalem. Yamauchi reports how Scythian arrowheads have been found around Jerusalem in the same material which dates to the Babylonian destruction of the city and temple (6). That "day of the Lord" was a clear type of the final "day of the Lord" when the Northern armies attack God's people. This could well suggest a latter day coalition between latter day "Babylon" and the latter day Scythians- the inhabitants of Ukraine and Russia. In the early meetings between the Byzantines and the inhabitants of Ukraine and Southern Russia in the 9th century, the surviving records show the Scythian leaders (e.g. Prince Svetoslav) being addressed as "Prince of Rosh" or Rus by the emissaries from Byzantium. Several connections between Rosh / Rus and the Scythians are made by the Byzantine historian Leo the Deacon in his 10th century records; at times he uses the terms interchangeably (7).
Given this background, we can look for the final 'northern invader' to be led by Babylon / Assyria, and yet to be supported by the latter day Scythians. We need to remember that most of the military achievements of Babylon / Assyria were not achieved by their own forces directly; their military and organizational genius was in mustering the support of mercenaries and other fighters. The Scythians played a large part in this when it came to Israel, even if Western versions of ancient history has been relatively quiet about it. Significantly, Ezekiel 38 speaks of the invasion with specific reference to this Scythian element. If we are to interpret the latter day Scythians geographically, then this would lead us to search for their latter day equivalent in the lands of Ukraine, Russia and the steppes of northern Kazakhstan.
(1) J. Skinner, Prophecy And Religion (Cambridge: C.U.P., 1922) p. 39.
(2) H.H. Rowley, as quoted in Edwin Yamauchi, Foes From The Northern Frontier: Invading Hordes From The Russian Steppes (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982) p. 88.
(3) Evidence for all this was presented in articles over the years in the Soviet academic journal Советская Aрхеология ['Soviet Archaeology']. For example, V.S. Olkhovski, 'Скифские катакомбы в Северном Приерноморе' ["Scythian catacombs in the northern Black Sea region"], Sovetskaia Arkheologia Vol. 4 (1977) pp. 108-128. S.I. Rudenko, the leading Soviet archaeologist at the Pazryk site, later defected to the West and some of his research was published in English in The Frozen Tombs Of Siberia: The Pazryk Burials Of Iron-Age Horsemen (Berkeley: University Of California Press, 1970).
(4) See the articles by the Soviet archaeologist A. Terenozhkin who excavated the burial mounds in Melitopol, Ukraine, in Большая Советская Энциклопедия ['The Great Soviet Encyclopedia'] Vol. 16 p. 100; and V. Bidzilia, who excavated the Gaimanovo graves near Zaporozhye, Ukraine, in Большая Советская Энциклопедия ['The Great Soviet Encyclopedia'] Vol. 6 p. 38.
(5) S.I. Rudenko, Культура населения Горного Алтая в скифское время ["The culture of the Mountain Altai in Scythian times"] (Moscow: AN USSR, 1953) pp. 129-132.
(6) Edwin Yamauchi, Foes From The Northern Frontier (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982) p. 99.
(7) See information at http://www.vert.kiev.ua/articles/320/ and in M. Y. Syuzyumov, Leo Deacon And His Time (Moscow: Nauka, 1988)