written by Raymond F. McNair
How Did the Israelites Became Known as Cimmerians, Celts and Saxons?
The Land of the House of Omri
The Assyrians did not call the Israelites by any Hebrew names. They used a different language and hence a different name: “The usual term for the Kingdom of Israel in the Assyrian inscriptions is not this [Israel]…. The ordinary designation was rather… ‘Land of the House Omri [mat bit-Humri]'” (Eberhard Schrader, The Cuneiform Inscriptions and the Old Testament, vol. 1, p. 177). Recall from chapter one that King Omri of Israel reigned for 12 years. Yet, in that time, he earned quite a name for himself–by moving Israel’s capital to Samaria, subduing the Moabites, etc.–enough to perpetuate his name through other dynasties.
James Hastings comments, “Omri seems to have been an able soldier and he subdued Moab to Israel. This is acknowledged by the Moabite King Mehsa in an inscription which has come down to us [“Moabite Stone”]…. The Assyrians first became acquainted with Israel in the time of Omri, and they call the country of the Ten Tribes of Israel ‘the land of the house of Omri’ even after the extinction of his dynasty” (“Omri,” Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 1, p. 668).
“Omri [was]… the founder of one of the greatest dynasties of Israel…. Although little is preserved of Omri’s history, the fact that the Northern Kingdom long continued to be called by the Assyrians after his name is a significant indication of his great reputation” (“Jews,” Encyclopaedia Britannica 11th ed., vol. 15, p. 377). In fact, the Assyrians continued to call Israel by the term “mat bit-Humri” for over 200 years after his death (c. 874 B.C.).
“In Assyrian inscriptions from the time of the Jehu dynasty and even afterward… not only is Jehu called ‘son of Omri’ (mar Humri) but even the whole of the N Kingdom of Israel is referred to as ‘house of Omri’…. The international reputation of the Omride dynasty is reflected in this development from a dynastic appellation to the name of a country” (Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 5, p. 19).
But notice the following account from another source: “Payment of tribute by Iaua (Jehu), the son of Khumri (Omri) who brought [to the Assyrian king] silver, gold, lead, and bowls, dishes, cups, and other vessels of gold. The description ‘Son of Khumri’ is thought merely to show that Jehu was an Israelite, because Israelitish territory was called [by the Assyrians] ‘bit-Khumri'” (Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, vol. 1, p. 46).
The spelling of “Omri,” then, varies in its transliteration by scholars into English. So which name is right? Omri, Humri or Khumri? Actually, they all are! In antiquity, and in more recent centuries as well, the reduction of oral language into written text opened the door to a variety of possible spellings for some words (e.g. site or sight, centre or center). Easy access to stylebooks, dictionaries and computerized spell-checking are modern conveniences.
To better understand how “Omri” might have been pronounced anciently, we must learn a few things about Semitic languages like Hebrew. For instance, totally unlike English, ancient Semitic languages (and modern ones like Arabic) were constructed of “roots” made up of consonants only, with no vowels. If English followed the same system, the word “run” would be spelled “rn,” and the word “love” would become “lv.” Also, Semitic languages shared some “root” words in common and speakers didn’t hesitate to adopt another Semitic language’s word into their vocabulary. Thus the word for “son” (Heb. ben) becomes in Aramaic, bar (Davidy, p. 176).
The root word for “Omri” is composed of the three Hebrew letters ayin, mem and resh, with a final yud indicating the vowel, long e (the “i” in English is pronounced “ee” in Hebrew). Of critical importance is how the first consonant of the Hebrew root for “Omri”–the letter ayin-was pronounced by their Semitic cousins, the Assyrians and the Babylonians. “The name ‘Eri’ [Gen. 46:17] in Hebrew begins with an ‘Ayin’ letter. This letter may be described as a soft guttural and is sometimes transliterated as ‘H’ as in ‘Hebrew’ (Ivri), or some other vowel and at other times as a ‘G’ as in ‘Gaza’ for ‘Aza.’ In the Caucasus area a similar sound receives a harsher emphasis and therefore the likelihood that the ‘Ayin’ was pronounced as a ‘G’ becomes more probable. Also some indications exist that the Assyrians and Persians rendered Semitic words beginning with ‘Ayin’ as if with an initial ‘G’ sound” (p. 156).
“Omri was likewise pronounced in accordance with the older system, before the [Hebrew letter] ghain became ayin. Humri shows that they said at that time Ghomri” (Dr. Pinches, The Old Testament in the Light of the Historical Records and Legends of Assyria and Babylonia, 3rd ed., 1908, p. 339). The clearest way to prove the initial hard “g” sound is that the Hebrew spelling of the doomed city of “Gomorrah” begins with the same three root consonants that Omri does. Consequently, it is entirely reasonable to expect the Persians of the time of Darius the Great to take the Hebrew letters in “Omri”–(g)ayin, mem, resh and yud (G, M, R, I)–and pronounce the word “Gimiri”–the very way the name of the Cimmerians appears on the Behistun Rock Inscriptions!
So here we have people from the “land of the house of Omri” (Israel) called Ombri, Ghomri, Khumri, Humri, Gimiri, Gimarrai, Kimmerioi, Cimmerians and Cimbri. As we’ve learned, the British people who today inhabit Wales still call themselves the Cymry or Kymry! Appian, we know, linked the Cimmerian people with the Celts.
Etymology in Celtic Names
The Cimmerians or Celts have also been known as the Keltae, Geltae, Galatae, Galatians, Goidels, Gauls and Gaels. Where did these names come from? The Cimmerians in Armenia were later joined from the southeast by westward-advancing Scythians from Medo-Persia–i.e. Israelites from around Samaria (taken in the second captivity). However, the Cimmerians were first established as those people who had been carried away in Israel’s first Assyrian captivity, known as the “Galilean Captivity,” from the northern and eastern regions of the Northern Kingdom–the lands of GALILEE and GILEAD! (There was a practice of attaching “gilead” as a suffix to places, e.g. Jabesh-gilead and Ramoth-gilead.) In the Trans-Jordan area was also the tribe of GAD.
Just to the east of the Sea of Galilee we still find the GOLAN Heights. The Hebrew Golan means “their captivity” and comes from the word Golah, meaning “captive” or “exile” (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon). Arthur Spier, Jewish author of A Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar, says that “Golah” referred to those Israelite “communities living beyond the confines of Israel” (p. 62). Galilee, Gilead, Gad, Golan and Golah are all possible etymological roots for Galatae, Goidels or Gauls–the Celtic people!
Remember too that in Spain these people were Celtiberians or just Iberians–as the Israelites living just north of Armenia were also called. Iber-ia is “land of Iber.” Based on what we now know of these people, we can easily see that “Iber” is almost identical with “Eber” or “Heber”–that is, “Hebrew,” which sounds very close to “Ibheriu,” the ancient name of Ireland (Heb. Ivri = ancient Gaelic Iveriu). The “Emerald Isle” was also known as Ivernia, Hibernia, Iberon, Ierne, Erin, Eire, Ire-land.
Immediately west of northern Scotland, the Hebrews probably gave their name to the islands called the Hebrides. In northeast Spain, the Ebro River was most likely named after them. It is probable that Israelite mariners brought the name Hebrew to the Iberian Peninsula. And, since the northern Danites dwelling near the Phoenicians lived in the region of Galilee, they may also have brought such Celtic names as Galacia (northwestern Spain) and Portugal (“Port of the Gaels”). These names may also have been brought by the transcontinental Celts.
“In Isaac Your Seed Shall Be Called”!
We saw back in chapter one that before Abraham’s son, Isaac, was born, God gave this solemn prophecy: “For in Isaac your seed shall be called” (Gen. 21:12)! It is repeated twice in the New Testament (Rom. 9:7; Heb. 11:18). But how would Almighty God fulfill that ancient prophecy? How would Isaac’s sons be called after the name of their ancestor?
In the Old Testament, the people of Israel were generally called the “House of Israel” (Heb. beit Yisrael) and, quite frequently, the “House of Jacob” (Heb. beit Ya’akov). However, they were also referred to as the “House of Isaac” (Heb. beit Yitzak, Amos 7:16).
About 751 B.C. (30 years before the Assyrian deportation of the northern tribes to Media) the Prophet Amos said, “The high places [idolatrous shrines] of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel [at Dan and Bethel] shall be laid waste” (v. 9). In that scripture, “Isaac” and “Israel” both refer to the same people–the people of Israel. Amos also stated, “And the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people [the Northern Kingdom of] Israel'” (v. 15). Amos then told Amaziah, king of Judah, “Now therefore, hear the word of the LORD: You [Amaziah] say ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not spout against the HOUSE OF ISAAC'” (v. 16).
Notice that the people of the Kingdom of Israel were being called the “House of Isaac” a few decades before the Northern Kingdom was destroyed and its people taken captive. Those Israelites would have told their captors that they were the people of “Beit Yitzak.” Since the Assyrian language was a Semitic tongue akin to the Hebrew language, the Assyrians may well have referred to the captives of the House of Israel by not only the name “House of Omri,” but also the “House of Isaac”!
Then after Israel’s national captivity, what did the large majority of Israelites end up being called by the Persians and others? “Sacae” or “Sakai.” Earlier we quoted a passage from Sharon Turner’s History of the Anglo-Saxons showing part of Armenia being named “Sacsina” after them–a term parallel with the “Saxons.” Let’s look again at the relevant sentence here showing the development of the word “Saxon”: “Sakai-Suna or the Sons of Sakai [Sakai-sons] abbreviated into Saksun, which is the same sound as Saxon, seems a reasonable etymology of the word ‘Saxon'” (p. 87).
Now where did this word Sakai or Sacae come from? “SACCAE was the contemporary Middle Eastern term for Scyth and the name is believed to be a DERIVATIVE OF ‘ISAAC'” (Davidy, p. 128). Doesn’t it make sense, then, that “SAXONS” is simply a logical linguistic corruption of “ISAAC’S SONS.”
In pronouncing the Hebrew word for Isaac, Yitzak, it is easy to see how the first syllable could be dropped over time. In American English, the first “o” in the word “oppossum” is no longer pronounced by many people. Other word corruptions are more dramatic–a “telephone” is now simply a “phone.” A “refrigerator” is a “fridge.” Instead of sending “facsimiles,” we send “faxes.” Most nicknames derive from the same shortening of words. For instance, women named Elizabeth are often called “Liz” or “Beth.”
But perhaps the most poignant example of this for our purposes is what the Assyrians (whose court language was Semitic) did with the word Israel (Heb. Yisra’el). Notice how they referred to King Ahab of Israel in ancient documents: “A-ha-ab-bu Sir-‘i-la-a-a” (cf. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, pp. 277-281). They clearly dropped the Yi from Yisra’el (or the “I” from Israel)! Wouldn’t the same be true of Yitzak? Based on all we’ve seen, more than likely! The Yi would be dropped, leaving Tzak (or the “I” dropped, leaving Saac or the plural Saccae).
The name Saccae occurs in numerous other forms besides Sakai, Sakai-Suna, Sacsina and Saxons. They were also known as Sakki, Sagettae, Massagetae, Getae, Geats, Goths, Sacai, Scyths, Scythians, Scolotoi, Scuths, Scuits and Scots. So not only is Isaac’s name to be found in the modern Saxons, it is the “parent” name of all these listed names. Scotland, Skaane and Scandinavia are named after the Scythians–and thus Isaac!