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The Forgotten Parthian/Israel Empire #1

History records but historians forget!


From the book "The Lost Ten Tribes of Israel...Found!"

by Steven Collins

     Many readers may wonder, upon seeing the title of this
chapter, "Who or what was Parthia?" It is a testimony to the
woeful lack of historical knowledge in the modern world that such
a question could be asked. Parthia was a vast ancient empire
which ruled over Asian territory at the same time that the Roman
Empire ruled over the Mediterranean region. Although Rome
launched many wars of aggression against Parthia, none succeeded
in their aims of subjugating the Parthians. In fact, Parthia
administered many crushing defeats to Roman armies as these two
ancient "superpowers" opposed each other for centuries. In spite
of the fact that much is known about Parthia's history, it is
almost totally ignored in history texts. How accurate a picture
of ancient history would we have if textbooks neglected to
mention the Roman Empire? It would yield a very distorted view of
ancient history, wouldn't it? Yet we now have an equally
distorted view of world history as a result of Parthia's omission
from texts on ancient history.
     A famous nineteenth century historian, George Rawlinson,
wrote two books extensively documenting the history of the
Parthian Empire. They were entitled "Parthia" and "The Sixth
Great Oriental Monarchy." The Greco-Roman classical writers
recorded a voluminous amount of information about Parthia, and
Rawlinson extensively cites the classical writers in his
histories of the Parthians. He introduces "The Sixth Great
Oriental Monarchy" with these words:

"... the picture of the world during the Roman period ... put
before students in 'Histories of Rome,' was defective, not to say
false, in its omission to recognise the real position of Parthia
... as a counterpoise to the power of Rome, a second figure in
the picture not much inferior to the first, a rival state
dividing with Rome the attention of mankind and the sovereignty
of the known earth. Writers of Roman history have been too much
in the habit of representing (Rome) as ... a Universal Monarchy,
a Power unchecked ... having no other limits than those of the
civilised world ... the truth seems to be that ... from the first
to the last ... there was always in the world a Second Power,
civilised or semi-civilised, which in a true sense balanced Rome,
acted as a counterpoise and a check ... This power for nearly
three centuries (B.C. 64 - A.D. 225) was Parthia." 1

     The concept that Rome had equal rivals in the ancient world
will come as a surprise to most readers. This chapter (and
chapter eight) will attempt to restore a balanced perspective to
our view of ancient history by a thorough discussion of the
origins and history of Parthia. Chapter nine will include
previously unknown information on the considerable role played by
Parthian-Roman geopolitics in the life and ministry of Jesus
     The lack of information on Parthia likely results from the
fact that history has been taught almost exclusively from a
Greco-Roman perspective. This preoccupation with Greco-Roman
history has led to major misunderstandings about the reality of
the ancient world. In earlier chapters we learned that ignorance
of Phoenician and Carthaginian history has led to modern man's
unawareness of the role of North America in ancient history. This
was due to the Phoenician/Carthaginian monopoly of Gibraltar
which, for centuries, denied the Greco-Romans any maritime access
to lands beyond the Mediterranean Sea. As a result, Greece and
Rome were far less advanced than the Phoenicians and
Carthaginians in understanding world geography. Also, we learned
in chapter six that Scythia (the Sacae Scythians) were civilized
people, and that their power was so great that they devastated
the Assyrian Empire and twice defeated the Persian Empire. Yet we
read or hear almost nothing about them.
     This chapter's title indicates that the Parthians were
Israelites who descended from the ten tribes of Israel after
their relocation to Asia. This chapter will present evidence
supporting this assertion, and chapter eight will discuss the
fascinating (and ignored) history of the Parthian Empire.

     Who then were the Parthians? There is no record of their
presence in Asia at all until the Persians refer to them in the
sixth century B.C., and "there is no mention of them in the Old
Testament, or in the Assyrian inscriptions, or in the Zendavesta,
2 This indicates they were not present in Asia until somewhat
prior to the middle of the first millennium B.C. The Persians
called them the "Parthva," and named them as a subject people
involved in a revolt. 3 While they are acknowledged as not being
Aryan in origin, 4 they are clearly identified as having a common
origin with the Scythians. Rawlinson states, "there was a strong
conviction on the part of those who came in contact with the
Parthians, that they were Scyths," 5 and adds "that the Scythic
character of the Parthians is asserted in the strongest terms by
the ancient writers." 6 Rawlinson cites the classical historians
Strabo, Justin and Arrian in stating:

"The manners of the Parthians had, they tell us, much that was
Scythic in them. Their language was half-Scythic, half-Median.
They armed themselves in the Scythic fashion. They were, in fact,
Scyths in descent, in habits, in character." 7

     This Scythian origin of the Parthians is further confirmed
by the fact that many times in their history, ousted Parthian
kings sought refuge among the Sacae tribes of the Scythians or
replenished their armies with soldiers from Scythian tribes. This
recurrent Parthian reliance on the Sacae tribes of Scythia in
times of trouble indicates that the Parthians and Scythians were
natural allies.
     There is a record from Diodorus, a Greek historian of the
first century B.C., that the Parthians had "passed from the
dominion of the Assyrians to that of the a similar
position under the Persians." 8 Rawlinson also notes that early
historians regarded the Parthians to be "exiles." 9 These
statements are very significant. We know from previous chapters
that two waves of Israelite captives were exiled into Asia by the
Assyrians, and that some of them were located in the cities of
the Medes. After the fall of Assyria's empire, it is logical that
the Asian Israelites would come under the dominion of the Medes
and Persians. Since the Parthians were related to the Sacae
Scythians (who bore the name of Isaac), and since there is no
record of any Parthians being in Asia until after the Israelites
were brought there, it seems evident that the Parthians were
exiled members of the ten tribes of Israel. Supporting this view
is the fact that the Parthians were regarded as "exiles," an apt
description for the displaced Israelites.
     Apparently, the Parthians were not happy to be other
nations' subjects. Rawlinson cites an account of Diodorus that
they "revolted from the Medes and placed themselves under
Scythian protection." 10  While Rawlinson offers this
information, he states that Diodorus based it on a source which
Rawlinson does not trust. Nevertheless, it is cited because it
indicates that the Parthians looked to the Scythians as their
protectors and liberators. This further supports the assertion
that the Parthians and Scythians were fellow tribesmen.

The Encyclopedia Britannica records that:

"The alphabets in use in Persia, at least from the time of the
Arsacid dynasty onwards, are based upon the Aramaic ... The
earliest records of Aramaic go back to about 800 B.C. and were
found ... in northern Syria ... Other developments of Aramaic are
modern square Hebrew..." 11 

     The "Arsacid dynasty" was, as we shall see, the dynasty of
the Parthians. That the Parthians utilized an Aramaic alphabet
(and imposed it within their empire) powerfully indicates that
the Parthians originated in the region of Syria and Palestine
where the Aramaic language originated. The fact that the
Parthians used a Semitic alphabet clearly indicates that their
native language and racial origin were Semitic! Also, since early
historians strongly maintain that the Parthians were a Scythic
people, the Semitic nature of Parthia's language further argues
for a Semitic origin for the Scythians. That the Parthian
language was related to the Hebrew language also indicates that
the Parthians were among the descendants of the ten tribes of
Israel, a large mass of Semites who were transplanted into Media
and other Asian regions.
     What little is preserved of the Parthian language also
indicates a Semitic origin for the Parthians. Rawlinson states
the Parthian word for "city" was "karta" or "karta." 12 In
chapter five, the Semitic/Israelite origin of Carthage was
examined, and it was noted that the original Semitic name of
Carthage was "Kirjath Hadeschath." The original Semitic name of
Carthage is also rendered as "Kart Hadasht," meaning "new city."
13 The Semitic origin of Carthage is well established, and they
used the word "kirjath" or "kart (a shortened version of
kirjath)" for "city." The Parthians used the same word ("karta")
for "city," indicating that the Carthaginians and the Parthians
had a common Semitic origin. We shall also later examine the role
of the Parthian "Magi," an influential portion of Parthia's
ruling classes. An early Carthaginian ruler was named "Mago," 14
again indicating a common linguistic heritage with the Parthians.
A prominent family of Parthians was called the "Suren" family, 15
and one of their hereditary rights was to crown each
newly-elected king. 16 The word "Suren" (it also appears as
"surena" or "surenas") is a Hebrew composite word. The Hebrew
word "sur" includes the meaning "reign" or "make princes." 17 The
Hebrew word "en" (or "ayin") includes the meaning "face," "eye,"
"sight" or "presence." 18 The Parthian name "suren" is Hebrew for
a person whose "presence makes princes" or "reign in his
(eye)sight." The Parthian Suren did exactly what the Hebrew words
signify, showing a parallel between the Hebrew and the Parthian
languages. What little is preserved about the Parthian language
indicates that it originated in the Semitic/Hebrew family of
languages. We shall also see that many of the personal and place
names of the Parthians were not just Semitic, but were
specifically, Israelite in nature.
     After the Persian Empire's fall, Parthian territory fell
into the hands of the Greeks under Alexander the Great. In the
division of Alexander's kingdom at his death, Parthia was ruled
by the Seleucid Greek Empire. In approximately 256 B.C., the
provinces of Parthia and Bactria revolted against Seleucid Greek
rule, and declared their independence. There is some difference
of opinion whether they revolted in the same year or in proximate
years, 19 but there is a consensus that the development and
independence of Parthia and Bactria were intertwined, 20 Some
historians record that Arsaces, the first king of the Parthians,
was a Bactrian, but most accounts agree that he was the chieftain
of a Scythian tribe (the Dahanites) who slew the Greek satrap and
liberated his Parthian kinsmen. 21 It should also be noted that
"Arsaces," the Scythian founder of Parthia's dynasty, included
the name of "Isaac" and the "Sacae" Scythians in his personal
name ("Ar-sac-es").
     Hosea 1:6-10 recorded a promise from God that he would make
the Israelites too numerous to count after he sent them into
captivity. The Jewish historian Josephus confirmed that this had
happened by the first century A.D. Given their huge population,
it is logical that the Israelites would also have become known by
the names of their subtribes in addition to the names of their
principal tribes. Many are aware that some parts of the Bible
record genealogies of the tribes of Israel, and many people
regard them as the most boring parts of the Bible. However, for
historical research, these sections can be invaluable. Among
other things, they indicate the names of the individual clans of
the tribes of Israel, and some of these names can be located in
geographic and proper names in the postexilic period.
     For example, Numbers 26:35-36 records that subtribes (or
clans) of the Israelite tribe of Ephraim were named the
Bachrites, the Eranites, and the Tahanites. The old Seleucid
province of Bactria, which grew up in conjunction with Parthia,
bears the name of one of the subtribes of Ephraim in a Hellenized
form. An Israelite origin for Bactria is supported by the
indication that the Bactrian language "...was related to Saka, or
at least underwent strong influences from Saka tongues." 22 The
record that the Bactrians welcomed a Scythian ruler who freed
them from a Greek satrap, and the further indication that the
Bactrians shared a linguistic heritage with the Parthians argues
that the Bactrians were also Sacae (or Saka) who had descended
from the ten tribes of Israel. Henry Rawlinson, in his book
"Bactria," states: "there seems to be very little doubt that the
population of Bactria was largely Scythian"...(and cites Justin,
a classical author, who wrote)...'The Bactrian Empire was founded
by the Scythians.'" 23
     Numbers 26:36 also notes that another clan of the tribe of
Ephraim descended from Eran and was known as the "Eranites." A
group of people known as the Eranians were present in the region
of ancient Persia and Parthia. 24 It is significant that Assyria
transplanted the defenders of Samaria (an Ephraimite city) into
"the cities of the Medes." Therefore, we would expect thereafter
to notice some Ephraimite names in the Medo-Persian region. The
"Eranians" bore the exact Hebrew name of one of the clans of
Ephraim in the area of Persia/Parthia. This name survives today
in the modern name for the territory of ancient Persia: Iran.
Indeed, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, in referencing "Eran" in
its Index section, simply states "Eran: see Iran." 25 The modern
capital of Iran is named Teheran, also preserving the name of
this Ephraimite clan; This book in no way maintains or implies
that the modern Iranians are Israelites as it is very clear from
subsequent history that the modern Iranians are principally
Medo-Persian in racial origins. However, the name "Iran"
apparently does come from the name of one of the clans of
Ephraim, which was placed in Medo-Persian territory by the
Assyrians and lived there for many centuries.
     There is evidence of considerable Semitic influence in
ancient Persia. In commenting on the ancient Pehlevi (Pahlavi)
Persian language, Zenaide Ragozin states:

"Pehlevi ... does not seem to be Persian at all, but rather
Semitic. That is, an enormous proportion of the words - nouns,
pronouns, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions - are
Semitic, while the grammar and construction ... are Eranian ...
[and questions how this could have happened] - if not by constant
contact with old Semitic nations." 26

     The obvious reason why Pehlevi, an old Persian tongue, had
such a strong Semitic character is that a large portion of the
ten tribes of Israel (a Semitic nation) was forcibly resettled in
Medo-Persian areas by the Assyrians. Additionally, large numbers
of Jews were settled in Mesopotamia when Judah fell to the
Babylonians. The descendants of all those captive Israelites were
later absorbed into the Persian Empire. Indeed, many Jews
(Daniel, Esther, Mordechai, Nehemiah, Ezra, etc. had very high
governmental positions in the Persian Empire). Since the Jews
were Semites, they also influenced the language of Persia in a
Semitic direction. Later, when the Parthians (descendants of the
ten tribes of Israel) ruled the whole region for centuries, their
Semitic language would have greatly impacted the language of
Persia. The Encyclopaedia Britannica also notes the Semitic
nature of the Persian Pahlavi language:

"The name [Pahlavi or Pehleui], which means Parthian, can be
traced back for many centuries ... The great peculiarity of the
language is that though it is Iranian, it is full of Semitic
(Aramaic) words..." 27

     Given the information contained in this book, it is not at
all peculiar that this Persian language should have such a strong
Semitic background. Various officials of the Achaemenid Persian
Empire were from the Israelite tribe of Judah, and the Parthians
were themselves descendants of the ten tribes of Israel. The term
"Iran" comes from the Ephraimite clan named after "Eran," and
even the term "Pahlavi" or "Pehlevi" contains the name of the
Israelite tribe of Levi!
     As mentioned above, the Scythian clan of the Dahanites had a
major role in the origins of Parthia's independence. It is
possible that they were from a third major branch of the
Ephraimites mentioned in Numbers 26:35 ... the "Tahanites." If
the Dahanites were the Tahanites of Ephraim ("d" and 'T' are
linguistically-similar consonants), it would mean that Parthian
independence began as a result of three separate clans of the
tribe of Ephraim acting in concert. The Bactrians, Eranians and
Dahanites were most likely the Ephraimite clans of the Bachrites,
the Eranites, and the Tahanites, and their mutual cooperation
would have been the backbone of Parthia's strength. The
subsequent stability of Parthia argues that its component clans
were closely related and had much in common. This stability is
understandable if the above clans were all part of the tribe of
Ephraim. While the name "Dahanites" also seems similar to the
tribe of Dan, it is doubtful they were Danites. The tribe of Dan
traditionally did not act in concert with (or consult) the other
tribes about its actions. Joshua 19:47 records the Danites
undertook a war without advise or cooperation from the other
tribes, and Ezekiel 27:17-19 shows the Danites had developed an
identity completely apart from the other tribes. Since the
Danites were historically "loners" among the tribes of Israel, it
is likely the Scythian "Dahanites" were the "Tahanites" of

     Since Ephraimite names predominate in Parthia's origin, and
since the Massagetae were one of the foremost tribes of their
Scythian kinsmen, it indicates that Ephraim and Manasseh (the
major tribes of the ten-tribed kingdom of Israel, and inheritors
of the "birthright" promise of Genesis 48 that included national
greatness) were the dominant tribes of the Parthians and
Scythians, respectively. No wonder that history records a very
close relationship between the Scythians and the Parthians.
     However, even though the Parthians were kinsmen to (and
frequently allied to) the Scythians, they were not always
peaceable with one another (as we shall see in the next chapter).

     As further evidence of the Israelite origins of the
Parthians, some Parthian cities were given Hebrew names. An early
capital of the Parthians was named Dara, 28 which is the exact
name of one of the early forebears of the tribe of Judah (I
Chronicles 2:3-6).
     God had promised that the tribe of Judah would produce kings
and rulers (the "sceptre" promise of Genesis 49:10), and King
David was promised that he would always have descendants ruling
over the House of Israel (Jeremiah 33:17). Jeremiah's prophecy
was made after the relocation of the House of Israel (the
northern ten tribes) into Asia. Therefore, because of the timing
of Jeremiah's prophecy, we should expect to find descendants of
King David ruling over the ten tribes of Israel after they moved
to Asia.
     However, the Jewish forebear named "Dara" was of the
subtribe of Zerah, not the Phares branch of the Jews which
produced both King David and Jesus Christ. This reference to the
Zerah branch of Judah is rare in Parthian annals, but there are
many Parthian kings with names containing the root word "Phares"
(indicating David's royal bloodline). From the eastern edge of
Parthian rule and influence to the western edge, Parthian kings
regularly included the "Phares" name. A Parthian king who ruled
in the area of West India was named Gondophares, 29 and several
kings ruling over the Caucasus mountain kingdom of Iberia were
named Pharasmanes. 30
     Chapter four noted that the term "Iberia" is a name derived
from the root word "Eber," the father of the Hebrews. Strabo
records that the Iberians were the kinsmen of the Scythians, 31
whose Israelite origin has already been demonstrated. The above
examples alone show that David's descendants of the House of
Phares were ruling over separate groups of the ten tribes of
Israel from the Caucasus Mountains to the territory of modern
India. Also, many kings of Parthia itself had names indicating
that they were also royal members of the Davidic line of Judah.
Such names include the key consonants of PH-R-S in Hellenized
forms of their Parthian names (such Parthian royal names as
Phraates, Phraortes, and Phraataces are examples). Over the
centuries God kept his promise to David by causing David's
descendants to rule over many Israelite nations in Asia.

     How did David's descendants (from the defunct kingdom of
Judah) ever come to rule over the descendants of the ten tribes
in Asia? While God can easily intervene in world affairs to keep
his promises, the Bible suggests how this might have happened. In
2 Kings 24:8-15, we read that one of the last kings of Judah,
Jehoiachin, was carried captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. Was
this the end of him? Hardly! 2 Kings 25:27-30 shows that after 37
years of captivity, a later king of Babylon:

"...did lift up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah out of
prison; and he spake kindly to him, and set his throne above the
thrones of the kings that were with him in Babylon..." (KJV)

     The king of Babylon was supreme over the Babylonian Empire,
but he was served by many subordinate rulers, who were vassal
kings over assigned areas. That a Babylonian king gave Jehoiachin
a throne indicates that Jehoiachin was made a vassal ruler over
part of the Babylonian Empire. Indeed, the account states that he
was set "above" the other vassal kings! Since there were many
descendants of the ten tribes of Israel who were subordinate to
the Babylonian Empire (which inherited them when it conquered
Assyria), it is most likely that Jehoiachin was made a ruler over
the Israelites in Babylon's Empire. Since Jehoiachin was a
descendant of King David (of the Phares line), his descendants
apparently established a dynasty which continued to rule over
descendants of the ten tribes when they regained their
independence. I Chronicles 3:16-24 records that the royal family
of Judah did not die out, but produced many descendants during
the generations after the fall of Jerusalem. There was no
shortage of royal princes of David's House to place on thrones
over the descendants of the ten tribes. Since the Babylonian king
made Jehoiachin a favored vassal king, he may have set some of
Jehoiachin's relatives in positions of power as well. Perhaps the
Babylonians felt that the captive nations of the Assyrians (whom
they inherited as subjects) would exhibit less rebelliousness if
they were given their own hereditary rulers as vassal kings. A
search would have found Jehoiachin, a hereditary Israelite ruler,
alive in a dungeon. The years in prison likely made Jehoiachin a
very grateful vassal king, indeed!
     However, this is not the only source of Davidic rulers over
the ten tribes of Israel. The kings of Iberia (named Pharasmanes)
in the Caucasus region near the Black Sea were not captives of
Assyria or


Israel/Judah:       Judah =>  Phares =>  David

Iberia/Scythia:     King Pharesmenes

Parthian/Saka:      King Gondophares 

Parthia/Sacae:      Kings Phraates, Phraortes, Phraataces

Christ's Lineage:   Phares    =>   David =>  Jesus Christ


To be continued

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