The Goths -- A Branch of Israel in Exile

One of the locations in which the Assyrians exiled the House of Israel was to a region of Mesopotamia known as Gutium, which extended north from the city of Nineveh up to the mountainous area around Lake Van. The word Gutium was a toponym, a place-name; something like "America" or "North Dakota." A "North Dakotan" citizen can be of any race, even though the original inhabitants were Dakota Indians. In a similar way, Israelites exiled to Gutium were called "Guti," even though they were not of the same racial descent as the original Mesopotamian people of that name.

The original non-Hebrew tribe took upon themselves the name of their god, Guti, and had a history dating to the second or third millennium, B.C. In addition, due to their warlike nature, the name Guti also became a synonym for "warrior" in the Chaldean language. Their original homeland was in the southern Zagros Mountains between Chaldea and Persia, a region known to historians as Luristan or Kurdistan.

In about 2200 B.C., the Guti swept down from their mountain strongholds to conquer all of Mesopotamia, destroying the Akkad dynasty. "Under Erridu-pizir they [Guti] took possession of Nippur and subdued the whole of Babylonia, at the same time sacking many of her famous cities and temples. This [was a] period of utter ruin and devastation... " (Babylonian Expedition of University Of Pennsylvania, Series D, p. 23).

Their Mesopotamian rule lasted less than a century, ending with defeat before the year 2100 B.C. "Utuchegal, who succeeded in driving the Guti out of the country...calls the Guti 'the dragon of the mountains, the enemy of the gods'" (Civilization of Babylonia and Assyria, Morris Jastrow, p. 138-9).

Their surviving remnant fled from Babylon and Chaldea north to the Tigris and Lower Zab River. "The Guti held both banks of the Lower Zab, in the mountains east of Assyria" (History of Egypt, G. Maspero, p.171)

Still later, after further attacks upon them, the surviving tribal remnant was driven further north into the mountains bordering northern Assyria, giving their name to that region. "Gutium was north of Anzan and Susa, and corresponded substantially to Armenia south of Lake Van...the country between the Euphrates and Tigris. In fact, through all the changes in population, the part of the world north of Assyria was known to the inhabitants of Babylon and Assyria as Gutium. Ashurbanipal, in his Annals (col. iii, 103), speaks of the kings of the land of Guti." (Studies in the Book of Daniel, Robt. Dick Wilson, p.152) Morris Jastrow also refers to "Guti -- a land in the distant the north of Assyria..." (Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria, p. 236) These people then seem to have mysteriously disappeared from the pages of written history, leaving very little record of their culture and past behind. "The toponym Gutium continued in use until the Persian period as a rather vague district name, but nothing is certain about the population of the area in this age," according to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Geoffrey Bromiley, II:582).

"In Mesopotamia, archaeologists are unable to identify a single fragment of material culture as belonging to the Guti. Nor do the Akkadian (Western Semitic) texts contain any loan words identifiable as Indo-European. Thus, the Guti, save for their name and their activities as recorded in the Mesopotamian texts, are all but invisible" (Indo-Aryan Controversy, Laurie L. Patton & Edwin Bryant, p.171).

Who were these original Guti? Scholars are divided on their origin, some claiming that they were Semitic, while others say Indo-European. "Their writing was Babylonian, and their royal names largely Semitic, but neither of these facts is conclusive. While Professor Hilprecht has classed them with the Semites, Oppert has suggested, not without some show of reason, that the name 'Guti' has an Aryan sound, like Gothi, the Goths, and therefore the tribe itself may have been of this blood. Winkler believes that the Guti had a tongue of their own, but wrote in Semitic (Geschichte Babyloniens, p. 82) Hilprecht gives reasons for holding that Semitic was the native language of both Guti and Lulubi" (Old Babylonian Inscriptions, pp. 12-14).

Compounding the problem is that the Guti left behind very little for modern scholars to analyze. Professor H.W.F. Saggs notes, "Few undoubted Gutian inscriptions are known, chiefly a dedication in Old Akkadian on a macehead, and there are virtually no details of Gutian rule in Mesopotamia" (Babylonians, p. 81-2)

Within this Gutian region, the people of Israel were resettled at a location called Halah, according to 2 Kings 17:6, a place-name which is still a matter of some dispute among scholars. One prominent scholar and Assyriologist, Professor Millard, gave evidence that Halah was "the Assyrian site of Halahhu, a town and a district northeast of Nineveh," in the Gutian mountains southwest of Lake Van (Anchor Bible Dictionary, iii:25) In placing exiled Israelites there, the Assyrians were seeking to populate the area. Therefore, if any of the original inhabitants remained, they were apparently few in number and their existence is unknown to history.

Although information from that early time is sparse, we do find some evidences of Israel in Halah-Gutium during the captivity. We are told, for example, that, "One of their original totems was apparently the ploughing bull...they were a mixed race of nomadic herdsmen and agricultural farmers...made the antelope [i.e. hind] the totem of the united races, which was afterward changed into a bull" (Ruling Races of PreHistoric Times, p. xxxv). The reference to their being a mixed race apparently stems from the difficulty historians have of deciding whether the Gutians were Semitic or Indo-European, or a mixture of peoples incorporating both. However, the heraldry of these people is a strong identifying mark of their origin. The bull was a symbol of the House of Israel, known as Ephraim after their leading tribe. The antelope or hind was the heraldry of the tribe of Naphtali; this tribe is specifically mentioned as having been taken into exile to Assyria by Tiglath-Pileser about 732 B.C., as recorded in 2 Kings 15:29. According to Herodotus, who called them Getae, they said that their God was the only true God, and that when Darius came against them they were the youngest of nations, only a thousand years old. A thousand years earlier was the Exodus and birth of the nation of Israel.

What happened to the Guti? Historians tell us that they were driven out of the Mideast altogether. Although there was "a trend for semi-nomadic groups to come into Mesopotamia...the Guti were thrown out as soon as possible and regarded as horrible foreigners. The rest were apparently assimilated with minimal pain" (Life In The Ancient Near East, Daniel C. Snell, 1997, p. 121).

Professor H.V. Hilprecht agreed saying, "It was possibly the Armenians themselves, who, pushing from the southeast toward Lake Van, forced the Guti out of their original home, driving them before them, until they disappear from history, probably to reappear again in southeastern Europe on the shore of the Black Sea under the name of the Goths (Latin Gutae or Gothi)" (Babylonian Expedition of University Of Pennsylvania, Series D, p. 32) It was the Romans who changed the name Guti into "Goth," as they are known in history books today. Professor Hilprecht also stated that in the "subsequent northern migration of the Guti...we have an important indication as to the way which the Guti took in their later wanderings" (Babylonian Expedition of University Of Pennsylvania, Series D, p. 31)

The Goths are often referred to as "a wandering tribe." According to Gen. 49:21, "Naphtali is a hind let loose." Thomas Wolfram says, "Old songs tell the story of the trek of the Goths...the tribe supposedly suffered from overpopulation [Israel was foretold to be a great multitude, Gen. 26:4; 28:14; 32:12-13, etc.]. So the army of the Goths together with women and children left its homeland on the decision of King Filimer...Eventually the Goths settled in Oium ('rich meadows') on the shore of the Sea of Azov," north of the Caucasus in Europe (History of the Goths, p. 42).

Professor Wolfram also adds, "The first Gutthia-Gothica of ancient ethnography is therefore located on the shores of the Black Sea, either in the Crimea or on the Kerch peninsula or, more probably, in present day Romania. [Note that 2 Esdras 13:40-46 says that the House of Israel migrated to "Arsareth," which has been identified as the River Sereth in Romania.] The Gothic name appears for the first time between A.D. 16 and 18" (History of the Goths, p. 22). Prof. Wolfram also informs us that early writers claimed that at some past time, "the Goths had been in bondage" (ibid. p. 26). Evidently this was a reference to the Assyrian captivity.

A number of scholars attest to the Guti-Goth identification: "Oppert connects the Goths with the Guti" (History of Egypt, VI: 154, note 1) "If the Goths stand in close relation to the Guti, as I claim, we should find the Guti proper names of great value" (Revue Semitique, Joseph Halevy, p. 365)

Much more can (and soon will in book form) be said on this subject, but we will close this dissertation with still more evidence that "Caucasian" peoples such as the Goths had a Mideast origin: "The Caucasic tribes... originally occupied localities well to the south of their present position. The indications are that they did not reach the Caucasus until late...and then as REFUGEES, driven from more favored climes to the south and southeast, and bringing with them elements of the characteristic cultures of those regions. This is the result of a careful comparison of the oldest artifacts from the necropolis of Trans-Caucasia (see F. Heger, in Verhand. Berliner Anthrop. Ges., 1891, p. 424). M. E. Chantre believes the connection was with Assyrian culture, and an equal authority, M. de Morgan, that it was with Iranian [i.e. Medo-Persian] (Morgan, Mission Scientifique Caucase, Paris, 1889)" (ProtoHistoric Ethnography of Western Asia, Dr. Daniel G. Brinton, p. 79).

-- Jory Steven Brooks

Hope of Israel Ministries
P.O. Box 853
Azusa, CA 91702, U.S.A.