The few but precious references to eastern Asia Minor found in the Bible may be divided into three general categories: 1) geographical, 2) tribal-ethnic, and 3) commerce related. Before examining these references in greater detail, a few general observations are in order about some aspects of the books they appear in and about the international situation obtaining during the period the books were written.
The sections of the Old Testament germane to this study were not canonized in their present form until 400 B.C., despite the fact that particular books may have existed in some form—oral or written—300 or more years earlier. With the exception of the passage in Genesis, all the relevant portions describe the period ca. 725-625 when Assyria was at its height and when the states and peoples of eastern Asia Minor were seen by the books' authors as potential allies in the struggle against that state. Consequently, several of the relevant passages are calls for these peoples to rise up and join in defeating their common enemy. Assyria, however, was to be the victor. In 722 the Assyrian king Shalmaneser crushed Israel, deporting many of its residents to Assyria and Assyrian domains, and replacing them with eastern peoples from Assyrian domains, probably including Armenians. In 701 Sennecherib failed to take Jerusalem, but the city finally was captured and ruined by Nebuchadrezzar in 597. In that year and again in 586 when a revolt there was quashed, many Jews were deported to Assyria and to its possessions, probably including the Armenian Highlands. The large Jewish population in ancient Armenia and the dominance of the Armenoid anthropological type in the Levant are, in part, legacies of the massive and repeated resetlement of these peoples in each other's homelands in the 8-6th centuries. A much earlier migration of people from the Highlands to the Levant will be discussed in a separate essay.
Since Hebrew does not write vowels as separate letters, the transliteration of the relevant place name rrt, may be interpreted to mean Urartu or Ararat. The passage clearly states "on the mountains of [the land of] Urartu/Ararat." Despite this, later tradition has focused on Mount Ararat specifically. Scholars, including Father Vahan Inglisian (author of Armenia in the Bible [Hayastan surb grk'i mej (Vienna, 1947 pp. 106-124; Armenian trans. of Inglisian's German doctoral dissertation)]) prefer a mountain (perhaps Mt. Qardu) in the district of Korchek', south of Lake Van as the specific landing place for the ark. There is an extensive literature on the subject.
Another geographical reference, also rather vague, concerns the flight of the two sons of the Assyrian king Sennacherib after the murder of their father (682 B.C.). It is found in Isaiah 37, 38 and repeated verbatim in 2 Kings, 19. 37:
36. And the angel of the Lord went forth, and slew a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. 37 Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went home and dwelt at Nineveh. 38 And as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, slew him with the sword, and escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.Armenian tradition considers the district of Sasun to the south west of Lake Van as the place of refuge of the parricides. Cyril Toumanoff in Part II of his Studies in Christian Caucasian History [States and Dynasties of Caucasia in the Formative Centuries], (especially pages 199-211) analyzes the claims of the Armenian noble family, the Artsrunis, to descent from these sons of Sennacherib. Toumanoff considers the Artsrunid claim as unlikely as those of the Bagratid family (descent from King David of Israel) and the Mamikonids (descent from the emperors of China) and suggests how and why such claims arose.
The passages in question appear in the "Table of the Nations" in Genesis, the "Judgement on Babylon" in Jeremiah, and the "Gog and Magog Oracles" in Ezekiel.
Genesis 10.2-3, the "Table of the Nations":
10 These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth; sons were born to them after the flood. 2 the sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. 3 The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. 4 The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. 5 From these the coastland peoples spread. These are the sons of Japheth in their lands, each with his own language, by their families, in their nations.Jeremiah 51. 27 , the "Judgment on Babylon":
27 Set up a standard on the earth, blow the trumpet among the nations; prepare the nations for war against her, summon against her the kingdoms, Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz; appoint a marshal against her, bring up horses like bristling locusts. 28 Prepare the nations for war against her, the kings of the Medes, with their governors and deputies, and every land under their dominion.
Ezek. 38.1-6 (Gomer and Togarmah), part of the "Gog and Magog Oracles," 38.1-39.29.
38 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 "son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him 3 and say, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal; 4 and I will turn you about, and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you forth, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in full armor, a great company, all of them with buckler and shield, wielding swords; 5 Persia, Cush, and Put are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer and all his hordes; Beth-togarmah from the uttermost parts of the north with all his hordes—many peoples are with you..."To date the most thorough analysis of these tribal and national names is found in Igor Diakonoff's Pre-history of the Armenian People [portions available on other pages of this website]. Below are excerpts:
Togarmah Pages 92-99.
Tabal/Tubal Pages 103-104.
Meshech/Mushki Pages 115-119.
Mana/Minni Page 77 and note 159 on p. 168.
Ezek. 27, 13-14 Lamentation over Tyre
12. "Tarshish trafficked with you because of your great wealth of every kind; silver, iron, tin, and lead they exchanged for your wares. 13 Javan, Tubal, and Meschech traded with you; they exchanged the persons of men and vessels of bronze for your merchandise. 14 Beth-togarmah exchanged for your wares horses, war horses, and mules..."
It is known from later Achaemenid times (5th cent. B.C.) that horse-breeding was especially associated with the Armenian Highlands. The Biblical quotations indicate that the breeding and selling of horses also took place somewhat earlier, in the era of Ezekiel (ca. 590 B.C.), and that other war materiel and even slaves were traded.
Such then are the direct Biblical references to eastern Asia Minor. We believe that the Bible also contains a group implied relationships between the Armenian Highlands and Israel dealing with the earliest times. These tantalizing references and/or allusions will be dealt with in a separate essay.
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