BEFORE introducing our heroine, her sister and their now aged guardian and sole remaining relative, the Prophet Jeremiah, in their new domicile, it will be better, perhaps, (in order to enable the reader to follow their fortunes), if we briefly take notice of the condition of the Iberian Peninsula at the time of their arrival in that country (585 B.C.).
And it should be noted that, as the Portuguese State was not founded until long after the Arabic and Moorish kingdoms in Spain had fallen into decrepitude, and so made it possible for the Christians to emerge from the fastnesses of Galicia and the Asturian Highlands, into which they had been driven by successive waves of Mohammedan conquest (from 711 to about 1200 A.D.),, Portugal has "neither part nor lot in this matter"; and the term Spain must be taken to include the whole of the Iberian Peninsula.
But we will not inflict on the reader any lengthened dissertation on the ancient Israelitish Settlements in Spain - some of which were founded long anterior (circa 300 years) to any Philistinian or Phoenician enterprise in the Western Mediterranean which would be foreign to our purpose and out of place in this brief narrative.
We will, therefore, confine ourselves to a condensed account of the very earliest of these Israelitish Colonies, and the one which gave the name of "Iberia" to the entire region.
And here we would remark that it was a general principle with all Mohammedan Conquerors to extirpate all traces of antiquity in the lands which they subdued, and give them, as far as possible, an entirely new form and aspect; - in other words, to obliterate and destroy every vestige of the higher and nobler civilizations which had formerly adorned those once flourishing regions. [In much the same way, in 2001 A.D., the Taliban destroyed the giant statues of Buddha at Bamian in Afghanistan.]
THE ZARAHITES, IBERIANS, OR MILESIANS.
The Milesians, or Scotii (as they were afterwards designated in the old Irish Annals), who have figured so largely in Spanish and British histories since their very commencement, and were the first Israelitish Colonists to leave the East and settle in the extreme North-East of Spain were the descendants of Zarah, Zerah, or Zara, one of the twin-sons of Judah by his daughter-in-law, Tamar (Gen. 38:27-30; 1 Chron. 2:4; Matt. 1:3, RV.); not to be confounded with the Zorah or Zohar of Numbers 26:12-14, who was of Simeon.
This Zarah of the Scarlet Thread went down, in his grandfather's little company of seventy souls, to Egypt (Gen. 46:12), and probably died there, with his brother Perez, "and all his brethren, and all that generation," before "there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph" (Exod. 1:6-8).
This "new king" would be Sequenen-Ra, or one of his sons Kaames or Aahmes I., the Founder of the 18th dynasty of the old Hamitic Pharaohs, and the kings which drove out the Haqu-Shashu, ("Hyksos"), or Shepherd Kings of Egypt.
The descendants of Zarah, - knowing all the circumstances related in Genesis 38:28-30, and smarting under what they regarded as a fraud by which they had been deprived of the rights and privileges attaching to the Birthright - formed a plan of quitting Egypt altogether, thus cutting themselves off from any portion or inheritance in Israel. This must have been before the cruel bondage referred to in Exodus 1:7-14, else the scheme would have been frustrated. Finding themselves numerically unequal to any large undertaking, they picked out or elected from other discontented Israelites those who would cast in their lot with them in the contemplated enterprise. The men (and, of course, women) thus chosen or elected were styled "Ibharim," from the Hebrew word "ibhar" (chosen or elected), and from this circumstance the whole body of these adventurers were designated `Ibharim'; and this name - softened into "Iberia," became the ancient appellation of the Spanish Peninsula, on the North-Eastern coast of which they settled down, and where they remained in peace and prosperity until about the year 238 B.C., when Hamilcar Barca, the Carthaginian General, invaded Spain and attempted its conquest.
These Zarahites or Milesians, having never been subjected to the degradation of the Egyptian bondage (a slur afterwards cast in the teeth of the Israelites by their Philistine foes - 1 Sam. 4:9), have always considered themselves as the very creme de la creme of their race, and the true nobility of Israel; of which in consequence, they were very clannish, and held themselves aloof from the other and later Danite and Ashero-Phoenician colonists, whom they affected to despise. Their first Settlement was Segubloi ("fortress of the wanderers"), Romanized into Saguntum, and now known as Sagunto, or Murviedro ("old walls"), which must be the oldest town in Europe; having been founded long prior to Utica, Hippo, Leptis, Hadrumetum, and other Canaanitish Settlements on the North African Shore, established by refugees from Phoenicia on the Israelitish Conquest of Canaan: and, of course, centuries before the foundations of Mycenae, Argos, Athens, or Sparta; six hundred years before Elissa (Dido) founded her city of Carthage; and quite eight hundred years before the rise of the seven-hilled city on the Tiber.
From Sagunto, on the coast of what is now Valencia, the Zarahites, Iberians, or Milesians worked their way into Araun-Gozan ("the cursed pasture"), now Aragon, founding on their way Zara-u-el ("brightness of God"), now Teruel, and Segub-ragan (the "neighbor's fortress"), now Segara, until they reached the mighty river named after them, the Iberus (Ebro), on the banks of which they established their great stronghold, naming it after their ancestor Zara-Gaza ("the Strength of Zara"), now Zaragaza or Saragossa. And, from this point d'appui, these adventurous people pushed up along the course of the Ebro towards the rich metalliferous Basque Mountains - where the ancient aborigines, the Basques, still preserve their peculiar national characteristics to this day, quite distinct from their Spanish and French neighbors (Numb. 23:9) until they reached the stormy Bay of the Atlantic, the Yam Birska, or "evil sea" (now softened into Biscay or Viscaya), not far from which they founded another stronghold to which they gave the name of Baal-boaz ("the Might of Baal"), now softened into Bilboa.
The maps of Spain and Portugal are studded with place-names of Israelitish origin prefaced with the word Zara: and Perez (the name of Zarah's twin-brother) is as common a masculine designation in the Peninsula as "John" is in this country. The clumsy attempt on the part of some (who, from their arrogant pretensions, ought to know better), to refer these Israelitish names to Greek and Roman sources, must have been the result of the sheer ignorance of the early history of Spain, which has been so marred by Hellenic and Latin Writers as to be unintelligible; much in the same way as the story of the Arabic and Moorish period has been travestied by modern authors. For example, the name of Zaragossa which is but a modified form of Zarah-Gaza, "the strength or stronghold of Zarah" - has been referred to as the corrupted designation of "Caesarea Augusta," bestowed upon the venerable city on the Ebro by the Roman legionaries serving in Spain; in a similar manner H.M.S. "Bellerophon" is persistently styled the Belly Ruffian by our bluejackets [Royal Navy].
But any person who has any acquaintance with the style and peculiarities of ancient Shemitic architecture, as displayed in the Middle East, can at once recognize in the ruins of the old-time edifices that once adorned Zaragossa, Sagunto, Teruel, Segura, Zaruz, Zuera, Setabul, Bilboa, and other places in the Iberian Peninsula, the remains of structures which must have been erected perhaps a millennium and a half before "Octavius Augustus Caesar formed the project of transforming the collection of mud hovels designated 'Rome' into a city of marble!"
And we may say that there are also a great many Irish, English, and Scottish place-names which bear unmistakable indications of Israelitish origin. But this will become more apparent as we proceed with our story.
Our exiles, in all probability, landed in Spain at the great port of Zagunto (Segub-toi, the "raised or fortified place of the wanderers"), in later years Latinized into Saguntum, and now Sagunto or Murviedro ("old walls"), in the province of Valencia. This place was the great emporium of the Iberian (Zarahite) Settlements on the eastern coast of Spain, and between it and the Palestinian Ports of Great Zidon, Tyre and Joppa, as well as with Egypt, there existed from remote times a great trade in metals (Ezek. 27:12); constant communication by sea being maintained by the "ships of Tarshish" 1 Kings 10:22; 2 Chron. 9:21; Jonah 1:3; Isaiah 2:26; ibid. 9:9; Jer. 10:9; Ezek. 23:12 and 25.
At this very ancient city there are still many memorials of non-European origin displaying the old-time activity of people of undoubted Shemitic nationality, Saguntum was of such importance in later times that a special Treaty in regard to it existed between the Carthaginian and Roman Republics; and its siege by Hannibal in 222 B.C. was the causus belli of the Second Punic War.
From Sagunto, Jeremiah, with the two Princesses, and Baruch, proceeded to Zaragossa, the chief stronghold of the Zarahites, and here they were received with great honour and entertained as befitting their high rank. And at this city the younger of the two Princesses (whose name, I regret to say, has not come down to us) was wooed and won by the eldest son of the reigning Prince of the Zarahites. Probably by some direct revelation, Jeremiah was told that he must prepare to set out towards "that land which he knew not," and of which God had previously given him intimation (Jer. 15:14); but he was fortified by the Divine promise, "Verily, it shall be, well with thy remnant: verily I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil and in the time of affliction" (Jer. 15:12).
Perhaps, in prophetic vision, he saw the union of the descendants of the two Princesses which was, in the Providence of God, to take place, 1,600 years afterwards, in
"Yon Far Western Isles that hear the Atlantic roar."
However, be this as it may, in less than a year from their landing at Segub-toi, or Sagunto, we find the Prophet Jeremiah, Princess (or rather Queen) Tamar, Baruch, and their companions in travel at Baal-boaz (Bilboa), not far from the shores of the Yum Birska, or "evil sea," now the Bay of Biscay, waiting for a passage into Ireland. Well might the troubled waters of this arm of the restless Atlantic somewhat daunt them after their experience of the placid, tideless Mediterranean; but the Prophet knew that it was God's Will; and had not God promised His protection?
And here we will leave them for a while and take a brief view of the country to the shores of which they were bound.
[The valuable collection of MSS, relating to the Israelitish Settlements in North-eastern Spain, collected by Don Gil Mendez, of Miranda del Ebro and Santander, was in great part wantonly destroyed by the Carlist General Iturralde in 1838; and a similar fate befell another, and said to have been a still more valuable collection, made by a gentleman named Enriquez, which was burned at Trevino, in the Basque Province of Alava, by the Christino General Leon, in 1838 or 1839.]
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