A. Stewart, Australia.
THERE is much evidence in Scripture to show that Israel has been, and still is, a scattered people, in spite of the fact that the great majority of the nation has been gathered in the isles of the west (2 Samuel 7:10). The blindness which God cast upon this people as to their identity and whereabouts, was one feature of their seven times of punishment (2520 years). This has caused historians and ethnologists to fail in linking up these various remnants of Israel with their ancient forebears.
One such remnant is, today, to be found in south-west France and north-east Spain, with the Pyrenees mountains dividing them. These people are known as the nation of the Basques.
The original Basque name of the people was "Eskuara," which means "clearly speaking." Their land is "Eskual Herria," from the Basque word for "sun." They are a race quite apart from their adjacent neighbours. and there is a mystery surrounding their origin and history. The great reserve they display in their contacts with the outside world has clothed them with an air of remoteness and an atmosphere of romance. All research workers are agreed that they are definitely a European race, and the oldest surviving race in Europe today.
Early Basque writers speak of their race as, "We whose language was broken," and this belief, that theirs was the original pure language spoken, before language was confused, has been handed down generation by generation. The Basque language, interesting but difficult to learn, is described as one of the fourteen languages
that Latin did not destroy. It is very similar to the Ibemia language, and we shall see why.
There are eight universally recognised dialects in this language, hence its difficulty in mastering. Basque printed literature is not at all extensive. Rather does it excel in
the unwritten word handed down by oral tradition. An early historian, Strabo, states that one Iberian tribe preserved historical writings and poems of great antiquity.
There are seven provinces in the Basque territory; four in Spain. and three in France. About 80% of the people live in Spain. In the early 1960's in a survey of the
population, it was found that 450,000 were in Spain, and 100,000 in France. Their home is a lovely land of mountain, valley and sea coast, sloping down to the Bay
of Biscay. The Revd Wentworth Webster, an English chaplain dwelling for many years in retirement among the Basques, writes with authority on these folk.
Early research writers state that they are at least related to or descended from the Iberians, who inhabited the whole of the Spanish Peninsula, and who have left many. traces of their existence in the form of cave drawings, inscriptions and tombstones throughout Spain.
Now, who were the Iberians? Let us think back to Heber or Eber from whom Abraham was descended, and from whom the name "Hebrew" comes.
As we know, the letter "h" sound is often omitted in sounding words. Sometimes it is included in the spelling and sometimes not. Vowels also have so often been
interchangeable. From Heber comes the ancient name of Ireland, "Hibernia." "Erin" and "Eire," as southern Ireland is named today, both stem from that old Hebrew name. "Iberia," the original name of Spain, also comes from the same name. Again, we have the river "Ebro" in Spain.
When Israel was brought out of Egypt and finally settled in Canaan, we note that the ruling Judah sovereigns came from the twin son of Judah, Pharez by name, whilst the descendants of the other twin Zarah, who was marked as the heir to the throne by the crimson thread around his wrist, never entered the promised land, but dwelt, as certified by history, around the Black Sea area. The name of the strait - "Dardanelles" - is taken from a son of Zarah-Judah "Darda" by name. A section of the people was known as the "Dardanians" of Asia Minor. Professor A. H. Sayee traces a blond, long-headed race from this area, who moved into Spain and southem France, some remaining there, whilst others entered the British Isles.
The Basques are a long-headed people, many with blue eyes, light brown hair and fair skin. They are a tall people with broad shoulders and a strong physique.
Through the centuries, other Israel tribes have found their way along the same route to join their brethren.
Historians write that the Basques as a race are indistinguishable from their other brethren, the Breton fishermen of Brittany in a coastal region of France. "Zaragoza" is a town in Spain today, bearing Zarah's name, plus a resemblance in name to the land of "Goshen" where they dwelt in Egypt. Along their route of entrance to Spain, and in France,we find the ancient Hebrew type of tombstone, the cross and the wheel at the top, found everywhere the Celtic race has dwelt.
The Basques are a deeply religious people, steeped in the history and prophecies of the Old Testament. They are regular churchgoers. About the 6th century they
The Spanish Basques are a more progressive section than their French brethren, for the land of Spain is rich in mineral wealth, and so these people have developed a vigorous and flourishing iron trade, besides other industries. They own their flocks of sheep, a link up also with old Israel days. The French Basques are more of a
peasant type, small farmers, and fishermen. Their land in France has no mineral deposits and is of a poorer type.
The Basques have played a great part in Spanish history in peace time and in war, where they greatly aided the French in resisting the German forces in World War II. These people have a high moral standard in their dealings and in their social life. The esteem in which the Basque merchants were held by the citizens of Bruges is shown by a document dated 1/12/43, which reads:
"The magistrates of the city grant the noble nation of the Basques complete immunity from judicial interference."
Their legal system is based on the Common Law, not on the Salic Law as is Spanish and French Law. The old patriarchal system of inheritance still exists. The father is head of the house until death, when a son or a daughter may inherit equally. Representatives of the nation proceed annually to the frontier as in ancient days, to pay tribute which is in the form of three cows and a sum of gold.
The Basques are a home-loving people with their houses mostly facing eastwards, scattered over the country. Captive Judah turned longingly to the east to the old homeland, while we recall how Daniel prayed three times daily with his window opened towards Jerusalem.
The Coat of Arms of the Basques consists of a shield, God's words to Abraham, "Fear not, Abraham, I am thy shield," (Genesis 15:1) and, "Happy art thou O Israel. Who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help." (Deuteronomy. 33:29) In the various divisions of the shield are seen many emblems familiar to us as Israel's descendants down that long vista of centuries. There is a cross, a throne vacant, with twelve circular markings beside it, arranged in threes; a castle with a rampant lion beside it; three oak trees, an olive tree with a cross in front and two wolves underneath, each with a sheep in its mouth, and lastly the fleur-de-lis.
On October 5th, 1936, a President was elected (beneath the sacred oak) in Basque lands, and a statute of autonomy enacted for several of the provinces. But at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, it was never recognised by General Franco's government, which abolished all agreements regarding a Basque government. Many Basque homes and villages were devastated by Italian, German and Moorish bombs during this war. Four thousand Basque children were taken over to England in British warships, and cared for during that terrible time. In spite of the fact that Franco's bombers pursued the ships, they arrived safely, by making a sudden successful detour. Children who were orphaned were adopted by the British people. God gathers the various remnants of His chosen race in His own way and in His own good time. For the present we leave our Basque brethren in that quiet comer of the Pyrenees until the day when,
"Their seed shall be known among the Gentiles (Nations), and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they [are) the seed [whom) the Lord hath blessed." - (Isaiah 61:9)
Courtesy: Victoria Monthly Notes