Some Different History
This week, I’m taking the liberty of sharing with you the journal travels of my friend, Brian Schrauger, founder and editor of the Jerusalem Journal. I’ve written before about Brian and his work; he is truly unique in that he is a Bible guy who happens to live in and report from Israel.
He’s also one of the finest people I know.
I knew he was taking an unusual trip to Iraq and I’ve been fascinated by his dispatches. He is going into territory most of us will never see with our own eyes, even those of us who’ve been to Israel. But the places he’s visited this week are also part of the Bible story. Very much so.
(For those of you on social media, his Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/BrianSchrauger)
With his own eyes(!) he has seen the places where the Assyrians took the captive Israelites, far from home. Enjoy Brian’s observations below, and be sure to check out his work.
THE RIVER REMEMBERS…
When the 10 tribes of Israel’s northern kingdom were taken into exile in 722 BCE, the Bible says they were “carried away into exile to Assyria, and settled in Halah and Habor, on the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.”
Today that river is called the Khabur. It runs wends its way through the city of Zakho in northwest Iraq where it nudges Turkey’s border and knocks on Syria’s back door.
We don’t know what happened to those 10 tribes. In the ensuing 2,600 years or so, we do know that today’s Zakho became a popular home for Jews.
Yesterday I visited Zakho. Intending to explore it last night, I found the streets heaving with people. Going to bed early at my hotel there, I was out by 6am. Because the sun came up at about 4:45am, it felt like mid-morning. But unlike the night before, the streets were almost empty, making it easy to explore.
Although there was a strong Jewish presence there until the 1940s, I could not find where they lived or worshiped. It’s possible there are remaining footprints, but no one there with whom I spoke knew where they were.
But the river to which they were led captive by the ruthless Assyrians is impossible to miss.
We do not know what those exiles did when they were deposited on the banks of the Khabur. But we do know what the Judah’s exiles did when they landed on the banks of Babylon’s Tigris River. According to Psalm 137, “we sat down and wept.”
It is not difficult to imagine that exiles from the northern kingdom did the same on the banks of the Khabur.
Those tribes might be lost and Jews from the area erased…
…but the river remembers, bearing witness to judgment, tragedy and suffering.
At the same time, however, it is a body of flowing water that, like God’s Spirit, washes dirt away, cleanses and restores.
As such, it is a witness, both to the past and to the future. Redemption and restoration will come.