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Reference: Dispersion


(Gr. diaspora, "scattered," Jas 1:1; 1Pe 1:1) of the Jews. At various times, and from the operation of divers causes, the Jews were separated and scattered into foreign countries "to the outmost parts of heaven" (De 30:4).

(1.) Many were dispersed over Assyria, Media, Babylonia, and Persia, descendants of those who had been transported thither by the Exile. The ten tribes, after existing as a separate kingdom for two hundred and fifty-five years, were carried captive (B.C. 721) by Shalmaneser (or Sargon), king of Assyria. They never returned to their own land as a distinct people, although many individuals from among these tribes, there can be no doubt, joined with the bands that returned from Babylon on the proclamation of Cyrus.

(2.) Many Jews migrated to Egypt and took up their abode there. This migration began in the days of Solomon (2Ki 18:21,24; Isa 30:7). Alexander the Great placed a large number of Jews in Alexandria, which he had founded, and conferred on them equal rights with the Egyptians. Ptolemy Philadelphus, it is said, caused the Jewish Scriptures to be translated into Greek (the work began B.C. 284), for the use of the Alexandrian Jews. The Jews in Egypt continued for many ages to exercise a powerful influence on the public interests of that country. From Egypt they spread along the coast of Africa to Cyrene (Ac 2:10) and to Ethiopia (Ac 8:27).

(3.) After the time of Seleucus Nicator (B.C. 280), one of the captains of Alexander the Great, large numbers of Jews migrated into Syria, where they enjoyed equal rights with the Macedonians. From Syria they found their way into Asia Minor. Antiochus the Great, king of Syria and Asia, removed 3,000 families of Jews from Mesopotamia and Babylonia, and planted them in Phrygia and Lydia.

(4.) From Asia Minor many Jews moved into Greece and Macedonia, chiefly for purposes of commerce. In the apostles' time they were found in considerable numbers in all the principal cities.

From the time of Pompey the Great (B.C. 63) numbers of Jews from Palestine and Greece went to Rome, where they had a separate quarter of the city assigned to them. Here they enjoyed considerable freedom.

Thus were the Jews everywhere scattered abroad. This, in the overruling providence of God, ultimately contributed in a great degree toward opening the way for the spread of the gospel into all lands.

Dispersion, from the plain of Shinar. This was occasioned by the confusion of tongues at Babel (Ge 11:9). They were scattered abroad "every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations" (2000'>Ge 10:5,20,31).

The tenth chapter of Genesis gives us an account of the principal nations of the earth in their migrations from the plain of Shinar, which was their common residence after the Flood. In general, it may be said that the descendants of Japheth were scattered over the north, those of Shem over the central regions, and those of Ham over the extreme south. The following table shows how the different families were dispersed:

| - Japheth

| - Gomer

| Cimmerians, Armenians

| - Magog

| Caucasians, Scythians

| - Madal

| Medes and Persian tribes

| - Javan

| - Elishah

| Greeks

| - Tarshish

| Etruscans, Romans

| - Chittim

| Cyprians, Macedonians

| - Dodanim

| Rhodians

| - Tubal

| Tibareni, Tartars

| - Mechech

| Moschi, Muscovites

| - Tiras

| Thracians


| - Shem

| - Elam

| Persian tribes

| - Asshur

| Assyrian

| - Arphaxad

| - Abraham

| - Isaac

| - Jacob

| Hebrews

| - Esau

| Edomites

| - Ishmael

| Mingled with Arab tribes

| - Lud

| Lydians

| - Aram

| Syrians


| - Ham

| - Cush

| Ethiopans

| - Mizrain

| Egyptians

| - Phut

| Lybians, Mauritanians

| - Canaan

| Canaanites, Phoenicians

Illustration: Ancient World and the Dispersion of the Nations After the Flood

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(See CAPTIVITY.) Galuth (Jer 24:5; Ezr 6:16). Literally, "the spoliation," those stripped of the temple and home of their fathers. Septuagint used diaspora, "dispersion," in De 28:25; compare De 30:4, "driven out unto the outermost parts of heaven"; Jer 34:17; Joh 7:35, "the dispersed among the Gentiles." They became, in God's gracious providence, seed sown for a future harvest in the Gentile lands of their sojourn (1Pe 1:1). The dispersion included all the twelve tribes, the ten tribes carried away by the Assyrians as well as Judah carried to Babylon, though Judah alone returned to Palestine (Jas 1:1; Ac 26:7).

The pilgrim troops of the law became caravans of the gospel (Wordsworth). The difficulties of literally observing the Mosaic ritual, while in Babylon and elsewhere, led them to see that they could be united by a common faith, though unable to meet at the same Jerusalem temple, and that the spirit of the law is the essential thing when the letter is providentially set aside. Still, connection with the temple was kept up by each Jew everywhere contributing the half shekel to its support (Mt 17:24). The three great sections of the dispersion at Christ's coming were the Babylonian, the Syrian, and the Egyptian (including Alexandria where the Grecian element was strongest, and with African offshoots, Cyrene and N. Africa).

Pompey, upon occupying Jerusalem 63 B.C., took with him, and settled, many Jews in the trans-Tiberine quarter of Rome. The apostles in every city followed God's order, as Paul told the Jews at Antioch in Pisidia, "it was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken unto you" (Ac 3:26; 13:46); so Ro 1:16, "to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." In the assembly on Pentecost the several dispersions were represented:

(1) Parthians, Mesopotamia;

(2) Judaea (Syria), Pamphylia;

(3) Egypt, Greece;

(4) Romans. The converts from these pioneered the way for the subsequent labors of the apostles in their respective countries. Lucius of Cyrene and Simeon Niger (the black) from N. Africa were leading members of the church of Antioch. So we find Aquila from Pontus, Barnabas of Cyprus, Apollos of Alexandria, Clement probably of Rome. Besides the Jews, in the several cities there were the "devout" Gentiles who in some degree acknowledged the God of Israel. All these formed stepping stones for the ultimate entrance of the gospel among the idolatrous Gentiles. Forty years after Peter's martyrdom, Pliny, Roman governor of Pontus and Bithynia, writing to the emperor Trajan, says: "the contagion (Christianity) has seized not only cities, but the smaller towns and country, so that the temples are nearly forsaken and the sacred rites intermitted."

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The name (Gr. Diaspora) given to the Jewish communities outside Palestine (2Ma 1:27, Joh 7:35; Jas 1:1; 1Pe 1:1). It is uncertain when the establishment of these non-Palestinian communities began. It appears from 1Ki 20:34 that an Israelltish colony was established in Damascus in the reign of Ahab. Possibly the similar alliances of David and Solomon with Ph

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The term applied to the nation of Israel as now scattered throughout the world. Es 3:8; Jer 25:34; Eze 36:19; Joh 7:35. It was to believers among them that the Epistles of James and 1 Peter were specially addressed.

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