ASHKENAZ (Heb. אַשְׁכְּנָז), a people and a country bordering on Armenia and the upper Euphrates; listed in Genesis 10:3 and I Chronicles 1:6 among the descendants of *Gomer. The name Ashkenaz also occurs once in Jeremiah 51:27 in a passage calling upon the kingdoms of *Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz to rise and destroy Babylon. Scholars have identified the Ashkenaz as the people called Ashkuza (Ashguza, Ishguza) in Akkadian. According to Assyrian royal inscriptions the Ashkuza fought the Assyrians in the reign of Esharhaddon (680–669 B.C.E.) as allies of the Minni (Manneans). Since the Ashkuza are mentioned in conjunction with the Gimirrai-Cimmerians and the Ashkenaz with Gomer in Genesis, it is reasonable to infer that Ashkenaz is a dialectal form of Akkadian Ashkuza, identical with a group of Iranian-speaking people organized in confederations of tribes called Saka in Old Persian, whom Greek writers (e.g., Herodotus 1:103) called Scythians. They ranged from southern Russia through the Caucasus and into the Near East. Some scholars, however, have argued against this identification on philological grounds because of the presence of the "n" in the word Ashkenaz. In medieval rabbinical literature the name was used for Germany (see next entry).
E.A. Speiser, Genesis (Eng., 1964), 66; U. Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, 2 (1964), 192; EM, 1 (1965), 762–3 (incl. bibl.). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: W. Holladay, Jeremiah, 2 (1989), 427; P. Briant, From Cyrus to Alexander (2002), 39.
[Yehoshua M. Grintz]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.