Dispersion — (Gr. diaspora, “scattered,” James 1:1; 1 Pet. 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” (Deut. 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 ( 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 (2 Kings 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 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 (Acts 2:10) and to Ethiopia (8:27).
(3.) After the time of Seleucus Nicator ( 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 ( 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 (Gen. 11:9). They were scattered abroad “every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations” (Gen. 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:
Medes and Persian tribes
Mingled with Arab tribes