(written on both sides)
|Size:||24 centimeters high|
32 centimeters wide
|Length:||30 lines of writing|
|Genre:||Letter of Official Petition|
& his associates
(priests at Elephantine)
(governor of Judah)
|Date:||November 25, 407 BCE|
|Place of Discovery:||Elephantine, Egypt|
|Date of Discovery:||1 January 1907|
|Current Location:||Staatliche Museen|
|Other Designations:||Cowley 30 or|
TAD A4.7 or
Porten B19 or
Sachau plates 1 & 2
by K. C. Hanson
(Adapted from Cowley 1923:111-13)
by K. C. Hanson
(adapted from Cowley 1923:113-19;
Porten & Yardeni 1987;
Porten et al. 1996:139-44)
1. 'L MR'N BGWHY PHT YHWD cBDYK YDNYH WKNWTH KHNY' ZY BYB BYRT' ŠLM
2. MR'N 'LH ŠMY' YŠ'L ŠNY' BKL cDN WLRHMN YŠYMNK QDM DRYWHWŠ MLK'
3. WBNY BYT' 'TYR MN ZY KcN HD 'LP WHYN 'RYKN YNTN LK WHDH WŠRYR HWY BKL cDN
4. KcN cBDK YDNYH WKNWTH KN 'MRN BYRH TMWZ ŠNT ///| DRYWHWŠ MLK' KZY 'RŠM
5. NPQ W'ZL cL MLK' KMRY' ZY 'HL' HNWB ZY BYB BYRT' HMWNYT cM WYDRNG ZY PRTRK TNH
6. HWH LM 'GWR' ZY YHW 'LH' ZY BYB BYRT' YHcDW MN TMH 'HR WYDRNG ZK
7. LHY' 'GRT ŠLH cL NPYN BRH ZY RBHYL HWH BSWN BYRT' L'MR 'GWR' ZY BYB
8. BYRT' YNDŠW 'HR NPYN DBR MSRY' cM HYL' 'HRNN 'TW LBYRT YB cM TLYHM
9. cLW B'GWR' ZK NDŠWHY cD 'Rc' WcMWDY' ZY 'BN' ZY HWW TMH TBRW 'P HWH TRcN
10. ZY 'BN \//// BNYN PSYLH ZY 'BN ZY HWW B'GWR' ZK NDŠW WDŠYHM QYMW WSYRYHM
11. ZY DŠŠY' 'LK NHŠ WMTLL cQHN ZY 'RZ KL' ZY cM ŠYRYT 'ŠRN' W'HRN ZY TMH
12. HWH KL' B'ŠH ŠRPW WMZRQY' ZY ZHB' WKSP WMNDcMT' ZY HWH B'GWR' ZK KL' LQHW
13. WLNPŠHWM cBDW WMN YWMY MLK MSRYN 'BHYN BNW 'GWR' ZK BYB BYRT' WKZY KNBWZY cL MSRYN
14. 'GWR' ZK BNH HŠKH W'GWRY 'LHY MSRYN KL MGRW W'YŠ MNDcM B'GWR' ZK L' HBL
15. WKZY KZNH cBYD 'NHNH cM NŠYN WBNYN ŠQQN LBŠN HWYN WSYMYN WMSLYN LYHW MR' ŠMY'
16. ZY HHWYN BWYDRNG ZK KLBY' HNPQW KBL' MN RGLWHY WKL NKSYN ZY QNH 'BDW WKL GBRYN
17. ZY BcW B'YŠ L'GWR' ZK KL QTYLW WHZYN BHWM 'P QDMT ZNH BcDN ZY Z' B'YŠT'
In the month of Tammuz, in the fourteenth year of Darius the king, when Arsames departed and went to the king, the priests of the god Khnub, who is in the fortress of Yeb, conspired with Vidranga, who was administrator here, to destroy the temple of Yahu in the fortress of Yeb. So that villian Vidranga sent this order to his son Nefayan, who was in command of the garrison of the fortress at Sawn: "The temple of the god Yahu in the fortress of Yeb shall be destroyed." Nefayan consequently led the Egyptians with other troops. Arriving with their weapons at the fortress of Yeb, they entered the temple and burned it to the ground. They smashed the stone pillars that were there. They demolished five great gateways constructed of hewn blocks of stone which were in the temple; but their doors (are still standing), and the hinges of those doors are made of bronze. And the roof of cedar in its entirety, with the . . . and whatever else was there, were all burned with fire. As for the basins of gold and silver and other articles that were in the temple, they carried all of them off and took them as personal possessions.
18. cBYD LN 'GRH ŠLHN MR'N WcL YHWHNN KHN' RB' WKNWTH KHNY' ZY BYRWŠLM WcL 'WSTN 'HWHY
19. ZY cNNY WHRY YHWDY' 'GRH HDH L' ŠLHW cLYN 'P MN YRH TMWZ ŠNT \/// DRYHWŠ MLK'
20. WcDZNH YWM' 'NHNH ŠQQN LBŠN YSYMYN NŠY' ZYLN K'RMLH cBYDYN MŠH L' MŠHYN
21. WHMR L' ŠTYN 'P MN ZKY WcD YWM ŠNT \/// /// DRYHWŠ MLK' MNHH WLBWNH WcLWH
22. L' cBDW B'GWR' ZK KcN cBDYK YDNYH WKNWTH WYHWDY' KL BcLY YB KN 'MRYN
23. HN cL MR'N TB 'TcŠT cL 'NWR' ZK LMBNH BZYL' ŠBQN LN LMBNYH HZY BcLY
24. TBTK WRHMYK ZY TNH BMSRYN 'GRH MNK YŠTLH cLYHWM cL 'GWR' ZY YHW 'LH'
25. LMBNYH BYB BYRT' LQBL ZY BNH HWH QDMYN WMHT' WLBWNT' WcLWT' YQRBWN
26. cL MDBH' ZY YHW 'LH' BŠMK WNSLH cLYK BKL cDN 'NHNH WNŠYN WBNYN WYHWDY'
27. KL ZY TNH HN KN cBDW cD ZY 'GWR' ZK YTBNH WSDQH YHWH LK QDM YHW 'LH
28. ŠMY' MN GBR ZY YQRBLH cLWH WDBHN DMN KDMY KSP KNKRYN LP WcL ZHB cL ZNH
29. ŠLHN HWDcN 'P KL' MLY' B'GRH HDH ŠLHN KŠMN cL DLYH WŠLMYH BNY SN'BLT PHT ŠMRYN
30. 'P BZNH ZY cBYD LN KL' 'RŠM L' YDc Bx LMRHŠWN ŠNT \/// /// DRYHWŠ MLK'
Transliteration of special characters
and to the high priest Yehochannan and his associates, the priests in Jerusalem; and to Ostan, the kinsman of Anani; and the Judahite elites. They have never sent us a letter. Furthermore, from the month of Tammuz, the fourteenth year of Darius the king, until today, we have been wearing sackcloth and fasting, making our wives as widows, not anointing ourselves with oil or drinking wine. Furthermore, from then until now, in the seventeenth year of Darius the king, no grain-offering, incense, or burnt-offering has been sacrificed in this temple.
Bagohi is one of the names in the lists of Judahites who returned from Babylon (see, e.g., Ezra 2:2; Neh 7:7). In the Bible the name is spelled "Bigvai," or in Greek "Bagoas" (e.g., Judith 12:11).
The name "Yehud" was used for Judah while it was a Persian province.
"Yeb" was the name of the island (modern Elephantine, Egypt) in the Nile River.
"The God of the Heavens" is an expression used particularly during the Persian period (see Ezra 1:2; 5:11; Neh 1:4-5; Jonah 1:9).
Darius II was the Persian emperor 425/4405/4 BCE.
The 14th year of Darius II was 410 BCE.
The Egyptian god Khnum (spelled "Khnub" in these papyri) was the ram-headed god of creation.
"Yahu" is one form of the divine name of Yahweh, the Israelite god (also: Yo and Yah, as in the names "Yonatan" [1 Sam 14:1] and "Hodiyah" [1 Chron 4:19]).
"Sawn" (or "Syene"; modern Aswan, Egypt) is the ancient town located on the mainland across from the island of Yeb. Yeb and Syene are just north of the Nile's first cataract.
Cambyses was the Persian emperor 529522 BCE.
Cambyses invaded Egypt in 525 BCE.
The 17th year of Darius II was 407 BCE.
Sanballat was the governor of Samaria under the Persians. He is mentioned in Neh 2:10; 3:33-4:7; 6:1-14; 13:28.
1. What are the implications of the fact that the Judahites
living in Yeb/Elephantine, Egypt, had a temple dedicated to Yahu/Yahweh?
How would you interpret the silence of the Jerusalemite priests in
response to the Elephantine priests' request? Is there more than one
possibility for their silence? (Read 2 Kings 2223)|
2. What does this letter indicate about the role of the state in the building of temples? What kings or governors were involved in building or remodeling the Jerusalem temple in 950 BCE? 520 BCE? 19 BCE? (Read 1 Kings 7:138:66; Haggai 1:12:23; Ezra 1:1-4; 3:1-9; Josephus, War 1.401-2)
3. What do Yedaniah and the other priests promise Bagohi in return for his intervention on their behalf? Is it an open-ended or closed arrangement they are looking for? How does this relate to the roles and functions of patrons and clients? What did the Jerusalemite priests do on behalf on the Roman emperor? (Read Josephus, War 2.197; 2.408-410)
4. Why do you think Yedaniah did not write this letter "by himself"? That is, why would it be important for the Elephantine priests to send this jointly? (Compare in the New Testament: 1 Cor 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1; Phil 1:1; 1 Thess 1:1; and Philemon 1)
5. What is the role of the priests of Khnum in this series of events? What would have motivated them to take the role they did?
6. How does the situation of the Judahite community in Yeb compare with the situation of the Jerusalemites in 520 BCE? (Read Ezra 4:16:22)
7. Given Sanballat's hostility to the building of the Jerusalem temple, is there any irony in the priests of Elephantine appealing to his sons for help in their project? (Read Nehemiah 2:17-20)
|Alexander, Philip S. "Remarks on Aramaic Epistolography
in the Persian Period." Journal of Semitic Studies 23 (1978):155-70.|
Cowley, A., editor and translator. Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1923.
Fitzmyer, Joseph A. "Aramaic Epistolography." In A Wandering Aramean, 219-30. SBL Monograph Series 25. Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1979.
Ginsberg, H. L. "Aramaic Letters." In Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 491-92. 3d ed. Ed. J. B. Pritchard. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1969.
Haran, Menahem. Temples and Temple-Service in Ancient Israel: An Inquiry into Biblical Cult Phenomena and the Historical Setting of the Priestly School. Oxford: Clarendon, 1978 [reprinted with corrections: Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1985].
Porten, Bezalel. The Archives from Elephantine: The Life of an Ancient Jewish Colony. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1968, pp. 284-93.
Porten, Bezalel. "The Archive of Jedaniah son of Gemariah of Elephantine: The Structure and Style of the Letters." Eretz Israel 14 (1978):165-77.
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Porten, Bezalel. "The Structure and Orientation of the Jewish Temple at ElephantineA Revised Plan of the Jewish District." Journal of the American Oriental Society 81 (1961):38-42.
Porten, Bezalel, et al. The Elephantine Papyri in English: Three Millennia of Cross-Cultural Continuity and Change. Leiden: Brill, 1996.
Porten, Bezalel and Ada Yardeni. Textbook of Aramaic Documents from Ancient Egypt. Vol. 1: Letters. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns [distributor], 1986.
Sachau, Eduard. Aramäische Papyrus und Ostraka aus einer jüdischen Militär-Kolonie zu Elephantine: Altorientalische Sprachdenkmäler des 5. Jahrhunderts vor Chr. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1911.