(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
Porten & Yardeni 1987;
Porten et al. 1996:139-44
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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 425/4—405/4 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 529—522 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 22–23)
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 7:13–8:66; Haggai 1:1–2:23; 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 4:1–6:22)
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. Edited by J. B. Pritchard, 491-92. 3d ed. 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, Ind.: 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.
Porten, Bezalel. "The Archive of Yedaniah b. Gemariah of Elephantine." In Irano-Judaica, edited by S. Shaked, 11-24. Jerusalem, 1982.
Porten, Bezalel. "The Elephantine Papyri." In The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by D. N. Freedman, 2:445-55. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
Porten, Bezalel. "The Revised Draft of the Letter of Jedaniah to Bagavahya (TAD A4.8= Cowley 31)." In Boundaries of the Ancient Near Eastern World: A Tribute to Cyrus H. Gordon. Edited by M. Lubetski, et al., 230-42. JSOT Supplement Series 273. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1998.
Porten, Bezalel. "The Structure and Orientation of the Jewish Temple at Elephantine—A 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: Hinrichs, 1911.