[b-hebrew] Dates of Ezra and Nehemiah

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Fri Sep 15 15:59:05 EDT 2006

Thanks, Yigal, this was quite helpful.

In looking at the text of Nehemiah, however, there are further questions raised.

Nehemiah 1:1 "in the month of Kislev of the 20th year" ... 20th year
of what? When Nehemiah was 20 years old? The text does not say.

Then in Nehemiah 2:1 "the month of Nisan in the 20th year to
Artaxerxes the king" ... if this is the 20th year of his reign, why
does it not say "his reign" MLKWT  מלכות ? The wording as it stands
seems best to be translated as "When King Artaxerses was 20, in the
month of Nisan, ..." i.e. written later, after he had become king but
referring to an earlier time before he became king.

A similar use of the language is when Nebuchadnezzar first led an army
against Jerusalem, he was not yet king, but the record written later
called him king because he had become king before the record was

I have seen several similar uses in English for titled people.

The picture given in chapter two of Nehemiah gives an indication that
there was a close relationship between Artaxerxes and Nehemiah,
possibly one engendered of close friends growing up together. It looks
closer than the standard boss - hireling relationship.

Finally, Artaxerxes II faced several rebellions early in his reign,
the most famous the one immortalized by Xenephon, so it make sense
that he would send a totally loyal Nehemiah to fortify and defend one
corner of his realm. And if Rolf is correct, that reign started a
decade earlier than listed in standard histories.

Karl W. Randolph.

On 9/15/06, Yigal Levin <leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il> wrote:
> ----- Original Message -----
> As far as Ezra, that's more complicated. The "traditional" view, based on
> Ezra 7:7-8, is that Ezra arrived in the 7th year of the same Artaxerxes I....
> A fourth theory, suggested by Aaron Demsky, it that the "seventh year" of
> Ezra refers to the sabbatical cycle. Nehemiah, as a Persian official, uses
> "official" dates throughout, including Mesopotamian month names. He would
> naturally refer to Persian regnal-years. Ezra, however, is a Jewish
> "scribe". He uses traditional ordinal numbers for months, and it makes sense
> that he would use "traditional" years as well (just like the author of
> Daniel!). Demsky calculated back from the known sabbatical years of the
> Hellenistic period, and found that 444 was a sabbatical year. This means
> that Ezra arrived in the summer after Nehemiah had finished building the
> wall - hence his absence from the building but presence at the dedication,
> and hence Nehemiah's presence at Ezra's revival. In fact Demsky claims that
> Nehemiah 8, 9 and 10 are a continuous story, all happening in the month of
> Tishrei of 444, right after the end of the sabbatical. The gathering of the
> people in the Temple courtyard at this date and the public reading of the
> Torah is in accordance with Deut. 31:10-12.
> This theory is also not without its problems (such as, why didn't the editor
> of Ezra-Nehemiah know that "year seven" meant the sabbatical, and why did he
> fill in "of the king" and "of  Artaxerxes". But in my opinion, it's the
> least problematic.
> I hope all this was useful.
> Yigal Levin

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