[b-hebrew] Dates of Ezra and Nehemiah

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Sat Sep 16 11:50:14 EDT 2006


On 9/15/06, Lisbeth S. Fried <lizfried at umich.edu> wrote:
> >
> > 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.
> Dates in antiquity are always in terms of regnal years of the local king.
> That is why this is the year 2006, it is supposed to be the 2006th regnal year of Jesus Christ.

Wrong, AD is supposed to be the number of years from his birth. We know today that that is almost certain to be wrong, but it was supposed to be from his birth.

But you can accuse me of trying to see how a certain reading fits with the historical record and then making the historical record fit. By having the seventy sevens start at about 415 BC, having the two shorter spans concurrent, makes for some difficulties, but at the same time clears up other difficulties. The seventieth seven fits the Jewish revolt of 66 AD. It is possible that the anointed leader seven sevens after the start was Alexander the Great, corresponding to his birth year. The prophecy was for the city and people, this span now fits the city and people. Difficulties are that it does not fit with what is known (or thought to be known) about Persian history and it dates Jesus' life, death and resurrection significantly earlier than tradition.

By having Nehemiah earlier and the shorter spans consecutive, it fits better the known Persian history, the two shorter spans add up to the time of Jesus as we understand it, but it breaks up a numbered sequence which I understand was a no no in Biblical Hebrew usage (the seventieth seven is now floating free), it no longer covers the history of the city and people, the identity of the anointed leader seven sevens after the rebuilding is a mystery for though he was important enough to mention in the prophecy, no trace of him can be found in history. An attempt to explain the seven sevens says that that was the time it took to rebuild Jerusalem, but Nehemiah reports that it took less than two months to rebuild the walls, and it was a bustling city within a couple of years after that at the most, as a number of people were drafted to settle there, so that explanation does not fit.

For those who don't believe that this is a prophecy, the whole thing is a tempest in a teapot, signifying nothing.
> >
> > 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
> > written.
> That is not the case here.
> >
> > I have seen several similar uses in English for titled people.
> You'd have to show it for Hebrew tho.

We have one example, but Tanakh is too short to let us know how widespread the practice was.
> >
> > 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.
> Nehemiah was cupbearer to Artaxerxes I. While the date of Ezra is disputed, the date of Nehemiah is not disputed due to the evidence from Elephantine.

You put a lot of trust in that Elephantine document, while I don't.

There is also another possibility, namely that Nehemiah had a Hebrew name, but when he dealt with the king and outside people, he used an Aramaic or Persian name. Thus the Elephantine document records his Aramaic name while the book his Hebrew name.

> Best,
> Liz Fried
> >
> > Karl W. Randolph.

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