[b-hebrew] Dates of Ezra and Nehemiah

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Sat Sep 16 16:00:27 EDT 2006

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Lisbeth S. Fried" <lizfried at umich.edu>
> I have concluded that the author of Ezra-Nehemiah lived at the end of the
> fourth century, after the conquest of Alexander. It seems to me that we 
> have
> a complete list of high priests in Neh. 12:10-11 (where Jonathan must
> corrected to John, Yohanan, as in 12:22). This is a complete
> list of Persian period priests from the period of the return to the time 
> of
> Alexander. Darius the Persian in 12:23 is Darius III. Therefore the author
> of Ezra-Nehemiah must have lived after Alexander. That could put a century
> between the writing and the historical Ezra of 398.

Yes, I know you have. I tend to date the editor of Ezra-Nehemiah a little 
earlier. But that's not the issue. The question is why would the editor make 
it seem like Ezra came first. Did he really not know that there were more 
than one Artaxerxes? Or did he have a hidden agenda?

>> Besides all of this, there are two additional figures, Meremoth the son 
>> of
>> Uriah the priest (Ezra 8:33; Neh. 4, 21) and Malciah son of Harim (Ezra
>> 10:31 and Neh. 3:11), who are listed both as members of Ezra's group and
> as
>> participating in Nehemiah's wall-building.
> Meremoth worked on the wall as a husky fifteen-year old in 445, then in 
> 398
> he was a 62-year old  man, a respected priest, with enough stature to
> receive Ezra's vessels.
> The same thing with Malkiah. He works on the wall as a teenager, then 47
> years later, he agrees to divorce his wife of 40 years -- the jerk!
> Both are minor figures. For the
>> editor to have "faked" their roles would have been very subtle in deed.
>> Despite all of this, there are still important scholars who accept this
>> theory.
> I for one, why do the roles have to be faked???

I was thinking of you when I wrote "important scholars". But it does not 
work out. Neh. 3 does not list 15-year old laborers. It lists the heads of 
work-gangs. This means that they would be in their twenties at least. Which 
would make them WELL over sixty in 398. Now this is not impossible, but very 

> Even more strange, is
>> that it also means that the dedication ceremony of the walls was held off
>> for at least 17 years!
> Right, that's strange. A straightforward reading of the text implies a
> dedication in the same year it was finished.

So what's your exlaination?

>> 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".
> Ezra is also a Persian official. He was appointed by the king to appoint
> judges for the satrapy Beyond the River. This is also argued by R. Steiner
> (JBL 201).

What I meant was, that Ezra was not a career official, like Nehemiah. He is 
appointed by the king (if you take Ezra 7:1-26 to be historical, which many 
scholars do not), but his career and training were from within the Jewish 
community. To use an anachronism, he was a rabbi. So he wrote in "Jewish" 

> 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.
> I 've argued that it may have even been a jubilee year (Fried and 
> Freedman,
> 2001).

I'm not sure exactly what that would mean, or if jubilees were even observed 
at the time.

> 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,
> I don't follow you here. When does anyone ever date anything to Sabbatical
> years??
> Name one text anywhere where anything is dated this way. People give the
> regular dates, in terms of regnal years, and then may had that it was a
> sabbatical year, but they can't date in terms of sabbatical years. A
> sabbatical year can't provide a date, you don't know which sabbatical 
> cycle
> it is. So you're the seventh year, but the seventh year occurs every seven
> years, it doesn't provide a date.

Who said that the author of the Ezra document intended to provide a date? IF 
we accept Demsky's theory, I would understand that the (original) author 
(Ezra himself?) wrote "seventh year" in order to emphasize that this was a 
sabbatical. For him, this was significant all by its own. It was the editor 
who assumed that "seventh year" must mean a date, and then, naturally for 
him, assumed that the date was of the king.

Bye for now,


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