[b-hebrew] Dates of Ezra and Nehemiah

Lisbeth S. Fried lizfried at umich.edu
Sun Sep 17 01:37:18 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
> > 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
> > of Ezra-Nehemiah must have lived after Alexander. That could put a
> > between the writing and the historical Ezra of 398.
> Yes, I know you have. 
And I knew you knew I had.

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
> 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?
Perhaps both. He may not have known. I think actually that he -- like Rashi
-- assumed that 
all the Persian kings used the throne name Artaxerxes. Therefore, according
to Rashi, and I think according to our author, Nisan of the 7th year of
Artaxerxes is the month after Adar of the 6th year of Darius. Artaxerxes is
Darius' (and every king's) throne name. Artaxerxes and Darius refer to the
same man. Also, I think that it would have made sense to him that the temple
vessels be deposited in the temple immediately after its dedication. We have
no mention of what happened to the vessels that Cyrus counted out. Nothing.
I think the story of their being deposited in the temple is deferred to
after the temple's dedication when Ezra brings them.
> >
> >
> >> 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
> > 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". 
Thank you. I'm flattered.

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.
> would make them WELL over sixty in 398. Now this is not impossible, but
> unlikely.
I don't see the necessity of positing that these are heads of work-gangs.
Sometimes it says "sons of", or "men of", but sometimes it just lists
individuals. I saw a list of those who built a wall in a Greek city from
about the same time period, and just individuals were listed. It appeared to
be all the men  of the town who participated in building the wall, and they
were all listed. The reference to the text is in Blenkinsopp's commentary on
Neh. 3.
> >
> > Even more strange, is
> >> that it also means that the dedication ceremony of the walls was held
> >> 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 explanation?
I think that Ezra's name was added by the redactor.
> >> A fourth theory, suggested by Aaron Demsky, it that the "seventh year"
> >> Ezra refers to the sabbatical cycle. Nehemiah, as a Persian official,
> >> uses
> >> "official" dates throughout, including Mesopotamian month names. He
> >> 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.
> > (JBL 201).
> What I meant was, that Ezra was not a career official, like Nehemiah. He
> appointed by the king (if you take Ezra 7:1-26 to be historical, which
> 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"
> terms.
I take Ezra 7:21-26 as historical, but I have not yet read Graetz's book. 
> >
> > 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
> at the time.
Two sabbatical years in a row.
> >
> > This means
> >> that Ezra arrived in the summer after Nehemiah had finished building
> >> 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
> > 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
> > years, it doesn't provide a date.
> Who said that the author of the Ezra document intended to provide a date?
> 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
> who assumed that "seventh year" must mean a date, and then, naturally for
> him, assumed that the date was of the king.
Why is it terrible to remove Ezra's name in a couple of places, but not
terrible to remove "of Artaxerxes the king"?

> Bye for now,
It's been fun talking to you.
> Yigal
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