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The Oxford History of the Biblical World An in-depth chaptered work by leading scholars providing a chronological overview of the history of biblical times.

Events to 332

After Ezra and Nehemiah, the historical record again becomes obscure. Both Judah and Samaria maintained their autonomous status within the empire; no evidence for a parallel Persian administrator over the subprovinces beyond the satrap has come to light. The Bible provides the names of high priests (Neh. 12.10–11, 22 ) and Davidides (living in Judah? 1 Chron. 3.17–24 ) down to the end of the fifth century. (See table on p. 296 .) With additional data gleaned from Josephus, the Elephantine and Wadi ed-Daliyeh (Samaria) papyri, and inscriptions on seals, sealings, and coins, attempts have been made to fill out the list of Judean high priests and the governors of both Judah and Samaria down to 332 (see table 8.2 ). If these reconstructions are accurate, the firm dynastic grip on the Judean high priesthood and governorship of Samaria indicates a level of stability in the two regions. But dynastic tenacity cannot prevent family quarrels or the backing of different political factions (pro- or

Table 8.2 Governors of Samaria; Governors and High Priests of Judah (445–335 BCE)

ca. 445, Sanballat I (the Horonite) founder of the Sanballat dynasty ca. 445, Nehemiah ca. 470, Joiada I
ca. 410, Delaiah son of Sanballat I; acted for aged father ca. 408, Bagoas ca. 410, Johanan II
? Shelemiah possibly cogovernor with Delaiah before 400, Joiada II
early fourth century, Sanballat II grandson of Sanballat I
? Jeshua son of Sanballat II ? Johanan II
by 354, Hananiah son of Sanballat II
ca. 335, Sanballat III governor in time of Darius III ca. 335, Hezekiah ca. 335, Joiada III
anti-Persian, for example). Josephus mentions the murder by the high priest Johanan of his brother in the Temple, bringing down on Judah a punishment of seven years of extra tribute (Antiquities 11.7.1), probably during the reign of Darius II.

Let us end by returning to the larger stage of history. Artaxerxes I died peacefully in 424 BCE. After a period of violent intrigue, Artaxerxes' son Ochos emerged the winner and took the throne name Darius II (424–404). The Elephantine papyri concerning the Festival of Unleavened Bread (419) and the ruined temple (410) come from his reign. Aided by the capable diplomats and satraps Tissaphernes and Pharnabazus, Darius II intrigued to foster Greek disunity, even intervening in the Peloponnesian War. Then Darius II was succeeded by his son Artaxerxes II (Memnon; 404–359), a long-lived monarch whose reign was marked by continuous revolts, particularly by Greek city-states. A potentially dangerous attempt to unseat Artaxerxes by his brother Cyrus was thwarted in 401 at Cunaxa (Babylonia), despite the formidable Greek mercenary army assembled by Cyrus and immortalized by Xenophon. By the terms of the King's Peace (386–376), the Ionian Greek cities for a time acknowledged Persian control.

The loss of Egypt in 405 was more serious. Several times the Persians launched campaigns to regain Egypt, but without success until 343. Although coastal Palestinian cities served as staging points for Persian campaigns, it is unclear whether Samaria and Judah were involved. A move by independent Egypt at the turn of the century up the coast and into the Shephelah as far as Gezer came to an end around 380, when the Persians regained the territory.

Throughout the second half of the 360s the Satraps' Revolt upset affairs in the Persian empire, but any repercussions for interior regions of Syria-Palestine elude us. Judah is unlikely to have participated in a rebellion of Phoenician cities against the next Persian king, Artaxerxes III (Ochos; 359–338), initiated around 350 by Tennes the king of Sidon. Destruction layers are found at numerous sites, but most of them lie outside Judah, and distinguishing between mid-fourth-century and later Alexandrian destructions has proved impossible. First Tennes (345) and then Egypt (343/2) capitulated to Artaxerxes III.

But disaster soon fell upon Persia. The short, unhappy reign of the Achaemenid puppet king Arses (338–336) was followed by that of Darius III (Codomanus; 336–331), whose even unhappier fate it was to lose his empire to the Greek forces of Alexander of Macedon. After his victory at Issus (333), Alexander marched south into Phoenicia, where all but Tyre submitted to him. A seven-month siege ended in victory for the Greeks, and slavery or crucifixion for the Tyrians. After Tyre, only Gaza dared resist Alexander, who took it before conquering Egypt. There the people hailed him as their liberator from the hated Persians.

No reflexes of Alexander's arrival appear in the Bible, although Josephus tells a transparently legendary tale of Alexander's visit to the Temple (Antiquities 11.8.5) on his way to Egypt. The first explicit reference to Alexander appears in 1 Maccabees. According to Josephus, after submitting to Alexander in 332 the nobles of Samaria revolted and burned Alexander's prefect to death. Alexander's army marched north, and the rebels were delivered up to them. The Samaria papyri belonged to these rebels and were deposited with other valuables in the cave where the unfortunate plotters were found and massacred. Samaria was reorganized and resettled as a Greek colony, while the surviving Samarians rebuilt the city of Shechem as their center. According to Josephus, the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim was built in the late fourth century; he attributes to Alexander the commissioning of the temple (Antiquities 11.8.4). Recently, excavators at Tell er-Ras, the temple site, claimed to have found the remains of this fourth-century temple.

Much of the biblical material suggests that during the Persian period, both in the Diaspora and in the ancient homeland, Jewish communities were more intent on preserving their past than recording their present. A correct interpretation of their past, they felt, would determine their future fate for good or ill. Chronicles taught lessons based on Israel's past. The same impulses contributed to the final redaction of the Pentateuch. However, other texts and objects suggest a less retrospective mood. For example, large numbers of locally minted fourth-century BCE coins—including coins from Judea and Samaria—have been appearing on the antiquities market. Their small denominations would be useful only for local commerce, not for tribute or international trade. These coins, considered alongside the commercial interests expressed in Ecclesiastes and the buying and selling recorded in the Samaria papyri, suggest a lively local economy.

Archaeological discoveries combined with new analytical approaches to existing information have improved our understanding of the two centuries of Persian rule and have led to reassessments of long-held assumptions and generated new questions. The Persian period's elusiveness persists, but scholars in search of the roots of Judaism can no longer dismiss it as a negligible interim between exile and Alexander.

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