Archaeological Backgrounds of the Exilic and Postexilic Era Part 4: The Archaeological Background of Nehemiah -- By: Edwin M. Yamauchi

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 137:548 (Oct 1980)
Article: Archaeological Backgrounds of the Exilic and Postexilic Era Part 4: The Archaeological Background of Nehemiah
Author: Edwin M. Yamauchi


Archaeological Backgrounds of the Exilic and Postexilic Era
Part 4:
The Archaeological Background of Nehemiah

Edwin M. Yamauchi

[Edwin M. Yamauchi, Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, History Department, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.]

[Editor’s Note: This is the final article in a series delivered by the author as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, November 6–9, 1979.
Much of the material in this article is taken from the introduction and commentary on Ezra-Nehemiah which the author has contributed to volume 4 of The Expositors Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, forthcoming), and is used here with the generous permission of the editor and of the publisher.]

Artaxerxes the King

Artaxerxes I

It is certain that Nehemiah served as the cupbearer of Artaxerxes I (Neh 1:1; 2:1), the Achaemenid king who ruled from 464 to 424 B.C. An Elephantine papyrus, dated to 407, mentions the sons of Sanballat, the governor of Samaria and adversary of Nehemiah.1

Artaxerxes2 was nicknamed by the Greeks Longimanus. According to Plutarch, “The first Artaxerxes, among all the kings of Persia the most remarkable for a gentle and noble spirit, was surnamed the Long-handed, his right hand being longer than his left, and was the son of Xerxes.”3

Longimanus was the third son of Xerxes and Amestris. His older brothers were named Darius and Hystaspes. Their father was assassinated in his bedchamber between August and December, 465 B.C., by Artabanus, a powerful courtier. In the ensuing months, Artaxerxes, who was but eighteen years old, managed to kill Artabanus and his brother Darius. He then defeated his brother Hystaspes in Bactria. His first regnal year is reckoned from April 13, 464.4

In 461 B.C. Artaxerxes took up residence at Susa.5 He used the palace of Darius I until it burned down near the end of his reign. He then moved to Persepolis, where he lived in the former palace of Darius I. He completed the great Throne Hall begun by Xerxes, as indicated by a text in Old Persian and Akkadian.6 The only other

extant Old Persian inscription of this king is an identical one-line text found on four silver dishes.

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