Gashmu, Nehemiah’s Adversary -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 01:3 (Summer 1972)
Article: Gashmu, Nehemiah’s Adversary
Author: Anonymous


Gashmu, Nehemiah’s Adversary

Jerusalem was destroyed by invading Babylonian armies in 587 B.C. and the nation of Judah was taken into captivity. In 539 B.C. Babylon was overthrown by the Medes and Persians under Cyrus. Through Cyrus’ liberal policies, the men of Judah were allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their beloved city.

But after a time, the city fell into ruins - “the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire” it was reported (Nehemiah 1:3). When Nehemiah heard this, he left his high position as cupbearer to the Persian king Artaxerxes (465-423 B.C.) and returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. Three local chieftans opposed the work: Sanballat, ruler of Moab; Tobiah, ruler of Ammon; and Gashmu, ruler of the Arabians. Under Nehemiah’s Godly leadership, however, the men of Judah were able to resist the chieftans and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 1–6)

The name of one of Nehemiah’s adversaries has come to us through an archaeological discovery. In 1947 a number of silver bowls and a very large hoard of coins were found at Tell el-Maskhuta in northern Egypt. The coins date to around 400 B.C.

Four of the silver bowls bear Aramaic dedicatory inscriptions to the goddess Han-Ilat. One of the inscriptions reads: “That which Qaynu, son of Gashmu, king of Qedar, brought in offering to Han-Ilat.” An analysis of the bowls and their inscriptions has led scholars to conclude that the Gashmu mentioned in the inscription is the very same Gashmu (or Geshem) mentioned in Nehemiah 2:19, 6:1, 2 and 6. William J. Dumbrell, in a recent article in the BULLETIN OF THE AMERICAN SCHOOLS OF ORIENTAL RESEARCH, states, “These converging lines of argumentation confirm that Qaynu bar [son of] Gashmu was the son of the adversary of Nehemiah.”

This discovery is important from two aspects. First it verifies a Biblical character from a historical record. This, in turn, authenticates Nehemiah’s account from a source outside the Bible. Secondly, the inscription provides information about the little-known Arabian nation of Qedar.

The nation of Qedar is cited a number of times in the Bible. These citations, together with information derived from the Qaynu Bowl and other archaeological discoveries, led Dumbrell to conclude “Qedar was a force to be reckoned with from Sennacherib’s time to the Nabataen period. Her confederate or allied peoples were d...

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