What Ancient Tablets Reveal about Jews in Babylonian Exile

July 26 2018

After destroying the First Temple in 586 BCE, the Babylonians deported a large portion of Judea’s population to Mesopotamia. Although no documents in Hebrew or Aramaic (which would have been written on parchment) pertaining to these Jews survive, a number of extant and more durable cuneiform tablets, written in the Babylonian language, refer or appear to refer to Jews. Laurie Pearce explains that Jews can be identified by names ending in -yah, which refers to the Tetragrammaton—as in the Hebrew versions of the names Jeremiah, Elijah, Isaiah, etc.

[Such] names have long been considered as reflecting attachment to tradition, or to be markers of theological inclinations. Yet [these] names appear in contexts that also reflect Judean integration into the Babylonian administrative organization. The Babylonian onomasticon (pool of names) of the first millennium BCE includes “official names” that contain the Akkadian word šarru (“king,” cognate with Hebrew sar, “prince”), identifying individuals who served in the imperial administration.

Such names—e.g., Nabû-šar-uṣur, “O Nabû, preserve the king!” or Nergal-šar-uṣur, “Oh Nergal, preserve the king!”—were adopted by individuals desiring to join the administrative ranks or given to them at birth by parents hoping to pave the way for a child to do so. A small number of such official names pair Babylonian orthographies of the divine name with standard Babylonian predicates, thus identifying Judeans who served the administration in official capacities. . . .

One particularly instructive example is the person whose name appears in two different variations: Yāḫû-šar-uṣur and Bēl-šar-uṣur [Belshazzar], both meaning “O Lord, preserve the king!” This usage demonstrates that Babylonian scribes understood that Yāḫû- was the supreme deity among the Judeans. This is why they substituted the element bēl, “lord,” in this personal name for Yāḫû, just as they referred to their own chief god Marduk as Bēl.

Although instances of individuals bearing the name Yāḫû-šar-uṣur, attest to Judean entry into the administrative sector of the Babylonian [monarchy], the attestations of fewer than five individuals so named makes it extremely difficult to assess the extent of acculturation at this level. . . .

Judeans [even] served as royal courtiers, as did Nehemiah, whom the Bible states was a cup-bearer to the king. Cuneiform texts identify Judean courtiers as recipients of rations along with the Judean king and his family. Their positions would have granted them . . . direct interaction with the royal court.

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Read more at theTorah.com

More about: Babylonian Jewry, History & Ideas, Jewish history, Names, Nehemiah

 

Is the Attempt on Salman Rushdie’s Life Part of a Broader Iranian Strategy?

Aug. 18 2022

While there is not yet any definitive evidence that Hadi Matar, the man who repeatedly stabbed the novelist Salman Rushdie at a public talk last week, was acting on direct orders from Iranian authorities, he has made clear that he was inspired by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s call for Rushdie’s murder, and his social-media accounts express admiration for the Islamic Republic. The attack also follows on the heels of other Iranian attempts on the lives of Americans, including the dissident activist Masih Alinejad, the former national security advisor John Bolton, and the former secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was held hostage by the mullahs for over two years, sees a deliberate effort at play:

It is no coincidence this flurry of Iranian activity comes at a crucial moment for the hitherto-moribund [nuclear] negotiations. Iranian hardliners have long opposed reviving the 2015 deal, and the Iranians have made a series of unrealistic and seemingly ever-shifting demands which has led many to conclude that they are not negotiating in good faith. Among these is requiring the U.S. to delist the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in its entirety from the State Department’s list of terror organizations.

The Biden administration and its European partners’ willingness to make concessions are viewed in Tehran as signals of weakness. The lack of a firm response in the shocking attack on Salman Rushdie will similarly indicate to Tehran that there is little to be lost and much to be gained in pursuing dissidents like Alinejad or so-called blasphemers like Sir Salman on U.S. soil.

If we don’t stand up for our values when under attack we can hardly blame our adversaries for assuming that we have none. Likewise, if we don’t erect and maintain firm red lines in negotiations our adversaries will perhaps also assume that we have none.

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Read more at iNews

More about: Iran, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy