What Ancient Tablets Reveal about Jews in Babylonian Exile

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.

Read more at theTorah.com

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

As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas