Ezra and Nehemiah in Persian Jerusalem

Hi Yuya,

Haven't read "Who Wrote the Bible?", but it's a good time to revisit the early Persian Period in Jerusalem.

Ezra was called the son of Seraiah the "quiet prince", who was executed by Nebuchadrezzar. This Seraiah who was associated with the High Priest Haremakhet son of Osorkon IV (Azariah/Azriel) in the recent Persia "posted notes". It was also concluded that Seriah was variously called Nethaniah/Nathan-Melech/Jo-Nathan and was the father of Ishmael (pharaoh Ahmose II/Amasis/Mardonius).

It stands to reason that, as the appointed ruler of Egypt (under Cyrus and Darius), Amasis governed Israel as well, which had always been part of the Egyptian sphere. In that case, Ezra would be a priestly alter ego of the general/assassin Ishmael. In other circles, Amasis was known as the Joseph-figure Mordecai, the new patron in charge of all Jewish affairs. If the Torah was finalized during the long tenure of Amasis/Mardonius, it likely was done under his authority.

The names Ezra and Ishmael relate this prince to the "Osiris line" of Uzziah (Osokon III) through Ahaz/Eli-shama (Takelot III), Azariah/Azriel (Osorkon IV) and Nethaniah/Sera-iah (Haremakhet). Note: The name Ishmael is also dervied from the Hebrew word shama, and Eli-Shama was one of the Biblical names (along with Eliezer and Joktan) for the eldest son of Hammurabi/Moses.

Nehemiah, on the other hand, was called the "son of Hacoliah/Hachaliah", a variant of Jecholiah. Jecholiah was the mother of the earlier King Uzziah (Osorkon III/Seth-hir-khepshef, eldest son of Ramses II by the God's Wife Nefertari). Hacoliah, rather than being the name of Nehemiah's father, may then be an epithet of one of the God's Wives of Amun, such as Ankhnesneferibre, Nitocris II, or Nesitanebetashru/Nakhtbasteru.

Nehemiah takes up his mission to restore "Jerusalem" in Year 20 of Artaxerxes. We now understand that Xerxes and Artaxerxes were the same king, and it was in about Year 20 of Xerxes/Artaxerxes that a change in policy occurred regarding cult activity, which accompanied the shift of the king in his role as a "Judah" to that of a "Benjamin". The Great King switched from being a destroyer of temples to a rebuilder of them. The temple at new-Jerusalem (in Israel rather than Egypt) was identified as one that would receive royal favor. Another destroyed Jewish temple at Elephantine (at the location of the modern Aswan Dam) was also rebuilt.

Nehemiah further identifies himself as the cupbearer of Artaxerxes, a position always held by a close relative of a Great King, such as his nephew.

The close association of Ezra and Nehemiah might indicate they were father and son, such Ahmose II and his son prince Pa-sen-en-khonsu by Nakhtubasterau. Another candidate for Nehemiah might be a son of Apries/Gobryas by Ankhenesneferibre, a younger half-brother of pharaoh Amasis. Gobryas is said to have had two sons by the sister of Darius, but I don't recall if the younger son's name is known. The older son, Mardonius, was only his step-son.

Because Cyrus was considered such a champion/savior of the Jews, we might also want to consider one of his sons, such as Artaphrenes II/Aspathines II. The father of Cyrus, Ahasuerus (Jeshua son of Jo-Zadok/Nes-Ptah I), is mentioned in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah as taking an active role in Jerusalem during the early Persian Period.

Xerxes/Artaxerxes appointed his brother Achaemenes/Darius as a governor of Egypt (alongside Amasis). Nehemiah could correspond to Achaemenes or a son of Achaemenes, however Achaemenes may have been suppressed by Year 20 of Xerxes. Xerxes would have had a number of other nephews, as well, so it may not be possible to make a positive identification for Nehemiah. Something to be on the look-out for nevertheless!