Sunday, August 7, 2011

Archaeology and the List of Returnees in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah

Israel Finkelstein

The list of returnees (Ezra 2, 1-67; Nehemiah 7, 6-68) forms one of the cornerstones for the study of the province of Yehud in the Persian period. Because of the lack of ancient Near Eastern sources on Yehud, discussion has focused primarily on the biblical texts and has thus, in certain cases, become trapped in circular reasonin. The only source of information that can break this deadlock is archaeology. The finds at the places mentioned in the list of returnees seems to show that it does not represent Persian-period realities. Important Persian-period places not mentioned in the list support this notion. The archaeology of the list seems to indicate that it was compiled in the late Hellenistic (Hasmonaean) period and represents the reality of that time.

In a recent article (Finkelstein, in press) I questioned Nehemiah 3's description of the construction of the Jerusalem wall in the light of the archaeology of Jerusalem in the Persian period. The finds indicate that the settlement was small and poor. It covered an area of c. 2-2.5 hectares and was inhabited by 400-500 people. The archaeology of Jerusalem shows no evidence for construction of a wall in the Persian period, or renovation of the ruined Iron II city-wall. I concluded with three alternatives for understanding the discrepancy between the biblical text and the archaeological finds: 1) that the description in Nehemiah 3 is utopian; 2) that it preserves a memory of an Iron Age construction or renovation of the city-wall; 3) that the description is influenced by the construction of the First Wall in the Hasmonaean period. All three options pose significant difficulties, but the third one seems to me the least problematic. In any event, I argued, the archaeology of Jerusalem in the Persian period must be the starting point for any future discussion of this issue. Accordingly, I believe it is now time to deal with the other lists in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah in the light of modern archaeological research — first and foremost with the list of the returnees to Zion (Ezra 2.1—67; Nehemiah 7.6—68).

The list of returnees forms one of the cornerstones for the study of the province of Yehud in the Persian period. Scholars have debated the relationship between the two versions of the list, the historical authenticity of this source, its date, whether it represents one wave of returnees or a summary of several waves, and its value for estimating the population of Yehud (for the latest discussions see Carter 1999, 77—78; Edelman 2005, 175—176; and especially Lipschits 2005, 158—168 with extensive bibliography). Because of the lack of ancient Near Eastern sources on Yehud, discussion has focused primarily on the biblical texts and has thus, in certain cases, become trapped in circular reasoning. The only source of information that can break this deadlock is archaeology. Yet until now, archaeology has been brought in only in order to reconstruct settlement patterns and establish the population of Yehud (Carter 1999; Lipschits 2005, 258—271). The archaeology of the sites mentioned in the list of returnees has never been dealt with systematically. It is the aim of this article to do so.

Twenty places are mentioned in the list. They are located in the highlands of Benjamin, the vicinity of Jerusalem (to Bethlehem in the south), and the areas of Lod in the west and Jericho in the east. The location of three of these places — Netophah, Nebo (Nob) and Senaah — is not sufficiently well established, while the rest are well (or reasonably well) identified and hence their archaeology can be consulted. In each case, I intend to review the finds from the late Iron II, Persian, and Hellenistic periods. In the case of thorough excava­tions, the discussion may go into sub-phases within these periods; obviously this cannot be done in the case of survey material. In addition, I will mention safely dated sources from the late Iron II (biblical material) and Hellenistic periods (the Books of Maccabees) that refer to these places. I will commence with the excavated sites and continue with the surveyed sites.

SITES EXCAVATED

Jerusalem

In the late Iron II, Jerusalem extended over both the City of David and the southwestern hill, an area of c. 60 hectares (e.g., Geva 2003a; Reich and Shukron 2003).

In the Persian period, the settlement was restricted to a sector of the City of David. Most finds were retrieved from the central part of the ridge, between Areas G and D of the Shiloh excavations (Shiloh 1984, 4). The Persian period (Stratum 9) fully appears, according to Shiloh (1984, 4, Table 2), in Areas Di (Ariel, Hirschfeld and Savir 2000, 59-62), D2, and G (Shiloh 1984, 20) and is partially represented in Area Ei. But even in these areas the finds were meagre and poor; most came from fills and quarrying refuse. Persian-period sherds and a few seal impressions were found in Reich and Shukron's Areas A and B, located in the Kidron Valley and mid-slope respectively, c. 200-250 m south of the Gihon Spring; they seem to have originated in the settlement located on the ridge (Reich and Shukron 2007). Reich and Shukron (ibid.) also note that 75 of the 85 Yehud seal impressions from the Shiloh excavations published by Ariel and Shoham (2000) originated from Areas B, D, and E. They conclude that the settlement of the Persian and Early Hellenistic periods was restricted to the top of the ridge, to the south of Area G (see a somewhat similar view in Ariel and Shoham 2000, 138). Different excavation fields in the southern tip of the City of David and in its northern sector yielded negative evidence for the Persian period; in several of these places late-Hellenistic remains were found superimposed over Iron II remains (see in detail Finkelstein in press).

The early Hellenistic settlement (Stratum 8) is restricted to approximately the same area of the City of David. It fully appears only in Area E2, partially represented in Areas Ei and E3, and scarcely represented in Areas Di and D2 (Shiloh 1984, 4, Table 2). In this case, too, the finds are meagre, consisting of three columbaria (De Groot 2004) and a structure that yielded the only assemblage of Early Hellenistic pottery from Jerusalem (in Area Ei — Shiloh i984, i5).

The maximal size of the Persian and Early Hellenistic settlement was therefore c. 240 m (N-S) x 120 m (E-W), that is c. 2-2.5 hectares (contra to the idea of a 6-hectare settlement [excluding the Temple Mount] in Carter 1999, 200; Lipschits 2006, 32; and a 30-acre settlement [possibly including the Temple Mount] in Avigad 1993, 720).

In the late Hellenistic period, Jerusalem expanded again, to cover the entire area of the previous Iron II city, that is, the City of David and the southwestern hill (summaries in Geva 2003b 526-534; Wightman I993, 111-i57).

Gibeon

Gibeon prospered in the late Iron II. It produced wine, was surrounded by strong fortifications, and was equipped with a sophisticated water system (Pritchard 1962, 53-99). An elaborate late-Iron II cemetery lies to the east of the mound (Eshel i987).

Gibeon did not yield unambiguous Persian-period finds. Without going into the debate over the dating of the Gibeon winery and inscriptions late monarchic or 6th century (see summaries in Stern 1982, 32-33; 2001, 433; Lipschits 1999, 287-291) — the mwsh seal impressions and wedge-shaped and reed impressed sherds found at the site (Pritchard 1964 Figs 32,7, 48,17) attest to a certain activity in the Babylonian or Babylonian/early Persian period. Yet, typical Persian-period pottery and Yehud seal impressions were not found (for the latter see Lipschits 2005, 180). According to Pritchard, there is 'only scant evidence of occupation from the end of the sixth century until the beginning of the first century все' at Gibeon (Pritchard 1993, 513). Still, in an attempt to provide evidence for the Gibeon of Nehemiah 3, 7 and the list of returnees he proposed that 'scattered and sporadic settlements' did exist there during the Persian and Hellenistic periods (Pritchard 1962, 163). Stern rightly interpreted the Gibeon finds as evidence for only 6th century and possibly early Persian-period activity (Stern 1982, 32-33; 2001, 433; Lipschits 2005, 243-245 — 6th century).

Late Hellenistic pottery and coins dated to the days of Antiochus III and John Hyrcanus are attested at Gibeon (Pritchard 1962, 163).

Gibeon is mentioned in late monarchic biblical sources — in the list of towns of Benjamin (Joshua 18.25), unanimously dated to the late 7th century все (Alt 1925; Na'aman 1991 with previous literature) and in the book ofJeremiah (28.1; 41.16).

Bethel

Bethel was fully settled in the late Iron II (Kelso 1968, 36-37). A wedge-shaped and reed- impressed sherd found at the site (Kelso 1968 Pl. 67,8) and a Babylonian seal bought from the villagers of Beitin (Kelso 1968, 37; Stern 1982, 31) seem to indicate that the site continued to be inhabited in the 6th century все (and see below for the reference in Zechariah 7.2). Kelso (1968, 37, 38) suggested that the town was destroyed in the second half of the 6th century.

No unambiguous evidence for a Persian-period occupation was found at Bethel; there were no architectural remains, no pottery, and no seal impressions. Moreover, the founda­tions of the Hellenistic walls penetrated into the Iron II remains (Kelso 1968, 36). The excavators speculated that a Persian-period settlement may have been located under the built-up area of the village of Beitin, near the spring, in the southern part of the site (Kelso 1968, 38), but such a settlement should have left a clear ceramic imprint at the site. The only such clue is a tiny sherd identified by Illiffe as part of a 5th century все Greek lekythos (Kelso 1968, 80, Pl. 37, 10).

A prosperous Hellenistic settlement was uncovered at Bethel (Kelso 1968, 36, 40, 52; Lapp 1968).

Bethel is mentioned in a large number of late-monarchic biblical sources, such as the list of towns of Benjamin (Joshua 18.22), which dates to the late 7th century (Alt 1925; Na'aman 1991), and the description of the days ofJosiah (2 Kings 23). Papyrus Amherst 63 mentions deportees by the Assyrians, who were probably settled at Bethel (Steiner 1991). If the mention of Bethel in Zechariah 7.2 refers to a place (e.g., Meyers and Meyers 1987, 382-383; and is not part of a name of a person e.g., Ackroyd 1968, 207), it testifies to the fact that the site was inhabited in the late 6th century. Bethel is mentioned in the list of forts built by Bacchides (1 Macc. 9.50).

Hadid

Hadid is safely identified in the mound of el-Haditheh northeast of Lod. Salvage excavations at the site indicate that the late Iron Age settlement extended over the main mound and its northwestern slope (Brand 1998, 27-29). The excavation yielded two 7th century все Neo-Assyrian cuneiform tablets (Na'aman and Zadok 2000). The site was occupied in both the Persian and Hellenistic periods (Brand 1997; for the Hellenistic settlement see also Nagorsky 2005).

Hadid is mentioned in connection with the history of the Hasmonaeans; it was fortified by Simon the Hasmonaean (1 Macc. 12.38; 13.13; Jos., Ant. xiii, 203, 392).

Jericho

Tell es-Sultan was intensively settled in the 7th century все. Yehud seal impressions and attic vessels (Vanderhooft and Lipschits 2007; Stern 1982, 38,respectively) indicate that the site was inhabited in the Persian period. The late Hellenistic settlement was located at Tulul Abu el-Alayiq to the southwest of Tell es-Sultan (Netzer 2001).

Jericho is mentioned in the list of towns of Benjamin (Joshua 18.21) which dates to the late 7th century все (Alt 1925; Na'aman 1991). It is referred to in various Hellenistic sources the Zenon papyri, 1 and 2 Macc., Diodorus, and Strabo (Tsafrir, De Segni and Green ^^ 143).

The mound of Lod has never been properly excavated; in fact, its exact extent under the modern Arab town is not very clear (see Gophna and Beit-Arieh 1997, 88). Still, enough finds have been unearthed to show that Lod was inhabited from Neolithic to Ottoman times (ibid.). Excavations at Neve Yarak, a neighborhood of modern Lod situated near the ancient mound, yielded Iron II, Persian, and Hellenistic finds (Rosenberger and Shavit 1993; Feldstein 1997; Khalaily and Gopher 1997; Arbel 2004). It is quite clear, then, that the site was inhabited in all three periods discussed in this paper.

Lod is mentioned in 1 Macc. 11.34 as one of the three toparchies added to the Hasmonaean territory in 145 все.

SITES SURVEYED

Bethlehem

The mound occupies the eastern sector of the ridge overbuilt by the town of Bethlehem. It seems to have been fully occupied in the Iron II (see list of spots with Iron II finds in Prag 2000, 170-171). A recent survey of parcels of land still available for research to the east of the Church of Nativity revealed Iron II and Byzantine sherds (Prag 2000); no other period is mentioned.

The only quantitative survey at the site was conducted by Ofer (1993, Appendix IIA, 13), who collected 26 rims from the late Iron II, two rims from the Persian period, and one or two rims from the Hellenistic period. Beyond indicating periods of occupation, these data are insufficient for reconstructing the size of the site and the intensity of activity in the various periods of habitation.

Bethlehem is mentioned in the LXX version of the list of towns ofJudah (Joshua 15.59a) which dates to the late 7th century все (Alt 1925; Na'aman 1991) and in the book of Jeremiah (41.17).

Anathoth

Early studies did not locate pre-Roman remains at the village of Anata (Blair 1936; Albright 1936). Hence, the location of biblical Anathoth was sought at two sites in the vicinity of the village.

Ras el-Kharubeh was both surveyed and excavated (for early research see Bergman 1936). The modern excavation yielded a small number of sherds (40 altogether) from the late Iron II, sherds from the Persian period (about 25% of the material from the dig), and a large number of sherds from the late Hellenistic period. The site was found to be eroded and sparsely inhabited (Biran 1985, 209-211). A survey conducted at the site yielded Iron II and Hellenistic sherds, but no Persian-period finds (Dinur and Feig 1993, 358).

Another site suggested for the location of biblical Anathoth is Khirbet Deir es-Sidd, which was also excavated by Biran (1985, 211-213). It was strongly inhabited in the late-Iron II, but did not yield Persian-period finds. Only a few Hellenistic-Roman sherds were found. A survey conducted at the site yielded a large number of sherds, 70% of which were dated to the Iron II. Persian-period sherds were found in a tomb. Hellenistic sherds were also present (Dinur and Feig 1993, 379).

A thorough, modern survey of the village of Anata (Dinur and Feig 1993, 359-360) has shown that it is built on an ancient site. Hence there is no reason to seek the location of Anathoth elsewhere. The survey yielded 242 sherds, 35% of which date to the Iron II and 10% to the Hellenistic period. The Persian period is not represented.

The mention of Anathoth in the book of Jeremiah attests to its being settled in late-monarchic times.

Azmaveth

Azmaveth is safely identified with the village of Hizma northeast ofJerusalem. The site was surveyed twice. Kallai (1972, 185) reported sherds from the Roman period and later. A more thorough and modern survey was conducted by Dinur and Feig (1993, 372-373), who reported sherds from the Iron II, Persian, and Hellenistic periods (see also Dinur 1986).

Kirjath-Jearim

Kirjath-Jearim is safely identified in the mound of Deir el-'Azar, above the village of Abu-Ghosh. A large collection of pottery from the site, stored by the Antiquities Authority, was studied by the author in 1992. It includes 440 sherds, of which 310 date to the Iron II, 1 to the Persian period, 49 to the Persian or Hellenistic period, 23 to the Hellenistic period, and 11 to the Hellenistic or Roman period. The number of sherds collected at the site is sufficient to state that it was strongly inhabited in the late Iron II, very sparsely inhabited — if at all — in the Persian period, and inhabited in the Hellenistic period.

Kirjath-Jearim is mentioned in the list of towns of Judah (Joshua 15.60; 18.14), which dates to the late 7th century все (Alt 1925; Na'aman 1991) and in the book of Jeremiah 26.

Chephirah

Chephirah is safely identified with Kh. el-Kafira northwest of Jerusalem. The site was surveyed twice. Vriezen (1975) collected a large number of Iron II sherds and several Persian and Hellenistic sherds (idem Figs. 4, 23-25 and 5, respectively). Feldstein et al. (1993, 209-211) surveyed the site thoroughly and collected 243 sherds, of which 81% date to the Iron II. A few sherds were tentatively dated to the Persian period and 13% were assigned to the Hellenistic and Roman periods. It is clear from these data that the main period of occupation was the Iron II, that activity at the site in the Persian period was weak, and that occupation intensified in the Hellenistic period.

Chephirah is mentioned in the list of towns of Benjamin (Joshua 18.26) which dates to the late 7th century все (Alt 1925; Na'aman 1991).

Beeroth

The location of Beeroth was debated in the early years of research (summary in Yeivin 1971, 141-142), but was later safely fixed at the site of Khirbet el-Burj on the outskirts of the modern Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot (Yeivein 1971). The site was surveyed and partially excavated in a salvage operation.

Kallai (1972, 186-187) was the first to conduct a modern survey at the site. He reported Iron II pottery and a single wedge-shaped and reed-impressed sherd that should probably be dated to the 6th century все. Feldstein et al. (1993, 231-233) conducted a more modern and thorough survey at the site and collected 212 sherds, of which 74% date to the Iron II, a few to the Persian period, 9% to the Persian or Hellenistic period, and 8% to the Hellenistic period.

A salvage excavation was conducted at the site in 1992 (Onn and Rapuano 1994). Most of the finds belonged to medieval times, but evidence was revealed for a settlement that was occupied from the Iron Age through the Hellenistic period.

It is clear from this data that the settlement was at its peak in the Iron II, that activity in the Persian period was weak, and that a certain recovery occurred in the Hellenistic period.

Beeroth is mentioned in the list of towns of Benjamin (Joshua 18.25) which dates to the late 7th century все (Alt 1925; Na'aman 1991). It is possibly mentioned in 1 Macc. 9.4 as Bepea. (Jos. Ant. 12, 422 writes Begpfeh, but see discussion in Rappaport 2004, 233).

Ramah

Ramah is unanimously identified with the village of er-Ram north of Jerusalem. Only one modern survey was conducted at the site by Feldstein et al. (1993, 168-169). They collected a large number of 359 sherds, of which 20% date to the Iron II, 2% to the Persian period and 13% to the Hellenistic period. This means that the site was strongly inhabited in the Iron II, that it declined in the Persian period, and that it recovered in the Hellenistic period.
Ramah appears in the list of towns of Benjamin (Joshua 18.25) which dates to the late 7th century все (Alt 1925; Na'aman 1991) and in the book ofJeremiah (31.15; 40.1).

Geba

Geba is safely identified with the village of Jaba northeast of Jerusalem. The site was surveyed twice. Kallai (1972, 183) reported sherds from the Iron II and the Persian period. Feldstein et al. (1993, 177-179) conducted a more thorough survey at the site and collected 284 sherds, of which 23% date to the Iron II and 22% to the Hellenistic period. It seems, therefore, that the site was strongly inhabited in both the Iron II and the Hellenistic period. It was probably deserted (or very sparsely inhabited) in the Persian period.

Geba appears in the list of towns of Benjamin (Joshua 18.24), which dates to the late 7th century все (Alt 1925; Na'aman 1991).

Michmash

Michmash is safely identified with the village of Mukhmas to the northeast of Jerusalem. The ancient site Khirbet el-Hara el-Fauqa is located on the northern edge of the village. The site was thoroughly surveyed by Feldstein et al. (1993, 185—186), who collected 643 sherds (!), of which 14% date to the Iron II, 10% to the Persian period and 19% to the Hellenistic period. This means that the site was strongly inhabited in all three periods discussed here.

Michmash served for a while as the seat of Jonathan the Hasmonaean (1 Macc. 9.73; Jos. Ant. 13: 34).

Ai

Ai of the list of returnees is a riddle. The site of et-Tell was not inhabited after the Iron I. Assuming that there is a connection between the Ai of the book of Joshua (as a name originally derived from an etiological story) and the Ai of the list, the only sites which may provide an archaeological reality behind this place-name are the village of Deir Dibwan, or better (from the preservation of the name point of view) Khirbet el-Haiyan, located on the southern outskirts of Deir Dibwan.

Deir Dibwan is a large village that has never been properly surveyed. Feldstein et al. (1993, 183—184) managed to collect 20 sherds there, among them a single sherd from the Iron II and all the others from the Roman period and later. This is insufficient to reach conclusions regarding the settlement history of the site.

Khirbet el-Haiyan was both excavated and surveyed. Excavation at the site revealed evidence for occupation starting in the Roman period (Callaway and Nicol 1966, 19). Kallai's survey (1972, 178—179) revealed sherds from the Roman period and later. Feldstein et al. (1993, 183) collected 112 sherds at the site, of which 32% were dated to the Hellenistic or Roman period.

These data are not sufficient for this discussion. It seems logical to suggest that Ai of the list of returnees should be sought at Deir Dibwan.

Ono

Gophna, Taxel and Feldstein (2005) have recently shown that Ono cannot be identified with Kafr Ana, a site that was not occupied from the Chalcolithic to the Byzantine period. Instead, they suggested identifying Ono at the site of Kafr Juna, located 1 km to the north­east of Kafr Ana. Surveys conducted there yielded a large number of Iron II, Persian, and Hellenistic sherds (ibid.).

DISCUSSION

Table 1 summarizes the finds at the sites mentioned in the list of returnees.

Three-to-five places mentioned in the list (including places which were thoroughly excavated), were not inhabited in the Persian period, and at other sites activity was meagre. Some places which are not listed are also worth mentioning. The best marker for importance of sites in the Persian period is the number of Yehud seal impression found in the course of their excavations (I refer to types 1—15 in Vanderhooft and Lipschits 2007). The sites with the largest number of such seal impressions are Ramat Rahel, Jerusalem, Mizpah, Nebi Samuel and En Gedi. Mizpah, En Gedi and Beth-haccherem (most probably Ramat Rahel — Aharoni 1979, 418) do not appear in the list, and the list does not include any name which can fit the location of Nebi Samuel. In other words, four of the five sites with the largest number of Yehud seal impressions are absent from the list— another indication that the list does not fit the reality of the Persian period. Finally, it is evident that the number of returnees which appear in the list (see discussion in Lipschits 2005, 161—162) — if taken as reflecting a real demographic reality — do not fit the depleted population of Yehud in the Persian period (for the latter see, e.g., Carter 1999, 195—205; Lipschits 2005, 270).

Table 1. 
Summary of the archaeology of the sites mentioned in the list of returnees, including intensity of occupation


Iron II
Persian
Hellenistic
Jerusalem
Strong
Weak
Strong
Bethlehem
V*
Weak
Weak
Gibeon
Strong
(except for 6th cent)?
Weak
Anathoth
Strong
-
Medium
Azmaveth
V
V
V
Kirjath-Jearim
Strong
Weak
Medium
Chephirah
Strong
Weak
Weak
Beeroth
Strong
Weak
Medium
Ramah
Strong
Weak
Medium
Geba
Strong
?
Strong
Michmash
Strong
Medium
Strong
Bethel
Strong
(except for 6th cent)?
Strong
Ai (if Kh. Haiyan)
-
V?
(if Deir Dibwan)
V


Lod
V
V
V
Hadid
V
V
V
Ono
Strong
Strong
Strong
Jericho
V
V
V

* evidence for activity, but data not sufficient to specify intensity of activity


All this is sufficient to argue that the list of returnees cannot be seen as an authentic record of the places where returnees settled in the Persian period. The archaeology of the list contradicts the ideas of both those who accept the list as genuinely representing the early settlement, immediately after the return (e.g., Galling 1951; Myers 1965, 14-17), or in the days of Nehemiah (Blenkinsopp 1988, 83), and those who see it as summarizing several waves of returnees up to the days of Nehemiah (summary in Lipschits 2005, 159-160, n. 91). On the basis of a demographic estimation for Persian-period Yehud, Lipschits (2005, 160­161) rejected the notions of large-scale deportations at the end of the Iron II and significant waves of returnees thereafter, and suggested that the list is a literary compilation that could have been based on several censuses that were undertaken during the Persian period (for other scholars who proposed a similar solution see references in idem, 160, n. 92). The results of this investigation make this suggestion untenable.

There are several ways to decipher the reality behind the list of returnees. According to the first, it reflects a late Iron II situation, possibly focused on a vague memory of the main areas from which people were deported, or the main areas to which they returned. Another possibility is that the list has no historical value at all, and simply mentions impor­tant settlements of the late Iron II, in areas that were included in the province of Yehud. A third explanation could be that the list was compiled in the late Hellenistic (Hasmonaean) period and reflects the settlement reality of that time, against the background of a vague memory of the territory of the province of Yehud with the addition of the area of Lod (below). The latter possibility would also fit the demographic reality hidden behind the list.

Finally, it is noteworthy that seven of the places in the list appear in the books of Maccabees, including important places in the history of the Hasmonaeans such as Beeroth, Michmash and Hadid. The appearance in the list of Lod, Hadid, and Ono is also significant. According to the distribution of the Persian-period Yehud seal impressions (Vanderhooft and Lipschits 2007), this area was not part of the province of Yehud. The Samaria district of Lod  was added to the Hasmonaean territory in 145 все (1 Macc. 11.34) — another clue that the list may depict a second century все reality.

SUMMARY

The archaeology of the places mentioned in the list of returnees seems to show that it does not represent Persian-period realities. Important Persian-period places not mentioned in the list support this notion. The archaeology of the list leaves two main options for understand­ing the reality behind it. According to the first, the list portrays late Iron II places. According to the second, it was compiled in the late Hellenistic (Hasmonaean) period and represents the reality of the time. The latter solution, also proposed as a possibility for the understanding of Nehemiah 3 — Finkelstein, in press), raises significant difficulties, as it has far-reaching implications regarding the date of the final redaction of the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Yet, without extra-biblical sources to support a Persian-period date for the list of returnees, the archaeological evidence cannot be ignored.

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