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Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History

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Judeans in Sippar and Susa during the First Century of the Babylonian Exile: Assimilation and Perseverance under Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid Rule

Yigal Bloch
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  • Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel
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Published Online: 2014-11-04 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/janeh-2014-0005


The present study discusses the attestations of persons of Judean origin in Neo-Babylonian cuneiform tablets (of the period between 550 and 490 bce) as possible evidence of some aspects of the social history of the community of Judeans exiled to Babylonia by Nebuchadnezzar II. Although the number of such attestations is very small, it is nonetheless possible to single out two groups which display different patterns of personal name giving across generations. In one instance, a group of merchants in the city of Sippar (belonging mostly to a single family) uses, in part, distinctly Judean personal names in the first generation of the exile, but abandons them completely in favor of Babylonian theophoric names in the next generation. In another instance, a group of individuals active mostly in Susa and probably belonging to the families of royal officials (as suggested by names and patronymics of the type of Beamtennamen – names expressing a pious wish for the well-being of the king) displays the use of Yahwistic personal names even though the fathers of those individuals bore Babylonian theophoric names. It is suggested that the persistence of Yahwistic – hence distinctly Judean – names among royal officials or their direct offspring, even after the previous generation bore Babylonian names, reflects a considerable measure of tolerance toward ethnically foreign elements in the royal administration (the relevant examples date from the period after the establishment of the Achaemenid empire). In contrast, the progressing adoption of Babylonian names among the Judean merchants in Sippar in the first half of the sixth century bce seems likely to reflect assimilation into the native Babylonian society, fostered by the necessity to pursue commercial dealings with the Ebabbar temple of Šamaš and the social circles centered around the temple, which consisted of conservatively minded upper strata of the native Babylonian society. Editions of the cuneiform tablets discussed in the present study are provided in the Appendix.

Keywords: Judeans; Babylonian exile; Neo-Babylonian period; personal names; social history


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About the article

Published Online: 2014-11-04

Published in Print: 2014-11-28

Research funding: US-Israel Educational Foundation (Grant/Award Number)

Citation Information: Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History, Volume 1, Issue 2, Pages 119–172, ISSN (Online) 2328-9562, ISSN (Print) 2328-9554, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/janeh-2014-0005.

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