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Persian period

Ishmael, King of the Arabs

Throughout the Bible, Ishmaelite is a collective term for eastern nomads. Why, then, does Genesis present their eponymous ancestor Ishmael as dwelling in the west? The answer can be found in the political realities of Persian period Yehud.

Prof.

Yairah Amit

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How All Kohanim Became “Sons of Aaron”

The Bible knows about many priestly families, including the Levites, the Mushites (descendants of Moses), and the Zadokites. By the time of Ezra and Chronicles, however, only Aaronide priests were legitimate, and other families either merged with them or were demoted.

Dr

Mark Leuchter

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How the Concept of Mosaic Authorship Developed

In the Persian period, the Torah, which is made up of various law collections, was ascribed to Moses as revealed by YHWH. A parallel development was taking place in Achaemenid Persia that sheds light on this process: The sacred texts called the Avesta, that contain the law​​ (dāta) and tradition (daēnā) of Zoroastrianism​, were being collectively ascribed to Zarathustra (Zoroaster) as revealed by Ahuramazdā.

Dr.

Yishai Kiel

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On the Origins of Purim and Its Assyrian Name

In the book of Esther, the name for the holiday Purim derives from Haman’s pūr (פּוּר, “lot”) to determine what day to attack the Jews. The name Purim predates the story of Haman’s lot, and may originate in a forgotten Assyrian calendrical celebration, when the new year was named with a pūru.

Dr.

Amitai Baruchi-Unna

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Sukkot in Ezra-Nehemiah and the Date of the Torah

According to Ezra (3:4) and Nehemiah (8:14-15) the returnees celebrated the holiday of Sukkot according to the law as it “was written,” but differences between their celebrations and the prescriptions in the Torah suggest that the laws they had written were slightly different than ours. Was the Torah finalized by the time Ezra-Nehemiah was written?

Dr.

Lisbeth S. Fried

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Survival and Revival: Megillat Esther and Ezra-Nehemiah

Jews in the Persian Period dealt with the reality of the destruction of Judah in two different ways. Megillat Esther emphasized the diaspora while Ezra-Nehemiah emphasized the rebuilding. For most of Jewish history the Ezra-Nehemiah model was all but non-existent, but this changed with the emergence of Zionism and the establishment of the State of Israel.

Prof.

Sara Japhet

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Apportioning the Land: By Lot and By Population?!

Making sense from a redactional and historical perspective of the Torah’s two contradictory methods for how to divide the land among the tribes.

Dr.

Itamar Kislev

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Darius II Delays the Festival of Matzot in 418 BCE

A new look at the “Passover Papyrus” from Elephantine and the nature of the Hebrew calendar in the Achaemenid Empire.

Dr.

Idan Dershowitz

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The 220-Year History of the Achaemenid Persian Empire

An overview of Persian history starting from Cyrus the Great’s conquest of Media (549 B.C.E.) until Alexander the Great’s conquest of Persia (334-329 B.C.E.), including related biblical references and Jewish texts.

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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What Really Happened at Mount Sinai?

Four Answers to One Question

Prof.

Baruch J. Schwartz

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The Meaning of Degel and the Elusive History of the Levites

Two Problems In Parashat Bemidbar 

Prof. Rabbi

Baruch A. Levine

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Was the Joseph Story Written in Egypt During the Persian Period?

Egyptologists have long searched the details of the Joseph story for clues to when the story was written. Does the Jewish experience as a diaspora community in Egypt hold the clue to the story’s origin?

Dr.

Shirly Ben-Dor Evian

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