The house of the god who dwells in Jerusalem

by Lisbeth S. Fried
The house of the god who dwells in Jerusalem
Lisbeth S. Fried
Journal of the American Oriental Society
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Reviewed work(s): Temple Restoration in Early Achaemenid Judah by Peter R. Bedford
Priester und Leviten im ach√§menidischen Juda by Joachim Schaper
The appearance of a review years after the publication of the books in question may be odd, but can be justified by the nature of the books and the issues they raise. P. Bedford's Temple Restoration in Achaemenid Judah and J. Schaper's Priester und Leviten im achamenidischen Juda discuss Persian and Jewish motivations for the return to Jerusalem and for rebuilding the temple to YHWH there. They express views that differ from those of one another and from my own.
Bedford asks who built the second temple, when, and why, whereas Shaper concentrates on the history of the relationship, or as he interprets it, the rivalry, between the priests and the Levites in Achaemenid Judah. The period of the return provides the framework for that rivalry however, and Schaper devotes the major portion of his work to that period. The last third of his book concerns the time of Nehemiah and Ezra, but because Bedford does not deal with this later period, and because space is limited, this review will not treat that portion. If the reader accepts the premises and deductions that Schaper carefully builds up in the first two-thirds of his work, the final third flows naturally. This review therefore addresses these premises and deductions.
These two books and hence this review focus on two primary areas: the existence and source of the conflict between rival groups at the time of the Jewish return to Judah, and the source of the impetus and motivation for (re-)building the temple of YHWH in Jerusalem.
Schaper's primary goal is to understand the source of the conflicts depicted in Ezra-Nehemiah, and in particular in Ezra 1-6. He interprets them as arising between the returning gold and the descendants of those who had not been deported. These include the "poor of the land" and the non-Zadokite, Levitical, priests.
Bedford (pp. 43-45) and Schaper (p. 162) agree that the royal court, the residents of Jerusalem, the Jewish nobility, and the 'am ha'aretz (the landed aristocracy) were deported to Babylon at the time of the conquest. They agree that although the Babylonians destroyed cities throughout Judah and deported the urban elites, the poor and the inhabitants of rural areas were not affected. According to Schaper, the poor even benefited from the deportations. The Babylonians distributed the vacated land to the poor and the needy; consequently the poor lived a freer and more comfortable life under the Babylonians than previously. Conflict arise between the returning elites who wanted their land back and the poor about to be impoverished once more.
This seemingly reasonable theory has been challenged. Vanderhooft (1999) has demonstrated that the Babylonians had no such policy of distributing vacant land to the poor. Assyrians administered the areas they conquered. They appointed Assyrian governors and overseers, turning the conquered areas into Assyrian provinces. This was not the case with the Babylonians. After the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon, the military, economic, and administrative structure of the Judean kingdom collapsed (Lipschits 1999: 174; Stern 2001; 2004; Tainter 1988). Many escaped deportation by fleeing to Mizpah and other cities of Benjamin which had not suffered from the invasion, as well as to Ammon and Moab (Jer. 11, 12). According to the biblical text, Gedaliah, not the Babylonians, distributed vacated land to those who remained with him in Mizpah (Jer. 40:10). However, after Gedaliah's assassination, probably in 582 (Carroll 1986: 707), those at Mizpah and other cities of Benjamin were also deported to Babylon (Jer. 52:30) or escaped to Egypt or other neighboring states (Jer. 43:5, 6). After this third wave of deportations, the Babylonians abandoned Benjamin (Vanderhooft 1999; Fried forthcoming). Benjamin too became a post-collapse society, lacking an administrative center (Tainter 1988).
The theory that life continued as before under Babylonian domination is based on excavations at four specific sites in Benjamin: Bethel, Gibeah (Tell el-Ful), Mizpah (Tell en-Nasbeh), and Gibeon (el-Jib) (Barstad 1996; Lipschits 1999; 2003; Stern 2001). These sites were excavated in the first part of the twentieth century, poorly by recent standards. The conclusions of their excavators are considered unreliable (Dever 1971). The presence of both Iron Age and Persian-period pottery and the absence of a destruction layer between them have been used to conclude that they were inhabited in the intervening Babylonian period. But such a conclusion is not warranted in the absence of identifiable Babylonian artifacts (De Groot 2001; Faust 2003; in press; Master 2005). Although survey data must be used cautiously, they support the presence of a settlement gap in the sixth century. Finkelstein and Magen (1993) surveyed most of the area of Benjamin and found no evidence of habitation during the Babylonian period. Their survey reveals significant population in Iron II, ending at the beginning of the sixth century, and modest population in the Persian period (mid-fifth and fourth centuries). No Babylonian period population is in evidence.
Avraham Faust (2001; 2003; in press; Greenhut 1994) has tested the hypothesis that habitation continued in rural areas in and around the modern city of Jerusalem during the Babylonian period. For assessing continuity of settlement, the advantage of rural sites over urban ones is obvious. The number of locations that can house a large urban population is small, so that later cities are built on top of earlier ones. This is how tells come into being. The presence of Iron II cultural material directly below Persian-period material cannot prove continuity between them. It may simply indicate that returnees in the Persian period built their cities over previous ones. Nor can the absence of a destruction level between periods indicate continuity. The earlier population may have abandoned the city prior to battle, leaving it to be repopulated later.
Rural sites, on the contrary, tell a different story. Farmsteads can be located almost anywhere. It would be very unlikely for one farm to be located on top of another by chance. If a farmstead reveals both Persian and Iron II occupation levels, it is more likely that there was continuity of settlement between the periods. The results are compelling. Out of eleven rural sites excavated around Jerusalem, nine showed habitation only in the Iron Age, with no later occupation (Faust 2003). One revealed occupation only in the Persian period with no earlier occupation. Only one revealed material culture from both periods. The one out of eleven farmsteads showing habitation in both the Iron Age and the Persian period may well represent the result of chance. These data demonstrate that one cannot assume occupation in the rural sector around Jerusalem during the period of the exile. They also indicate a very low overall level of settlement even in the Persian period, which is consistent with other findings (Greenhut 1994: 140; Lipschits 1999; 2001; 2003; Finkelstein and Magen 1993). In fact, Greenhut found no evidence of occupation during either the Babylonian or the Persian period in his excavations of rural areas around Jerusalem.
The same holds true for rural areas in other parts of Judah and Benjamin. Of the excavations of thirteen rural sites outside of the Jerusalem area, only one exhibited occupation in both the Iron Age and in the Persian period (Faust 2003). Again, this is what would be expected to occur by chance alone. The other twelve areas did not reveal any Persian-period remains. One must conclude that there was an absence of continuity between Iron Age and Persian-period occupation in the rural areas of Judah and Benjamin. There was a settlement gap in the Babylonian period even in the rural areas. It cannot be assumed, therefore, that the "poor of the land" cultivated estates abandoned by the deportees. Rather, the archaeology indicates that the destruction of urban sites by the Babylonians brought about a collapse of the economic and administrative infrastructure that permitted agriculture to flourish. The poor of the land did not continue to plant and till. Judah and Benjamin must be considered a post-collapse society in the mid-sixth century, a society which began to recover only gradually in the Persian period (Faust 2003). Tainter (1988: 20) has defined a post-collapse society:
... [T]here is typically a marked, rapid reduction in population size
  and density. Not only do urban populations substantially decline, but
  so also do the support populations of the countryside. Many
  settlements are concurrently abandoned. The level of population and
  settlement may decline to that of centuries or even millennia
In addition to the "poor of the land," Schaper argues that those Levitical priests who were not in Jerusalem at the time of its destruction also escaped deportation. Both Bedford (p. 46) and Schaper (p. 163) assume that activities continued at the ruined temple during the Babylonian period. They assume that it is unlikely that the residents of Judah could have lived from 586 to 516 without YHWH and the YHWH cult. Schaper (p. 163) argues that large numbers of Levites at the high places outside of Jerusalem, plus the Aaronide priests residing at Bethel, and the great majority of the Abiatharides living in Anathoth would all have been spared and would have officiated at the ruined temple in Jerusalem after the Zadokite priesthood was deported. Jer. 41:5 is offered as evidence of worship at the ruined temple and the presence of non-Zadokite priests to carry out the sacrifices. Schaper assumes that those priests who remained in the land would have opposed the claims of the returning Zadokites. These Levitical priests (the bamot-priests of the high places, the Aaronides, and the Abiatharides) would finally have been able to officiate in Jerusalem free from Zadokite domination. Conflict would have developed when the Zadokite priesthood returned from Babylon and took over the temple cult, pushing the Levites once more into a subordinate position.
One difficulty with this conjecture is that we don't know where these non-Zadokite priests would have lived. Jerusalem and the areas around it were destroyed and abandoned. There is no evidence that Bethel was occupied during the Babylonian or Persian periods (Dever 1971: 459-71; De Groot 2001: 79; Koenen 2003: 59-64; pace Lipschits 1999; 2003), so that the so-called Aaronide priests could not have lived there. Nor is there evidence for the city of Anathoth during the Babylonian or Persian periods. Archaeologists have determined that the biblical city of Anathoth to which the Levitical priest Abiathar fled is Ras el-Karrubeh, but it did not survive the Iron Age (Peterson 1992). There are numerous Iron Age remains, with an impressive number dated to the eighth century. There is also an abundance of pottery from the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods. The town was unpopulated and in ruins during the Babylonian and Persian periods, however. This Levitical cult city seems to have met the same fate as did the other cities of Judah and Benjamin.
Schaper argues (p. 164) that sacrifices were conducted by these non-Zadokite priests who had been spared death and deportation. He bases this conjecture on Lam. 1:4, where it states that "her priests groan." To Schaper this implies that there were still priests left in the city to conduct the rites. Yet, the text says further "my priests and elders perished in the city as they sought food to revive their strength" (Lam. 1:19). Delbert Hillers has noted (1992: 10) that "such 'history' as we have in Lamentations is not told with an eye to the unique, particular, unrepeatable, contingent circumstances; it is experienced and narrated in conformity to certain pre-existing literary and religious patterns." Nor can it be assumed that the writer was an eyewitness to the events. Sumerian city laments, which sound as much like eyewitness accounts as does Lamentations, were not composed at the time of their cities' destruction, but at least fifty years afterward, in conjunction with the rebuilding of their temples (Jacobsen 1940). Similarly, this was most likely the purpose and the time of composition of Lamentations.
Schaper (p. 164) argues further that Psalm 74:8 implies that cult sites existed outside of Jerusalem at the time of the Babylonian invasion and that some survived it so that their priests could officiate at the ruined temple in Jerusalem. That verse states:
  They said in their hearts, "Let us subdue them all together," they
  Burnt all the assemblies of God on earth.
Kraus (1989: 97) points out that Psalm 74 is set in a period long after the destruction occurred (vss. 1, 3, and 9). He interprets it as a lament, like Lamentations, written for the rebuilding ceremonies of the temple of Jerusalem in 520. Thus it ought not to be used as an historical picture of the destruction of Jerusalem or its aftermath.
Schaper (p. 164) also cites Zech. 7:5 and 8:19 plus Jer. 41:5 to bolster his contention that fasts, pilgrimages, and sacrifices continued at the site of the burnt temple in Jerusalem. The fasts mentioned in Zechariah do not state that they occurred at the temple, or even in Judah. One can fast anywhere. As to Jer. 41:5, that text states:
  Eighty men arrived [in Mizpah] from Shechem and Shiloh and Samaria,
  with their beards shaved and their clothes rent, and their bodies
  gashed, bringing grain offerings and incense to the house of YHWH.
Eighty men in mourning garb from the province of Samaria were apparently making a pilgrimage to the temple of YHWH in the month of Tishrei. Presumably "the house of YHWH" refers to the temple in Jerusalem. Lipschits (2001) points out the tendentious quality of this verse. Samaria, Shechem, and Shiloh were places where well-known cult sites had stood. Jeremiah (Jer. 7:12, cf. 26:6) had prophesied that the temple in Jerusalem would become like the temple in Shiloh which YHWH had overthrown. He had also prophesied (Jer. 31:8, 9) that men would come from the northland: "they shall come with weeping and supplications." Jeremiah 41:5 may not be historical, but rather a passage intended to show that Jeremiah's prophecies had been fulfilled.
Were sacrifices ever offered at destroyed temples in antiquity? Destroyed temples are temples that the god has abandoned (Albrektson 1967; Cogan 1974: 10-21; Fried 2003; Holloway 1992: 342-49; Hurowitz 1992: 268; Younger 1990: 72-79). This conception was shared by the Judeans, as emphasized in Ezekiel's writings (Kutsko 2000: 108; Zimmerli 1979: 251-54; see also Fried 2003).
Did people sacrifice at temples that the god had abandoned? Examination of the relevant texts suggests not. According to the Nabonidus Verse Account (col. vi):
  [The images of Babyl]onia, male and female, he (Cyrus) returned to
  their cellas. [The (gods) ... who] had abandoned their [cha]pels he
  returned to their mansions. [Their wrath] he appeased, their mind he
  put at rest. [Those whose power was] at a low he brought back to life
  [because] their food is (now) served (to them) [regular]ly. (ANET,
This text suggests that while the gods were in Babylon to escape the advancing Persian army, sacrifices were not conducted and the gods were deprived of their regular meals. It was only when Cyrus had returned them to their usual abodes that sacrifices were resumed. Another text (YOS 19, 94), discussed by Beaulieu (1993), shows that while the Lady of Uruk (i.e., the goddess Inanna = Ishtar) was in Babylon, barley and other items were sent from Uruk to Babylon for the regular offerings to the goddess. Sacrifices were not conducted at her temple in Uruk, but were sent to Babylon.
"Babylonian Boundary Stone 36" has been discussed recently by Hurowitz (2003). It is a record of Nabu-apla-iddina's ([890.sup.?]-[851.sup.?]) endowment of the temple of Shamash at Sippar (King 1912: 120-27, plts. 98-102). According to the inscription, during the reign of Adadaplu-iddina (1068-1047) the Sutu had overthrown the Ebabbar temple and destroyed the image of Shamash, the resident deity (i 8-9). The image and the insignia of Shamash had disappeared (i 10-11). A later king, Simbar-sipak (1025-1008), looked for the statue of the god, but Shamash would not reveal himself to him. Nevertheless, Simbar-sipak fashioned a sun-disk, suspended it from the temple ceiling, and established regular offerings to it. In the previous twenty years, no offerings had taken place. Sacrifices were resumed at Ebabbar only after the sun-disk had been set up and a manifestation of the god was again present in the temple.
Sacrifices to the god were not conducted if the god was absent, and if a temple had been destroyed, then the god had left it. This ideology is also exhibited by the Jews at Elephantine. They too could not sacrifice at their destroyed temple. (TAD A4.7)
  ... from the month of Tammuz, year 14 of King Darius [when the temple
  was destroyed],... from that (time) and until this day they did not
  make meal-offering and incense and holocaust in that Temple.
For at least three years, the temple lay in ruins. Sacrifices ceased, even though priests were present at the ruined site. The Jews requested permission to rebuild their temple at Elephantine so that they could carry out the sacrifices again. If they had not needed the temple, they would have simply requested permission to resume the sacrifices on the former site, without undertaking the expense and trouble of rebuilding the temple. They did not do this because sacrifices could not be conducted without the temple and the god present in it.
It is not likely therefore that activities continued at the ruined temple in Jerusalem. Lamentation rites may have occurred at least until Gedaliah's assassination, but even this is doubtful. Lamentation ceremonies did not traditionally take place until the time of the temple's rebuilding (Ellis 1968: 26-29; Jacobsen 1940: 219-24; Thureau-Dangin 1921: 40-43).
Even though the archaeology testifies to a settlement gap (Stern 2004), Bedford agrees with Schaper that a large part of the population was not deported or killed. He nevertheless argues (pp. 11ff.) against the idea of conflict between those who returned and those who stayed behind. He points out that all advocates of this conflict paradigm (and Schaper must be included) are indebted to Ezra-Nehemiah, especially Ezra 3-4. In this passage, the returnees prevent a second group, labeled the "people(s) of the land(s)," from participating in building the temple to YHWH. Like many (for references, see Bedford, p. 12 n. 22), Schaper identifies these persons as descendants of Judaeans who had never left Judea; others identify them with the Samaritans (see references in Bedford, p. 13 n. 23); a third group suggests that they are an amalgam of both those left behind and the Samaritans (references in Bedford, p. 13 n. 24). Bedford summarizes these views (p. 21) by pointing out that in all of them the cultic personnel of the temple of YHWH are the protagonists and the cult itself the focus of the conflict. The various factions were supposedly struggling for control over, or at least for participation in, this cult. According to this view, the loss of indigenous kingship meant that the priesthood had acquired the political authority that had previously rested with the king (Bedford, pp. 22-23). This political and social role of the priesthood was sanctioned by the Achaemenid rulers, so that taking control of the temple would afford them access to this political authority and power. Those left out of the political process (e.g., the Levites and those who had remained in the land) were disenfranchised, cut off from the political power which the Achaemenids gave to the administrators of the cult. This is the scenario proposed by Schaper.
Bedford (p. 27) disagrees. He admits that diversity of opinion is endemic to all societies, and certainly Judah was not immune. What he disagrees with is the contention that the Jerusalem temple was at the center of a struggle among competing groups for socioeconomic or political power (p. 28). He does not accept the contention that the Persians had a policy of delegating political power to cultic officials of local shrines. I too have found no evidence of secular authority accruing to local priests anywhere in the Persian empire, and certainly not in Judah (Fried 2004). Power was held firmly in the hands of the Persians and their Persian or Babylonian appointees. Bedford argues (pp. 30-31) that reliance on Ezra-Nehemiah for an historical picture of the situation in the beginning decades of the Achaemenid Empire in Judah is a mistake. The texts are late and tendentious. Although the rebuilding of the temple was highly significant to the Judaeans, this was not because it provided access to social, political, or economic power (Bedford, p. 32). It was because it provided access to God.
Rather than writing a history based on Ezra 3-4, Bedford advocates reliance on the texts of Haggai and Zechariah 1-8. These can be dated to the reign of Darius I, and do not reveal later interpolations. In these texts, the issues facing the community are not cast in terms of social conflict (pp. 32-33); the concerns are theological, not political. The only issue is whether YHWH is willing to have his temple rebuilt, and if and when he is willing to return to it. Would YHWH view temple building as legitimate before the Davidic king arrived to lay the cornerstone? Bedford argues that since YHWH had abandoned the city and the temple, allowing its destruction, it could not then be rebuilt without first ascertaining YHWH's wishes.
Bedford's insight must be accepted: the texts of Haggai and Zechariah, dated to the early years of Persian rule in Judah, do not witness to a conflict, while Ezra 3-4, which do, are late and tendentious. Schaper admits (p. 189) that Haggai knows no dissension between either the Jewish groups remaining in Judah and the returnees, or between the Samaritans and the returnees. He therefore concludes that the cultic officials who had remained in the land, as well as the poor who had been given the land of the wealthy, were not opposed to building the temple. They were only opposed to the appointment of Joshua, the Zadokite, as high priest and to the consequent reinstatement in power of the house of Zadok. Schaper offers as evidence Zechariah 3, in which Joshua's clothes are described as "filthy." However, if that chapter describes an objection to Joshua, which is doubtful, the objection is overcome in the installation ceremony, in which Joshua's filthy clothes are removed and new ones put on. Schaper assumes that because Joshua undergoes this ordination in Zechariah's vision, Zechariah is defending Joshua against the accusation that he is unfit to be high priest. It must be recognized, however, that every priest and cultic official is inducted into temple service through a "cleansing" ceremony (Cole 1994; Fleming 1998). Cole points out (p. 240) that "every official and functionary of Babylonian and Assyrian temples in the first millennium B.C.--from high priests and chief administrators to lowly brewers and fishermen--were apparently first consecrated for temple service by having their hair shaved." This does not demonstrate an objection to their right to serve in their offices, but simply the fact that they are exiting the world of the mundane and entering that of the holy. Zechariah 3 cannot be taken as an indication of hostility to the Zadokite priesthood.
The only evidence of conflict between the returnees and those who supposedly had remained in the land is Ezra 3-4, and Schaper admits that Ezra 4:1-4 is not historical (p. 189). This leaves only Ezra 3, and as Bedford has shown, this passage too is likely the work of a later editor, since neither Haggai nor Zechariah speak of any conflict. Indeed, this has already been argued by Williamson (1985). The idea of social conflict between returnees and any other group must be rejected, as must the idea of rivalry between the returning Zadokites and the Levitical priests.
In addition to their differences as to the existence of social conflict at the time of the return, Bedford and Schaper also disagree on the motivation for temple building.
Persian Impetus for Temple Building?
For Schaper, the primary question is, Why did the Achaemenids rebuild the temple of YHWH in Jerusalem? Schaper asserts "a probability bordering on certainty" (p. 74) that Ezra 1:2-4 contains "an actual historic source, a proclamation of the Great King Cyrus II," and that it parallels the Aramaic text in Ezra 6:3-5. The latter is a memorandum meant for administrative use. The proclamation is imbued with the widespread ancient Near Eastern understanding that conquest occurs only when the gods of a country have relieved the native rulers of rule and handed the country over to the conquerors. This is also shown in the Cyrus Cylinder. The conqueror of a cultic installation always acts in the interests of the local god.
Bedford argues (p. 89), in contrast, that the Cyrus Edict is not genuine and that the motivation and impetus for temple building did not come from the Persians, nor even from repatriated Jews, but from Jews living in Judah who had never left. If Cyrus had really authorized the temple's rebuilding and the expenditures for it, why, Bedford asks (p. 95), was the temple not completed during Cyrus's reign? If the Cyrus Edict were genuine, the temple would have been built in Cyrus's reign, not eighteen years later. One goal of Ezra 1-4, according to Bedford, is to explain why the temple was not begun until the second year of Darius I. The letters in Ezra 4, which are intended to provide the reason behind the work stoppage in the time of Cyrus, actually stem from the time of Artaxerxes!
Bedford admits (p. 149), however, that Cyrus did order Sheshbazzar to give back the temple vessels and to permit the Jews to return to Judah and rebuild their temple, even though there was no decree to this effect that went out to the entire empire. If so, then it seems to me that credit must be given to Cyrus for building the temple, restoring the temple vessels, and allowing the Jews to return, whatever we think about an empire-wide edict. One must admit, therefore, that the impetus for temple building occurred under Cyrus, whenever the first spade was put to the ground.
Schaper's concern (p. 131) is to explain Persian interest in the Jewish temple. He offers several very unlikely reasons and one cogent one. He argues first that the Persian kings genuinely worshipped YHWH (p. 133), and that they routinely added the gods of the conquered nations to their pantheon. As evidence for this, Schaper cites the Cyrus Cylinder, in which Cyrus is described as "taking the hand" of Marduk; the Udjahoressnet Inscription, in which Cambyses and Darius are said to have prostrated themselves before the Egyptian goddess Neith; and Ezra 6:10, according to which Darius requests that sacrifices be made to YHWH on behalf of the Persian king and his family. These texts do not demonstrate that the Persian kings worshipped foreign gods, however; their own inscriptions give all credit to Ahura Mazda. It is more likely, as I have argued elsewhere (Fried 2002), that the Persian kings appropriated the ideology of local rulers. The local gods were then interpreted as preferring the Persian ruler to the indigenous king. It is far too credulous a view of these texts to assume that the Persian kings actually did worship these foreign gods.
Second, Schaper suggests (p. 134) that the Achaemenid rulers might have felt a special affinity toward the Jewish religion since they shared similar purity laws. This implies that the Achaemenid attitude toward the Jews was more beneficent than toward other peoples. He cites as evidence the relief from taxes that Artaxerxes provided temple personnel (Ezra 7:24), but relief from taxes and corvee labor was also granted to the people of Babylon (Cyrus Cylinder; ANET, 316) as well as to the priests of Apollo (Gadatas Letter; Fried 2004: 108-19), and does not indicate a unique affinity with the Jews.
Schaper suggests a third reason for Cyrus' building the temple in Jerusalem: to strengthen the western borders of the empire (p. 151). Until Cambyses' conquest of Egypt, the threat of Egyptian attack was ever present, so that consolidation of the western border was imperative. But I do not see how a temple in Jerusalem helps to protect the empire from Egyptian revolt. Indeed, Egypt successfully revolted against the Persian Empire at the end of the fifth century even though there was a fully functioning temple of YHWH in Jerusalem.
Schaper offers a fourth and more cogent reason for Achaemenid support for the temple in Judah: the temple increased income to the crown. Unfortunately, Schaper does not clarify how the presence of a temple in Jerusalem might have increased income to the Persians. Schaper refers to the temple prebends of the Babylonian kings to support his contention. Nabonidus, for example, received the shoulder of the sheep that was left over from the morning sacrifice to the god, and this practice was continued by the Achaemenid rulers. Did the Achaemenid kings own these sorts of prebends in temples outside Babylon? No data are adduced to demonstrate this. It is true that the Achaemenid rulers helped themselves to a temple's resources whenever they wanted. Cambyses ordered the temple of Inanna in Uruk to send sheep, goats, dates, and beer whenever he happened to be lodging at his estate nearby (San Nicolo 1949). These occasional "gifts" were over and above the regular taxes the temple paid the king. This obligation of the Babylonian temples certainly increased the income of the king, but the great Babylonian temples were already huge conglomerates when the Achaemenids burst on the scene. In what way would new temples also be sources of wealth to the crown? Schaper argues that there was a smelting room in the temple which turned donated silver into bouillon. Does this imply that temples created wealth in the same way as markets, or did the temple serve simply as a collection and storage facility? If the latter, which seems to be what Schaper argues, then why would the Achaemenids have built a temple when a storehouse with a smelting room would do?
Schaper admits that the temple storage rooms (described in Nehemiah 13) were used only to store temple donations, not to store tax revenues due the king. The latter were stored in royal storehouses, as at Elephantine. As Schaper states emphatically (p. 147), there were two separate and independent tax systems, the temple and the civil. Did the king avail himself of both, so that the presence of a temple doubled the income to the king, or did the diversion of private income to the temples actually decrease the amount available to Persia? Schaper does not specify the mechanism by which the existence of the Judaean temple was expected to increase income to the crown.
Judaean Impetus for Temple Building
Bedford argues, in contrast, that the Persians did not support the Judean temple, but that it was supported and maintained by local Jewish funds, and that the impetus for its rebuilding came from the local Judeans. Bedford denies (p. 144) the historicity of the assertion in the Aramaic version of the Cyrus Edict (Ezra 6:4) and the statement in Darius' response to Tattenai (6:8-10) that the Achaemenid administration would meet the costs of the Jerusalem temple. He points to the Jewish temple at Elephantine. At least from the documents that we have, it seems that the Jewish community may have been held responsible for its reconstruction (TAD A.4.7-10). There is no mention of imperial funds being donated. The same is true of the Xanthus inscription, wherein the local population agrees to build and support the new temple (Metzger 1979).
Bedford does not discuss the temple of Neith at Sais, however. Udjahorresnet's inscription makes clear that the temple of Neith did not receive a continuous supply of resources from Cambyses (Lichtheim 1980). The text states that it was Darius, not Cambyses, who ordered the priest "to restore the establishment of the House of Life--after it had decayed" (11. 43-44). Whatever Cambyses provided the temple--if anything--did not prevent it from falling into decay. The text does not say, however, whether Darius allocated funds for the restoration. He commanded Udjahorresnet to furnish the House of Life with "every good thing, in order that they might carry out all their crafts," and Udjahorresnet restored them "as they had been before" (1. 45). Could Darius have ordered Udjahorresnet to furnish the temple without supplying funds for it? It seems that if Udjahorresnet could have afforded to restore the temple himself, he would have done so under Cambyses; he would not have let it fall into decay. If Darius ordered the temple to be restored, he may very well have authorized the expenditures from the satrapal revenues.
The Udjahorresnet inscription suggests that under special circumstances the Achaemenid rulers did support local temples. I have discussed the general decline of the great Egyptian temples during Achaemenid rule (Fried 2004: 49-91). It is a mistake to think that the Persian empire was generous to local cults. Exceptions occurred however. It was likely his personal relationship with Udjahorresnet that led Darius to make an exception for the temple at Sais. Another exception was the newly discovered temple to Osiris and Isis at the southern edge of the Kharga oasis, 120 km from the modern town (Wuttmann et al. 1996; 1998; 2000). The site was occupied from the end of the Paleolithic period, but at the close of the third millennium the springs dried up, and it was abandoned. In the middle of the fifth century B.C.E., during the reign of Artaxerxes I, a network of tunnels (qanats) was built which allowed the underground water reservoir to be tapped. Settlement continued as long as the water lasted, until the first decades of the fourth century C.E., but the temple was abandoned in the Roman period.
The excavators suppose that it must have taken at least five years to build one tunnel. The means necessary to build the network and to establish a viable settlement in what had been an arid desert zone must have come from the satrap, if not from the king himself. The local community could not have financed it from its own means. The temple at the Kharga Oasis exemplifies Persian establishment of minor temples in out-of-the-way places. No reason is given for the creation of a temple at this barren site. Perhaps Xenophon (Oecon. iv 8) is correct in his assessment that the Persian emperor would not tolerate uncultivated land:
  As for the country ([chi][omega][rho][alpha]), he (the emperor)
  personally examines so much of it as he sees in the course of his
  progress through it; and he receives reports from his trusted agents
  on the territories that he does not see for himself. To those
  governors who are able to show him that their country is densely
  populated and that the land is in cultivation and well stocked with
  the trees of the district and with the crops, he assigns more
  territory and gives presents and rewards them with seats of honor.
  Those whose territory he finds uncultivated and thinly populated
  either through harsh administration or through contempt or through
  carelessness, he punishes, and appoints others to take their office.
Since no city or town could be established without including in it a temple to the local god, a temple was created by the Persians for Osiris and Isis when they decided to establish a settlement at the oasis. This may be the reason for Persian interest in building temples in remote places. If the empire wanted to populate a locality, a temple to the local god had to be built. People would not move into an area without a home for their god. This may be why the Persians built and supported the Jerusalem temple: they wanted Judah populated. In this sense Schaper is correct. Building a temple to a local god in a new locale furthers the development of a population center. The creation of a population center leads to the development of agriculture and markets, and to an overall increase in wealth and income for the crown.
Bedford supposes, however (p. 146), that the costs of the Jerusalem temple were to be borne by the Jewish community. He discusses Ezra 3:7:
  So they gave silver to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink,
  and oil to the Sidonians and the Tyrians to bring cedar trees from
  Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the authorization
  ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) that they had from King Cyrus of
This text states that Cyrus had authorized the expenditure of the funds. This suggests that it was not paid for out of the local resources of the Jewish community, but out of satrapal or imperial funds. This is made explicit in Ezra 6:8, Darius' response to Tattenai: "Expenses are to be paid out of the funds of the satrapy of Beyond the River." Bedford argues that both these texts are tendentious and suspect, but they strike me as similar to Darius' words to Udjahorresnet. That case may have involved a personal favor. In this case, Darius may have been thinking that the existence of a temple in Jerusalem would lead to an increase in the population of the city and of Yehud generally. The larger population would increase agriculture and tax revenues. He was betting that it would be worth the investment. This assumes, of course, that Jerusalem and Judah were a post-collapse society. If it were populated, and if life were continuing as before, then I do not see Persian motivation for building a temple or making expenses for it. Indeed, as Bedford notes, the Achaemenids did not generally build temples to minor gods in out-of-the-way places.
Bedford argues that the local Judeans undertook the temple rebuilding project on their own initiative (p. 184). The Aramaic Edict of Cyrus granted them permission to build, but it was incumbent upon them, not the Persian administration, to take responsibility for the undertaking. Haggai and Zechariah were not concerned to argue against the delay in temple building, for they knew of no delay. Rather, they were concerned to convince the people that the time to begin temple building was now, in the second year of Darius I. Bedford believes (p. 161), therefore, that temple building did not commence until Darius I's second year because it was only then that Haggai and Zechariah felt that the time was right. This occurred when Zerubbabel, the Davidic heir, arrived.
Bedford (p. 237) sees the books of Haggai and Zechariah 1-8 as addressing the issue of the validity of the new temple. The role of these prophets was to create an ideology which would legitimate the Second Temple as God's dwelling place. Bedford argues (p. 259) that for both Haggai and Zechariah the presence of Zerubbabel in Jerusalem indicates that the time had come. Zerubbabel was the legitimate rebuilder, and Zechariah calls upon him to complete the temple (Zech. 4:6b-10a). Since the Davidic heir legitimates the temple, the issue for both prophets was to present the project without its being construed as an act of rebellion. To do this, Bedford suggests (p. 260), both Haggai and Zechariah reworked the traditional ideologies so that only after the temple had been built would YHWH bring about his own kingship by shaking the nations, bringing them to Zion, and restoring Zerubbabel as God's earthly representative. It is not clear how this would allay the Persians' fears, however. In fact, one could argue that the disappearance of Zerubbabel was their response.
According to Bedford (p. 270), the prophets, acting as intermediaries between God and the community, proclaimed that God's anger had abated and that he was now returning to Jerusalem. Bedford argues, moreover (p. 288), that it was not Zerubbabel's presence in and of itself that caused Haggai to be certain that the time for rebuilding had come. Rather, Haggai had called upon the people to begin rebuilding when Zerubbabel arrived, but his call had gone unheeded and a drought resulted. The drought was what convinced Haggai that he was correct, and that God indeed wanted the temple rebuilt.
When Was Temple Rebuilding Begun?
Bedford thus argues that temple rebuilding did not begin until the second year of Darius I, and that the impetus had come from local Judeans. I have maintained that the initiative came from Jews in Babylon during the reign of Cyrus, if not before (Fried 2003). In his Aramaic letter to Darius, Tattenai describes the temple building project (5:8b):
  May it be known to the king that we went to the province of Judah, to
  the temple of the great god. It is being built of hewn stone, and
  timber is laid in the walls; this work is being done diligently and
  prospers in their hands.
If authentic, this passage implies that at the time of its writing (probably Darius' second year) work on the temple was progressing nicely. The work would have begun well before Darius' reign. But if the letter is fictive and tendentious, why was it not written to conform to the narrative (Schaper, pp. 492-67)? According to the narrative, the work stopped at the beginning of the return and was not resumed until Darius had given permission, permission granted in response to Tattenai's letter, not before.
I assume that the temple was "under the scaffolding" for the entire time, from the beginning of the reign of Cyrus the Great to the sixth year of Darius, 18 years, as is reported in Tattenai's letter (Ezra 5:16):
  Then this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of
  God in Jerusalem; from that time until now it has been under
  construction, and it is not yet finished.
Bedford claims to have rejected the narrative of Ezra 1-6, but he accepts its main point, namely that the work stopped. The major premise of Bedford's book is that Ezra 1-6 was composed to explain this fact. Nevertheless, this notion is belied by Tattenai's letter. The purpose of Tattenai's letter was not to request permission to begin building. The purpose was to find out if the Jews should be prohibited from completing the project!
Bedford relies on Haggai and Zechariah to demonstrate that work on the temple was begun only under Darius. Haggai does not talk about beginning the temple building project, however. Haggai exhorts the people to "go up to the hills and bring wood" (1:8). To begin temple building does not require wood, but the digging of trenches for the foundation stones, and the gathering or quarrying of the foundation stones themselves. I suggest that wood was sought for paneling the inside of the temple. Haggai asks:
Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while
  this house is a ruin?... Go up to the mountain and bring wood and
  build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,
  says YHWH. (Haggai 1:4, 8)
In other words, you live in paneled houses, but this house still lies unfinished, uninhabitable. Go to the mountain and get wood for the paneling, and finish the house. Haggai puns on the word [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], translated here as "ruins." God's house is a ruin, so God calls ruin upon the land.
  And I have called for [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (a ruin,
  dryness, drought) on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new
  wine, the oil, on what the soil produces, on human beings and animals,
  and on all their labors. (Hag. 1:11)
YHWH wants wood to glorify the temple, so that he may be glorified in it. The idea that the wood for the beautification of the temple brings glory ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) is also seen in Isaiah 60:13:
  The glory of Lebanon shall come to you, the cypress, the plane, and
  The pine, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will glorify
  where my feet rest.
The glory of the temple is the presence of YHWH himself. His presence is bound up with the temple's beautification, not its foundation stones. There is no need to assume that the temple building project had not yet begun. The temple was considered to lie in ruins because the building process had not yet been completed and the temple was not yet inhabitable.
The books of both Schaper and Bedford make exciting contributions to the ongoing discussions of life in Persian period Judah, and both offer strong arguments for their views. Schaper's primary concern is to explain the conflict that he sees between the returnees and the "people(s) of the land(s)," whom he understands to be the descendants of the poor and of the Levitical priests who had not been deported. In agreement with Bedford, I have argued that this conflict most likely did not take place, but is a construction of the Hellenistic writer.
Bedford maintains that the impetus and the funds for temple building came from the Jews who remained in the land, not the returnees, and not the Persians. In agreement with Schaper, I suggest that the impetus most likely came from the returnees and from the Achaemenids who provided the funds.
It is exciting to be in conversation with both of these fine scholars who hold such contrasting views. These books should be read in tandem by all those who seek a deeper understanding of the impact of the Achaemenid Empire on the development of Jewish civilization.
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This is a review article of: Temple Restoration in Early Achaemenid Judah. By PETER R. BEDFORD. Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, vol. 65. Leiden: BRILL, 2001. Pp. xiii 369. $123; and Priester und Leviten im achamenidischen Juda. By JOACHIM SCHAPER. Forschungen zum Alten Testament, vol. 31. Tubingen: MOHR SIEBECK, 2000. Pp. x 352. DM 178.
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