Dear Jerusalem: Priests Petition to Rebuild Their Temple

Sidebar to: Did the Ark Stop at Elephantine?

In this draft letter dated November 25, 407 B.C.E., Jedaniah, leader of Elephantine’s Jewish community, and his priestly colleagues ask Bagohi, the governor of the Persian province of Judah, to intercede on their behalf for the rebuilding of their temple:

To our lord Bagavahya governor of Judah, your servants Jedaniah and his colleagues the priests who are in Elephantine the fortress.

The welfare of our lord may the God of Heaven seek after abundantly at all times, and favor may He grant you before King Darius and the princes more than now a thousand times, and long life may He give you, and happy and strong may you be at all times.

Now, your servant Jedaniah and his colleagues thus say:

In the month of Tammuz, year 14 of Darius the king, when Arsames had departed and gone to the king, the priests of Khnub the god who are in Elephantine the fortress, in agreement with Vidranga who was Chief here, (said), saying,

“The Temple of YHW the God which is in Elephantine the fortress let them remove from there.”

Afterwards, that Vidranga, the wicked, a letter did send to Naphaina his son, who was Troop Commander in Syene the fortress, saying,

“The Temple which is in Elephantine the fortress let them demolish.”

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