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Yhwh Shomron and Yhwh Elohim in the Achaemenid Province of Samaria

Prof. Diana Edelman (University of Oslo)


The excavations conducted on Mt. Gerizim have indicated that the sacred precinct was built there in the first half of the fifth century BCE, not after the destruction of Samaria by Alexander in 332 BCE. Some evidence points to the possibility that an Iron Age sanctuary might have preceded it, but with a likely occupation gap before the Persian construction. It is highly probable there had been a sanctuary to Yhwh Shomron in Samaria throughout the Iron Age and Persian periods, with its own established prebendary priesthood, until the destruction of Samaria. Thus, the foundation of the Persian-era Gerizim complex would have involved a new, separate prebendary priesthood for that facility, which would have been well established when Samaria was destroyed in 332 BCE.
After reviewing the archaeological evidence, I will investigate the claims in Neh 13:28 and Josephus, Ant. 11, 302–3, 306–12, 325 that a son of the high priest of Jerusalem married the daughter of Sanballat and served as priest in the Gerizim temple. The claims raise the possibility that the Gerizim complex would have been dedicated to the worship of Yhwh Elohim and that Sanballat hoped to establish his descendants as prebendary priests there. The question of whether either of his sons, Shelemiah or Delaiah, might also have been appointed a priest there will be addressed, as will the possibility that in the first half of the fifth century BCE, Shechem housed an estate owned by Sanballat.

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