A History of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period. Volume 1, Yehud: A History of the Persian Province of Judah

By Berquist, Jon L. | Journal of Biblical Literature, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

A History of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period. Volume 1, Yehud: A History of the Persian Province of Judah


Berquist, Jon L., Journal of Biblical Literature


A History of the Jews and Judaism in the second Temple Period. Volume 1, Yehud: A History of the Persian Province ofjudah, by Lester L. Grabbe. Library of Second Temple Studies 47. London: T&T Clark International, 2004. Pp. xxi + 471. US $110 (hardcover). ISBN 0567089983.

Lester Grabbe's Yehud: A History of the Persian Province ofjudah is a stunning achievement. This volume deserves recognition as the premier synthesis of historical research on Persian Yehud; it sets a new foundation for future scholarship on this important period. In some respects, the volume is similar to the first part of Grabbe's Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian: The Persian and Greek Periods (2 vols.; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992). However, the additional detail makes Yehud a much stronger volume than its predecessor, and the amazing growth of research in the Persian period since the early 1990s provides a deeper underpinning for Grabbe's historical work.

After an introduction on methodology, Grabbe provides a thorough discussion of sources (part 2), dealing systematically with archaeological artifacts, fragmentary writings such as ostraca and coins, biblical writings, Persian and other contemporary written sources, and Greek and Latin histories. This section of the book is an exceptional resource for students of Persian Yehud. The archaeological survey provides key data for and reference to nearly fifty different sites, referring to classic reports and new studies alike, and the material on coins, stamps, and ostraca summarizes a good variety of findings. Grabbe's treatment of biblical writings does not replace a good commentary's analysis of the full range of historical questions pertinent to each text, but his helpful comments connect each biblical book to relevant historical matters and show how he intends to use the documents in historical reconstruction. Grabbe's chapter on Persian sources provides translations of a few key inscriptions with minimal comment; the chapter, as such, functions best as a guide to the location of primary texts in other publications. The discussion of Greek and Latin sources actually contains more evaluation of these sources' import and value for reconstructing Persian history. This selectivity underscores Grabbe's focus on writing a history of Jews and Judaism. This volume spends fewer pages discussing Persian and Yehudite history than some scholars might prefer, but it gives a very thorough introduction to the archaeological sites of Judah and surrounding areas as well as the biblical sources that are relevant for understanding Judaism in the period. One does not quite come to an understanding of the Persian Empire; Grabbe's focus throughout remains Jewish experience during the Persian period.

In part 3, Grabbe provides a synthesis of "Society and Institutions." First is administration, dealing with large-scale and regional political relations. Next is a chapter (ch. 8) on "Society and Daily Living," which examines identity, classes, laws, gender and sexuality, and the calendar. Chapter 9 focuses on the economy, moving from general comments on the ancient economy to description of the Persian imperial economy and then to the province of Yehud in particular. After this follow two chapters on religion. The first (ch. 10) discusses temple, cult, and practice; the second (ch. 11) surveys law, Scripture, and belief.

Part 4 offers Grabbe's "Historical Synthesis" and is divided into three chapters: early Persian period (including the initial return and the construction of the temple), fifth century (including Nehemiah), and fourth century (including Ezra, the development of law, and new literary forms of wisdom, songs, and novels). …

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