|The Jewish Settlement at Elephantin|
Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg, a fellow of the W.F. Albright Institute of Archeological Research in Jerusalem, has written an excellent article on the Jewish Temple at Elephantine. The article was published recently in The Jerusalem Post. The following is an excerpt from the article:
t is not well known that there were two Jewish temples in ancient Egypt. They do not form part of our traditional history, which concentrates on the going down into Egypt and the coming out of it, as based on the Torah accounts, for which there is little or no contemporary corroboration. But the two temples, though well attested by contemporary sources, have received little attention from our tradition.
One of these temples has been known about for nearly 2,000 years from Josephus Flavius and the Talmud, and its site was claimed to have been found just 100 years ago, but it has now been lost again. The other was never known of till just a hundred years ago and its site has only recently been discovered. The first is the Temple of Onias at Leontopolis dating to about 200 BCE, and the second is the Temple of Elephantine dating to 300 years earlier, to about 500 BCE.
Two major questions remain. Where had the Jews come from in the sixth century and where did they go after 400 BCE? The simple answer to the first question is that they would have come after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BCE and gone down to Egypt with Jeremiah after the murder of the governor Gedaliah. But Porten thinks they must have come much earlier, at the time when King Manasseh defiled the Jerusalem temple, to be able to find the resources to settle and build a temple well before 525 BCE. We know the shrine existed before the invasion by Cambyses, as the papyri claim that he destroyed many Egyptian temples but not the Jewish one.
I think the Jews came from the Northern Kingdom after the fall of Samaria in 722 BCE. They were first deported to Assyria and then to Babylon, where they were used as mercenaries and later deployed to Egypt. This is supported by the fact that the shrine at Elephantine has strong similarities in layout and dimensions to the Tabernacle that may have stood at Shiloh, and which would have been retained in the folk memory of the Northern Israelites more than the image of the Temple of Jerusalem.
The article is very informative. Read the article by clicking here.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Tags: Elephantine, Jewish Temple