Elnathan ben Achbor

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ELNATHAN BEN ACHBOR (Heb. אֶלְנָתָן; "God has given"; Septuagint reads here the semantically equivalent Yehonatan), a minister of King *Jehoiakim (Jer. 36:12). Yeivin identifies him with Elnathan, the father-in-law of King Jehoiakim (ii Kings 24:8). At the king's command Elnathan brought the prophet *Uriah from asylum in Egypt to be executed (Jer. 26:20–23). In another episode he begged the king not to burn Jeremiah's scroll of denunciation (Jer. 36:25). Certain scholars feel that these two acts are incompatible. However, human behavior is not always consistent. Indeed, Elnathan's reverence for Jeremiah's scroll may very well have resulted from a guilty conscience because of his role in Uriah's murder.

The *Lachish ostraca mention a prophet of Zedekiah's reign whose words are "not good, making hands weak" (6:2–8), as well as an army officer named C[on]iah b. Elnathan, who went to Egypt (3:13–21). Torczyner (Tur-Sinai) attempted to relate the two references and explained that the ostraca refer to the prophet Uriah's being brought back from Egypt by Elnathan. The fact remains, however, that Jeremiah speaks of a prophet who fled to Egypt during Jehoiakim's reign, while the ostraca refer to a prophet of Zedekiah's time. In addition, according to the biblical text, the minister who goes to Egypt is Elnathan b. Achbor, while in the Lachish ostraca it is C[on]iah b. Elnathan. Therefore it seems that two similar but not identical events took place, the first during Jehoiakim's and the second during Zedekiah's reign. The "true" prophets opposed an Egyptian orientation and preached capitulation to Babylonia ("to weaken our hands"). During the reigns of both kings they were persecuted and forced to flee. Political fugitives had traditionally sought asylum in Egypt. It is almost certain that C[on]iah mentioned in the ostraca was the son of the Elnathan in the biblical text, and that he performed a mission in the time of Zedekiah similar to his father's during Jehoiakim's reign.


H. Torczyner (Tur-Sinai) et al., The Lachish Letters (1938), 63–67; idem, Te'udot Lakhish (1940), 93–103; Yeivin, in: Tarbiz, 12 (1940/41), 255–9; Malamat, in: bjpes, 14 (1948), 871. add. bibliography: W. Holladay, Jeremiah 2 (1989), 252.

[Jacob Elbaum]