Geshem, Gashmu

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GESHEM, GASHMU , an "Arab," one of the chief opponents of *Nehemiah, who, together with *Sanballat and Tobiah, opposed the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (c. 450 b.c.e.). When Geshem and his allies heard of Nehemiah's intention to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, they mocked and scorned him (Neh. 2:10–20). Later, when the wall was completed and all but the gateways fully repaired, they sought by various means to dispose of Nehemiah personally or to compromise his position within the country. These efforts also failed, and Nehemiah's opponents were forced to admit that the task was divinely supported (Neh. 6).

Geshem's designation as an "Arab" is supported by the name's widespread attestation in North Arabia. From the context of Nehemiah 6 it is clear that Geshem was an influential figure. He may be identical with a "king" of the same name mentioned in an Aramaic votive inscription on a silver bowl found in the temple of the Arab goddess Han-'Illat at Tell al-Maskhuta, in the neighborhood of Ismailia in Egypt (now in the Brooklyn Museum), which, on paleographical and archeological grounds, was dated as belonging to the fifth century b.c.e. This inscription reads in translation: "What Qaynu son of Geshem, King of Kedar, brought (as offering) to (the goddess) Han'Illat." On this basis, it has been suggested that Geshem King of Kedar is identical with Nehemiah's enemy. The name appears also in Safaitic inscriptions, and on a Nabatean inscription as "Gashmu, which like Nehemiah 6:6 preserves the old Semitic case ending.


A. Alt, in: pjb, 27 (1931), 73ff.; J. Rabinowitz, in: jnes, 15 (1956), 2, 5–9, and pls. 6, 7; W.F. Albright, in: Geschichte und Altes Testament (A. Alt anniversary volume, 1953), 4, 6; F.W. Winnett, A Study of the Lihyanite and Thamudic Inscriptions (1937), 14, 16, 50–51; H. Grimme, in: olz, 44 (1941), 343; W.C. Graham, in: ajsll, 42 (1926), 276ff.; W. Rudolph, Esra und Nehemia (1949), 112ff.; em, s.v. geshem; G. Ryekmans, Les noms propres sud-semitiques, 1 (1934), 64, 259, 290. add. bibliography: B. Porten, in: tad, 4 (1999), 23–33; idem, in: cos, 2, 175–76.

[Yuval Kamrat /

S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]