Murashu's Sons

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MURASHU'S SONS , prominent banking and commercial family in the Babylonian city of Nippur, active during the reigns of Artaxerxes i and Darius ii. In 1893 an expedition from the University of Pennsylvania uncovered 730 clay tablets from the family archive dating from 455 to 403 b.c.e. The texts deal with diverse undertakings such as payment of taxes on behalf of others, land management, and the granting of loans to be repaid at a high rate of interest. Some 50 of the 730 tablets contain names which were thought to be Jewish, and this led some to deduce that the Murashu family itself was Jewish. However, the conclusion is unfounded. Apart from the purely indigenous name of the firm (muraššû – means "wildcat" in Akkadian), caution must be exercised in deciding which of the names of the clients or witnesses are characteristically Jewish and which are merely of West Semitic origin. The fact that names like Ḫanana (חנן, Hanan), Minaḫḫimmu (מנחם, Menahem), Miniamini (מנימין, Minyamin), or names compounded with īlī (אֵל, El) are attested elsewhere in Jewish contexts does not necessarily mean that their bearers at Nippur were Jews. They may have been Arameans or members of some other West Semitic group living in Babylonia. Undisputed evidence for the presence of Jews is furnished by such names as Aḫiyama (אחיה, Ahijah, Aiyyah), Yaḫulakim (יהולכם, Yeholakhem), Yaḫulunu (יהולינו, Yeholanu), and Yaḫunatanu (יהונתן, Jonathan, Yehonatan), which are compounded with the Tetragrammaton or some combining form of it and by such names as Shabbetai son of Haggai. The picture of the Jewish exiles in Mesopotamia which emerges after an examination of these names is one of a people engaged in a wide range of activities: they act as witnesses in documents dealing with taxes, as tenants cultivating the land of others, and as landowners on whose behalf taxes are paid. Some seem to be highly placed royal officials.


G. Cardascia, Les archives des Murašû (1951), incl. bibl.

[David B. Weisberg]