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SANBALLAT (Heb. טַּלַּבְנס; Aram. סנאבלט (Cowley, Aramaic, 30:29); Akk. Sin-uballiṭ, "Sin has given life"), the name of three personalities who appear as governors of Samaria during the Persian period.

Sanballat i

Designated the Horonite, Sanballat i opposed Nehemiah's efforts to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (445 b.c.e.). The epithet is of uncertain reference, and scholars have related it to Lower or Upper Beth-Horon on the Samarian border of Benjamin; to the village Ḥuwwāra, 1 km. (⅝ mi.) south of Shechem; or to the Moabite town of Horônaim. The first location is not far from the plain of Ono where Sanballat proposed to meet Nehemiah (Neh. 6:2). The second is in the heart of Samarian territory. The third would imply a Transjordanian origin for Sanballat, parallel to that of Tobiah "the Ammonite servant" (Neh. 2:10, 19). Whatever his origin, Sanballat must have considered himself a worshiper of the God of Israel, for his sons bore the Hebrew theophoric names Delaiah ("The Lord has drawn up, delivered") and Shelemiah ("The Lord has requited"; Cowley, Aramaic, 30:29).

In the memoirs of Nehemiah, Sanballat appears both as "enemy" (Neh. 6:1, 16) and as allied by marriage to the family of the high priest (Neh. 13:28). Nehemiah describes his mission in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem as proceeding through seven stages, each one punctuated by a futile attempt on the part of Sanballat and his allies to thwart the effort. To Sanballat and Tobiah, Nehemiah's arrival from Susa (Shushan) to seek the welfare of Jerusalem was a bad omen (Neh. 2:10). When Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian heard of his intention to rebuild the wall, they mocked and scorned and wondered whether Nehemiah was contemplating rebellion. From Nehemiah's complete rejection of their remarks it may be inferred that they had sought, and perhaps even held, some official position in the city (Neh. 2:19–20). As the work proceeded, mockery turned to disbelief and anger (Neh. 3:33–35), to the point where military steps were planned. These too were successfully blocked by Nehemiah (Neh. 4). 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 nation. These efforts likewise failed, and Nehemiah's "enemies" were forced to concede that his task was divinely supported (Neh. 6).

Even though the high priest Eliashib was aligned with Nehemiah in rebuilding the wall (Neh. 3:1), his grandson was married to Sanballat's daughter during Nehemiah's absence from Jerusalem. Upon his return Nehemiah expelled the priest from his presence (Neh. 13:28). A subsequent governor named Bagohi, however, joined with Sanballat's son Delaiah (407 b.c.e.) in supporting the reconstruction of the Elephantine Jewish Temple, with the proviso that animal sacrifices not be offered there (Cowley, Aramaic, 32).

Sanballat ii

Sanballat ii is known as governor of Samaria in the early fourth century b.c.e. from an Aramaic papyrus and a clay sealing in Paleo-Hebrew discovered in Wadi Dāliya north of Jericho. Both inscriptions are of Sanballat ii's elder son, whose name is to be restored as either [Jesh]ua or [Jadd]ua. The latter, also a governor, was apparently succeeded by his brother Hananiah who, in turn, was succeeded by Sanballat iii. The practice of papponymy (naming a child for its grandfather) was common in the Persian and Hellenistic periods.

Sanballat iii

Appointed "satrap" of Samaria by Darius iii, Sanballat iii married his daughter Nikaso to Manasseh brother of Jaddua, high priest in Jerusalem. When Jaddua and the Jerusalem elders ordered Manasseh to dissolve the marriage or stay away from the altar, Sanballat offered him the high priest-hood in a temple he would build on Mt. Gerizim. Meanwhile, Alexander the Great advanced into Palestine and Sanballat shifted his allegiance. He pressed Alexander for permission to build the new temple by arguing that, not only did Manasseh have the support of many Jews, but that it was to the conqueror's interest to see the Jews divided. He also offered Alexander a contingent of 8,000 soldiers. The offer was accepted and the soldiers subsequently settled in Egypt. Permission to erect the temple was granted and Sanballat died shortly thereafter (Jos., Ant., 11:302–25, 340–45). This incident, recorded by Josephus, is absent from the Samaritan chronicles.


H.H. Rowley, in: bjrl, 38 (1955/56), 166–98; F.M. Cross, in: ba, 26 (1963), 116–21; idem, in: htr, 59 (1966), 201–11; idem, in: D.N. Freedman and J.C. Greenfield (eds.), New Directions in Biblical Archaeology (1969), 53–57.

[Bezalel Porten]