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SHEBNAH (Heb. שֶׁבְנָא, שֶׁבְנָה).

(1) The scribe of King Hezekiah, mentioned in connection with the episode which took place during the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib king of Assyria (701 b.c.e.; ii Kings 18:17–19:37, and in the parallel passage in Isa. 36–37). He was one of the delegation of Hezekiah's three senior officials dispatched to negotiate with the Assyrians. However, their mission having proved of no avail in the face of the Assyrians' demand for complete surrender, they were sent to the prophet Isaiah to seek the advice of God (ii Kings 19:1ff. and the parallel passage in Isa. 37).

(2) Shebnah, who bore the titles "steward" and "who is over the household," was the object of Isaiah's rebuke (Isa. 22:15–25). In this passage, which has the character of a personal admonition, Isaiah prophesies that Shebnah will be removed from his position, exiled to "a large country," and replaced by Eliakim (ibid. 22:19–23).

The identification of this Shebnah with the one mentioned in ii Kings 18–19 is not definite. The main difficulties are:

(a) the difference in the titles; and

(b) in Isaiah's rebuke reference is made to Shebnah's downfall and exile and not to his being reduced to a lower position, and hence his status in ii Kings as second in rank to Eliakim, who is there described as "over the household," cannot be interpreted as the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. Those who assume that the reference is to the same person explain these difficulties, as well as the reason for the prophet's sharp rebuke of Shebnah, against the background of Isaiah's advocacy of a policy of nonintervention, and of Shebnah apparently being the leader of the opposing, pro-Egyptian group which called for an uprising against Assyria. According to this view, the rebuke in Isaiah 22 refers to an earlier period than that reflected in ii Kings 18–19: in the former, Shebnah still occupied the eminent position of being "over the household," while in the latter, which describes events during Sennacherib's siege, the prophecy had already been fulfilled, Shebnah having been degraded from his exalted station and appointed to the less important position of "scribe." Some ascribe these administrative changes not to politics arising from Judah's policy but to the deplorable personality of Shebnah, who exploited his position to advance his personal interests, as is evident from the literal meaning of the passage in Isaiah: "What have you to do here and whom have you here… you who hew a tomb on the height and carve a habitation for yourself in the rock? [22:16]… and there shall be your splendid chariots" (verse 18b). It is conjectured, on the basis of the first part of verse 16, that the reference here is to a foreigner. On the basis of this verse, as also on paleographical, archaeological, and chronological grounds, it is contended that the sepulcher discovered by Ch. Clermont-Ganneau in the village of Siloam belonged to Shebnah. On its facade is an inscription of three lines ascribing the sepulcher to יהו אשר על הביתx…, "…Yahu over the household" the name being reconstructed as יהו[שבנ]


W.F. Albright, in: jbl, 51 (1932), 77ff.; H.G. May, in: ajsll, 56 (1939), 146–8; N. Avigad, in: Eretz Israel, 3 (1954), 69ff.

[Nili Schupak]