Persian Empire Bible
Coins of the Persian
appointed Satraps, Governors of Judah
Hebrew, Jewish, Yehuda, Bible coins of the Persian
Persian Governors, Satraps of Judea
- The first coins minted and used in Israel were produced
during the Persian Empire.
- Esther lived in the middle of the Persian era and married
King Xerxes (485-465 BC) and is therefore a fitting symbol for the entire
Persian empire that dates from 539-333BC.
- Coins and pottery from the Persian era not only confirm
details revealed in the Bible, they sometimes give us some important
information about the Judean governors and other details, that are not
revealed in the Bible!
- The King of Persia had appointed a "prince" or
"governor" from among the returning Jews.
- The Bible gives us great details about three of the most
famous Persian appointed governors of Judea, Sheshbazzar, Zerubbabel and
- Five of the first eight governors of Judah are known only
- Three unique words were brought into the Bible for the
first time after the Babylonian captivity of 587BC and during the Persian
- "Yehudim" (Jew) is the unique word for
the Jews is in the Bible after the Babylonian captivity and the Persian
- "Yehud" (Judah) is a unique Persian word
found 6 times in the Bible.
- "Tirshatha" (Governor) A unique Persian
origin word for governors (ie. Nehemiah) appointed by the Persian king is
in the Bible. "pehah"= (Governor) is the standard Hebrew title
of a governor that dates back to Solomon. However, during the minting of
coins during Persian rule were inscriptions with "PHH" and
sometimes additionally with the personal name of the governor!
- Several unique inscriptions from the Persian era and later
have been found on coins, pottery and manuscripts.
- YHD unvowelled (or "YHWD" in vowelled script)
is derived directly from JEW and/or JUDAH as referring to the entire
I. Earliest and first
Hebrew coins ever minted: Persian before
- Silver obol, Jerusalem
II. Persian appointed
Jewish governors/princes of the province of Judah:
- Sheshbazzar: The first governor: 533-520 BC
- The decree of Cyrus in Ezra 1:1 happened in 539 BC. Five
years later Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel leave for Jerusalem
- "Also King Cyrus brought out the articles of the
house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem
and put in the house of his gods; and Cyrus, king of Persia, had them
brought out by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and he counted them
out to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah."
- "‘Also the gold and silver utensils of the house of
God which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, and
brought them to the temple of Babylon, these King Cyrus took from the
temple of Babylon and they were given to one whose name was Sheshbazzar,
whom he had appointed governor." (Ezra 5:14)
- Zerubbabel: The second governor: 520-510 BC
- Both Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel are said to lay the
foundations of the Temple:
- "Then that Sheshbazzar came
and laid the foundations of the house of God in Jerusalem; and
from then until now it has been under construction and it is not yet
completed.’" (Ezra 5:16)
- "Now in the second year of their coming to the house
of God at Jerusalem in the second month, Zerubbabel
the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak and the rest of
their brothers the priests and the Levites, and all who came from the
captivity to Jerusalem, began the work and appointed the Levites from
twenty years and older to oversee the work of the house of the Lord. Then
Jeshua with his sons and brothers stood united with Kadmiel and his sons,
the sons of Judah and the sons of Henadad with their sons and brothers
the Levites, to oversee the workmen in the temple of God. Now when the
builders had laid the foundation of the temple of
the Lord, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the
Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord according to
the directions of King David of Israel." (Ezra 3:8–10)
- The solution is simple: When Sheshbazzar was the
Governor, Zerubbabel was a high ranking official. Think of Moses and
Joshua, Elijah and Elisha etc. Both were present at the laying of the
foundation. When Sheshbazzar died, Zerubbabel succeeded him as Governor
- Elnathan The third governor: 510-490 BC
- Archeology has found two bullas and seals with "phwʾ"
with the name of Elnathan on them.
- The first has an inscription with “Belonging to Elnathan
the governor” on it.
- The second is called the Shelomith seal with this
inscription on it: “Belonging to Shelomith, maidservant of Elnathan
- He is not mentioned in the Bible.
- This is an excellent example of where archeology can fill
in gaps of information the Bible lacks. This of course, does not take
away from the inspiration of the bible, since there are many facts of
history the Bible does not contain. However, any time the Bible does
touch upon history it is always right 100% of the time!
- Yehoʿezer: The forth governor: 490-470
- Archeology has found a jar handle stamp impression with
"phwʾ" on it and his name: “Yeho’ezer the Governor”
- He is not mentioned in the Bible
- However, excavations at Ramat Rachel in 1930 AD
uncovered: "Another 130 seal impressions on jar handles found this
season bring the total to 400. About 50 belong to the Iron Age and the
rest to the Persian period" (Excavations at Ramat Racḥel,
Yohanan Aharoni, Biblical Archaeologist, Vol 24, 1961 AD)
- Ahzai: The fifth governor: 470-460 BC
- Archeology has found a jar impression with "phwʾ"
- Nehemiah: The Seventh governor: First term: 445-433
BC (20th -32nd year of Artaxerxes I who reigned
464-424BC) Second term: 429-? BC
- Ezra: Arrives in Jerusalem in 458 BC in the 7th
year of Artaxerxes I, which is 13 years before Nehemiah arrives in 445 BC
- "Moreover, from the day that I [Nehemiah who is
writing the book] was appointed to be their governor in the land of
Judah, from the twentieth year to the
thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes, for twelve years, neither I
nor my kinsmen have eaten the governor’s food allowance. But the former
governors who were before me laid burdens on the people and took from
them bread and wine besides forty shekels of silver; even their servants
domineered the people. But I did not do so because of the fear of
God." (Nehemiah 5:14–15)
- "Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the
priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the
people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.”
For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the
law." (Nehemiah 8:9)
- Sanballat and Tobiah opposed Nehemiah in 445 BC in Neh
- "Aramaic dedication inscription of Qaynu son of
Gashmu, king of Qedar, on a silver bowl from Tell el-Mashkhuta, Egypt.
Four of the silver bowls bear Aramaic dedicatory inscriptions to the
goddess Han-Ilat. One of the inscriptions reads: “That which Qaynu, son
of Gashmu, king of Qedar, brought in offering to Han-Ilat.” An analysis
of the bowls and their inscriptions has led scholars to conclude that the
Gashmu mentioned in the inscription is the very same Gashmu (or Geshem)
mentioned in Nehemiah 2:19, 6:1,2,6." (Gashmu, Nehemiah’s Adversary
, Bible and Spade, Vol 1, No 3, p82, 1972 AD)
- Bagohi: The sixth governor: 409 BC
- Archeology has found the Persian Elephantine Papyus with
"Bagohi the satrap of Judah" and "Sanballat satrap of
Samaria" in the text of the same "Temple Papyri" letter.
- This is the only reference to Bagohi we have and we would
not know about him if we did not have the 28 Elephantine Papyrus
discovered in 1904 BC
- More on the
Governor of Judea: 350-302 BC
- Hezekiah was the last governor of the Persian Empire and
governed after Alexander the Great started the Greek empire in 333BC.
- Hezekiah, therefore, is unique in that he governed Judea
through the transitional period between the Persian and Greek empires.
- Archeology has found two coins with his name as governor.
- We know about him only through coins he minted
- Some coins contained the full inscription naming Hezekiah
as the governor: "YHZQKYH HPHH" (Yehezqiyah the Satrap)
(Meshorer: Coins 22-23);
- Others, like this one, "YHZQYH" (Yehezqiyah)
(Meshorer: Coins 24-26) only mention Hezekiah without the PHH (Hebrew:
- See the page on Yehezqiyah
"Hezekiah" for more details on his coin!
(JEW) was first applied to the Hebrews during the Babylonian captivity:
- Jew: The Hebrew people were first called
"Yehudim" (Jews) by the Babylonians and Persians.
- Yehudim = Literally=one of the tribe Judah = usage is
"Jew" as today, one who ascribes to Judaism and the law of
- "Although Heb. yehűḏî means
“person belonging to [the tribe of] Judah,” it is never used this way in
the OT. It comes into prominence only after the destruction of the
northern kingdom and, more specifically, after the Babylonian Captivity.
Thus it is used of an Israelite living in the province of Judea (Judah)
during the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman periods. It is most
frequent in Esther, where it denotes all Israelites (cf. the application
of the term to Mordecai, who was of the tribe of Benjamin: 2:5; 3:5;
5:13; etc.); the same usage is found in Daniel (3:8, 12). Hence the term
takes on a decidedly religious connotation, referring to adherents of the
Hebrew religion (see Judaism), though there often remains a close
connection with the land of Judah. (ISBE, Jew, 1988 AD)
- Abraham was first to be called a "Hebrew" (Gen
14:13) and the exile Hebrews were first to be called "Jews" (2
a fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew. Now
he was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother
of Aner, and these were allies with Abram." (Genesis 14:13)
- Yehudim is a unique word in the Old Testament the
Babylonians and Persians used to refer to the Hebrew population from
- The word "Jew" is common today but no one in
the Bible before the Babylonian Captivity of 587 BC was ever called a
- JEW and Christian were names enemies gave the people of
- The first time any Hebrew was called a Jew is after the
Babylonian captivity of 587 BC:
it came about in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, the son
of Elishama, of the royal family, came with ten men and struck Gedaliah down so
that he died along with the Jews [literally: Yehudim]
and the Chaldeans who were with him at Mizpah." (2 Kings 25:25)
- The first time JEW is used in Ezra, was by the enemies of
the Hebrews in a letter to the king of Persia. This confirms it is a
foreign label given to the people of God.
it be known to the king that the Jews [literally: Yehudim] who came up from you have come to
us at Jerusalem; they are rebuilding the rebellious and evil city and are finishing
the walls and repairing the foundations." (Ezra 4:12)
- In the New Testament, it appears that
"Christian" (Acts 12:26; 26:28) like "Jew" were names
given the people of God by unbelievers!
- There are no inscriptions on coins with JEW on them, but YHD
came to represent both the people (Jews, yehudim) and the province (Judah,
(land of Judah) is a unique Persian origin word for the territory of the
province of Judah
inscriptions on coins represent primarily the three letter symbol for the
Persian PROVINCE of Judah and secondarily as the people who became known
- After the
Persian period ended with Alexander the Great in 333 BC, the YHD
continued to be minted on Hebrew coins till about 200 BC.
the YHD was replace with "YRSLM"
around 200 BC.
literary sources from the time of the Return to Zion do not mention that
Jerusalem was called "YHD," but seal impressions found on jar
handles from the Persian and Hellenistic periods suggest that this was
the case. It has become evident that Judean jar handles from the beginning of the second century B.C.E. bear the
inscription "YRSLM." The name "YRSLM"
thus came to replace the term "YHD" (depicted on the
earlier jar handles) which probably had also applied to the city." (Hendin,
is a unique Persian form of the word for Judah (Jehudah).
standard word in the Old Testament for Judah is "Yehudah" which
is found 819 times.
"Yehud" (6 times) is equivalent to "Yehudah" (819
"Yehud is found only 6 times in the Bible during the Persian era:
Ezra 5:1; 5:8; 7:14; Daniel 2:25; 5:13; 6:13
"Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo, prophesied to the
Jews who were in Judah [Persian: "Yehud"]
and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them." (Ezra
"May it be known to the king that we went to the province of Judah
[Persian: "Yehud"], to the house
of the great God. It is being built of hewn stone, and timber is laid in the
walls; this work is being done diligently and prospers in their hands."
"For you are sent by the king and his seven counselors to make
inquiries about Judah [Persian: "Yehud"]
and Jerusalem according to the law of your God, which is in your hand,"
"Then Arioch quickly brought Daniel before the king and said to
him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah [Persian:
"Yehud"] a man who can tell the king the
interpretation.”" (Daniel 2:25)
"Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king said to
Daniel, “So you are Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah [Persian: "Yehud"], whom my father the king brought
from Judah?" (Daniel 5:13)
"Then they responded to the king, “Daniel, one of the exiles from
Judah [Persian: "Yehud"], pays no
attention to you, O king, or to the interdict you have signed, but he is saying
his prayers three times a day.”" (Daniel 6:13)
name Yehud (Persian
for Judah) was struck on at least two Philistian quarter-sheqels
(Nos. 1045 and 1046) and the initial yod, its first letter, was
struck on both quarter-sheqels and ma `ah-obols (Nos. 1047, 1048).
These coins were manufactured on the Philistian weight standards, and in
design and fabric resemble the Philistian coins and not the Yehud issues struck later and used in and
around the Jerusalem area. One
coin, No. 1049, possibly a quarter-sheqel, is of special interest because it relates to the Judaean weight
standard, and it carries the name
yhwd in four letters along with the
0 (` ayin), one of the traditional mintmarks of Gaza. This clue suggests that the earliest
series of Yehud coins, all of
which are either unique or extremely rare, may have been struck at Gaza for use in Judah,
and later a mint was established
in the Jerusalem area. Gitler and Tal have noted that both generic "Philistian" and specific
coins of Gaza were minted at the same mint 18 Gitler also
confirms that there is now additional evidence for the increased probability of an initial
central mint in Philistia." (Hendin, p87)
eponym of the tribe of Judah was born to Jacob as his fourth son by his
wife Leah (Gen 29:35). In Akkadian sources we find the name forms ya-á-du,
ya-a-ḫu-du and ya-ku-du. This is
similar to the yĕhűd or yahűd from the Persian period.
An inscription found in a rock-cut tomb in W Judah, that most probably
dates back to the 7th or 6th century b.c.e.,
has hry yhd, “the mountains of Judah.” On Arad Ostracon 40 the text
is unfortunately damaged after yĕhűd (l.13); it is therefore
not certain that -āh followed, as is often assumed. Both the
etymology and the original meaning are disputed. There is, however, a
growing consensus that the original meaning was geographic: Mt. Judah.
Compare expressions such as ʾereṣ yĕhűdâ (Amos
7:12), midbar yĕhűdâ (Judg 1:16), negeb yĕhűdâ (1
Sam 27:10). Consequently, the main tribe of this area was called after its
territory. The last step was the name yĕhűdâ as the name of a
state. Apart from the eponym, the use of yĕhűdâ as a personal
name seems to be postexilic. It is a striking fact that a name yĕhűdâ
until now has not been found among the hundreds of extrabiblical personal
names discovered on ostraca and seals. This could speak in favor of
Lipínski’s hypothesis that the name is related to Arabic wahda/yahda,
“ravine”/“canyon.” But a derivation of the root yhd (Hopʿal)
is more probable, as was suggested by W. F. Albright as early as 1927.
This was recently defended again by A. R. Millard (1974). The ending -āh
could be a shortening of a theophoric element (see TPNAH,
165)." (ABD, Judah, 1992 AD)
(governor) is a unique Persian origin word for a governor of the province of
Judah appointed by a Persian king.
- The Persian word "Tirshatha" (governor) is
equivalent to the Hebrew word "Pehah" (governor) and are both
applied to the governors during the Persian Empire.
- Within the Persian era books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther,
is a commonly used word for governor:
- There are 5 times in four verses that the unique Persian
origin word for governor (Tirshatha) is used to refer to the Persian
appointed governors. Twice Nehemiah is called by this unique word for
- "the governor [literally: Tirshatha,
a Persian title] told them that they were not to partake of the
most holy food, until there should be a priest to consult Urim and
Thummim." (Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65)
- "Now some of the heads of ancestral houses
contributed to the work. The governor [literally:
Tirshatha, a Persian title] gave to the treasury one
thousand darics of gold, fifty basins, and five hundred thirty priestly
robes." (Nehemiah 7:70)
- "And Nehemiah, who was the governor [literally: Tirshatha, a Persian title],
and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people
said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not
mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the
law." (Nehemiah 8:9)
- "Upon the sealed document are the names of Nehemiah
the governor [literally: Tirshatha, a
Persian title], son of Hacaliah, and Zedekiah;" (Nehemiah
VI. "Pehah" is
the standard Hebrew word for "governor, Satrap"
- The Hebrew word "Pehah" (governor) is equivalent
to the Persian word "Tirshatha" (governor) and are both applied
to the governors during the Persian Empire.
- In coins and pottery "pehah" is written as the
inscription "PHH". (remove the vowels from Pehah)
- The Hebrew word "pehah" is used 28 times in 27
verses of the Old Testament.
- "Pehah" came into use during the time of
Solomon and continued down through the Persian period.
- In the book of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther, the word is
used many times for the English word, "Governor".
- We have found coins with the inscription "PHH"
on them, in reference to the Hebrew Governors appointed by Persian kings.
- "The term pehah (satrap) as the title of the
governor of a province is well known from the Persian period. Zerubbabel
was the first pehah of Judah [correction, Sheshbazzar was first] in
this period (Haggai 2:21), and even the Persian governor of the entire
satrapy on the western side of the Euphrates was called "the governor
on this side of the river" (Neh. 3:7). An Elephantine papyrus from
the end of the fifth century B.C.E. mentions "Bagohi the satrap of
Judah" and his contemporary "Sanballat satrap of Samaria.'53
Among the finds from Wadi Daliyeh, this title is mentioned on a bulla of
Sanballat (the last governor of Samaria during the Persian period) and on
papyri from the days of "Hananiyah the
satrap" (354 B.C.E.)." Seal impressions found on jar handles in
Judah feature the names of some of the satraps, such as Yeho cezer and
Ahzai.55 The coins with the inscription "YHZQYH HPHH" are all of
the same type (obverse: head facing frontward; reverse: an owl). The name
"YHZQYH" appears on another type of coin showing a few changes
(Coins 24-26), but without the title "PHH". However, Coin 24 also has completely different
designs: on the obverse is a youthful male head, and on the reverse the
front part of a winged animal. This leads one to ask a natural question:
is this the same figure or are we dealing with two different people?
Anyone looking at photographs of the coins found attached to one another
at Tel Gamma will immediately discern that three of them are of the type
bearing the inscription "YHZQYH HPHH," while another one is of the second type with a
winged animal.'6 In the latter group are coins featuring the
name "YHZQYH" alone, and this indicates that all the
coins are really from the same time. It is therefore difficult to assume
that we are dealing with two different governors, and we should try to
explain why the title "PHH" is
missing on the second type." (Meshorer, p16)
VII. Inscriptions found on
coins and pottery from the Persian era:
- "YHD" or "YHWD" = Yehud
- YHD unvowelled (or "YHWD" in vowelled script)
is derived directly from JEW and/or JUDAH as referring to the entire
- Many coins from the Persian era and later had the
YHD/YHWD inscription on them. There is a great similarity between YHWD
and the divine name of God YHWH "Yahweh".
- This duck coin is patterned after weight stones in the
shape of ducks. It is interesting they put the duck motif on their coins
as a kind of continuation of the weight money system.
- “Yehud” on store-jar handle from Ramat Rachel 390 BC
- "YHWD" is mentioned a few times in the Bible
[Ezra 5:1; 5:8; 7:14; Daniel 2:25; 5:13; 6:13] as the name of the satrapy
of Judah during the period of Persian rule." This name of the
province of Judah is known even from papyri unearthed in the Jewish
settlement of Elephantine in Egypt. There are numerous well-known seal
impressions on handles of jars from the Persian period, which feature not
only the name "YHWD" but also the personal names of the
province's Jewish satraps." "YHWD" (or "YHD" in
unvowelled script) was then undoubtedly the official title of Judah under
Persian rule, but it can even be considered to have applied not only to
the province itself but also to its capital city, Jerusalem. 2 Chron.
25:28 relates the following about the burial of Amaziah king of Judah:
"and they buried him with his fathers in the city of Judah"
(769 B.c.E.). The "city of Judah" is certainly Jerusalem, the
burial place of the kings of Judah. A similar appellation is also known
from a Babylonian chronicle from the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar' s
reign: al Ia-a-khu-du = the city of Judah (599 B.C.E.).26
Moreover, it is evident that the Persian satrapy of Samaria was call
"S'MRYN," as was the city Samaria. A clear expression of this
is to be found in a Samarian document from Wadi Daliyeh that states:
"bgmryn byrta zy bgmryn mdynta" (i.e., in Samaria the citadel,
or city, that is Samaria the province)." From all that has been said
above, it can be concluded that the name
"YHD" appearing on the coin applied both to the city and the
province as a single complex. At that time, the large cities in
the Land of Israel, such as Gaza, Ashdod, Ascalon, Dor, Megiddo, and
Samaria, controlled extensive territories around them and in effect
bordered on one another, and thus the city and province of
"YHD" constituted a single political entity." (Meshorer,
- "PHH" = Pehah (governor)
- The Hebrew word "Pehah" (governor) is
equivalent to the Persian word "Tirshatha" (governor) and are
both applied to the governors during the Persian Empire. In coins and
pottery "pehah" is written as the inscription "PHH".
(remove the vowels from Pehah)
"Hezekiah": Governor of Judea: ~350-333BC. Some coins
contained the full inscription naming Hezekiah as the governor:
"YHZQKYH HPHH" (Yehezqiyah the Satrap) (Meshorer: Coins 22-23);
- "Anyone looking at
photographs of the coins found attached to one another at Tel Gamma will
immediately discern that three of them are of the type bearing the
inscription "YHZQYH HPHH," while another one is of the second type with
a winged animal.'6 In the latter group are coins featuring the
alone, and this indicates that all the coins are really from the
same time. It is therefore difficult to assume that we are dealing with
two different governors, and we should try to explain why the title
"PHH" is missing on the second
type." (Meshorer, p16)
- Here is the coin that has both inscriptions of "YHZQKYH
HPHH" Hezekiah, governor
- Here is a coin for the Hezekiah, Governor of Judah
without the PHH inscription: ~350-333BC
- Here is a coin for the Governor of Samaria named
"Obediah" alone without the word governor.
- Here is a clay Bullah of “Satrap of Samaria” Persian
pottery jar handle seal impression
- Coins from the Persian era are the earliest ones minted by
the nation of Israel.
By Steve Rudd: Contact the author for
comments, input or corrections.
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