Have you ever heard the phrase? - "It was a case of a mistaken identity." Time and time again, situations arise where people misidentify the wrong person. Maybe it`s the police arresting the wrong man because they fit the description of a wanted criminal. Or maybe it`s just a case of someone calling out to us from afar, and then, when they get closer, they get embarrassed because they realize you aren`t the one they thought you were. It happens all the time. Even Biblical Archaeology gets the wrong man from time to time.
      One such example is a man referred to in the Bible as "Tattenai, governor beyond the river."  He is mentioned in the Bible in Ezra chapters 5 and 6, and he was given a command by Darius of Persia to help the Jews with whatever they needed to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.
      Now, if you go on different archaeology websites which list confirmation of Biblical figures, many will list the name of  'Tattenai, Governor beyond the River"  And they will reference a supposed artifact from "Darius the first dated to the 20th year of his reign, circa 502 B.C.
      The problem is, the Bible isn`t referring to Darius the Great in Ezra chapters 5 and 6. But it is referring to Darius the second. And since the time span from the 20th year of Darius the Great to the 2nd year of Darius the second mentioned in Ezra 5 is close to 85 years, the likelihood of Tattenai mentioned on this artifact as being the Tattenai mentioned in Bible is about zip to none.
      How do we know it is King Darius II mentioned in Ezra 5 and 6?  Well, because Ezra chapter 5 mentions that progress on rebuilding the temple, originally decreed by King Cyrus, was stopped a few times under various kings that succeeded him. For example, in Ezra 4:6  during the reign of King Ahasuerus (Xerxes), leaders wrote accusations against the Jews in Jerusalem. And in Ezra 4:7, opposition to the Jews rebuilding the temple came to the ears of king Artaxerxes who winds up decreeing that the work on the temple was to cease. And it was discontinued until the 2nd year of Darius according to Ezra 4:24.    
      Both Xerxes and Artaxerxes reigned after Darius the great, therefore eliminating Darius the Great as being the king mentioned in Ezra 5. But Darius II did reign after Artaxerxes. So, Darius the second appears to be our guy.
       Now that we realize we have a case of mistaken identity we can now search for the real Tattenai mentioned in the book of Ezra. It is not an easy task, for Tattenai was a very common name during that time period. So, we need to search for inscriptions that would mention a Tattenai who served under the king of Persia around the time of Darius the Second. And who also would have ruled in some capacity in the areas around the Euphrates river, once territory held by Babylon.
      And there are a few inscriptions that may point us to the real Tattenai.  
      The first of these artifacts mention a Tattenai who served under King Artaxerxes, just 11 years prior to the 2nd year of Darius II. This artifact is from Nippur, located across the river Euphrates. He held the title of  "Masennus". It is believed that masennus were contractors for the canal districts in areas along the Euphrates river, and they worked alongside men who were connected to the "royal storehouse" or "treasury," in order to maintain the religious temples under control of the Persian king.  
      In other words, this Tattenai, the masennus,  probably refers to Biblical figure because he was in charge of ensuring that revenues collected from assessments on lands beyond the Euphrates would be used for maintaining and restoring temples, which would have included the construction of the temple in Jerusalem.
       This Inscription is translated below and reads as follows.
       "The son of Marduka, spoke according to his own free will to Tattannu, the masennu official, as follows: "Turn over to me the rented property  . . . , the assessment for the 31rst year of King Artaxerxes  (434-343 B.C.) which has not been paid in the full, and I will make full payment of the balance of the assessment to the royal estate.  Of 756 Cubic yards of barley,  . . .  7 Cubic yards of wheat  . . .  and the unpaid balance for the 30th year of the King. I will also pay half in the ninth and tenth month of the current year, and I will pay the remaining half in third month of 32nd year of the king, along with the assessment made on me. Tattannu, the masennu official, heard him and gave him the leased property on the terms of the assessment to be made against him.  He, the tenant, will pay the cereals and the lesser crops, including the assessment for year 31 and the unpaid balance of the assessment for year 30, at the time specified for him. Each took one copy of this document."
       (Reverse Side of Artifact 1'-2') [...] Nippur, [month x, day y, year z, Artaxerxes, King of] Lands. (Left Edge) [Seal of ...]-uballif?. (Upper Edge) Seal of Bel-usursu, the [...] of Borsippa. [Seal of ...,] son [ of ...].   (Note: Nippur and Borsippa are located between rivers Euphrates and Tigris.)  YBC 11668
Tattenai Artifact Yale Babylonian Collection YBC11668
      The second artifact below amazingly mentions Tattanai directly as being the "steward of the temples." According to the Oriental Institute of Chicago`s Assyrian Dictionary, the Babylonian title of 'masennus` was used interchangeably with the title of "Abarakku` (the steward of the Temples)      
      This Inscription uses the title Abarakku for Tattenai`s governing position. The artifact is translated below and reads as follows:
      "2000 barley treatment, 170 wheat treatment, 30 treatment peeled emmer, 10 cures of garden cress, 15 cures Sesame, together 2225 cure, yield ', barley and the rest of the rent for the Bel field 'from the gates of the Sin Canal to the dam, which is below the place Disidia, on the Euphrates from Nippur, on the Salla Canal and Sappa Samas Canal, for the 37th year of King Artaxerxes (428-427 B.C.) and the gift for the Bel field according to what is on the plaque, the certificate of miter, the mutallihu of the right (side) of the Sin Canal, son of Marduk-sum-iddina, the House slaves of Tattannu the abarakku (steward of the temples,) at the expense of Ellil-sum-iddina, son of Murasu, Mitraen, son of Marduksum-iddina, the house slave of Tattannu, steward of the temples, Received from the hand of Ellil-sum-iddina, son of Murasu. He will cure barley in the amount of 2000, the wheat in the amount of 170 cures, the dehulled emmer in the amount of 30 cures, the garden cress in the amount of 10 cures, the sesame in the amount of 15 cures, altogether 2225 cure, yield ', barley and the rest, the whole rent and the whole gift for the Bel field from the gate of the Sin Canal to the dam of the place Disidia, the Euphrates from Nippur, the Salla Canal and the Sappa Samas channel for the 37th year to deliver to the steward of the temples of the king (and) Mitrani, son of Marduk-sum-iddina, the house slaves of Tattannu, the steward of the temples, it will be for Ellil-sum-iddina, son of Murasu, to hand over.
      Below is the transliteration of the text with Tattannu listed as the Abarakku highlighted in yellow.
      Another inscription also bears the name Tattenai holding the title of 'Abarakku`, steward of the temples. The translation is shown below.    
        "According to the written order of Balatu, steward of the temple, son of Tattannu, steward of the temples, stands with the trees planted and (for grain cultivation) cultivated field, that is in the village of Kugnrdia on the bank of the Sin Canal, bordering the field of Attamarga . . ."
      Below is the transliteration of the text with Tattannu listed as the Abarakku highlighted in yellow.
      Another inscription mentions Tattannu as overseeing revenues derived from leasing  access to the waters from the canals. The inscription reads:  
      "Give us the lease to the waters of the [royal] reservoir. . .  and the field adjoining it, which you hold from Tattannu, the one in charge of revenues of the canal. " CBS12939  pg. 49"  #25:5   Collection of the Babylonian Section,  Philadelphia
Tattenai Artifact CBS12939 Collection of Babylonian Section
      The last artifact I will mention comes from the reign of Darius himself, just three years after the Biblical event. The artifact states as follows.  
       "The silver, in the amount of 15 mines, the entire fiefdom tax for a royal soldier, The king's flour and all sorts of taxes for the Royal house, which on the sheet in question for the fifth year of King Darius." (The lower edge of the artifact mentions many names.  Among them is "Tattenai", who is listed as a Sin-magir. The Akkadian word, simmagir, in the Neo-Babylonian period, was a title for a high official. The same title used for Nergal-sharezer who is mentioned earlier in history in Jeremiah 39:3 (NABRE) which states:
       "All the princes of the king of Babylon came and took their seats at the middle gate: Nergal-sharezer the Simmagir, a chief officer; Nebushazban, a high dignitary; and all the rest of the princes of the king of Babylon."
       So, we know Tattenai was a very high official of the king all the way up until the fifth year of Darius II.
      Below is the transliteration of the Inscription:
      What is even more remarkable is the name of the man who accompanied Tattenai to Jerusalem, Sether-Bozana, has also been found in the same records from Nippur, dating to the 38th year of Artaxerxes I (427-426 B.C.)    
       In the Collection of the Babylonian Section, Philadelphia, Artifacts #CBS 5174+12893 Illustration Figure 13 Line 25` mentions the man, Sether-Bozana:
Shethar Boznai Biblical Archaeology Artifact
      Another mention of Sether-Bozana is found in the records from Nippur dating to the 41rst year  of King Artaxerxes I (424 B.C.), just two years before the Biblical story in Ezra during king Darius II reign.
      Located in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum - Part of the Nippur tablet Collection, Artifact (Ni.528) mentions Sether-Bozana (Sa-ta-bar-za-na)  Figure 18 Line 26.
Shethar Boznai Artifact Istanbul Archaeological Museum Ni.528 Nippur Tablet Collection
      The decree of Darius the Second allowing the Jews to rebuild the temple and the instructions he gave to Tattenai to carry out his orders is found in the Book of Ezra Chapter 5.
      "Then the prophet Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophets, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. So, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak rose up and began to build the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them, helping them."
The prophet Haggai confronting Zerubbabel and Joshua on Rebuilding the Temple
Haggai Exhorts Zerubbabel and Joshua to Build the Temple.
      "At the same time Tattenai the governor of the region beyond the River and Shethar-Boznai and their companions came to them and spoke thus to them: "Who has commanded you to build this temple and finish this wall?" Then, accordingly, we told them the names of the men who were constructing this building. But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, so that they could not make them cease till a report could go to Darius. Then a written answer was returned concerning this matter. This is a copy of letter that Tattenai sent:
      'The governor of the region beyond the River, and Shethar-Boznai, and his companions, the Persians who were in the region beyond the River, to Darius the king.
      (They sent a letter to him, in which was written thus.)
      To Darius (Darius II) the king: All peace. Let it be known to the king that we went into the province of Judea, to the temple of the great God, which is being built with heavy stones, and timber is being laid in the walls; and this work goes on diligently and prospers in their hands."
Rebuilding the Jewish Temple
      "Now therefore, if it seems good to the king, let a search be made in the king`s treasure house, which is there in Babylon, whether it is so that a decree was issued by King Cyrus to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send us his pleasure concerning this matter."
 
Ezra 6
 
       "Then King Darius issued a decree, and a search was made in the archives, where the treasures were stored in Babylon. And at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of Media, a scroll was found, and in it a record was written thus:
      "In the first year of King Cyrus, King Cyrus issued a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem: "Let the house be rebuilt, the place where they offered sacrifices; and let the foundations of it be firmly laid, its height sixty cubits and its width sixty cubits, with three rows of heavy stones and one row of new timber. Let the expenses be paid from the king`s treasury. Also let the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple which is in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be restored and taken back to the temple which is in Jerusalem, each to its place; and deposit them in the house of God"
King Crus returns the vessels of the Temple
King Cyrus returns vessels taken from the temple by Nebuchadnezzar
      "Now therefore,Tattenai, governor of the region beyond the River, and Shethar-Boznai, and your companions the Persians who are beyond the River, keep yourselves far from there. Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God on its site.
      Moreover I issue a decree as to what you shall do for the elders of these Jews, for the building of this house of God: Let the cost be paid at the king`s expense from taxes on the region beyond the River; this is to be given immediately to these men, so that they are not hindered. And whatever they need-young bulls, rams, and lambs for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the request of the priests who are in Jerusalem - let it be given them day by day without fail, that they may offer sacrifices of sweet aroma to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and his sons.
      Also, I issue a decree that whoever alters this edict, let a timber be pulled from his house and erected, and let him be hanged on it; and let his house be made a refuse heap because of this. And may the God who causes His name to dwell there destroy any king or people who put their hand to alter it, or to destroy this house of God which is in Jerusalem. I Darius issue a decree; let it be done diligently."
      The Temple Completed and Dedicated:
      "Then Tattenai, governor of the region beyond the River, Shethar-Boznai, and their companions diligently did according to what King Darius had sent. So, the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia."
Rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem
      "Now the temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. Then the children of Israel, the priests and the Levites and the rest of the descendants of the captivity, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. And they offered sacrifices at the dedication of this house of God, one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. They assigned the priests to their divisions and the Levites to their divisions, over the service of God in Jerusalem, as it is written in the Book of Moses."
Dedication of the Jewish Temple in Ezra
The Passover Celebrated
 
"And the descendants of the captivity kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves; all of them were ritually clean. And they slaughtered the Passover lambs for all the descendants of the captivity, for their brethren the priests, and for themselves. Then the children of Israel who had returned from the captivity ate together with all who had separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the Lord God of Israel. And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy; for the Lord made them joyful and turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel."
      This article is a chapter from our 3 volume book series "Bible Believer's Archaeology" which can be downloaded for your ebook reader or mobile device by visiting our resource download page by Clicking Here.
Sources:
 
The Holy Bible. Author - The Lord God.   Ezra Chapters 4-6
 
'Fifth Century Nippur: Texts of the Murasus and from their Surroundings` Author - Matthew W. Stolper - University of Chicago, Pg. 114-115  Lines 1-13, Translation of Yale Babylonian Collection Artifact (YBC 11668) -  Illustration of YBC 11668 pg. 113
Translation (1-5) "The son of Marduka, spoke according to his own free will to Tattannu, the masennu official, as follows: "Turn over to me the rented property  . . . , the assessment for the 31rst year of King Artaxerxes  (434-343 B.C.) which has not been paid in the full, and I will make full payment of the balance of the assessment to the royal estate. (5-9) Of 1,640 gur (756 Cubic yards) of barley,  . . . gur of sesame, 150 gur (7 Cubic Yards) of wheat  . . .  and the unpaid balance for year 30, (9-10) I will also pay half in the ninth and tenth month of the current year, 31), and I will pay the remaining half in third month of year 32, along with the assessment made on me. (10-11) Tattannu, the masennu official, heard him and gave him the leased property on the terms of an assessment to be made against him. (11-13) He, the tenant, will pay the cereals and the lesser crops, including the assessment for year thirty-one and the unpaid balance of the assessment for year 30, at the time specified for him. (13) Each took one copy (of this document). (Reverse Side of Artifact 1'-2') [...] Nippur, [month x, day y, year z, Artaxerxes, King of] Lands. (Left Edge) [Seal of ...]-uballif?. (Upper Edge) Seal of Bel-usursu, the [...] of Borsippa. [Seal of ...,] son [ of ...].   (Note: Nippur and Borsippa located between rivers Euphrates and Tigris.)  YBC 11668
Note 1: A Babylonian gur is the equivalent volume of approximately 80 dry Gallons or .46 cubic yards
 
"Babylonische Rechtsurkunden Aus Der Regierungszeit Artaxerxes I. Und Darius II, 1915 Dr. Julius Augapfel.  
Pg.33  IX.59 Translation (Books German translation to English): "2000 barley treatment, 170 wheat treatment, 30 treatment peeled emmer, 10 cures of garden cress, 15 cures Sesame, together 2225 cure, yield ', barley and the rest of the rent for the Bel field 'from Gates of the Sin Canal to the dam, which is below the place Disidia, on the Euphrates from Nippur, on the Salla Canal and Sappa Samas Canal,  des whole for the 37th. Year of King Artaxerxes (428-427 B.C.) and the gift for the whole Bel field according to what is on the plaque, the certificate of miter, the mutallihu of the right (side) of the Sin Canal, son of Marduk-sum-iddina, the House slaves of Tattannu, steward of the temples (abarakku), at the expense of Ellil-sum-iddina, son of Murasu, Mitraen, son of Marduksum-iddina, the house slave of Tattannu, steward of the temples (abarakku), Received from the hand of Ellil-sum-iddina, son of Murasu. He will cure barley in the amount of 2000, the wheat in the amount of 170 cures, the dehulled emmer in the amount of 30 cures, the garden cress (?) in the amount of 10 cures, the sesame in the amount of 15 cures, altogether 2225 cure, yield ', barley and the rest, the whole rent and the whole gift for the Bel field from the gate of the Sin Canal to the dam of the place Disidia, the Euphrates from Nippur, the Salla Canal and the Sappa Samas channel for the 37th year to deliver to the steward of the temples (abarakku) of the king (and) Mitrani, son of Marduk-sum-iddina, des House slaves of Tattannu, the steward of the temples (abarakku), it will be for Ellil-sum-iddina, son of Murasu, to hand over.
Note : The original German Translator translated (abarakku) as reading "keeper of the seals" instead of "steward of the temple." Although the University Of Chicago Assyrian Dictionary gives three definitions of abarakku and none of them mean keeper of the seals.
 
Oi-Uchicago .edu The  Assyrian Dictionary pg. 32   Volume 1  'A`  Part 1
Oi-Uchicago .edu The Assyrian Dictionary pg. 35  Volume1  'A`  Part 1
"Babylonische Rechtsurkunden Aus Der Regierungszeit Artaxerxes I. Und Darius II, 1915 Dr. Julius Augapfel.
Pg.93  IX.32 Translation (Books German translation to English):  "According to the written order of Balatu, steward of the temple, son of Tattannu, steward of the temple, Stands the (with trees) planted and (for grain cultivation) cultivated field, that is in the village of Kugnrdia on the bank of the Sin Canal, bordering the field of Attamarga, bordering on the field of Kusdana, bordering on the field .... Ellil-sum-iddina, son of Murasu, at the disposal of Nabu-sara, son of Sulumma-ukin. .... Nabu-sara, son of Sulumma-ukin, will not come back (and) will not litigate with Ellilsum-iddina because of the field in question. As soon as Nabu-sara, son of Sulumma-ukin, as to these fields against Balatu or any will litigate another, will Nabu-sara, Son of Sulumma-ukin 1/2 talent silver dem Ellil-sum-iddina, son of Murasu. Any legal action on the part of the Nabu-sara, son of Sulumma-ukin, because of concerned field against Ellil-sum-iddina, son des Murasu, does not exist for all time."
 
Entrepreneurs and Empire - The Mura Archive, the Mura Firm, and Persian Rule in Babylonia By  Matthew W. Stolper  
Pg. 49 Translation: "Give us the lease to the waters of the [royal] reservoir. . .  and the field adjoining it, which you hold from Tattannu, the one in charge of revenues of the canal. " CBS12939  pg. 49"  #25:5   Collection of the Babylonian Section  Philadelphia
 
"Babylonische Rechtsurkunden Aus Der Regierungszeit Artaxerxes I. Und Darius II, 1915 Dr. Julius Augapfel.  
Pgs.48-49  X 101 Translation (Books German translation to English): "The silver, in the amount of 15 mines, the entire fiefdom tax for a royal soldier, The king's flour and all sorts of taxes for the Royal house, which on the sheet in question for the fifth year of King Darius." (The lower edge of the artifact mentions many names.  Among them is "Tattannu," who is listed as a Sin-magir. The Akkadian word, simmagir, in the Neo-Babylonian period, was a title for a high official.
 
The Murasu Archive, the Murasu Firm,  and Persian Rule in Babylonia by  Matthew W. Stolper  
Inscription on Pg. 238 & Illustration Pg.177 from the Collection of the Babylonian Section,  Philadelphia Artifacts #CBS 5174+12893  dated to the 38th Year of Artaxerxes I.  Figure 13 Line 25` mentions Sether-Bozana:
25' UJ mu-kin-nu m (witnesses)  Sa-[ta]-ba-ar-za-na-' A Sa mx-[ ... m]Bi-ba-a u mMi-nu-u-ctEN-da-an A.MES a mctBE-MU 26' mctA-num-[NUMUN-M]U A a mctA-num-SIPA-su-nu m[ARAD-ctEn-fil A] a mRU-ti-ct[MAS m]Na-din A samBA-sa-a 27' mA-a A a m[dEn-lil]-DIN-su-E msu-ctEn-lil A sa m[d En-lil-ba-na mdMAS-PAP A sa md]AG-SES.MES-MU 28' m Ba-la-{u [A sa mEN]-su-nu mK[A]L-a A sa mSUM-n[a-a ... ] mLa-ba-si 'A a m1Na-din."
 
Istanbul Murasu Texts - by Veysel Donbaz and Matthew W. Stolper  1997  Transliteration pg. 98 & Illustration pg.30. Fig.18 Line 26  Istanbul Archaeological Museum - Nippur tablet Collection . (Ni.528)  mentions Sether-Bozana (Sa-ta-bar-za-na)
 
'Fifth Century Nippur: Texts of the Murasus and from their Surroundings` Author - Matthew W. Stolper - University of Chicago,  
Pg. 117 Quote:  "A few texts mention masennus, Contractors for Canal Districts, or their agents in connection with a "royal storehouse" or "treasury" (bit nakkandu sa arri). These texts suggest (though the evidence is sparse and equivocal) that this "treasury" was the controlling institution that corresponds to the temples in the earlier texts that deal with large-scale contracting."
 
Artwork: "Haggai Exhorts Zerubbabel and Joshua"  Engraving published circa 1860 Uitgave (publisher)  H.C.A. Champagne in Tiel,   Artist J.F.C Reckleben  circa 1860
 
Artwork: "Rebuilding of the Temple" (Artist: Gustave Dor, from the 1866 La Sainte Bible.
 
Artwork: "King Cyrus of Peria Returning the vessels of the Jewish Temple", artist: Gustave Dore, Engraving for the Bible,  1866
 
Artwork: "Rebuilding the Wall in Jerusalem " Engraving published in 1886  
 
Artwork: "Dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem" engraving published  1886
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