Aramaic Manumission & Marriage Papyri from Elephantine

(Translator: H. L. Ginsberg)

Manumission of a female slave and her daughter, June 12, 427 B.C. [a]

Emil G. Kraeling, The Brooklyn Museum Aramaic Papyri: New Documents of the Jewish Colony at Elephantine (New Haven, 1953), Papyrus 5, pp. 178 ff. Pls. V and XIX. H. L. Ginsberg, JAOS, LXXIV (1954), 158.

(I) On the 20th of Siwan,[1] that is the 7th day of Phamenoth,[2] the year 38 of King Artaxerxes[3]--at that time, (2) Meshullam son of Zakkur, a Jew of the fortress Elephantine, of the detachment of Arpakhu said to the woman Tapmut (as she is called), (3) his slave,[4] who has on her right hand the marking "Of Meshullam," as follows: I have taken kindly thought of you (4) in my lifetime. I hereby declare you released at my death and likewise declare released the daughter Yehoyishma' (as she is called) whom (5) you have borne to me.[5] No son or daughter, close or distant relative, kinsman, or clansman of mine (6) has any right to you or to the daughter Yehoyishma' whom you have borne to me;[5] none has any right (7) to mark you or to deliver you as a payment of money. Whoever attempts such action against you or the daughter Yehoyishma' (8) whom you have borne to me[5] must pay you a fine of 50 karsh of silver by the king's weights. You are released, with your daughter Yehoyishma', from the shade for the sun,[6] and no other man is master (10) of you or your daughter Yehoyishma'. You are released for God.
(II) And Tapmut and her daughter Yehoyishma' de- clared: We shall serve you [a]s[7] a son or daughter supports his or her father (I2) as long as you live; and when you die, we shall support your son Zakkur like a son who supports his father, just as we shall have been doing (13) for you while you were alive. (....)[8] If we ever say, "We will not support you as a son supports (I4) his father, and your son Zakkur after your death," we shall be liable to you and your son Zakkur for a fine (IS) in the amount of 50 karsh of refined silver by the king's weights without suit or process.
Written by Haggai (I6) the scribe, at Elephantine, at the dictation of Meshullam son of Zakkur, the witnesses herein being:[9] Atarparan son of Nisai (I7) the Mede; witness Micaiah son of Ahio; witness Berechiah son of Miptah; witness Dalah son of Gaddul.
(Endorsement) Quit-claim written by Meshullam son of Zakkur to Tapmut and Yehoyishma['].

[1] By the Babylonian calendar, adopted by the Persians.
[2] By the Egyptian calendar.
[3] Artaxerxes 11 (464-424).
[4] Though she was acquired in marriage 22 years earlier by a contract (Brooklyn, 2) between her master and her husband, and though her daughter has issued from that marriage, she has remained in law the slave of her master, and her daughter has been born into that status.
[5] In a proprietary, not biological, sense; see JAOS, LXXIV (1954), 157f.
[6] Cf. Isa. 42:7; 49:9; 61:1- Ps. 107:10, 14.
[7] The k of the word kzy (cf. the identical phrase in l. 13) was omitted by haplography.
[8] Similar arrangements, by which the manumitted slave is bound to render certain services to his master for the duration of the latter's life, were common in the Hellenistic world, in which they were known as paramoné.
[9] The witnesses' names are not signed by them but simply recorded by the scribe; cf. Jer. 32:12 "the witnesses who were recorded (hakktúbím the better reading) in the deed." On other fifth century Aramaic deeds from Elephantine, the witnesses, or some of them sign in their own hands. The transition to the latter practice was in progress.

Marriage contract of a former slave girl who is subject to paramoné, 420 B.C. [b]

Kraeling, op. cit., Papyrus 7, pp. 201 ff., Pls. VIIa, VIIb; Ginsberg, op. cit., 58-59.

(I) On (the first day of)[1] the month of Tishri,[2] that is Epiphi,[3] the year 4 of King Darius,[4] in the fortress Elephantine, said Ananiah son of Haggai, (2) an Aramean[5] of the fortress Elephantine, [of] the detachment of [Iddin]-Nabu, to Zakkur son of Me[shullam, an Arame]an of Syene, of the same detachment, as follows: (3) I have come to your [hous]e and asked you for your sister[6] the woman Yehoyishma' (as she is called) in marriage, and you have given her (4) to me. She is my wife and I am [her] husband from this day to eternity. I have paid to you as the bride price of your sister[6] Yehoyishma' (5) I karsh of silver; you have received it [and have been satisfied therewi]th. Your sister Yehoyishma' has brought into my house a cash sum (6a) of two karsh, (two) 2 shekels, and 5 hallurs of silver, . . . (Lines 6b-13a, defective, a list of probably I2 articles of wool and linen with their respective values; 13b-15a, 5 articles of copper with their respective values; 15b missing.) (15c) [Garments and articles of co]pper with the cash and the bride price:[7] seven (that is, 7) karsh, eight (that is, 8) shekels, and 5 hallurs of silver by the king's (17a) weights, silver of 2 R[8] to the ten. (17b-21aa, containers of palm leaves, reeds, wood, and stone and quantities of various sorts of oil—no values specified.[9])
((21 cont.) If at some future date Ananiah should arise in an/the assembly and declare, "I divorce my wife Yehoyishma'; (25) she shall not be a wife to me," he shall become liable for divorce money. < He shall forfeit her bride price >[10] he must surrender to her all that she brought into his house. Her dowry of cash (23) and clothing, worth karsh seven, sh[ekels eight, and hallurs 5] of silver, and the rest of the goods listed (above)[11] (24a-b) he must hand over to her on one day and in a single act, and she may [leave him for where]ver [she will]....
(24c) If, on the other hand, Yehoyishma' should di- vorce her husband (25) Ananiah and say to him, "I divorce you, I will not be wife to you," she shall become liable for divorce money. [].[10] (26) She shall sit by the scales and weigh out to her husband Ananiah 7 shekels and 2 R and shall leave him with the balance of her (27) cash, goods, and pos[sessions, worth karsh 7; shekels 5+] 3, and hallurs 5; and the rest of her goods, (28) which are listed (above), he shall hand over to her on one day and in a single act, and she shall depart for her father's house.
If Ananiah should die having no male or (29) female child from his wife [Yehoyi]shma', Yehoyishma' shall be [mistress] of his [pr]operty: of his house, his goods, to) his possession, [and all that he owns. Anyone who] attempts to banish Yehoyishma' from his house, [goods, possessions], and all that [he] owns, [shall p]ay to [her a fi]ne of silver, (32) twenty karsh by [the king's] weights, silver of 2 R to the 10[8] and shall accord [her] her due under this deed without lawsuit. (33) However, Yeh[oyishma'] is not permitted [to] acquire a husband other [than] Anani. Should she do so, (34) that shall constitute a divorce, and [the provisions for divorcement][12] shall be applied to [her]. (So, too,) if [Yehoyishma'] should die having no (35) [male] or female child by [her] hus[band] Anani, [Anani] shall inherit from her her [cash], goods, possessions, and all (3') that she own[s]. And [Anani] likewise [may] no[t ta]ke any woman [other than his wife Yehoyishma'] (37) in marriage. Should he do [so, that shall constitute a divorce, and the provisions for di]vorcement[12] [shall be applied to him].
Further, Ananiah (38) may not omit to accord to his wife Yehoyishma' the right of any of the wives of his fellows.[13] Should (39) he fail to do so, that shall constitute a divorce, and he shall implement for her the provisions for divorcement.[12] Neither may Yehoyishma' (40) omit to accord to her husband Ananiah the right of any (husband).[13] Should she fail to accord it to him, that shall constitute a divorce.
Further, (41) Zakkur may not say with reference to [his] sister], "I gave those [goo]ds to Yehoyishma' gratis; now I wish (42) to take them back." If he speaks [thus], no attention shall be paid to him; he is in the wrong.
This deed was written by Ma'uziah son of Nathan (43) at the dictation of Ananiah son of Haggai [and] Zakkur son of Meshullam, and the witnesses thereto are: (There followed the names of six witnesses and those of their fathers, making twelve names in all, of which nine are preserved, all of them Jewish, and all of them in the handwriting of the scribe.[14])

[1] Omitted in the original, apparently idiomatically.
[2] 0f the Babylonian calendar, adopted by the Persians.
[3] Of the Egyptian calendar.
[4] Darius 11 (423-405).
[5] Jews are sometimes thus described in these documents, no doubt by reason of their language.
[6] Legally speaking, not biologically; see [above] note 5.
[7] The bride price, though formally paid to the bride's legal guardian, becomes part of her dowry; cf. [Mibtahiah’s 3rd Marriage], n. 6.
[8] See [Mibtahiah’s 1st Marriage], n. 3.
[9] So also in the contract abridged [in l. 25, to 1. 22. Cf. ll. 5ff.
[12] ll. 21-28.
[13] i.e. conjugal rights.
[14] cf. [above] n. 9.

[a] ANET p. {548}.
[b] ANET p. {548}f.


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