Aramaic Marriage Papyri from Elephantine

between 459–440, BC; Elephantine

Translator: H. L. Ginsberg

This translation is a nearly verbatim transcription of that by H. L. Ginsberg (see references). The documents come from Elephantine (Egypt), and date between 459 and 440, BC. Footnotes are Ginsberg’s unless noted (by the initials “AH”).
Notes are ‘mouse hover style’, connected to passages in green.

Please report errors to me (link at end of page). -Alan Humm


Ginsberg, Harold Louis. (1969). Additional Mesopotamian legal documents: Marriage contract. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament with Supplement. James B. Pritchard (Ed.). Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. Pp. 221f, 491.

Mibtahiah's first marriage

Deed of 459 B.C., relating to reversion of property.

On the 21st of Chisleu, that is the 1st of Mesore, year 6 of King Artaxerxes, Mahseiah b. Yedoniah, a Jew of Elephantine, of the detachment of Haumadata, said to Jezaniah b. Uriah of the said detachment as follows:

There is the site of I house belonging to me, west of the house belonging to you, which I have given to your wife, my daughter Mibtahiah (Mbthyh), and in respect of which I have written her a deed. The measurements of the house in question are 8 cubits and a handbreadth [5] by II, by the measuring-rod. Now do I, Mahseiah, say to you, Build and equip that site . . . and dwell thereon with your wife. But you may not sell that house or give it as a present to others; only your children by my daughter Mibtahiah shall have power over it after you two. If tomorrow or some other day you build upon this land, and then my daughter divorces you and leaves you, she shall have no power to take it or give it to others; only your children by [10] Mibtahiah shall have power over it, in return for the work which you shall have done. If, on the other hand, she recovers from you, she [may] take half of the house, and [the] othe[r] half shall be at you; disposal in return for the building which you will have done on that house. And again as to that half, your children by Mibtahiah shall have power over it after you. If tomorrow or another day I should institute suit or process against you and say I did not give you this land to build on and did not draw up this deed for you, I [15] shall give you a sum of 10 karshin by royal weight, at the rate of 2 R to the ten, and no suit or process shall lie. This deed was written by 'Atharshuri b. Nabuzeribni in the fortress of Syene at the dictation of Mahseiah.

Witnesses hereto (signatures).

In liquidation of Mibtahiah's second marriage: Settlement of claim by oath

Date: 440 B.C.
The Jewess Mibtahiah (Mbthyh) had apparently married the Egyptian Pi’ and then the marriage had been dissolved. The marriage had meant Mibtahiah’s exit from the Jewish community and adoption into the Egyptian. Even its liquidation necessitated her swearing by an Egyptian deity. The witnesses to this document are neither Jewish nor Egyptian.

On the 14th of Ab, being the 19th day of Pahons, in the year 25 of King Artaxerxes, Pi’ the son of Pahi (Phy), builder, of the fortress of Syene, said to Mibtahiah, daughter of Maheseiah the son of Yedoniah, an Aramean of Syene of the detachment of Varizata (as follows):

In accordance with the action which we took at Syene, let us make a division of the silver, grain, raiment, bronze, iron, and all goods and possessions and marriage contract. Then a oath was imposed upon you, and you swore to me concerning them by the goddess Sati. I was satisfied with the oath which you took to me concerning your goods, and I renounce all claim on you from this day for ever.

Contract of Mibtahiah's third marriage oath

Date: about 440 B.C.
On the 2[5]th of Tishri, that is the 6th day of the month Epiphi, [year . . . of] Kin[g Artaxerx]es, said Ashor b. [Seho], 123 The name of Ashor's father (sh’) is preserved in another document. Both it and his own are Egyptian, but he eventually adopted the Hebrew one of Nathan. builder to the king, to Mah[seiah, A]ramean of Syene, of the detachment of Varizata, as follows:

I have [co]me to your house that you might give me your daughter Mipht(ah)iah in marriage. She is my wife and I am her husband from this day for ever. I have given you as the bride-price [5] of your daughter Miphtahiah (a sum of) 5 shekels, royal weight. It has been received by you and your heart is content there with, (Lines 6-16, Miphtahiah's dowry.) [17] Should Ashor die tomorrow or an[othe]r day having no child, male or female, by his wife Mi[phtah]iah, Miphtahiah shall be entitled to the house, chattels and all worldly goods of Ashor. [20] Should Miphtahiah die tomorrow or (another) day having no child, male or female, by her husband Ashor, Ashor shall inherit her property and chattels. Should [Miph]tahiah, tomorrow [or] another [d]ay stand up in a congregation and say, I divorce my husband Ashor, the price of divorce shall be upon her head: she shall sit by the balance and weigh out to [As]hor a sum of 7 shekels 2 R. But all that which she has brought in [25] with her she shall take out, shred and thread, and go whither she will, without suit or process. Should Ashor tomorrow or another day stand up in a congregation and say, I divorce my [wif]e Miphtahiah, [he shall] forfeit her bride-price, and all that she has brought in with her she shall take out, shred and thread, on one day at one stroke, and shall go whither she will, without suit or process. And [whoever] arises against Miphtahiah [30] to drive her away from the house, possessions, and chattels of Ashor shall give her the sum of 20 karash, and the law of this deed shall [ . . . ] for her. And I shall have no right to say I have another wife besides Mipht(ah)iah or other children besides any Miphtahiah may bear to me. If I say I have chi[ldren] and wife other than Miphtiah and her children, I shall give to Miphtahiah a su[m] of 20 karash, royal weight. [35] Neither shall I have the right to [wre]st my property and chattels from Miph[tah]iah. If I take them away from her (erasure), I shall give to Miphtahiah [a sum of] 20 karash, royal weight. [This deed] was written by Nathan b. Ananiah [at the dictation of Ashor].

Witnesses: (signatures).

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