Aramaic Manumission & Marriage Papyri

between 427–420, 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 427 and 420, 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). Aramaic papyri from Elephantine. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament with Supplement. James B. Pritchard (Ed.). Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. Pp. 548f.

— (1954). JAOS, LXXIV, 157f.

Emil G. Kraeling. (1953). The Brooklyn Museum Aramaic Papyri: New Documents of the Jewish Colony at Elephantine. New Haven. Pp. 178 ff.

Manumission of a female slave and her daughter

June 12, 427 B.C.

[1] On the 20th of Siwan, that is the 7th day of Phamenoth, the year 38 of King Artaxerxes—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, 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. 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; 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 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, and no other man is master [10] of you or your daughter Yehoyishma’. You are released for God.

[11] And Tapmut and her daughter Yehoyishma’ declared: We shall serve you [a]s a son or daughter supports his or her father [12] 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. (....) If we ever say, “We will not support you as a son supports [14] his father, and your son Zakkur after your death,” we shall be liable to you and your son Zakkur for a fine [15] in the amount of 50 karsh of refined silver by the king’s weights without suit or process.

Written by Haggai [16] the scribe, at Elephantine, at the dictation of Meshullam son of Zakkur, the witnesses herein being: Atarparan son of Nisai [17] 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.

Marriage contract of a former slave girl who is subject to paramoné

420 B.C.

[1] On the first day of the month of Tishri, that is Epiphi, the year 4 of King Darius, in the fortress Elephantine, said Ananiah son of Haggai, [2] an Aramean of the fortress Elephantine, of the detachment of Iddin-Nabu, to Zakkur son of Meshullam, an Aramean of Syene, of the same detachment, as follows: [3] I have come to your house and asked you for your sister 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 Yehoyishma’ [5] 1 karsh of silver; you have received it and have been satisfied therewith. 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 12 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 copper with the cash and the bride price: 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 to the ten. [17b-21a], containers of palm leaves, reeds, wood, and stone and quantities of various sorts of oil—no values specified. )

[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} he must surrender to her all that she brought into his house. Her dowry of cash [23] and clothing, worth karsh seven, shekels eight, and hallurs 5 of silver, and the rest of the goods listed (above) [24a-b] he must hand over to her on one day and in a single act, and she may leave him for wherever 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. []. [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 possessions, 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 Yehoyishma’, Yehoyishma’ shall be mistress of his property: of his house, his goods, [30] his possession, and all that he owns. Anyone who attempts to banish Yehoyishma’ from his house, goods, possessions, and all that he owns, shall pay to her a fine of silver, [32] twenty karsh by the king’s weights, silver of 2 R to the 10 and shall accord her her due under this deed without lawsuit. [33] However, Yehoyishma’ 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 shall be applied to her. (So, too,) if Yehoyishma’ should die having no [35] male or female child by her husband Anani, Anani shall inherit from her her cash, goods, possessions, and all [36] that she owns. And Anani likewise may not take any woman other than his wife Yehoyishma’ [37] in marriage. Should he do so, that shall constitute a divorce, and the provisions for divorcement 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. Should [39] he fail to do so, that shall constitute a divorce, and he shall implement for her the provisions for divorcement. Neither may Yehoyishma’ [40] omit to accord to her husband Ananiah the right of any (husband). 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 goods 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.)

Love, Marriage, and Hieros Gamos Return to Love, Marriage,
and Hieros Gamos index
Page: © Copyright 1995-2011 Alan Humm.
Comments and corrections: