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The Archaeological Evidence of the Purim Battle
Howard Richman, 3/16/2019

According to the Book of Esther, two decrees were issued by Persian King Ahasuerus (Greek name: Xerxes; Hebrew name: Achashveirosh) within a short period of time. The first, written by Haman, gave people permission to kill and loot Jews. The second, written by Mordechai, gave Jews permission to defend themselves. Here is how the Book of Esther describes the fighting that took place in the provinces of the Persian empire:

And the other Jews that were in the king's provinces gathered themselves together, and stood for their lives, and had rest from their enemies, and slew of them that hated them seventy and five thousand – but on the spoil they laid not their hand  – on the thirteenth day of the month Adar, and on the fourteenth day of the same they rested, and made it a day of fasting and gladness. (Esther 9: 16-19)

The archaeological evidence for the fighting comes from a dig at Shechem (Tel Balâtah), a Biblical town near present day Nablus located about half way between Samaria, the Samaritan capital, and Jerusalem, the Jewish capital. A paper by archaeologist Nancy Lapp dated the fire and temporary abandonment of Shechem precisely, based upon the imported Greek pottery that had been burned in the conflagration. She wrote:

The latest example of figured ware, No. 9, dates ca. 480 B.C. Allowing time for its importation into Palestine and consideration for its value, a conservative terminus for the end of Stratum V at Balâtah would be the end of the first quarter of the 5th century B.C. or ca. 475 B.C.

In a 1987 journal article, William H. Shea compared the date found by Lapp with the date specified in the Book of Esther and found that they were nearly identical:

Esther 9:16 dates the fighting that broke out “in the provinces of the king” to Adar of Xerxes' twelfth year, or March, 473. (p. 244)

So how did the enmity between the Samaritans and the Jews begin? Ezra wrote that it began during the reign of Persian King Cyrus, about 70 years before this fighting took place, when the Jewish leaders refused a Samaritan offer to help rebuild the Jerusalem temple, saying: ...

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