Yehud

Yehud is the Aramaic version of ‘Judah’ (Hebrew Yehudah). In the Persian empire, where Aramaic was the common language of the western part of the empire, it was the name of the administrative province succeeding to some, but by no means all, of the former territory of the kingdom of Judah. In recent scholarly work it has become common to refer to Judah by this name when dealing with the Persian period (539-323 BCE), just as it is called Judaea in reference to the Roman period.

Geography, government, and history

The province was probably about 30 miles (50 km.) from east to west and 25 miles (40 km.) from north to south, extending from Jericho and the Dead Sea in the east to the edge of the hill country in the west (certainly not as far as the coast), and from somewhere near Hebron in the south to just beyond Bethel in the north. Jerusalem lay in the centre. It covered most of the old territory of the tribe of Benjamin as well as some of that of Judah. It is important to note that Jews lived outside the province as well as in it.

Yehud formed part of the satrapy (top-level administrative division, governed by a Persian satrap) of ‘Beyond-the-River’ (Abar-nahara in Aramaic), which covered all of Syria and Palestine to the west of the Euphrates. The government of the province of Yehud was for a time entrusted to Jews: known names are Zerubbabel, a member of the royal family, around 520 BCE, and Nehemiah from 444 to some time after 432. However, the governor at the end of the 5th century was a Persian, Bigvai or Bagohi.

The Old Testament books dealing with the history of Yehud, mostly in the 5th century BCE, are Ezra and Nehemiah. See the pages on these books, or Grabbe, for assessments of their historical reliability. The archaeology of Yehud is dealt with in outline by Stern and in more detail by Carter and Grabbe.

Further reading

Carter, Charles E. The Emergence of Yehud in the Persian Period: A Social and Demographic Study. JSOTSup 294. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999.
Grabbe, Lester L. Yehud: A History of the Persian Province of Judah. Vol. 1 of A History of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period. London; New York: T&T Clark International, 2004.
Stern, Ephraim. The Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian Periods, 732-332 BCE. Vol. 2 of The Archaeology of the Land of the Bible. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2009.