400 - 300 BCE

The Hellenistic Period,
 332-63 BCE

Ezra and Nehemiah established the Men of the Great Assembly under a benevolent Persian rule. During the life of the last of the Men of the Great Assembly, Shimon HaTzaddik, rumours grew of a new threat. Greece. The origins of Greece remain a mystery. It spans centuries from the early Mycenaeans invaded by the Dorians, with their advanced culture consequently disappearing for centuries, only to reemerge to what we know as the classical Greek period during the 7th century BCE. Ancient Greece was a group of warring city-states with the better-known Athenians and Spartans constantly at each other’s throats. Regardless of the infighting, Greece succeeded in preventing the Persian Empire's attempts to push into the greater Europe area. Grecian feuds continued until all of Greece yielded to Phillip II of Macedon, preparing the way for his son, Alexander, to spread the Greek civilization across the known world, making itself felt in the Middle East.   The Ancient Greek word Hellas from which the word Hellenistic was derived, was gradually recognized as the name for Greece.

Alexander Mosaic, National Archaeological Museum, Naples

Alexander’s kingdom was mainly divided into three large entities and a few other fragmented areas. The three largest kingdoms were Seleucid or Assyrian Greece (including Persia), Ptolemian or Egyptian Greece, and Macedonian or Greece proper (including the city states of Athens and Sparta).   This picture from the Tower of David Museum depicts the three 

Tower of David Museum, Photo by Ardon Bar-Hama

Papyrus Amherst 63, The Morgan Library Museum

4th Century BCE Text from Egypt  

Papyrus Amherst 63, discovered in Luxor, Thebes in the 1890s

"…May Adonay answer us in
our troubles…

May Yaho give to us
Our heart’s desire….

Every wish, may Yaho fulfill…"

Psalm 20 of King David

Psalms 20:2, 5, 6

May the L-RD answer you in time of trouble…

May He grant you your heart’s desire...

May the L-RD fulfill your every wish.

The Jewish community in Egypt was now also under the reign of Ptolemy I. The Papyrus Amherst 63, discovered in Luxor, Thebes in the 1890s, is a 4th Century BCE text from the Jewish community in Egypt. It contains Aramaic texts written in Egyptian demotic script. One section containing Psalms 20, provides an "unprecedented" extrabiblical parallel to a text from the Hebrew Bible.

The section reads:
"…May Adonai answer us in
our troubles…

May Yaho give to us
Our heart’s desire….

Every wish, may Yaho fulfill…"

לְאַחַר שֶׁשָּׁאוּל הַמֶּלֶךְ וּבְנוֹ יְהוֹנָתָן מֵתִים בַּקְּרָב, פּוֹנִים רָאשֵׁי הַשְּׁבָטִים לְדָוִד, שֶׁמָּלַךְ כְּבָר שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים וָחֵצִי בְּחֶבְרוֹן. הֵם מְמַנִּים אוֹתוֹ לְמֶלֶךְ עַל הַקּוֹנְפֵדֵרַצְיָה הַשִּׁבְטִית הַמְּאֻחֶדֶת שֶׁל יִשְׂרָאֵל.     

דָּוִד הַמֶּלֶךְ פּוֹנֶה מִיָּד לְכִוּוּן יְרוּשָׁלַיִם, אַחַת הֶעָרִים הָאַחֲרוֹנוֹת שֶׁטֶּרֶם נִכְבְּשָׁה בְּמַהֲלַךְ כִּבּוּשׁ הָאָרֶץ בִּידֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.   דָּוִד בּוֹחֵר בִּירוּשָׁלַיִם מֵאַרְבַּע סִבּוֹת עִקָּרִיּוֹת: מַיִם, בִּטָּחוֹן, אִחוּד וְשִׁלְטוֹן קַרְקָעִי נֵיטְרָלִי, אַךְ חָשׁוּב מֵהַכֹּל, בִּגְלַל הַקְּדוֹשָׁה שֶׁל יְרוּשָׁלַיִם הַטְּבוּעָה בַּמָּקוֹם הַנִּבְחָר, שֶׁבּוֹ יִבָּנֶה בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ הָעֲתִידִי.     

לְפָנֶיךָ סִרְטוֹן הַמְּסַפֵּר אֶת הַסִּבּוֹת שֶׁל דָּוִד בְּכִבּוּשׁ הָעִיר.