Wealth and Wisdom in Yannai’s Palace: Was there a Persian Connection?

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This article examines a dramatic story describing a conflict between King Yannai and Shimon ben Shetah involving Nazarites, wealth and wisdom. The most original version of the story in rabbinic literature is preserved in Genesis Rabbah parashah 91. Previously, scholars argued for connections between this narrative and Second Temple realia. However, careful philological examination of all the parallel sources of the narrative yields no such connection. My analysis repudiates one of the major conclusions of scholarship on the story: the consensus that the earliest version of the story records a meeting between King Yannai and a Persian delegation. By revealing the original meaning of a hapax legomenon in the text of Genesis Rabbah (Greek Passage), which I argue is derived from the Greek, I establish there was no mention of Persians in the original tradition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-246
Number of pages27
JournalJournal for the Study of Judaism
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Aaron Amit, 2022.


  • Genesis Rabbah
  • Talmud Bavli
  • Talmud Yerushalmi
  • rabbinic literature


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