1. The Beginning of Jewish Coinage
Province Judah in Persian Times (c. 400 - 330 BCE)
Showcase 1: Province Judah in Persian Times (c. 400 - 330 BCE)

The destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian king Nebukadnezar II (605–562 BCE) in 586 BCE represents a caesura in Jewish history (cf. 1 Kings 24:10-25:1). A large part of the Jewish population was sent into Babylonian exile, and the city of Jerusalem itself remained virtually abandoned for half a century. Only after the Persian king Cyrus the Great (c. 558–530 BCE) conquered Babylonia in 539 BCE were the Jews allowed to return and to begin rebuilding the Temple. The entire region then came under the rule of the Persian kings, which ended only when Alexander the Great won the Battle of Issus in 333 BCE.

Palestine became part of the 5th Persian satrapy ʿĒber han-Nāhār, which means something like “the land beyond the River (Euphrates)”, of which only the provinces of Samaria, Judah, Gaza and Ashdod have been recorded (Overview Map). Through archaeological research, the boundaries of the province of Judah have been defined by the distribution of Judean stamp seals and coins that circulated almost exclusively within the area for which they were made (Map).

The provinces were administered by governors appointed by the Persian ruler. From the names of the governors that have been transmitted, these appear in many cases to have been members of local dynasties. Since the Persian administration intervened only moderately in the internal political and religious affairs of the individual satrapies, room was left for the development of local ethnic, cultural, and religious autonomy. The Persian rulers allowed the Jewish authorities to mint their own coins – such as the high priest of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, who gained increasing political influence at this time, as well as the provincial governor. On the basis of archaeological findings, the headquarters of the provincial governor is believed to have been in Ramat Raḥel, not far from Jerusalem.


  • Overview Map: Extent of the Persian Empire about 400 BC

A. Overview Map: Extent of the Persian Empire about 400 BC (©: University of Vienna)

  • Yehud coin

 B. Yehud coin (©: Israel Museum)

  • C. Hoard from Samaria (©: Israel Museum)

 C. Hoard from Samaria (©: Israel Museum)