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Sanballat

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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(Heb. Sanballat', סִנְבִּלִּט ), A name of which the latter part is of uncertain etymology, but the first syllable is probably the Sanskrit san [Greek σύν ], indicative of strength; Sept. Σανβαλλάτ, Josephus, Σαναβαλλέτης ), a Horonite (q.v.), i.e. probably a native of Horonaim in Moab (Nehemiah 2:10; Nehemiah 2:19; Nehemiah 13:28). There are two very different accounts of him.

All that we know of him from Scripture is that he had apparently some civil or military command in Samaria, in the service of Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 4:2), and that, from the moment of Nehemiah's arrival in Judea, he set himself to oppose every measure for the welfare of Jerusalem, and was a constant adversary to the Tirshatha. B.C. 445. His companions in this hostility were Tobiah the Ammonite and Geshem the Arabian (Nehemiah 2:19; Nehemiah 4:7). For the details of their opposition, see Nehemiah 6, where the enmity between Sanballat and the Jews is brought out in the strongest colors. The only other incident in his life is his alliance with the high priest's family by the marriage of his daughter with one of the grandsons of Eliashib, which, from the similar connection formed by Tobiah the Ammonite (Nehemiah 13:4), appears to have been part of a settled policy concerted between Eliashib and the Samaritan faction. The expulsion from the priesthood of the guilty son of Joiada by Nehemiah must have still further widened the breach between him and Sanballat, and between the two parties in the Jewish state. Here, however, the scriptural narrative ends owing, probably, to Nehemiah's return to Persia and with it likewise our knowledge of Sanballat. (See NEHEMIAH).

But on turning to the pages of Josephus a wholly new set of actions, in a totally different time, is brought before us in connection with Sanballat, while his name is entirely omitted in the account there given of the government of Nehemiah, which is placed in the reign of Xerxes. Josephus, after interposing the whole reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus between the death of Nehemiah and the transactions in which Sanballat took part, and utterly ignoring the very existence of Darius Nothus, Artaxerxes Mnemon, Ochus, etc., jumps at once to the reign of "Darius the last king," and tells us (Ant. 11, 7, 2) that Sanballat was his officer in Samaria, that he was a Cuthaean (i.e. a Samaritan) by birth, and that he gave his daughter Nicaso in marriage to Manasseh, the brother of the high priest Jaddua, and consequently the fourth in descent from Eliashib, who was high priest in the time of Nehemiah. He then relates that on the threat of his brother Jaddua and the other Jews to expel him from the priesthood unless he divorced his wife, Manasseh stated the case to Sanballat, who thereupon promised to use his influence with king Darius, not only to give him Sanballat's government, but to sanction the building of a rival temple on Mount Gerizim of which Manasseh should be the high priest. Manasseh, on this, agreed to retain his wife and join Sanballat's faction, which was further strengthened by the accession of all those priests and Levites (and they were many) who had taken strange wives. But just at this time happened the invasion of Alexander the Great; and Sanballat, with seven thousand men, joined him and renounced his allegiance to Darius (Ant. 11, 8, 4).

Being favorably received by the conqueror, he took the opportunity of speaking to him in behalf of Manasseh. He represented to him how much it was for his interest to divide the strength of the Jewish nation, and how many there were who wished for a temple in Samaria; and so obtained Alexander's permission to build the temple on Mount Gerizim, and make Manasseh the hereditary high priest. Shortly after this, Sanballat died; but the temple on Mount Gerizim remained, and the Shechemites, as they were called, continued also as a permanent schism, which was continually fed by all the lawless and disaffected Jews. Such is Josephus's account. If there is any truth in it, of course the Sanballat of whom he speaks is a different person from the Sanballat of Nehemiah, who flourished fully one hundred years earlier; but when we put together Josephus's silence concerning a Sanballat in Nehemiah's time, and the many coincidences in the lives of the Sanballat of Nehemiah and that of Josephus, together with the inconsistencies in Josephus's narrative (pointed out by Prideaux, Connect. 1, 288, 290, 395, 466), and its disagreement with what Eusebius tells of the relations of Alexander with Samaria (who says that Alexander appointed Andromachus governor of Judaea and the neighboring districts; that the Samaritans murdered him; and that Alexander, on his return, took Samaria in revenge, and settled a colony of Macedonians in it, and the inhabitants of Samaria retired to Sichem [Chronicles Can. p. 346]), and remember how apt Josephus is to follow any narrative, no matter how anachronistic and inconsistent with Scripture, we shall have no difficulty in concluding that his account of Sanballat is not historical. It is doubtless taken from some apocryphal romance, now lost, in which the writer, living under the empire of the Greeks, and at a time when the enmity of the Jews and Samaritans was at its height, chose the downfall of the Persian empire for the epoch, and Sanballat for the ideal instrument, of the consolidation of the Samaritan Church and the erection of the temple on Gerizim. To borrow events from some Scripture narrative and introduce some scriptural personage, without any regard to chronology or other propriety, was the regular method of such apocryphal books. (See 1 Esdras, apocryphal Esther, apocryphal additions to the book of Daniel, and the articles on them, and the story inserted by the Sept. after 2 Kings 12:24, etc.). To receive as historical Josephus's narrative of the building of the Samaritan temple by Sanballat, circumstantial as it is in its account of Manasseh's relationship to Jaddua, and Sanballat's intercourse with both Darius Codomanus and Alexander the Great, and yet to transplant it, as Prideaux does, to the time of Darius Nothus (B.C. 409), seems scarcely compatible with sound criticism. (See SAMARITAN).

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Sanballat'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​s/sanballat.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
 
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