In Ezra 5-6 appears the governor of Ever Hanahar (the southern side of the Euphrates in this case), Tattenai. Tattenai, upon seeing that the Jews got back to building the Temple after several years of not being able to, asks what they're doing and who gave them permission to do so? They answer that they received permission in the time of Koresh. He tells them that he's going to check it out, but meanwhile they can continue their work. After the proper document is discovered in the Median archives and new documents are commissioned by King Daryavesh, he passes these on to the Jews and doesn't appear again. For all intents and purposes, he seems to have only been doing his job as government official. Nothing bad about checking building permits, right? Moreover, Tattenai even let them continue working while he sorted though the bureaucracy (and considering that the main archives were in Babylon but the document was found in Media, it was quite some bureaucratic mess).

Targum Yonatan, however, seemed to have viewed him negatively, as he wrote on Ester 5:10-11:

"וְאִזְדְרִיז הָמָן וְעַל לְבֵיתֵיהּ וּשְׁדַר וּקְרָא יַת רְחִימוֹי וְיַת זֶרֶשׁ רַשִׁיעֲתָא אִנְתְּתֵיהּ בְּרַת תַּתְּנַי פַּחַת עֵבֶר נַהֲרָא: וְאִשְׁתָּעֵי לְהוֹן הָמָן יַת יְקָר עָתְרֵיהּ וְהֵיךְ אִתְמַנֵי עִם דוּכְסֵי מַלְכָּא וְהֵיךְ רָהֲטִין קֳדָמוֹי סְגִיאוּת בְּנוֹי דִסְכוֹמְהוֹן מָאתָן וּתְמַנְיָא בַּר מִן עֲסַרְתֵּי אוֹחֲרָנִין דְאִנוּן פּוּלְמַרְכִין עַל פַּלְכַיָא וּבַר מִן שַׁמְשַׁי דְהוּא סַפְרָנָא דְמַלְכָּא..."

Translation: "And Haman hurried and went to his home and he sent and called his friends and the evil Zeresh his wife, duaghter of Tattenai the governor of Ever Hanahar. And Haman told them all of the great things that happaned to him and how he was chosen to be among the lords of the king and how before him run many sons who amount to 208 besides for the last ten who are governors of provinces and besides Shamshai who is a scribe of the king..."

According to the Targum, Tattenai was the father of Zeresh, father-in-law of Haman and grandfather (or at least, step-grandfather) of Haman's children, including Shamshai, who was one of the leaders of Tzarei Yehudah who brought about the cessation of the building of the Temple prior to Ezra ch. 5. It seems that the Targum viewed Tattenai negatively, which makes me wonder why. I saw nothing problematic with what he did; it was actually in stark contrast to what his grandson Shamshai did (with regards to the Jews in Judea). It occurred to me that the Targum may be emphasizing the differences between the different generations of the family, but Rabbi Yosef ibn Yachiya wrote on Ester 5:10:

"...והביא אוהביו וזרש אשתו אשר היתה בת תתני פחת עבר הנהר שונא ישראל..."

Translation: "...and he brought his friends and his wife Zeresh who was the daughter of Tattenai the governor of Ever Hanahar the enemy of Yisrael..."

So what did the Targum have against Tattenai? What evil thing did Tattenai do?

  • 3
    From Darius's answer, it sounds like he thought he needed to stress pretty strongly that Tattenai must not interfere.
    – MichoelR
    Jan 20, 2021 at 16:12
  • 3
    Shir Hashirim Rabbah 5:7 identifies him as one of the ones involved in the שטנה על יושבי יהודה וירושלים of Ezra ch. 4. So maybe the Midrash (and the Targum) takes the view that his lesser interference in ch. 5 is more because of special Divine providence - "But G-d watched over the elders of the Jews and they were not stopped" (5:5) - rather than because he was a nice guy.
    – Meir
    Jan 20, 2021 at 17:24
  • 1
    Rashi also identifies the officials as hostile to the Jews ("והשיבו זקני היהודים דבר לאותן הצרים שלא יבטלו את הבנין עד אשר ילך הדבר לדריוש המלך "). Mention of the need for Divine intervention in 5:5 seems to support this perspective, as noted by @Meir.
    – Fred
    Jan 20, 2021 at 19:18
  • 2
    Come to think of it, maybe the fact that his son-in-law got executed for trying to harm the Jews made Tattenai less willing to openly start up with them the second time around.
    – Meir
    Jan 20, 2021 at 20:22
  • 2
    @Meir Assuming (as admittedly Seder Olam does) that the Purim story occurred before Zerubavel's rebuilding of the Temple
    – Joel K
    Jan 21, 2021 at 15:20

1 Answer 1


In this kings past history the jews were treated favorably .When the gentiles started up with the jews they used caution . So when he shows up asking for the building permits ,and he knew that they don’t have it , neither any record of it in the kings archives....then obviously the request is not to just “see “ the permits!

the meforshim say (see malbim EZRA[6:1/6:2) that haman and family destroyed all record they knew of in existence of that permission by koresh and that is why it was not found in its proper place

the find in media was miraculous or one copy was misplaced ,hence why it was not destroyed

  • 3
    It would be helpful if you could add sources for your answer.
    – Harel13
    Jan 21, 2021 at 21:13

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