How Jews could keep their Sabbath in the Administration of the Persian State Department in 523 BCE of Cambyses


The Israelites in Exile quickly became integrated in the State Department of the Assyrian Empire. In Rawlinson IV 2, 32 and 33 is published a text or hemerology that counseled the king not to do certain activities on four days in a month.

The Jews had this problem: working in the state department required them to cook for the king, wash his clothes, prepare his chariot for a long trip, prepare the fires for his sacrifices. So how could they keep the Lord’s Sabbath if they have to work like this. So they seemingly devised a solution: a Jewish diviner will counsel the king that there are four bad days in the month and on those days the king should not do certain things to prevent evil from coming to him.

The four days of the month fell every seventh-day and they asked the king the following things:

1.     Do not eat flesh cooked over coals of an oven. [Real reason: the People of God should not cook on Sabbath].

2.    Do not change your clothes on these days. [Real reason: the People of God should not do washing on Sabbath and when the king change clothes, he wants them to wash it].

3.    Do not put clean clothes on these days: 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th. [Real reason: if he change his clothes the dirty ones should be immediately washed by the Jews on Sabbath].

4.    Do not offer sacrifice on these days. [The real reason: Do not make fire for burning on the Sabbath of the Lord].

5.    Do not ride in your chariot. [Real reason: pray that your flight shall not be on Sabbath].

6.    Do not speak in the function of a king on these days. [Real reason: the king should take a break or rest from his royal functions so that they also have a break].

7.    The medical staff shall not put their hands on the patients on this day. [Real reason: no medical work on the Sabbath].

8.    The king may bring a gift to Marduk and Isthar at night. [Real reason: Jews want to have the opening of the Sabbath service themselves].

9.    On these four days it was fine to lift up the hands to the god. [Real reason: they want to lift their hands on Sabbath worshipping God].

Source: A. Clay, Miscellaneous Inscriptions,,,page 96.

The hemerological texts published here on plates 50 and 51 and translated on page 76 as well as Clay’s discussion of the Babylonian Sabbath on these pages, dates to the year 523 BCE of Cambyses. Rawlinson may date to the years of Ashurbanipal in 650 BCE.


A typical hemerological text looked like this:

Day 1 good day.

Day 2 good day

Day 3 good day

Day 4 good day

Day 5 good day

Day 6 good day

Day 7 bad day thus: don’t to the list of things above.

Day 8 good day.

Day 9 good day

Day 10 good day

Day 11 good day

Day 12 good day

Day 13 good day

Day 14 bad day thus: don’t to the list of things above.

Day 15 good day.

Day 16 good day

Day 17 good day

Day 18 good day

Day 19 good day

Day 20 good day

Day 21 bad day thus: don’t to the list of things above.

Day 22 good day.

Day 23 good day

Day 24 good day

Day 25 good day

Day 26 good day

Day 27 good day

Day 28 bad day thus: don’t to the list of things above.

Day 29 good day

Day 30 good day