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Oldest Marriage Contract
Aramaic Ostracon
Amos Kloner and Esther Eshel
Found In Maresha in 1993
The marriage contract recorded on the ostracon was drawn up by the Edomite
community of Maresha in June 176 BCE, as attested by the date according to the
Seleucid era at the beginning of the contract. This marriage contract is the earliest
known in Israel; its discovery bridges the gap between the Elephantine documents of
the 5th century BCE and the documents of the 1st-2nd centuries CE from the Judean
Desert.
The structure of the document is closely similar to the contemporaneous Babylonian
marriage con¬tracts written in Akkadian. There too, the bride¬groom’s words are in the
first person, as if in a dialogue, at whose conclusion the father of the bride gives him his
daughter to be his wife. Some of the expressions in the contract, such as “of his own
free will” (Line 2) and the use of the verb šm’ (Line 8) attest to the similarity with the
Babylonian contracts. Other elements in the contra