SANBALLAT (săn-băl'ăt, Heb. sanvallat, Assyr, Sin-uballit, the god Sin has given life). A Horite, that is, a man of Beth Horon. He was a very influential Samaritan who tried unsuccessfully to defeat Nehemiah’s plans for rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (Neh.4.1ff.). He then plotted with others to invite Nehemiah to a conference at Ono in order to assassinate him, but Nehemiah saw through his stratagem and refused to come. When this device failed, he tried vainly to intimidate the Jewish governor (Neh.6.5-Neh.6.14). Sanballat’s daughter married into the family of Eliashib, the high priest at the time of the annulment of the mixed marriages forbidden by the law (Neh.13.28); but her husband refused to forsake her and went with her to Shechem, where he became the high priest of a new temple built by his father-in-law on Mount Gerizim. Sanballat’s name is mentioned in some interesting papyri letters found at the end of the nineteenth century a.d. in Egypt. He was then the governor of Samaria.

SANBALLAT săn băl’ ət (סַנְבַלַּ֣ט, LXX Σαναβαλλάτ. From Babylonian, sin-uballit, May Sin [the moon god] give him life.)

Called the Horonite (Neh 2:10), prob. from Beth-horon in the S of Ephraim (Josh 10:10; 2 Chron 8:5). He is joined with Tobiah and Geshem as an opponent of Nehemiah (Neh 2:10, 19; 4:1-9; 6:1-14), but in 13:28 his daughter has married a son of Eliashib the high priest.

Among the Elephantine Papyri of 407 b.c. a letter to Bagoas, governor of Judah, refers to another letter sent to “Delaiah and Shelemiah, the sons of Sanballat, governor of Samaria.” This wording shows that Sanballat was then very old, and the effective control was in the hands of his sons. In the time of Nehemiah he may already have been governor of Samaria. This would account for his influence, and he had prob. hoped to become joint governor of Samaria and Judah if Nehemiah had not come.

In spite of his foreign name, he gave his sons names with a Yahweh ending, but he may well have been descended from the mixed races who had been brought into the northern kingdom, and who had a syncretistic worship with a preference for Yahweh (2 Kings 18:23).

Josephus makes Sanballat the founder of the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim, with his son-in-law Manasseh as high priest, Manasseh being brother to the Jewish high priest, Jaddua (Antiq. XI. viii. 2). The situation he describes is not unlike that of Nehemiah 13:28, 29, but Josephus dates it in the time of Alexander the Great about a cent. later. Either there were two men with the name of Sanballat, which is very possible, or Josephus has mistaken either the name or the period.

See also Geshem, Tobiah, Nehemiah.


C. C. Torrey, Sanballat the Horonite, JBL XLVII (1928); H. H. Rowley, “Sanballat and the Samaritan Temple,” in Men of God (1963).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

Renewed interest has been awakened in Sanballat from the fact that he is mentioned in the papyri I and II of Sachau (Die aramaischen Papyrusurkunden aus Elephantine, Berlin, 1908, and in his later work, Aramaische Papyrus und Ostraka, Leipzig, 1911; compare Staerk’s convenient edition in Lietzmanns Kleine Texte, Number 32, 1908) as having been the governor (pachath) of Samaria some time before the 17th year of Darius (Nothus), i.e. 408-407 BC, when Bagohi was governor of Judah. His two sons, Delaiah and Shelemiah, received a letter from Jedoniah and his companions the priests who were in Yeb (Elephantine) in Upper Egypt. This letter contained information concerning the state of affairs in the Jewish colony of Yeb, especially concerning the destruction of the temple or synagogue (agora) which had been erected at that place.

The address of this letter reads as follows: "To our lord Bagohi, the governor of Judea, his servants Jedoniah and his companions, the priests in the fortress of Yeb (Elephantine). May the God of Heaven inquire much at every time after the peace of our lord and put thee in favor before Darius the king," etc. The conclusion of the letter reads thus: "Now, thy servants, Jedoniah and his companions and the Jews, all citizens of Yeb, say thus: If it seems good to our lord, mayest thou think on the rebuilding of that temple (the agora which had been destroyed by the Egyptians). Since it has not been permitted us to rebuild it, do thou look on the receivers of thy benefactions and favors here in Egypt. Let a letter with regard to the rebuilding of the temple of the God Jaho in the fortress of Yeb, as it was formerly built, be sent from thee. In thy name will they offer the meal offerings, the incense, and the burnt offerings upon the altar of the God Jaho; and we shall always pray for thee, we and our wives and our children and all the Jews found here, until the temple has been rebuilt. And it will be to thee a meritorious work (tsedhaqah) in the sight of Jaho, the God of Heaven, greater than the meritorious work of a man who offers to him a burnt offering and a sacrifice of a value equal to the value of 1,000 talents of silver. And as to the gold (probably that which was sent by the Jews to Bagohi as a baksheesh) we have sent word and given knowledge. Also, we have in our name communicated in a letter all (these) matters unto Delaiah and Shelemiah, the sons of Sanballat, governor of Samaria. Also, from all that has been done to us, Arsham (the satrap of Egypt) has learned nothing.

The 20th of Marcheshvan in the 17th year of Darius the king." Sanballat is the Babylonian Sin-uballit, "may Sin give him life," a name occurring a number of times in the contract tablets from the time of Nebuchadnezzar, Nabonidus, and Darius Hystaspis. (See Tallquist, Neubabylonisches Namenbuch, 183.)

R. Dick Wilson