Biblical Characters: Tatnai and Shethar-Boznai

Graig Huber

“Now therefore, Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shethar-Boznia, and your companions the Apharsachites, which are beyond the river, be ye far from thence: Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews build this house of God in this place. Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king’s goods, even of the the tribute beyond the river, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered." Ezra: 6:6-8

This is an excerpt from a letter sent from Darius I, King of Persia, to Tatnia per the Book of Ezra. Tatnai and Shethar-Boznie are lesser known characters in Freemasonry. In the book “Biblical Characters in Freemasonry” the author, John H. Van Gordon, has a small section for these two persons of note in the building of the Second Temple. Mr. Van Gordon writes:

“Tatnai, whose name means “gift”, was the satrap or governor of the area west of the Euphrates River under King Darius I of Persia. Tatnai’s territory included Jerusalem and he opposed the Jewish efforts to rebuild the Temple there. When after the call of Haggai, the Jews resumed work on the Temple, Tatnai and Shethar-Boznia, another Persian official, confronted the Temple builders and demanded to know what authority they had for the construction. When the Jews refused to stop work, asserting the authority they had from Cyrus, Tatnai wrote to Darius and asked about then Jews’ claim that Cyrus the Great had permitted and aided in the construction of the Temple. Darius ordered the records searched and, upon finding of Cyrus’ original edict, Darius issued a decree directing Tatnai to permit the work on the Templar to proceed, and to provide all aid possible for the project, Tatnai complied.”

For the curious York Rite Mason, the Book of Ezra Chapters 4, 5 and 6 cover these events in more detail. We, as Knights Templar, can revisit the significance of Tatnai and Shether-Bosnia and what they represent at our next conferral of the Commandery Orders.


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