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Exilarchs (רשי גלותא)

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Exilarch (Hebrew: ראש גלות Rosh Galut, Aramaic: ריש גלותא Reish Galuta lit. "head of the exile", Greek: Æchmalotarcha) refers to the leaders of the Diaspora Jewish community following the deportation of the population of Judah into Babylonian exile after the destruction of the kingdom of Judah. The people in exile were called golah (Jeremiah 28:6, 29:1; Ezekiel passim) or galut (Jeremiah 29:22).

The Greek term has continued to be applied to the position, notwithstanding changes to the position over time, which was at most times purely honorific. The origin of this dignity is not known, but the princely post was hereditary in a family that traced its descent from the royal Davidic line. It was recognized by the state and carried with it certain prerogatives. The first historical documents referring to it date from the time when Babylon was part of the Parthian Empire. The office lasted to the middle of the sixth century CE, under different regimes (the Arsacids and Sassanids). During the beginning of sixth century Mar-Zutra II formed a politically independent state where he ruled from Mahoza for about seven years. He was eventually defeated by Kavadh I, King of Persia.[1] The position was restored in the seventh century, under Arab rule. Exilarchs continued to be appointed through the 11th century. Under Arab rule, Muslims treated the exilarch with great pomp and circumstance.

The exilarchs in Parthian and Sasanian times are as follows: Nahum 140-70, Huna I, 170-210, Mar Uqba I, 210-40, Huna II, 240-60, Nathan I, 260-70, Nehemiah, 270-313, Mar Uqba II, 313-37, Huna, Mar I, Huna III, 337—50, Abba, 350-70, Nathan II, 370-400, Kahana I, 400-415, Huna IV, 415-42, Mar Zutra I, 442-56, Kahana II, 456-65, Huna V, 465-70, Huna VI, 484-508, Mar Zutra II, 508-20, Ahunai, ?-560, Hofnai, 560-80, Haninai, 580-590, Bustanai, d. 670.


The goal of this project is to resolve duplicates, standardize naming conventions, and ensure the quality of the profiles in the family tree of the Exilarchs.

Holders of the office

The following list of exilarchs is based on the evidence detailed in the following sections. Biblical and rabbinic Exilarchs listed in the Second Book of Kings, the Books of Chronicles and in the Seder Olam Zutta, some possibly legendary, are:

  1. Jeconiah or Jehoiachin, the last of the Davidic kings of Judah, Exillach I, יהויכין מלך יהודה s: (2 Kings 25:7)
  2. Shealtiel, son of Jehoiachin, Exillarch II, שאלתיאל בן יהויכין s: (1 Chronicles 3:17)
  3. Zerubbabel, son of Shaltiel/Pedaiah, Exillach III, זרובבל בן שאלתיאל, who was a son of Jehoiachin (1 Chronicles 3:17-19, Haggai 1:1) and is mentioned as a governor of the Persian Yehud Province.
  4. Meshullam, son of Zerubbabel משולם בן זרובבל s: (1 Chronicles 3:19)
  5. Hananiah, son of Zerubbabel חנניה בן זרובבל s: (1 Chronicles 3:19)
  6. Berechiah, son of Zerubbabel ברכיה בן זרובבל s: (1 Chronicles 3:19-20)
  7. Hasadiah, son of Hananiah (1 Chronicles 3:21)
  8. Jesaiah, son of Hananiah (1 Chronicles 3:21)
  9. Obadiah, son of Hananiah (1 Chronicles 3:21)
  10. Shemaiah, son of Shecaniah, who was a son of Hananiah (1 Chronicles 3:21-22)
  11. Shechaniah, son of Hananiah (1 Chronicles 3:21) According to the Seder Olam Zutta, Shechaniah was the son of Shemaiah, and lived at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple
  12. Hezekiah, son of Neriah, who was the son of Shemaiah (1 Chronicles 3:22-23)
  13. Akkub, son of Elioenai, who was a son of Neariah, who was a son of Shemaiah (1 Chronicles 3:22-24)
  14. Johanan
  15. Shaphat
  16. Anan: Anani in I Chron. 3:24; the first exilarch explicitly mentioned as such in Talmudic literature (where he is named as Huna); contemporary of Judah I (Judah haNasi)
  17. Nathan 'Ukban, alternately Mar 'Ukban (reigning in 226)
  18. Huna II
  19. Nathan 'Ukban II, alternately Mar 'Ukban II
  20. Nehemiah (reigning in 313)
  21. Mar 'Ukban III ("Nathan di Zzuta", reigning in 337)
  22. Huna III
  23. Abba
  24. Nathan
  25. Mar Kahana
  26. Huna IV (died 441)
  27. Mar Zutra, brother of Huna IV.
  28. Kahana II, son of Mar Zutra.
  29. Huna V, son of Mar Zutra - executed by King Peroz of Persia in 470.
  30. Huna VI, son of Kahana II - not installed for some time because of persecution. Died 508.
  31. Mar Zutra II - crucified c. 520 by Kavadh I (or Kobad).
  32. Mar Ahunai - did not dare to appear in public for 30 years (until 550).
  33. Kafnai, second half of the sixth century
  34. Haninai, second half of the sixth century
  35. Bostanai, son of Haninai - first of the exilarchs under Arab rule, middle of the seventh century.
  36. Hanina ben Adoi
  37. Hasdai I
  38. Solomon ruled 730-761. He was the eldest son of Ḥasdai I.
  39. Isaac Iskawi I
  40. Judah Zakkai (or Judah Babawai)
  41. Moses
  42. Isaac Iskawi II
  43. David ben Judah
  44. Natronai
  45. Hasdai II
  46. Ukba, deposed, reinstated 918, deposed again shortly after Brief interregnum
  47. David ben Zakkai took power (921 his brother Josiah (Al-Hasan) was elected anti-exilarch in 930, but David prevailed.David ben Zakkai was the last exilarch to play an important part in history.
  48. Judah (his son) survived him only by seven months; at the time of Judah's death, he left a twelve-year-old son, whose name is unknown.
  49. Hezekiah. The only later exilarch whose name is recorded, an exilarch who also became gaon in 1038, but fell from power in 1040, both the last exilarch and the last gaon.

Alternative list of exilarchs appears at

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Exilarch Researchers

  • Felix Lazarus (1890, 1934) researched the first major study of the exilarchs. Using a list compiled by Elisha Crescas, the only list of exilarchs that we have, and using Talmudic references and historical accounts, especially the Epistle (lggeres) of Sherira Gaon, Lazarus created his own list of officeholders. The list of Elisha Crescas comes from a manuscript dated 1383.
  • Jacob Mann (1927) did some very interesting work on the later exilarchs. His article, which is in Hebrew, has a major collection of the pedigrees.
  • Abraham David wrote biographical articles in Encyclopaedia Judaica on the later exilarchs as well as articles on individual exilarchs and other prominent figures.
  • Alexander Goode (1940-1). His reconstruction of the list of exilarchs has been widely adopted in other publications.
  • Moshe Gil's article "The Exilarchate," published in English in 1995. Gil is the leading scholar in the field of study, publication, and translation of Geniza fragments. Gil considers at least ten lists related to the history of the exilarchs, including Dayan of Aleppo. He consolidated these lists and genealogies, showing various branches of descendants of Bustanai, into a comparative table. A sharp distinction between pedigrees and lists of office-holders explained many inconsistencies between these related lists.
  • David Kelley Archeaology Professor Emeritus of the University of Calgary (Canada), a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists is a foremost expert on royal and ancient dynasties. One of the references cited in Kelley's paper is Gens Dayanica, the pedigree of the Dayans of Aleppo.
  • Don Stone, a colleague of Kelley. Stone studied a Web-based copy of the Geniza manuscript (fragment #H462) found among the artifacts in the Cairo geniza at Dropsie College16 in Philadelphia. The fragment17 is a piece of parchment detailing the lineage of King David that has been preserved for more than 700 years.