Thursday, May 24, 2012

Discovered: A Bethlehem Seal from the First Temple Period

Although Bethlehem gets a lot of press in the Old Testament, there has been no external evidence for its existence. But today that is changing. The Israel Antiquities Authority has announced the discovery of a seal with the name of Bethlehem on it (see pic). 

The seal was found in soil being sifted at the City of David excavations. Here is what the archaeologists have to say.

Archaeologist Eli Shukron said the inscription was significant for being the first archaeological evidence that Bethlehem existed as a city at that time, generally referred to by biblical archaeologists as the First Temple period.
The shard, measuring just 1.5 centimers (0.6 inches) across, was found by crews sifting through debris removed from the excavation site known as the City of David, just outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, according to the Antiquities Authority.
The shard was a bulla, or a seal imprint, of a kind used to seal shipments of silver or goods paid as tax to the Kingdom of Judah in the late 8th and 7th centuries BCE, according to Shukron. The fragment also includes the Hebrew word “seventh” and what Shukron said was the end of a word meaning “for the king,” suggesting it was connected to a tax paid by Bethlehem in the seventh year of the rule of one of the kings of Jerusalem.
“This is the first time the name Bethlehem appears outside the Bible in an inscription from the First Temple period, which proves that Bethlehem was indeed a city in the Kingdom of Judah, and possibly also in earlier periods,” Shukron said in the statement released Wednesday.

You can read more here

Update: Or does it? According to George Athas, this may not prove anything about Bethlehem. Read here

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