The main room of the temple of Arad contained a large altar. Two offering bowls (one pictured above) were found by its base. Both bowls have inscriptions consisting of two incised letters: ק (qoph) and כ (kaph). These are thought to be abbreviations for קדשׁ כהנים (qdš khnm), meaning 'holy / set apart for the priests'.See also the reconstruction of the shrine at Arad.
This inscription was removed from the pillar of a tomb at Khirbet el-Qom. It displays a carved handprint with some lines of text above it and two more lines of text on the lower left corner. The stone was smoothed over in preparation for the inscription with a tool that left scratches in its surface, and this, combined with natural faults in the stone and the presence of ghost-letters* has led to considerable debate over the translation of the text. Attempts to date the inscription paleographically (on the basis of the letter shapes) suggest a date between 750 and 700 BCE. If meant to be read top to bottom, the text perhaps reads: Uriyahu the rich wrote it Blessed be Uriyahu by Yhwh For from his enemies by his [Yhwh’s] Asherah he saved him [carving of hand]… by Abiyahu… by his Asherah… his A[she]eraAlmost all commentators agree that the inscription involves Yhwh’s blessing of Uriyahu, but it is not entirely clear if the inscription praises Yhwh for past blessings or expresses a plea for future blessing. The significance of the hand carving is also unclear, although a few places in the Bible associate hands with monuments. Both Saul and Absalom, for example, set up monuments that are referred to in the Hebrew as a 'hand' (1 Samuel 15:12; 2 Samuel 18:18). One of the most interesting features of the inscription is the mention of Asherah. This goddess was well known in biblical times; the biblical texts that use the term Asherah refer varoiously to a goddess or to an object (or, perhaps, sometimes to both, in an elision between the deity and the cultic object meant to represent the deity). When the texts refer to an object, it often appears in close proximity to Yhwh’s own altar. Biblical Hebrew does not usually affix pronominal suffixes to personal names. This has led to suggestions that 'his Asherah' in this inscription might mean the cultic object, rather than the goddess. A few other inscriptions associate Yhwh and Asherah; two inscriptions from Kuntillet ‘Arjud provide an especially useful comparison, as they also refer to 'Yhwh and his Asherah'.*Ghost-letters are traces of letters that can be seen on an inscription but are not properly incised into it. They are often detected by modern cameras that pick up details the human eyes cannot see. Some of the ghost letters on this inscription were probably caused by a person in antiquity tracing the letters with a fingernail, or perhaps a stick.
The Temple Scroll is the largest single preserved composition found in the Qumran caves near the Dead Sea. A small portion of the scroll, columns 41–44, is shown here. This work has been called the most important halakhic (Jewish legal) composition known from the Second Temple period. It is generally considered to have been compiled no later than the last quarter of the second-century BCE, describing systems that served as forerunners to the wider Qumran communities. As it precedes the Qumran community, it was not written by them, but its presence among other texts belonging to the community indicates that it was copied by and likely significant to them. The most well preserved copy of the Temple Scroll is 11QTemple Scroll a (11Q19), which was found in Cave 2 and is about eight metres long, with 65 extant columns (2-66). The copy is written in two hands, with one scribe writing columns 1-5 at the end of the first-century BCE and another scribe writing the remainder of the Scroll probably at the beginning of the first-century CE. The main purpose of the Temple Scroll is to envisage an idealised version of Jewish everyday life and religion that should be lived and maintained in the present, rather than a state which should be implemented in the later days.
Ezekiel 40-48 paints a vivid picture of a restored Jerusalem Temple, depicting the return of Yhwh’s kabod (glory), regulations for the Temple, and the division of land surrounding the temple and city. Ezekiel’s plan is not just of a temple building, but of a clear structure for the proper worship of Yhwh in the renewed community.These fragments (4Q73/4QEzek a, frgs. 4-5), preserved among the scrolls at Qumran near the Dead Sea, preserve part of a copy of Ezekiel 41:3–6. The text tells of Yhwh’s triumphant arrival in the restored Jerusalem, the undoing of the disaster brought on when Yhwh left the Temple at the end of Ezekiel 11. The preservation of this text, possibly for a scroll of biblical excerpts, suggests that later Jewish communities valued the temple vision, whether or not they considered it a realistic expectation.
The destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE changed everything. Few texts express the sense of loss and longing that resulted from this as poignantly as the Book of Lamentations. The five laments in the book give voice to an emotional response to the destruction of the city, blaming the sins of a personified Jerusalem for the horrors her citizens now face. The fragment shown is from 4QLam (also known as 4Q111), the largest of the Lamentations scrolls from the Qumran texts discovered in the Judean desert. The text in this extract is Lamentations 1:6–10 (albeit with some important differences between the readings given in this scroll and the traditional Hebrew text, the Masoretic text). Lamentations 1:6–10 speaks of Jerusalem’s sin and the punishments bestowed upon the city in colourful terms, with imagery whose shock value is exacerbated by the portrayal of Jerusalem as female: Jerusalem 'has become an impurity—all who honoured her make light of her, because they have seen her nakedness' (v. 8). Laying issues of gendered violence momentarily aside, this text points to some of the key questions raised in the aftermath of exile: what caused this, and what does this mean? For the author(s) of Lamentations, the answers are that Jerusalem’s own transgressions brought about its downfall, and the result is that the city and people have been abandoned by Yhwh. The lament tradition was a longstanding one and may be seen also in the Lament for the City of Ur.
This amulet is one of two that were found beneath the burial chamber of a rock-hewn tomb near Jerusalem, in a cave in Ketef Hinnom. The amulets probably date to the seventh or sixth centuries BCE. The amulets are made of thin, beaten silver, with inscriptions scratched on using a sharp tool. They were discovered rolled up, and were probably worn hung around the owner’s neck. Originally discovered in 1979, these amulets were re-photographed in 2004 by the West Semitic Research Project, allowing for more comprehensive translations. The amulets are particularly interesting for biblical scholars as they both contain a blessing in the name of Yhwh, which echoes the one found in the book of Numbers (6:24-26):'Yhwh bless you and keep you; Yhwh make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;Yhwh lift up his face upon you and give you peace.' The inscription on the amulet shown here (Amulet 2) reads: [top of inscription broken]May (s)he be blessed by Yhwh, the helper and the rebuker of [E]vil. May Yhwh bless you, may he keep you. May Yh[w]h make his face shine upon you and grant you p[ea]ce. The 2004 photographs of the amulets indicate that both amulets are intended to seek protection from evil, and thus have an apotropaic function (to protect the wearer from evil).
In one of the houses destroyed by the Babylonians in Jerusalem, excavators discovered 53 clay seal impressions ('bullae'). These small lumps of clay, impressed with the seal of a particular individual or official, were used to seal documents, and suggest that by time of the Babylonian destruction in 586 BCE the kingdom of Judah had a group of literate elites, who presumably controlled the administration of the city.
It is a pleasant surprise to find, among these bullae, two with likely connections to biblical personages: Gemeriah, son of Shaphan, and Azariah, son of Hilkiah.
Bulla of Gemariah son of Shaphan The inscription on the seal reads: (Belonging) to Gemaryahu [s]on of Shaphan
This Gemariah, son of Shaphan, should probably be identified with the person by this name known from the book of Jeremiah:
"Then, in the hearing of all the people, Baruch read the words of Jeremiah from the scroll, in the house of Yhwh, in the chamber of Gemariah son of Shaphan the secretary, which was in the upper court, at the entry of the New Gate of Yhwh's house." (Jeremiah 36:10)
Gemariah's father Shaphan was the chief scribe at the time of King Josiah and appears as a key player in the story of the finding of the law during work in the Temple (2 Kings 22). It is important to note that the term scribe is probably best translated as secretary, and to be understood as a high ranking official as in 'secretary of state'.
Bulla of Azariah son of Hilkiah The inscription on the seal reads: (Belonging) to 'Azaryahu son of Hilqiyahu
This Azariah, son of Hilkiah, may be identified with the person by the same name in the priestly genealogy in 1 Chronicles 6:13. Azariah himself is not a major biblical figure but, if the identification is correct, his father Hilkiah was high priest in the temple in Jerusalem at the time of King Josiah, and a key figure in the story of the finding of the law in the Temple (2 Kings 22).