This fragmentary inscription was discovered in the House of Ahiel. It is written in ink on a jar in formal handwriting. Sherds (broken pieces) from storage jars were often used as a writing surface, so the inscription may be unrelated to the jar or its contents.The inscription's meaning is difficult to understand, but it mentions three individuals by name. Two of the names mention Yhwh. There is also a desciption of each person. These are harder to decipher, but may be tentatively translated as:...]s son of Ahiel, who marks [?] rags...]yahu son of Hesedyahu, who gathers silver...]yahu [son of Y]adayahu, who gathers [gold ?]Although the purpose of the inscription remains enigmatic, the House of Ahiel is named after the first individual named in the text.
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.
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).
This clay tablet, the Babylonian Chronicle for the years 605–594 BCE, records events from the twenty-first and final year of the Babylonian king Nabopolassar’s reign and the first twelve years of king Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. The text describes king Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Jerusalem, including his capture and exile of king Jehoiachin. The text reads: “In the seventh year, the month of Kislev, the king of Babylon mustered his army and marched to Ḫatti-land (=the Levant). He encamped against the city of Judah and on the second day of Adar he took the city and captured the king. He appointed a king of his own choice there, received its heavy tribute and sent (them) to Babylon.” Nebuchadnezzar invaded because king Jehoiachim (Jehoiachin’s father) had rebelled against him, refusing to send tribute (2 Kings 24:1). Jehoiachim, however, died shortly before or during the siege. He was replaced by his son Jehoiachin who, at the tender age of 18, found himself on the receiving end of Babylonian wrath. Nebuchadnezzar deported Jehoiachin and other members of the royal family and some of the elites of Jerusalem—warriors, priests, artisans, and officials—into exile in Babylon (2 Kings 24:14–16), and placed Zedekiah (Jehoiachin’s uncle) on the throne instead (which indicates that not all of the elite was exiled). The tablet does not say what “heavy tribute” Nebuchadnezzar received, but 2 Kings 24:13 reports that he took all the gold, vessels, and treasures of the Jerusalem temple. The Babylonian Chronicle constitutes an extra-biblical witness to events reported by the biblical text and, in this instance, this evidence corroborates the basic version of events in the Bible. This agreement means that three things may be considered very likely to be historical. First, Jerusalem was invaded but not destroyed in 597 BCE. Second, a king of Jerusalem (Jehoiachin) was deported to exile in Babylon (see also Weidner's ration list). Third, Nebuchadnezzar replaced Jehoiachin with a king of his own choosing—the Bible gives the name Zedekiah. From this point on, Jerusalem's and Judah’s fate were firmly intertwined with that of Babylon. In hindsight, the state and the city had little more than a decade to stand.
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).
The typical domestic unit in the cities of Judah during the late Iron Age was the four-room house. The House of Ahiel, excavated in the City of David in Jerusalem, follows this typical type: there are side rooms, separated by monolithic pillars and piers, and adjoining service rooms to the north. These service rooms provide good examples of spaces dedicated to food preparation and food storage, as well as the house's toilet facilities.