A ceramic bowl with an inscription that may allude to a Biblical figure was recently uncovered among thousands of First Temple period pottery sherds, clay lamps and figurines near Jerusalem’s Gihon Spring. The partially-preserved ancient Hebrew inscription roughly transliterates into English characters as “ryhu bn bnh.” When translated, this name is similar to Zechariah the son of Benaiah, whose name appears in 2 Chronicles 20:14. In the Biblical narrative, Zahaziel (son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph) prophesied to King Jehoshaphat before the king went to war against the kingdoms of Ammon and Moab.
Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) excavators Dr. Joe Uziel and Nahshon Zanton date the inscription to the 8–7th centuries B.C.E., prior to the destruction of Jerusalem under King Zedekiah. According to the IAA press release, “The inscription presents us with the name of a seventh century BCE figure, which resembles other names known to us from both the Biblical and archaeological record … providing us with a connection to the people living in Jerusalem at the end of the First Temple period.” The purpose of the inscription is unclear to the archaeologists, but they believe that the bowl may have contained an offering. While little is known about the person who gave or received the offering, it is clear that the inscription, which was written before the ceramic was fired, was a feature of the complete bowl rather than a late addition on the broken sherd.
Excavations in Jerusalem this summer uncovered the earliest extant text from the city. Read Jerusalem’s Earliest Alphabetic Text in Bible History Daily.