Living in Ancient Judah

A virtual exhibition from the Badè Museum of Biblical Archaeology

Model of typical Pillared House

Model of Pillared House. Credit: Badè Museum of Biblical Archaeology at the Pacific School of Religion

A virtual exhibition, Daily Life in an Ancient Judean Town, has been announced by the Badè Museum of Biblical Archaeology. It promises to cover topics from “ancient foodways and cloth production to popular household architecture and ceramic pottery manufacturing.”

The exhibit is built around some of the 23,000 objects excavated by William F. Badè from Tell en-Nasbeh, which many scholars believe to be the Iron Age village of Mizpah from the Bible. Among other references, Mizpah is the location of a peace agreement between Jacob and Laban the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, thus Jacob’s uncle, in the book of Genesis.

As Jeffrey P. Zorn further explains in “Mizpah: Newly Discovered Stratum Reveals Judah’s Other Capital” (Biblical Archaeology Review, Sept/Oct 1997), “Mizpah figures prominently in the Biblical accounts of the period of the Judges, which corresponds to what archaeologists call Iron Age I (1200–1000 B.C.). The Israelite tribes convened at Mizpah to avenge the rape and murder of the Levite’s concubine at the site called Gibeah of Benjamin (Judges 19–20). Samuel, the prophet and seer, judged the people at Mizpah (1 Samuel 7:6). As a circuit-riding judge, Samuel held court at Mizpah (1 Samuel 7:15–16). The Israelite tribes mustered here for battle with the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:5–6), and Israel’s first king, Saul, was presented to the people at Mizpah (1 Samuel 10:17–24).”

Five Ceramic Saucer Lamps from Mizpah

Ceramic Lamps. Credit: Badè Museum of Biblical Archaeology at the Pacific School of Religion.

The Badè Museum developed this exhibit to be a resource for virtual education under the current difficult circumstances, especially for middle schoolers in the California school system. It should also be of interest to everyone who is interested in learning more about the everyday lives of citizens of ancient Judah.


A version of this post appeared in Bible History Daily in December, 2020

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“Eves” of Everyday Ancient Israel by Carol Meyers. Women are vastly underrepresented in the Hebrew Bible. Named men outnumber women by about ten to one. And the women who do appear are mostly exceptional or elite women, not the majority who were farm women. Not only are women underrepresented, but they are depicted by writers who were mostly elite urban males; built-in Biblical biases often preclude a balanced perspective.


Writing and Literacy in the Biblical World a BAS Library Collection
Reading and writing are integral parts of our everyday lives, but this was not true for everyone in the Biblical era. How did the alphabet develop in the Holy Land, and who could read it? Inscriptions teach us about the culture, economy and literary traditions of the ancient occupants of archaeological sites. What role did texts play in their contemporaneous societies? Who could read them? What is the likelihood that eyewitness records of Jesus’ deeds could have been recorded?


Mizpah: Newly Discovered Stratum Reveals Judah’s Other Capital by Jeffrey R. Zorn. I believe I have succeeded in identifying substantial archaeological remains from a period that is almost an archaeological blank in the history of ancient Israel—the period of the Babylonian Exile, when according to tradition, the Judeans were deported to Babylonia. All the more remarkable, I have been able to identify these remains without sinking a spade into the ground or lifting a pick.

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