Artifacts and the Bible
There are a number of artifacts related to Biblical archaeology in museums across the world. One of these museums is the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem. Located in Jerusalem’s Givat Ram neighborhood, the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem houses one of the world’s most important collections of Biblical artifacts. The collection was begun by the late Elie Borowski in 1943 and first opened to the public in 1992. The thousands of artifacts provide an informative introduction to the peoples and places of the Bible. One can spend days exploring the cultures of the Israelites, the Arameans, the Philistines, the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Persians and many more in great detail. Biblical quotes are located throughout the galleries to place the Bible in its historical context. The museum also has special exhibitions, such as By the Rivers of Babylon, which focused on one of the most significant events in the history of the Jewish people—the Babylonian Exile. Below are 10 of the museum’s many wonderful Biblical artifacts, listed in no particular order. Click on the images to enlarge them.
|Yahweh Ṣebaot Inscription
This limestone inscription from a burial cave in Judah c. 800–750 B.C.E. is written in Paleo-Hebrew script and reads “Cursed be Hagaf son of Hagab by Yahweh Ṣebaot.” The phrase Yahweh Ṣebaot, often translated as “Lord of Hosts,” appears over two hundred times in the Hebrew Bible, especially in prophetic books such as Isaiah and Jeremiah. The museum’s inscription is perhaps the earliest non-Biblical evidence for this name. The name Hagab, which means “grasshopper,” also appears in Ezra 2:46.
Learn more about the Paleo-Hebrew script in “How Ancient Taxes Were Collected Under King Manasseh” and “Precursor to Paleo-Hebrew Script Discovered in Jerusalem.”
|The Larsa Tablet
This Akkadian tablet, which contains over 630 lines, comes from the southern Mesopotamian city of Larsa during the second year of King Rim-Sîn’s reign, c. 1821 B.C.E. The tablet registers the rites performed in Larsa’s many temples from the fifteenth until the twenty-fourth day of the month of Shabaṭu, the month identical to the Biblical month of Shebat (Zechariah 1:7). This one-of-a-kind tablet sheds light on the practices of the region from where Abraham is said to have come. For example, on the sixteenth day of the month of Shabaṭu, a cloak, a bright linen and a male slave were given to Enki, the god of wisdom and the creator of humankind.
|The Quadrilingual Darius I Jar
Darius I of Persia, also known as “Darius the Great,” is mentioned in the Biblical books of Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Ezra, Nehemiah and Daniel. The museum has a Persian calcite jar with four inscriptions that praise Darius in four different languages, one more language than the Rosetta Stone. The Old Persian, Elamite and Akkadian inscriptions read “Darius, great king” and the Egyptian hieroglyphs read “King of Upper and Lower Egypt, lord of the two lands, Darius, living eternally, year 36.” Coincidentally, the 36th year of Darius’s reign (486 B.C.E.) was also his last.
|The Lion and Calf Bowl
According to Isaiah’s prophecy of peace, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid and the calf and the lion and the fatling [will dwell] together” (11:6). On the museum’s unique serpentinite bowl from southern Mesopotamia c. 3300–2900 B.C.E., lions and calves are depicted lying down peacefully one after the other. The animals are crouched before a bundle of stylized reeds (not shown), much like the reeds carved into a door at the base of the Ziggurat of Anu, one of the oldest and most important Sumerian gods.
|Relief of Ark-like Image
According to Exodus 25:10–16, the Ark of the Covenant was a rectangular box carried on poles. The museum has a Basalt Relief from Arslan Tash (Northern Syria, ancient Hadatu) from c. 800–750 B.C.E. which depicts two men carrying a rectangular box on poles. Notice the buckets, which are found in a number of Assyrian ritualistic reliefs and suggest that the men might be priests. Two key differences between this image and the Biblical description is that the Bible’s ark had its poles at its base, not its top, and that the Bible’s ark had two poles, not one.
|The Jonah Sarcophagus
The sarcophagus of a 4th-century C.E. Christian from Rome named Glycon depicts three scenes from the Biblical book of Jonah. On the left Jonah is cast overboard into the mouth of a terrifying fish (Jonah 1:1– 2:1). On the right Jonah is cast ashore (Jonah 2:10), where God provides him with a plant in order to teach him compassion (Jonah 4:4–11). According to Matthew 12:40, Jonah is analogous to the resurrection: “For as Jonah remained in the belly of the sea-monster for three days and three nights, so will the Son of God be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.”
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|The Ivory Cherub
According to the Bible, cherubs were placed in both the Tabernacle and the Temple (Exodus 37:7–9; 1 Kings 6:23–30). While the descriptions about these creatures are vague, the museum has an ivory Phoenician-style cherub from Arslan Tash (Northern Syria, ancient Hadatu) from c. 850–800 B.C.E. This cherub, which was probably called a kuribu in Akkadian (similar to Hebrew kerub [כרוב]), was most likely used to decorate a chair, perhaps the throne of the Hazael, king of Damascus, who is mentioned in the books of Kings, Chronicles and Amos.
|The Christogram Sarcophagus
This large Roman sarcophagus belonged to a Christian woman named Julia Latronilla, who died in approximately 330 C.E.—shortly after Constantine’s Edict of Toleration, which allowed Christians to worship freely. The sarcophagus depicts a number of Hebrew Bible and New Testament scenes, e.g., Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22), the miracle at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine (John 2:1-11), and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (e.g., Matthew 21:1–11). The circle in the center is one of the earliest known depictions of the christogram, a symbol that combines the first two letters of the Greek name for Christ, chi (X) and rho (P).
Learn about the earliest image of Jesus on the cross—the staurogram—in Bible History Daily.
|The Rab-Shaqeh Stela
In 2 Kings 18:18–37, which recounts the events of 701 B.C.E., an Assyrian official called the Rab-Shaqeh (“Chief Cupbearer”) besieges and taunts the people of Jerusalem. The museum has a stele commissioned by a Rab-Shaqeh who served a century and a half before the Bible’s Rab-Shaqeh, approximately 859–825 B.C.E., during the reign of Shalmeneser III. The inscription commemorates this Rab-Shaqeh’s deeds within his province. The image is that of a seated god with a horned helmet and a sun disk.
|The Nile Boat
The Nile plays a prominent role in the Hebrew Bible, especially in the Exodus story. The Pharaoh of Joseph dreams of cows at the river (Genesis 41:1–3), baby Moses is placed in a basket at the riverbank (Exodus 2:3) and the first Egyptian plague occurs when the river turns to blood (Exodus 7:15–24). The museum has a model Nile boat made of wood, plaster and linen that comes from the early Middle Kingdom, c. 2000–1900 B.C.E. The boat has a pilot standing on the prow, a steersmen sitting on the stern and eighteen rowers in between. The boat is currently equipped for sailing downstream (north) but would have also had sails to travel upstream (south). Boats such as these were often placed in tombs for the journey of the afterlife.
A very special thank you to Olla Vengerovsky and the staff of the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem for their help with this article.
This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on January 28, 2015.—Ed.
David Z. Moster, PhD, is a Research Fellow in Hebrew Bible at Brooklyn College and a Lecturer in Rabbinics at Nyack College. He is the author of the upcoming book Etrog: How a Chinese Fruit Became a Jewish Symbol (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). His websites are www.929chapters.com and brooklyn-cuny.academia.edu/DavidMoster.
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In grade school a Jewish student brought in his artifacts used at his synagogue. In all the years of show and tell that was the winner even for us Christians. I cannot believe what has happened since then against more conservative movements. Missed my chance to visit Italy, Greece and Israel when other distant kin made other uses of the money left by the widow of George Condon buried in Deland Fl. Money was spent by non-religious. Fake email
Why is it that even a society built on Biblical Archeology has been infiltrated by Atheists who are trying to erase history? It’s always been BC and AD.
You are forgetting the many people who study the Bible from a Jewish perspective — people who do not believe that Jesus, who some think never actually existed historically, was or is “the Lord” and so have every reason to eschew the use of BC and AD, preferring CE (‘Common Era’) and BCE (‘Before the Common Era’). Jews who don’t consider Jesus to be the Messiah for whom they still await are not atheists just because they aren’t Christians. Besides, the calendar in question was invented by Julius Caesar in 46 BCE — the year he and all Romans actually referred to as AUC 708 (‘Ad Urbe Condita’ = ‘From the City’s Founding’ — the city of Rome, founded in 753 BCE). Nowhere in the New Testament did Jesus ever inaugurate a new calendar, or endorse the Julian Calendar. If anything, Jesus — assuming he existed — would have followed the Jewish Calendar, which counted years from the supposed creation of the world, and there is no consensus as to when that event actually took place, since there are rival chronologies for the events of Genesis depending on which version one uses: the Masoretic Text, the Greek translation known as the Septuagint, and the Samaritan Pentateuch — not to mention extra-canonical books like JUBILEES, the writer of which disagreed with the luni-solar calendar which Jews still use today.
Before you accuse others of being ‘atheists’ who are purportedly trying to ‘erase history’, you might want to actually study the history of Biblical Archaeology, a field of study that is pursued by people of all stripes, including Christians, Jews, and even interested atheists.
Thank you for so much information, I needed it for my ancient history timeline project, thanks again so much
My name is Karen Purvis from The Whole Truth Church of Deliverance, located in South Philadelphia. We are located in the Pennsport Mall (corner of Moyamensing Ave. & Moore St.) 3rd & Moore St. You walk through the parking through the black gates into a small private mall. A couple of doors from Gooey Looie’s . I had witness with my own eyes a moving picture in the sanctuary. I have seen a cloud moving on this picture, especially when the Pastor speaks or sings. A moving picture is phenomenon that only God can create. It is a picture that is created, produced, painted, drawn or sculptured by the hand of God. One picture changes so many different times. I have at least six pictures in my camera of this one picture. And each picture is different showing something else. Yet, it is the same one picture, unbelievable, yet it is true! The most shocking thing that I caught, is taking a picture of the same picture now! I saw on the picture what looked like either lambs or lions moving right before my eyes. I got a little video of it before I had to leave out, moving in my camera. I was shocked! One girl told me that she seen wings coming in and out of the top of the picture. There is a big story behind this picture. I took a picture of what suppose to have been the Pastor. And I thought I had seen the sun, a holy light in the center of the picture and it was the Pastor. It looked like she had two wings coming out of her back. And other people had seen various things in the picture like dancing, but I have caught it in my camera.
In replacing God’s name with titles, Bible translators make a serious mistake. They make God seem remote and impersonal, whereas the Bible urges humans to cultivate “close friendship with Jehovah.” (Psalm 25:14) Think of a close friend of yours. How close would you really be if you never learned your friend’s name? Similarly, when people are kept in ignorance about God’s name, Jehovah, how can they become truly close to God? Furthermore, when people do not use God’s name, they also lack knowledge of its wonderful meaning. What does the divine name mean?
But how should one pronounce the Tetragrammaton? The spelling ‘Jehovah’ is a transliteration of 4 consonants which are better transliterated ‘YHWH’ — the ‘J’ used to be pronounced like a ‘Y’, and the ‘V’ used to be a ‘W’ sound.
What about the vowels in-between those 4 consonants? If you go to the Masoretic Text, you’ll find that there are 2 vowel marks added: a sheva (i.e. schwa) beneath — i.e. after — the ‘Y’, and a Qamets below — i.e. after — the ‘W’. The sheva looks like a colon [:] and is pronounced like the ‘a’ in ‘alive’ (i.e. an “uh” sound), and the qametz looks like a ‘T’, but is pronounced like the letter ‘a’ in ‘father’. Thus, if we’re to go by what the Masoretic Text has spelled out for us, the ‘Name’ of YHWH ought to be pronounced something like “yuh-WAH” rather than “dzheh-HOH-vah” or “YAH-weh” as is common. I prefer to transliterate the Hebrew word/name: Y*HWaH, with the 4 letters in capitals and the schwa with a [*] and the qametz with a lowercase ‘a’. But if a Jew feels obligated to substitute “Ha-Shem” (i.e. “The Name”) or the word ‘Adonai’ instead, out of respect, that doesn’t bother me — nor should it bother anybody else. KJV fans will still prefer “the LORD” and Lutherans who use the German translation will say “der HERR” etc. To each their own.
Great… thankyoubfore this material
The Bible says: “And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them.”
The rings were not on the bottom.
The poles at the bottom comes from Egyptian artifacts with poles at the bottom that could be pushed under the object when not in use.
The Ark of the Covenant was large and had a top made of pure gold. In order to make the top thick enough to not bend when being removed due to it’s own weight would mean a top that was 1/2 to 3/4 thick and would weigh over 300lbs. The ark itself would be heavy enough to support it. Likely it took 12 men to carry the ark, to establish His prominence as King. Pharoah had 12 men to carry him. Additionally the staves had to be long enough to poke thru the vail when the ark was sitting in the middle of the Holy of Holies.
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