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2700-Year-Old Inscription Found in the City of David

from the August 27, 2013 eNews issue

The Jewish Press Newsletter reported that archaeological excavations conducted in the area of the Gihon Spring in the City of David, in the Walls around Jerusalem National Park, have unearthed a layer of rich finds including thousands of broken pottery shards, clay lamps and figurines.

The most interesting of these finds was the recent discovery of a ceramic bowl with ancient Hebrew inscribed in it. While the entire inscription was not found, what was preserved bears the name of a seventh century BC figure that looks intriguingly like the name Zechariah ben-Benaiah or “Zechariah, son of Benaiah” and the father of the Prophet Jahaziel.

The name Zechariah the son of Benaiah appears in 2 Chronicles 20:14–15 where it states:

Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Zechariah’s son Jahaziel, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a descendant of Levi from the descendants of Asaph in the middle of the assembly, and he said: “Pay attention, everyone in Judah, in Jerusalem, and you, too, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Stop being afraid, and stop being discouraged because of this vast invasion force, because the battle doesn’t belong to you, but to God. (ISV)

Israeli archaeologists Dr. Joe Uziel and Nahshon Zanton who discovered the bowl explained that the letters inscribed in the pottery likely date to the 8th–7th centuries BC, sometime between the reign of Hezekiah and the destruction of Jerusalem under King Zedekiah.

The archaeologists also noted that a close examination of the shard indicates that the inscription was placed there before the piece was fired, indicating that the inscription was not added at a later date.

“It is difficult to say with certainty what the specific use of the bowl was,” Uziel said. “Usually bowls are very typical and common vessels found, used similarly to plates today, as serving dishes to eat from. However, the name inscribed on the bowl prior to its firing (the final process of making the bowl) signifies that it may have been made for a specific intention, such as the presentation of a gift or offering to someone, where the name would reflect either the recipient or more likely the presenter.”

Because of the broken condition of the bowl, the first letter, written in ancient Hebrew but appears to be the letter ר. The next three letters יהו make up what is called “the theophoric suffix (the component in which the name of God appears as part of the first name, such as Yirme-yahu and Eli-yahu, etc.)”. These letters are followed by בנ (meaning the son of) then the family name composed of the three letters בנה.

According to archaeologists Uziel and Zanton, “If we consider the possibility that we are dealing with an unvowelized or ‘defective’ spelling of the name בניה (Benaiah), then what we have before us is the name “…ריהו בן בניה” or “—riah son of Banah.”

The discovery of the bowl with the 2,700-year-old inscription will be presented at Megalim’s Annual Archaeological Conference, which will take place on Aug. 29th in the City of David.

Finds such as this inscription may help give credibility to the argument that the Bible is a book of history that chronicles the real activities of real people and that it is not merely a book of allegory.


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