Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Seal of "Temah" Found in Jerusalem

Many seals have been found with the names of people mentioned in the Bible, but it's always nice to find another. From the Jerusalem Post:

A stone seal bearing the name of one of the families who acted as servants in the First Temple and then returned to Jerusalem after being exiled to Babylonia has been uncovered in an archeological excavation in Jerusalem's City of David, a prominent Israeli archeologist said Wednesday.

The 2,500-year-old black stone seal, which has the name "Temech" engraved on it, was found earlier this week amid stratified debris in the excavation under way just outside the Old City walls near the Dung Gate, said archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, who is leading the dig.

According to the Book of Nehemiah, the Temech family were servants of the First Temple and were sent into exile to Babylon following its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.

The family was among those who later returned to Jerusalem, the Bible recounts.

The seal, which was bought in Babylon and dates to 538-445 BCE, portrays a common and popular cultic scene, Mazar said.

The 2.1 x 1.8-cm. elliptical seal is engraved with two bearded priests standing on either side of an incense altar with their hands raised forward in a position of worship.

The rest of the article is here.

The article mentions the mention of Temech (spelled Temah in NIV, NAS and ESV) in Nehemiah 7:55, but not Ezra 2:53.

HT: Joe Lauer

UPDATE (1/17): The JPost article now includes a photo. And on the ANE-2 list, Peter van der Veen suggests that the inscription should be read the opposite way, thus sh-l-m-t or Shlomit.

UPDATE (1/19): Chris Heard has a good analysis, together with some helpful illustrations showing the suggested readings. From the discussion at ANE-2 and elsewhere, it seems that the majority of scholars favor the "Shlomit" reading. There is a Shlomit mentioned in the Bible from this time period as well, in Ezra 8:10.

UPDATE (1/31): Mazar now agrees with those who read the seal from left to right. For more, see this post.

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1 Comments:

  • I was reading some of the comments at the Post concerning the seal. Many were concerned that the 'crescent moon' symbol was engraved on the seal seeing that this family had been among the exiles returning to Israel. But some were suggesting that it was more likely related to the "New Moon" festivals of Jewish worship. The altar looks like the Bronze Altar...or were all altars of the ancient world similar?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jan 17, 02:40:00 PM  

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