Papyrus in Hebrew on display at the new National Campus for the Archaeology in Jerusalem, on October 26, 2016. (credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
A 2,700 year old papyrus, from the First Temple period in the seventh century BC, has been recovered from antiquities robbers by the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) and predates the earliest Dead Sea Scrolls by centuries. It contains “the earliest extra-biblical source to mention Jerusalem in Hebrew writing”, the IAA said.
This finding is extremely important to the people of Israel and is “one of only three papyri dated from the same time period”, as reported in the Times of Israel. And according to the Jewish News Service, one of only two original documents from that period referencing Jerusalem as the capital city of the kingdom.
At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart. – Jeremiah 3:17 (ESV)
The recovered document (only 4.3 inches by 1 inch) still bears two lines in ancient Hebrew. According to the Christian Examiner, it was apparently meant to accompany two new wineskins shipped to the capital established by David during his reign.
Believed to be translated as:[me-a]mat. ha-melekh. me-Naʽartah. nevelim. yi’in. Yerushalima,” translated as “From the king’s maidservant, from Naʽarat, jars of wine, to Jerusalem.”
While scholars have determined where the document says the wine was to be shipped it’s impossible to know which of the three kings that lived during this time: Manasseh, Amon or Josiah, was the intended recipient. It’s possible that the wineskins were sent to the king by a wealthy Israelite woman since the address was written on expensive papyrus instead of cheaper clay tablets. Biblical scholar professor Shmuel Ahituv notes that the document highlights the “unusual status of a woman in the administration of the Kingdom of Judah.”
The search for ancient artifacts inside the Cave of the Skulls in the Judean Desert. (Credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy the IAA)
At the same time as the announcement of this archaeological finding that bolstered ancient Hebrew claims to the land; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) put forth its second resolution, attempting to deny Judaism’s connection to it’s most holy city. This finding gives weight to the belief that the ancestors of the Jewish people occupied the city of Jerusalem long before others who seek to claim the city. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented harshly to UNESCO to be attentive to the discovery and said that the committee “deserves to be condemned, not Israel.” These types of finds demonstrate how explosive things can get in the modern world when archaeology, politics and religion collide.
No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them – Joshua 1:5-6 (ESV)
In an article on Breaking Israel News, a logical connection was made in the text of the papyrus and the claim to the holy city. “The papyrus even carries another clear indication that Jerusalem was originally Jewish, and not Muslim: its subject is wine, a flourishing industry in ancient Israel and an essential part of the Temple service – and a substance expressly forbidden in Islam. Muslims would be hard-pressed to explain their part in this wine deal.”
Culture Minister Miri Regev commented on the finding, saying it represents “further tangible evidence that Jerusalem was and will remain the eternal capital of the Jewish people. It is our duty to take care of the plundering of antiquities that occurs in the Judean Desert…”