TEL AVIV, Israel — Scholars in Israel state that they believe ancient writing found on First Temple era pottery shards corroborates with the biblical narrative found in the book of Jeremiah.
For the past 100 years, archaeologists have been unearthing potsherds in the Holy Land, some of which contain writing in Paleo-Hebrew, the language used in ancient Israel. The largest collection believed to be from the First Temple era was found in Samaria, dating back to 8 B.C.
In recent years, scholars have been studying text from photographs of the shards, also known as ostraca, from a collection of pieces found in Arad, near the Negev Desert. The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained in 2000, “Over 100 ostraca inscribed in biblical Hebrew were found in the citadel of Arad. This is the largest and richest collection of inscriptions from the biblical period ever discovered in Israel.”
A number of the shards provided a glimpse into the lives of the Jewish people, including into government and military matters.
“Among the personal names are those of the priestly families Pashur and Meremoth, both mentioned in the Bible. (Jeremiah 20:1; Ezra 8:33) Some of the letters were addressed to the commander of the citadel of Arad, Eliashiv ben Ashiyahu, and deal with the distribution of bread (flour), wine and oil to the soldiers serving in the fortresses of the Negev,” the organization explained. “Also, in one of the letters, the ‘house of YHWH’ is mentioned.”
“Scholars suggest that the King of Arad mentioned in the Bible was in fact the ruler of the Kingdom of Arad, ‘the Negev of Arad’ (Judges 1:16), whose capital was another city,” it notes.
In an article published last week by Haaretz, it is explained that ostraca found in Lachish, the second largest Judahite town, are also believed to corroborate with the Scriptural account. The shards outline that a military official sends a message to his commander about the fall of a nearby kingdom, stating that “we can see the signals from Lachish, but we no longer see Azekah.”
“Scholars have taken this as a confirmation of the biblical narrative of Jeremiah, which recounts that Azekah and Lachish were the last fortresses of Judah to fall before Jerusalem was besieged and destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II,” the publication explains.
The Scripture referenced is Jeremiah 34:7, which reads, “When the king of Babylon’s army fought against Jerusalem, and against all the cities of Judah that were left, against Lachish, and against Azekah: for these defensed cities remained of the cities of Judah.”
Other books of the Bible, such as Joshua, II Kings, II Chronicles, and Isaiah also cite the locations in discussing the land and the rulers that oversaw the nations.
“So Adoni-Zedek, king of Jerusalem, appealed to Hoham, king of Hebron; Piram, king of Jarmuth; Japhia, king of Lachish and Debir, king of Eglon,” Joshua 10:3 reads.
Some scholars, which date the find to the 7th century B.C., state they believe the writings demonstrate that the Kingdom of Judah was a sophisticated land with well-literate people.
But “[s]cholars debate whether biblical texts were first put in writing before the destruction of Jerusalem or after Judahite deportees returned from their exile in Babylon, in the Persian or even the later Hellenistic period,” Haaretz explains.
A team of mathematicians, physicists and archaeologists at Tel Aviv University continue to study the ostraca, as further information about the analysis will be forthcoming in a scientific journal.