Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Bonus 54 - Bethlehem Bulla

Bethlehem bulla.
Photograph by Clara Amit,
courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
In 2012 the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced the discovery of a 2,700 year old bulla (clay seal) found in the City of David excavation in Jerusalem, that contained the name of Bethlehem.1. 

The small (1.5 cm) bulla (seal impression) bears the inscription:
Bishv’at [in the seventh]
Bat Lechem [Bethlehem]
[Lemel]ekh [for the king] 2.  
This inscription is the earliest mention of the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. The Bulla seal was used to seal a document and identify the sender.3.

According to Eli Shukron, the director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority he reports:
it seems that in the seventh year of the reign of a king (it is unclear if the king referred to here is Hezekiah, Manasseh or Josiah), a shipment was dispatched from Bethlehem to the king in Jerusalem. The bulla we found belongs to the group of “fiscal” bullae – administrative bullae used to seal tax shipments remitted to the taxation system of the Kingdom of Judah in the late eighth and seventh centuries BCE. The tax could have been paid in the form of silver or agricultural produce such as wine or wheat”. Shukron emphasizes,” this is the first time the name Bethlehem appears outside the Bible, in an inscription from the First Temple period, which proves that Bethlehem was indeed a city in the Kingdom of Judah, and possibly also in earlier periods.4.  
Footnotes
For Further Study

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