An Archaeological Discovery About Bethlehem

Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority

 

Archaeologists have discovered a bulla, a small clay seal, which mentions the city of Bethlehem. The bulla is dated to the First Temple Period.

The bulla was found while archeologists were sifting soil removed from the archeological excavations conducted in the City of David.

The bulla contains three lines of text written in ancient Hebrew script: The words are:

Bishv’at
Bet Lechem
[Lemel]ekh

An article published in the Jerusalem Post describes the significance of the finding:

Eli Shukron, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, stated that the discovery appears to show 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.”
Shukron dated the bulla to the seventh or eighth centuries BCE during a period in which bullae were used for taxation of shipments in the Kingdom of Judah.
He emphasized the bulla’s significance as, “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.”
In the Torah, Bethlehem is first mentioned in the verse “in Ephrath, which is Bethlehem”, it was on the way to Bethlehem that Rachel died and it is the site where she was buried (Genesis 35:19; 48:7). The descendants of Judah settled there, among them the family of Boaz (Book of Ruth).

Bethlehem was the city where David was born. According to Matthew 2:1, “Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod.”

It is nice to know that archaeological discoveries tend to support many of the facts mentioned in the Bible.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

 

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