It’s funny how a dusty piece of tin or broken pottery can serve as a keyhole into the truths of the past, when you look hard enough. That’s what Dr. Gabriel Barkay did in 1979 while at Ketef Hinnom, an archaeological site just southwest of Jerusalem’s Old City. A professor at Tel Aviv University, Barkay made a find that proved incredibly significant to the Judeo-Christian world. He and his team uncovered two silver scrolls in a chamber of a cave that they were excavating. The scrolls were tightly wound and very old, which is why for the next 3 years, technology had to be developed for studying the artifacts without destroying them.
Once opened, the archaeologists realized that they were holding the earliest known copy of scriptures from the biblical book of Numbers. Dated to be as old as 587 BC, the inscriptions, which were etched in ancient Paleo-Hebrew rather than the more modern Aramaic square-like script, concerned a priestly blessing that Aaron and his sons bestowed on the Israelites in chapter 6, verses 24-26. Aaron was brother to Moses, the author of Numbers and the other four initial books of the bible, collectively called the Pentateuch. Though all of this seemed to show that these first five books were already in existence in 587 BC, researchers concluded rather, that it proved some of the writings of Moses had been found and in use by then.
Still, the scrolls of Ketef Hinnom remain an amazing find as they verify the existence of biblical manuscripts dated far closer to the actual time of the events they chronicle than our own bibles. Also, the year 587 BC was during the time of Jeremiah the prophet and the first temple of Israel built by King Solomon, which was tragically destroyed when Babylon invaded the very same year. All of this, illuminated by two, tiny silver scrolls.
Keep on digging!
– Ketef Hinnom scrolls