In June 1986 archaeologists of Tel Aviv University announced discovery of two small silver amulets. These two silver scrolls were found in 1979 deep inside a burial cave at a site known as Ketef Hinnom, west of the old city of Jerusalem. They were hidden at the back of the tomb embedded in pottery fashioned as early as the seventh century BC.
Seven years later the fragile scrolls were opened and their texts deciphered. The scrolls contain an excerpt from Numbers 6:24-26, also known as the Priestly Benediction. In English the verses read: “The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” On the scrolls we find the texts:
Amulet 1: concluding benediction (lines 14-19):
“[…] May Yahweh bless you [and] keep you. May Yahweh cause his face to shine [on you] …].”
Amulet 2: benediction (lines 5-12):
“[…] May Yahweh bless you and keep you. May Yahweh cause his face to shine [on] you and give you peace […].”
The location of the find and analysis of the Hebrew on the scroll confirm a date close to 600 BC, perhaps earlier – long before the capture of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile.
The importance of this find can hardly be overstated. It proves this section of Numbers was written at least 2,600 years ago. This Old Testament passage is 400 years older than the oldest Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts, and perhaps even older yet. The age of the text may prove a nail in the coffin of the Documentary Hypothesis theories that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses, or that it was not even known in Moses’ time.
Those theories speculate that large segments of the first five books of the Bible originated in the period of Ezra: 400-500 BC. In this debate, some of the arguments revolve around the use of YHWH, the divine name of God (often rendered “Jehovah” or “Yahweh”), which is said not to have been in use before this time. The silver scrolls, dated before 586 BC, contain that name. In fact, this is the earliest the name had been found in any dig in Jerusalem.
Therefore the silver scrolls are not only the oldest extant (still in existence) text of the Bible, they also provide compelling support to the authorship of the first five books of the Bible by Moses.
By Rob Vandeweghe
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