In April, I took the teens from the church where I work to Boston over their Spring Break. One of our stops was the Semitic Museum at Harvard University. Our visit was an enjoyable step into biblical times.
First thing to note: Admission to the Semitic Museum is free. Reserved group tours are also free. The museum requested a donation of $2 per person, something we were glad to do. The visit is worth much more.
The museum has several exhibitions. We spent the majority of our time in the “Houses of Ancient Israel” exhibit. It consists of a reconstructed “Israelite” house based on archaeological finds from Late Bronze and Iron Age Canaan. Good attention was given to detail. The house and its implements are modern reconstructions, though all of the pottery is authentic and dates to the biblical period.
You may have noticed the sheep in the bottom level. Animal residue (probably manure?) has been found inside some excavated houses, indicating that a sheep or goat was occasionally kept inside. This helps us visualize a story told to King David by Nathan the prophet. Nathan described a poor man who had one little lamb. “It grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him.” (2 Samuel 12:3) This sounds like an “indoor” animal such as the one pictured here.
The docent made numerous connections to the biblical text. His explanations were insightful and brought the Bible to life. The full explanation for the “Israelite House” exhibit took around 45 minutes, and we were able to take in other exhibits on ancient Near Eastern peoples.
Plan your visit: Here is a visitor information page for the museum. Though admission is free (donations requested), you must pay to park. I discovered the best value (and the best chance to guarantee a parking spot) was to purchase a parking pass online for the Oxford Street garage. It is a very short walk from the parking garage to the museum building, located at 6 Divinity Avenue in Cambridge, MA. (There’s an address for you GPS types.)