We recently visited the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and saw many of the Bible-related archaeological treasures displayed there. Bible students would probably recognize objects from Bible dictionaries, class materials, PowerPoint lessons, textbooks, and other sources. It’s one thing to see photos but quite another to be inches away from the genuine objects.
Photos have been prohibited throughout the museum during previous visits. That was disconcerting, especially considering that many world-class museums such as the British Museum and the Louvre permit non-flash photography.
A few weeks ago, rumors cropped up that the Israel Museum’s ban on non-flash photos had been lifted. I was happily able to confirm the policy change during my recent visit. I took around 170 photos in the museum, under the watchful eyes of staffers, without incident. Here is a photo I took of the ostracon from Khirbet Qeiyafa.
This inscription was discovered in 2008 and dates to the late-11th/early-10th century B.C., around the time of Saul and David in the Bible. It may be the oldest Hebrew inscription yet discovered. Some scholars believe this to be Hebrew written in Early Alphabetic script, though others assert we cannot rule out other similar languages such as Phoenician. Ancient words for “judge,” “king,” and “slave” are visible but too many of the other letters are faded to permit a sure translation of the message. This ostracon is located in a small gallery about Ancient Writing, located in the museum’s archaeology wing.