Biblical Artifacts in the Israel Museum

We are free this weekend and enjoyed 3 hours this morning in one of the world’s great museums for biblical artifacts. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem is the repository for many discoveries we see in Bible dictionaries, commentaries, and other materials. It is one thing to view a photo but a much different experience examining an artifact with your own eyes.

A full visit to the museum cannot possibly be summarized in one post. I will start with a few highlights from Lachish, our current dig site.

Fortified cities normally kept large quantities of supplies on hand during attacks. These jars held grain, olive oil, wine, and other supplies collected as taxes. In Judah, these jars were stamped LMLK (“belonging to the king”) on the handle to designate them as government property. Here is a storage jar found at Lachish in a previous excavation. If you zoom in on the center handle, the LMLK stamp is visible.

A typical storage jar from around the time of Hezekiah. These jars were stamped with "LMLK" on the handle, marking them as belonging to the government.

A typical storage jar from around the time of Hezekiah. These jars were stamped with “LMLK” on the handle, marking them as belonging to the government. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Some pottery vessels were specialized. Here is one designed to scoop grains. Notice how the handles are attached off center, making it easier to dip the bowl into a granary or large storage container. Someone at Lachish used this to bring home food for the family each day.

A scooping tray from the time of Judah's kings. Notice how the handles are off center, permitting the front end of the vessel to scoop into a large container of grain. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

A scooping tray from the time of Judah’s kings. Notice how the handles are off center, permitting the front end of the vessel to scoop into a large container of grain. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

The inhabitants of Lachish burned incense in their worship. Here are two incense burning stands from the time of the Judges, during the city’s Canaanite period. (I found a portion of a similar incense stand a few days ago at Lachish.)

Incense stands. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Incense stands from the Late Bronze Period. Biblically, this is the time of the Conquest and Judges. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Canaanite Lachish had some remarkable imports. Here is elephant ivory carved into the form of a human arm, complete with closed fist. This was found in the First Lachish Expedition during the 1930’s.

Ivory in the shape of a human arm. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Ivory in the shape of a human arm. Many luxury items existed in Canaanite Lachish. Many expensive imports, including this one, were found in the city’s temples. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

A series of military dispatches from the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s attack in 586 BC were found in the Lachish city gate. Here is Letter #3, on display during today’s visit.

One of the Lachish Letters. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Lachish Letter #3, which mentions an officer of Judah going down to Egypt. There might be a connection with this dispatch and events in Jeremiah 26:20-23.  (Photo by Luke Chandler)

The museum rotates the Lachish Letters that are on display. Last year, we saw Letter #4 that specifically mentions Lachish. Here is a flashback:

MY 2014 group posing with Lachish Letter #4 in the Israel Museum last year.

Our 2014 group posing with Lachish Letter #4 in the Israel Museum last year.

We return to the dig tomorrow afternoon. Things are going very well and we are having an excellent time. More information and photos to come!

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About LukeChandler

Luke holds an M.A. in Ancient and Classical History and has been an adjunct professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Luke and his wife Melanie have five children. He serves as a minister in English and Spanish with the North Terrace Church of Christ and participates annually in archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke also leads tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
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3 Responses to Biblical Artifacts in the Israel Museum

  1. G.M. Grena says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how people readily limit LMLKs to government fortification rather than worship to God as King (noting that there are more non-fortified sites with them than fortified ones), but readily acknowledge incense stands as worship activities rather than air fresheners for government officials.

  2. lukechandler says:

    I confess this is the first time I’ve encountered this suggestion. Intriguing! It’s been a while since I have studied any LMLK articles. Thanks for mentioning this.

    • G.M. Grena says:

      Your juxtaposition of the jar & stand inspired me, so thanks for sharing these excellent photos! I’m not sure how the stand styles changed over the centuries, but of course the Assyrians depicted them as booty being carried out of Lachish in Sennacherib’s famous palace relief. Personally I think the jars & their consumable contents would be more useful to the invaders. I know if I were to invade the Israel Museum, I’d be far more interested in carrying off these jars as booty, & leave the incense stands behind…

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