The Blessing of the Silver Scrolls -- By: Stephen Caesar

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 19:2 (Spring 2006)
Article: The Blessing of the Silver Scrolls
Author: Stephen Caesar

The Blessing of the Silver Scrolls

Stephen Caesar

Numbers 6:24–26 contains one of the central passages of Scripture, known as the “Priestly” or “Aaronic” Benediction:

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Evidence for the antiquity of this passage has now been found.

Excavations in Jerusalem in 1979–80 by Gabriel Barkay turned up two amulets dating from the late seventh century BC.1 They were found in the fourth of several burial caves he discovered on an escarpment known as Ketef Hinnom, which overlooks the Hinnom Valley (Gehenna) just opposite Mt. Zion. Each amulet contained a rolled-up sheet of silver which, when unrolled, revealed the Priestly Benediction inscribed on them. The exact Hebrew words (translated into English) are:

St. Andrews Church as seen from the Hinnom Valley. The Iron Age tomb where the silver scrolls were found is located in the rock outcrop in front of the church.

Baptist Press

One of the silver scroll amulets before it was unrolled as seen on screen in a recent slide lecture. The silhouette is that of Gabriel Barkay, the archaeologist responsible for the discovery. Museums in England and Germany were given the opportunity to unroll the scrolls, but declined because of the delicate nature of the operation. Three years after their discovery, the scrolls were finally opened by conservators at the Israel Museum.

May Yahweh bless you and keep you;
May Yahweh cause his face to
Shine upon you and grant you
Peace (Coogan 1995: 45).

Commented the late archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon:

This is now the earliest occurrence of a Biblical text in an extra-Biblical document, significantly predating the earliest of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is also the oldest extra-Biblical reference to YHWH, the God of Israel (1987: 124; cf. King and Stager 2001: 306).

Time magazine, reporting on the find, stated that this discovery

suggests that at least part of the Old Testament was written soon after some of the events it describes (Lemonick 1995: 65)...The discovery made it clear that parts of the Old Testament were being copied long before some skeptics had believed they were even written (ibid., 67).

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