JERUSALEM (BP)–A 2,500-year-old stone seal unearthed during a Jerusalem archeological dig in early January isn’t tied to the obscure Old Testament family initially thought, but instead possibly to an equally obscure and completely different biblical family.
In mid-January, archeologist Eilat Mazar told the Jerusalem Post she had found a seal — designed to make impressions in soft clay — engraved with the name of the “Temech” family, the same family found in the list of Jewish families in Nehemiah 7 that returned to Jerusalem after being taken into exile by the Babylonians.
But as it turns out, Mazar was misreading the inscription. Because the seal is designed to make an impression, the letters are written in mirror-image form, similar to how the word “ambulance” is written on the front of such a vehicle.
Following critiques from scholars such as the ones associated with the Biblical Archeology Society, Mazar now acknowledges the letters should read Sh-l-m-t. (Hebrew had no vowels.) If that’s the case, then scholars believe it could refer to Shelomith, a man mentioned in Ezra 8:10 who also returned from Babylon to Jerusalem, or to Shelomith, the daughter of Zerubbabel mentioned in 1 Chronicles 3:19.
The seal itself is eight-tenths of an inch long and seven-tenths of an inch wide.
The archeological discovery is at least the second one in recent months to make a tie to an obscure Old Testament name and thus, conservative scholars say, affirm the Bible’s reliability.
Last summer British Museum officials announced the discovery of a two-inch-wide cuneiform tablet that contains details of a financial transaction by a “Nabu-sharrussu-ukin,” who is called in the tablet the “chief eunuch” of Babylon King Nebuchadnezzar. That’s the same person mentioned in Jeremiah 39:3 — although spelled differently in different translations — as the chief officer of Nebuchadnezzar who was in Jerusalem when the Babylonians overtook the city around 587 B.C.
Compiled by Michael Foust, assistant editor of Baptist Press.