Hebrew Letter from the Time of Josiah Recovered

A very rare papyrus fragment with paleo-Hebrew writing from the time of King Josiah and his sons was recovered by Israeli authorities recently. The fragment is part of a hastily written letter dating to circa 600 BC and including the name Ishmael. It was discovered near the Dead Sea and sold by an antiquities dealer to an American tourist in 1965. The purchaser’s son was persuaded to return the letter to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Times of Israel gives the fullest account, and The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz also have the story, with others sure to follow. There is also a two-minute video about the document.

Some might classify this as a Dead Sea Scroll, but the important difference is the dating—this fragment was already a 400-year-old antiquity when the earliest Dead Sea Scrolls were being written. Only two other scroll fragments have been found from the time of the First Temple.


5 thoughts on “Hebrew Letter from the Time of Josiah Recovered

  1. Dear Dr. Bolen, The ivories found in Samaria between 1908 and 1935 comprise 12,000 items—the largest amount ever found in the Levant. They have never really been published fully. Dr. Claudia Suter has been working on a book for years. To me they were Israelite and Phoenician made and date to the time of King Solomon and later. When Jeroboam I took ten tribes of Israel to Samaria, he took the wealth of Jerusalem to Samaria including the ivories. The Jehoash Tablet is an example of the devastating effect of the ten tribes going to Samaria. There were hardly any scribes left, and the scribe who did the Jehoash Tablet was not as good as the ones in Samaria who had left Jerusalem. Thank you for everything that you do! Sincerely yours, Michael

    1. Hi Michael – thank you for your interesting observations. I’m particularly curious about your suggestion that Jeroboam took the wealth of Jerusalem to Samaria. I have never heard this idea before; I don’t remember anything about this in the Bible, and I don’t think there are any extrabiblical sources about Jeroboam’s reign. If he did take the ivories, or anything, they would had a rather challenging journey to Samaria (presumably by way of Shechem and Tirzah), with the various coups, palace burnings, and such. I will certainly be interested in Dr. Suter’s book.

  2. Dear Dr. Bolen, Hi!!! To me Jeroboam I under Pharaoh Shishak could have done what he wanted to with Jerusalem’s wealth. I see no problem with the ten tribes carrying anything they wanted to Samaria. “I Kings 14:25: In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem. 26 He carried off the treasures of the temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made. 27 So King Rehoboam made bronze shields to replace them and assigned these to the commanders of the guard on duty at the entrance to the royal palace. 28 Whenever the king went to the Lord’s temple, the guards bore the shields, and afterward they returned them to the guardroom.” “I Kings 11:40: Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam, but Jeroboam fled to Egypt, to Shishak the king, and stayed there until Solomon’s death.” Thank you for your time and your insights! Sincerely yours, Michael

  3. Dear Dr. Bolen, Hi!!! After studying this more, I found out that in the Septuagint Jeroboam I is married to Pharaoh Shishak’s eldest daughter Ano. This may add a little more insight into what went on when Jeroboam I, the son of Nebat, made Israel to sin by erecting an Egyptian golden calf in Dan and in Bethel and did not let the Israelites worship in Jerusalem. Later, during King Hezekiah’s reign, some good did come back to Jerusalem when refugees from the northern Kingdom of Israel brought proverbs of Solomon down to Jerusalem and the men of Hezekiah copied them down[Proverbs 25:1]. Thank you for everything that you do! Sincerely yours, Michael

    1. Thank you, Michael. One other piece of interesting information is that Shishak attacked the northern kingdom after he plundered Jerusalem. This is not recorded in the Bible but it’s clear from the city list that Shishak left on the Bubastite Portal. Scholars of course debate the cause of Jeroboam’s change of heart toward his previous refugee.

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