2 Kings 12:4-5  Jehoash said to the priests, “All the money of the holy things that is brought into the house of the Lord, the money for which each man is assessed—the money from the assessment of persons—and the money that a man’s heart prompts him to bring into the house of the Lord, 5 let the priests take, each from his donor, and let them repair the house wherever any need of repairs is discovered.”

A sandstone tablet containing 16 inscribed lines commemorating the renovation of Solomon’s temple by Jehoash (9th century BC) surfaced in 2001.  The tablet measures 12” x 24” x 3”.  The Hebrew text in which it is written reads:

[I am Yeho’ash, son of A]hazyahu, k[ing over Ju]dah, and I executed the re[pai]rs. When men’s hearts became replete with generosity in the (densely populated) land and in the (sparsely populated) steppe, and in all the cities of Judah, to donate money for the sacred contributions abundantly, in order to purchase quarry stone and juniper wood and Edomite copper / copper from (the city of) ‘Adam, (and) in order to perform the work faithfully,— (Then) I renovated the breach(es) of the Temple and of the surrounding walls, and the storied structure, and the meshwork, and the winding stairs, and the recesses, and the doors. May (this inscribed stone) become this day a witness that the work has succeeded, (and) may God (thus) ordain His people with a blessing.[1]

The authenticity of the artifact is disputed.  A. Rosenfeld and S. Ilani from the Geological Survey of Israel et al have concluded that it is genuine.  Rosenfeld writes:

The crack fades inward toward the center of the tablet and is almost invisible on its back. The presence of the crack favors the authenticity of the inscription since a modern engraver would have known that incising across this line of weakness would have jeopardized the structural integrity of the tablet.

This type of sandstone occurs in Cambrian formations found in southern Israel and in southwest Jordan (Bender, 1968) and was therefore available to ancient stone workers in Judea.

Many of the incised letters exhibit defects in shape at their edges. These defects are due to the detachment of quartz and feldspar grains during the erosion and weathering of the sandstone.

The patina on the surface carrying the inscription is composed of elements derived from the tablet itself (e.g., quartz and feldspar grains) as well as from the environment (dolomite, limestone, carbon ash particles, and gold globules).

Carbon ash particles are trapped within the patina. Samples of the patina were radiocarbon dated at an age of 2340 to 2150 years ago….

Goren et al, (2004) claimed that the engraved marks of the letters are fresh. They said that signs of fresh cuttings and polishing are exposed within the letters. Fresh engraving can be easily revealed by illuminating the tablet with ultraviolet light (Newman, 1990). However, when the tablet was illuminated with ultraviolet light, there was no characteristic fluorescence indicative of fresh engraving scars. In addition, the biogenic black to reddish patina is covering and firmly attached to the letters with morphological continuity to the tablet surface….

The following scenario may place the tablet’s stages of development into a historical context. The inscription resembles the Biblical description of repairs of the Temple in Jerusalem by Yehoash, King of Judah, son of Ahaziyahu (Kings II, 12:1-6, 11-17) and the letters “haziyahu” and “Judah” appear in the inscription. Thus the tablet may be a royal inscription that was placed in Jerusalem at the time of King Yehoash, about 2800 years BP. If this scenario is correct, then both the nature of the patina and the fact that its apparent age is younger than the inscription by 500 years needs to be explained. We propose the following sequence of events.

The tablet may have been emplaced in Jerusalem about 2800 years BP and remained there for about 200 years, during which time the margins of its letters were weathered. When the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians about 2600 years BP (586 B.C.E.), the tablet was broken and subsequently buried in the rubble. After burial, the patina began to accrete on the tablet including carbon fragments. We believe that the apparent age of 2,250 years BP as determined in the laboratory is an average of several pieces of soot (carbon), both younger and older than that age.”[2]

Significance:

  1. If authentic, this confirm the existence of Jehoash.
  2. Confirms the Bible’s description of Jehoash’s renovation of the temple.

[1]A. Rosenfeld, H. R. Feldman, et al, “Archaeometric evidence for the authenticity of the Jehoash  Inscription Tablet”; available from http://www.bibleinterp.com/abslast.shtml.
[2]A. Rosenfeld, S. Ilani, et al, “Archaeometric evidence for the authenticity of the Jehoash  Inscription Tablet; available from http://www.bibleinterp.com/abslast.shtml.

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