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Numbers 6:22-26  The Lord spoke to Moses: 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is the way you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 24 “The Lord bless you and protect you; 25 The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; 26 The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.’” (NET)

In 1979 Gabriel Barkay was excavating an area on the outskirts of Jerusalem in the backyard of St. Andrews church.  He had a group of 12 and 13 year old kids helping him.  They discovered some tombs, but they were empty—having been looted long ago.

One boy, Nathan, was given the task of cleaning out the dirt from the nooks under the burial benches.  Like a true boy, he started banging the nook with a hammer.  It broke, revealing an entrance to a secret chamber containing more than 1000 objects.  There were 125 objects of silver, 40 iron arrowheads, gold, ivory, glass, bone, 150 semi-precious stones, and skeletons.  The objects dated to the late 7th and early 6th centuries BC.  Among the objects were two, tiny rolled-up silver scrolls 1” long.

It took three years to develop a process to unroll them without breaking them to bits.  Once opened, it was discovered that they contained ancient Hebrew writing.  Amulet I (3.8” x 1.1”) reads:

[…]YHW…the grea[t…who keeps] the covenant and [g]raciousness toward those who love [Him] and those who keep [His commandments…]. The Eternal? […]. [the?] blessing more than any [sna]re and more than Evil. For redemption is in Him. For YHWH is our restorer [and] rock. May YHWH bles[s] you and keep you. [May] YHWH make [His face] shine…”.

Amulet II (1.5” x .4”) reads: “[First line almost completely illegible.] May h[e]/sh[e] be blessed by Yahweh, the warrior [or “helper”] and the rebuker of [E]vil: May Yahweh bless you, keep you. May Yahweh make His face shine upon you and grant you p[ea]ce”.[1]

Both amulets contained the same inscription: “May Yahweh bless you and keep you; May Yahweh cause his face to shine upon you and grant you peace.”  This is a near quote of the priestly benediction in Numbers 6:24-26.

Significance:

  1. This is the oldest copy of any portion of Scripture.
  2. This is good evidence against the liberal critics who said the Pentateuch was a late, post-exilic creation.  It’s difficult to maintain that the Pentateuch was written in the 5th century BC when it is being quoted in the late 7th or early 6th century BC.
  3. It contains the second-oldest reference to “YHWH.”  It’s amazing to think that someone was using this scroll in their worship to YHWH right next to Solomon’s temple!
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