The Priestly Benediction on a silver amulet

The Priestly Benediction on a silver amulet
Jerusalem: Ketef Hinnom, Israel
Israelite period, late 7th century BCE
H: 3.9 cm; W: 1.1 cm
Israel Antiquities Authority
Accession number: IAA 80-1495

Photo © IMJ, by Nahum Slapak

This silver plaque and another silver plaque found next to it are the earliest known fragments of a biblical text, predating the oldest biblical scrolls from Qumran by almost four hundred years. Inscribed in Paleo-Hebrew and rolled up into tiny scrolls, both plaques were uncovered in a burial cave at Ketef Hinnom. The inscriptions were written in the cursive style by a non-professional scribe. The inscription on this plaque was extremely difficult to decipher, as it was very shallowly incised by a shar p instrument and there are also many cracks and breaks in the plaque. However, a recent technologically advanced examination of the plaques using computer imaging made it possible to identify letters and other details that were previously illegible, and this research confirmed the archaeologists' original dating of their find. Its lower part is most striking, being an abbreviated version of the biblical verses in Numbers 6:24-26: "The LORD bless you and protect you. The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The LORD lift up his countenance to you and give you peace." This text, which forms part of Jewish liturgy to this day, is known as the Priestly Benediction.

The Israel Museum, Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2005
Zalmona, Yigal, ed., The Israel Museum at 40: Masterworks of Beauty and Sanctity, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2005