Archaeological News: Silver Scrolls of Ketef Hinnom

Archaeologists have found a myriad of wonders in the Middle East over the centuries, but « one of the most important discoveries » of the earliest known biblical texts could have been hidden forever without sheer luck.

The silver scrolls of Ketef Hinnom have been described by  archaeologists  as the greatest discovery for biblical studies. Discovered in the Hinnon Valley in 1979 by a team of Israeli archaeologists  , the silver scrolls contain some of the earliest known records  from texts found in the Hebrew Bible. The rollers are known as KH1 and KH2, and were dated between 650 BC and 587 BC.

Archeology news: Silver Scroll of Ketef Hinnom
The silver scrolls of Ketef hinnom contain the most known biblical texts

Placed in Paleo-Hebrew, their faded inscriptions correspond to passages from the Book of Exodus and Deuteronomy, among others.

However, the scrolls were lost almost 3,000 years ago and remained hidden from all knowledge under a collapsed cave southwest of the Old City of Jerusalem.

According to Professor Tom Meyer, a Middle Eastern language expert from Shasta Bible College and Graduate School in California, the scrolls were found by luck.

Professor Meyer told « In 1979, a team of Israeli archaeologists led by Dr. Gabriel Barkay inspected rock burial chambers in the Hinnom Valley just outside the walls of Jerusalem on the old road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.

Archaeological News: Silver Scrolls is the Irael Museum
Ketef Hinnom’s scrolls are now on display at the Israel Museum in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.

« What has been discovered is one of the most important biblical

discoveries never made: the oldest biblical text ever found.  » 

After an initial examination of what is known as Cave 24, archaeologists have determined that it is empty.

What they didn’t realize at the time was that the collapsed cave had buried biblical treasures from the time of the first temple in Jerusalem.

Professor Meyer said: « A local 13 year old boy who had tagged with the team of archaeologists stayed behind and did what most 13 year old boys could do: he found a tool and started to dig in the ground of the burial room 25 in the cave

« At the time, archaeologists did not realize that an earthquake had occurred about 2,600 years ago, causing the cave ceiling to collapse and the remains of anyone who lived in the cave on the ground, frozen in time for 2,600 years.

“The boy dug a small hole and touched the dirt. He brought some of the objects unearthed to archaeologists who soon searched the burial chamber.

“Among the most spectacular finds were two silver objects measuring one inch by four inches and 0.5 inches by 1.5 inches, and are now known as K1 and K2 respectively.Archaeological News: The silver scrolls are on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem

Archaeological news: Hinnom Valley in Israel
Archaeological News: Ancient scrolls were discovered in a collapsed cave in the Hinnom Valley

“It took archaeologists three years to unravel them because of their extremely fragile nature. « 

Professor Meyer said: « The long process was worth the wait as the silver scrolls, which were probably amulets or charms worn on a necklace, turned out to be inscribed with the first known surviving text also found in the Hebrew Bible: Numbers 6:24 -26.

“This passage recorded in the book of Numbers is called the Priestly Blessing; he begins by imploring God to give physical and spiritual blessings to his people and to keep or protect them from all evil.

“The prayer continues by asking God to make his face or his nature favorable to the children of Israel and to be kind to them.

“Finally, the blessing implores God to be a source of comfort for his people and to bless them with peace. « 

Ancient pottery found around the silver scrolls helped archaeologists determine their probable age.

Dating back to the 6th century BC scrolls, the scrolls were found to be 400 years older than the famous Dead Sea scrolls.

Professor Meyer said: « The opening of the fragile scroll clearly revealed a verbatim copy of the famous

Priestly blessing in numbers 6: 24-26 as well as portions of other familiar verses from the Torah.

« This is another example where archaeological discoveries confirm the historical accuracy of the Bible. «