Proof of Bethlehem + other stuff
so...here we GO!
This is huge news, which is made even more wonderful since it comes from such a tiny object. In an excavation in the City of David (the most historically important area of Jerusalem), a tiny bulla was found imprinted with the words “Bat Lechem,” the ancient name for Bethlehem. (A bulla is a seal, usually made by imprinting soft clay.)
This is what the inscription says:
בשבעת (Bishv’at)–”in the seventh” (reference to the year of the king’s reign)
בת לכם (Bat Lechem)–”Bethlehem”
למל ]ך] ([Lemel]ekh)–”to the king”
Bethlehem, famous as the city of Jesus’ birth, has never been extensively excavated, and some wondered if it even existed in ancient times. Only Biblical references survived: no artifacts or tangible proof, no stone saying “Bethlehem City Limits / Pop. 1280″ with a little Rotary symbol in the corner.
With this seal, the size of a small coin, we finally have that proof.
Eli Shukron, the director of the excavation, believes the seal was from a shipment sent from Bethlehem to the King of Judah (possibly Hezekiah, Manasseh or Josiah) around 8th or 7th century BC. This places an occupied, prosperous Bethlehem in the First Temple period. Shukron speculates that the seal was placed on payment of Bethlehem’s tax to the kingdom, and may have been on a shipment of food or silver.
The first mention of Bethlehem is in Genesis 35:19: “So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).” Its real importance came later, as the city of Jesse, and thus the birthplace of King David. This means it also had to be the birthplace of the new David: Jesus.
But there are a depressingly large number of scholars who believe Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles are merely legends, with little to no historical value. Some have even suggested that David himself is a mythic figure, and that there never was a kingdom of Israel as described in the Bible. There have been persistent claims that Bethlehem was insignificant, or unoccupied, or somewhere else (there’s also a Bethlehem of Galilee), or even nonexistent, and that there was no proof of its occupation by Israelites as early as the 8th century (a mere 200 years after the life of David himself).
There was, in fact, a huge hole in the archaeological record of Bethlehem between about the 14th century BC and the 4th century AD. This bulla fills that hole. It’s concrete proof of a place named Bethlehem that was large enough to be taxed by a centralized Hebrew kingdom in the 8th century BC. In other words, the historical revisionists who like to dismiss the Bible as history are going to need to revisit their revisionism on this point.
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.