Has a real remnant from Jerusalem’s Second Temple come to light?
For twenty-odd years, people stood in front of a glass cabinet in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and thrilled to view a small ivory pomegranate. It was supposed to be part of the High Priest’s sceptor in Solomon’s Temple (516 BCE to 70 EC).
Sadly, this was disproved.
Scholars determined that the piece originated in the 13th or 14th century BCE, its inscription in paleo-Hebrew possibly a modern fraud.
The closest physical remnant of Jewry’s holiest site – the Western Wall – has survived from the Second Temple, which was built by King Herod in 37 BCE. The wall is closest to where the Holy of Holies stood in both Temples. Today, there’s plenty of room for worshippers to actually touch the ancient stones of the Western Wall. But the centuries hadn’t uncovered a Temple-period artifact that a person handled and possibly wore. Until last week.
According to Ynet (Hebrew), excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority in an ancient drainage ditch yielded a golden bell about 1 cm. diameter. It has a loop allowing it to be sewn onto clothing. We know that the High Priest wore wear special garments mandated in the Bible, including a coat that had alternating pomegranates and bells sewn onto its edge:
“…And upon the skirts of it thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the skirts thereof; and bells of gold between them round about” (Ex. 28:34,36)
The excavation’s lead archeologists, Eli Shukron and Professor Ronny Reich of Haifa University, said that the bell was uncovered at the bottom the drainage ditch, under millennial layers of dirt.
“An archeologist can dig his whole life and never find something like this,” Shukrun said, visibly moved. “It’s amazing how the little bell tinkles just like it did 2,000 years ago. The High Priest’s robe had these bells so that people hearing them as he passed, would make way for him. Only a very important person would wear such things, so there’s good reason to think it fell from the robe of a High Priest as he walked, and rolled away unnoticed.”
Can it be that an artifact worn by a high priest of the Second Temple has actually come to light? We certainly hope so, and are prepared to be thrilled in advance.
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Photo of golden bell by Valdemir Naichin via Ynet; Image of the High Priest from Wikipedia