A Note from Bible Times

Stand for Israel  |  September 8, 2022

Papyrus note from First Temple period in Bible times
(Photo: Shai Halevi/Israel Antiquities Authority)

While most archaeological finds from the Holy Land are found in the Holy Land, the latest discovery of an artifact from Bible times happened around the world in Montana. Algemeiner’s Sharon Wrobel reports on a papyrus document (a note addressed “To Ishmael”) that has now been returned to its rightful home in Israel:

An extremely rare papyrus fragment from the First Temple-period written in ancient Hebrew script has been repatriated from Montana to Israel thanks to a joint intelligence operation, the Israel Antiquities Authority disclosed on Wednesday.

The document dates back to the late seventh or early sixth century B.C.E. The repatriated letter fragment is composed of four torn lines that begin with the words “To Ishmael send…,” indicating that it contained a message or instructions to someone with that name.

“First Temple-period documents written on organic materials—such as this papyrus—have scarcely survived,” said Joe Uziel, Director of Israel Antiquities Authority’s Judean Desert scrolls unit. “Whilst we have thousands of scroll fragments dating from the Second Temple period, we have only three documents, including this newly found one, from the First Temple period. Each new document sheds further light on the literacy and the administration of the First Temple period.”

The name Ishmael, which first appears in the Bible as the name of the son of Abraham and Hagar, was a common name in the Biblical period which means “God will hear,” according to Ben-Gurion University Professor Shmuel Ahituv.

The Ishmael papyrus was only discovered after Ahituv found an image of a rare and, until then unknown, document from the First Temple period.

The image kicked off a joint campaign together with the Israel Antiquities Authority’s theft prevention unit to locate the whereabouts of the original “To Ishmael” papyrus…

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