Archaeological excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in
the area of the Gihon Spring in the City of David, in the Walls around Jerusalem
National Park, have unearthed a layer of rich finds including thousands of
broken pottery shards, clay lamps and figurines.
Most intriguing is the recent discovery of a ceramic bowl with a partially
preserved inscription in ancient Hebrew. While not complete, the inscription
presents us with the name of a seventh century BCE figure, which resembles other
names known to us from both the Biblical and archaeological record and providing
us with a connection to the people living in Jerusalem at the end of the First
Temple period. This fascinating find will be presented at Megalim's Annual
Archaeological Conference which will take place on Thursday, August 29th in the
City of David.
The most similar name to our inscription is Zechariah the son of Benaiah,
the father of the Prophet Jahaziel. The name Zechariah the son of Benaiah
appears in 2 Chronicles 20:14 where it states that Jahaziel, son of Zechariah,
son of Benaiah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, prophesized before the Biblical
King Jehoshaphat before the nation went off to war against the ancient kingdoms
of Ammon and Moab.
Various finds from the fill layer of the end of
First Temple period: oil lamps, LMLK-stamped handles and female
Copyright: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities
Israel Antiquity Authority archaeologists Dr. Joe Uziel and Nahshon
Zanton, who discovered the bowl while excavating remains associated with the
First Temple period destruction, explained that the letters inscribed on the
shard likely date to the 8-7th centuries BCE, placing the production of the bowl
sometime between the reign of Hezekiah and the destruction of Jerusalem under
King Zedekiah. The archaeologists also explained that the inscription was
engraved on the bowl prior to firing, indicating that the inscription originally
adorned the rim of the bowl in its entirety, and was not written on a shard
after the vessel was broken.
While the purpose of the inscription on the bowl is unclear, archaeologists
have posited that the bowl may have contained an offering, likely given by the
individual whose name was inscribed on the bowl, or alternatively given to
The first letter of the ceramic bowl’s partially preserved inscription in
ancient Hebrew script is broken and is therefore difficult to read, but appears
to be the letter ר. The next three letters יהו constitute the theophoric suffix
(the component in which the name of the deity appears as part of the first name,
such as Yirme-yahu and Eli-yahu, etc). These letters are followed by בנ (the son
of) after which appears the patronymic name composed of the three letters בנה.
According to archaeologists Uziel and Zanton, “If we consider the possibility
that we are dealing with an unvowelized or ‘defective’ spelling of the name בניה
(Benaiah), then what we have before us is the name "...ריהו בן בניה"
Many of the first names mentioned in the Bible contained the theophoric
component יהו, as is the case of this inscription from the City of David.
Besides the biblical references, other examples of this have also been found in
archaeological excavations, written on a variety of objects such as seals,
bullae, pottery vessels or even carved on rock. Noteworthy among the many names
that end with the theophoric suffix יהו are several prominent examples that were
previously discovered in City of David by Professor Yigal Shiloh, such as
Gemar-yahu the son of Shaphan, Bena-yahu the son of Hoshayahu, etc. which were
also found in the destruction layer and the ruins of the Babylonian