An extra-careful processing of archaeologically recovered dirt called the wet sifting process has resulted in many more tiny but significant discoveries in recent years, such as the beka weight announced recently. As explained in Exodus 38:26, the beka was used to measure the half shekel temple tax due from each member of the community.
This tiny weight (5.5 grams or 0.2 ounces) was inscribed with the Hebrew letters spelling beka and was discovered in excavations near Robinson’s arch, at the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount. It is believed to have been used to weigh the temple tax during the First Temple period.
In 2017, while cleaning out dust between stones in an ancient Jerusalem wall, archaeologists discovered a biblical title heretofore unattested by archaeology, “governor of the city.” As the dust was carefully sifted, a clay seal impression was recovered. The image on the clay depicted two figures facing each other and the inscription.
The governor of the city, much like a modern mayor, is mentioned in 2 Kings 23:8, where the author lists a man named Joshua as the governor of the city in the days of Hezekiah, and in 2 Chronicles 18:25, where the author notes Amon as governor of the city in the days of Jehoshaphat (NASB).
Another seal impression surfaced in 2018, this one with the actual name of one of the most important Old Testament prophets, Isaiah. It nearly says “Isaiah the prophet,” but because there’s a letter missing at the end, it’s unclear if it actually refers to a personal name.
One piece of evidence that suggests that the seal impression refers to the biblical prophet is a small piece of clay that archeologists recovered in an area near Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. This similar seal impression, which was first found in 2015, says “of King Hezekiah of Judah.” King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah are mentioned in the same verse 17 times in the Bible.
This discovery might have shot to the top of the list if there was some way of identifying who this statue head depicts. But there’s no name or inscription. The best clue to his identity is the band around his head, suggesting a crown.
This tiny two-inch sculpture was found in 2017 at Abel Beth-Maacah, a site near the border between Israel and Lebanon, but caught the public’s attention when it was placed on display at the Israel Museum last summer. It dates to the 9th century B.C., so it could depict a king of the northern kingdom Israel, such as Ahab or Jehu. But just as easily it could be King Hazael of Damascus or King Ithobaal of Tyre, the father of Jezebel.
The name of Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator who interrogated Jesus and then ordered him crucified, has turned up for the second time in the archaeological record. The first time his name and title were found engraved in a stone discovered in 1961 in secondary use at Caesarea Maritima. Just a few weeks ago, scientists announced that a seal ring excavated in the late 1960s at Herodium, a desert palace just outside of Bethlehem, also carried the inscription “of Pilates.”
The inscription on the badly corroded ring was finally read using advanced photographic techniques. The copper alloy ring was probably not fancy enough to have actually been worn by Pilate. It was more likely worn by someone who was authorized to act on Pilate’s authority and who would use the seal to create official communications.