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Biblical Stone Unearthed from First Temple Era in Jerusalem

Volunteers at the City of David archaeology dig made a rare find…a tiny stone mentioned in the Bible as a “beka” measure. It was used by those visiting Jerusalem who paid a half-shekel tax before ascending to the Temple Mount. It was discovered in the rubble that was taken from excavations at the foundations of the Western Wall, a place we visit on our annual Song For Israel tours.

Half Shekel weight.jpg

The stone weight was inscribed in ancient Hebrew script with the word “beka”. According to Archaeologist Eli Shukron, none have previously been found with this exact inscription.

The word “beka” appears twice in the Old Testament: first as the weight of gold in a nose ring given to Rebecca in Genesis 24:22, When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a half-shekel and two bracelets for her wrists weighing ten shekels in gold.”  The other mention is in Exodus 38:26 as a weight for a donation brought by the Jewish people for Temple maintenance.

This beka is the only example to date of the inscription being written in “mirror writing,” said Shukron, and the letters are engraved from left to right instead of right to left, facing the opposite direction. “This is the only one not written ‘properly,'” Shukron said, which leads him to conclude that the artisan who formed the weight also created seals, which are written in mirror script. Shukron is quoted in a press release, “When the half-shekel tax was brought to the Temple during the First Temple period, there were no coins, so they used silver ingots. In order to calculate the weight of these silver pieces they would put them on one side of the scales and on the other side they placed the Beka weight. The Beka was equivalent to the half-shekel, which every person from the age of 20 years and up was required to bring to the Temple.” (Times of Israel).

"This 3,000-year-old Beka weight is anchoring once again the deep historical connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem. It is a reminder from our ancestors in First Temple times telling us that the Israel of today does not rest only on a 70-year-old UN vote, but, rather, rests upon a foundation that began more than three millennia ago. Every single day, archaeologists in the City of David are uncovering our past and preserving our future." (Jerusalem Post) 

“For your people love every stone in her walls and cherish

even the dust in her streets.” Psalm 102:14 

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