January 17, 2008 | David F. Coppedge

Bible Name Found on Jerusalem Artifact

A man named Temech has risen from the pages of the Bible.  The Jerusalem Post reported that his clay seal was found in a dig south of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem by archaeologist Eilat Mazar, who earlier found a portion of a wall from the same Nehemiah period (11/30/2007).  The article shows a picture of the seal.  This adds to the growing list of Bible characters found in archaeological digs (e.g., 07/11/2007).
    Temech (or Temah) is mentioned in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7 as one of the returnees from Babylonian exile.  His seal may have been purchased in Babylon and brought to Jerusalem.  The date of the seal is 538 to 445 BC and is significant for identifying a temple servant from the First Temple period.  The blog at Bible Places also mentions the discovery.
Update 02/02/2008: Bible Places Blog mentions that “Temah” is probably an incorrect translation.  Instead, the name may be that of another Bible character of the same period: Sophit, daughter of Zerubbabel (1 Chronicles 3:19).

The seal seems to indicate a degree of syncretism with Babylonian religious imagery.  This should not be surprising.  “The fact that this cultic scene relates to the Babylonian chief god seemed not to have disturbed the Jews who used it on their own seal,” the article states as Mazar’s opinion.  We know from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah that the people needed repeated reprimands to purge their lifestyles of pagan influences.  Some returnees were more committed than others.
    Popular idols are hard to exorcise.  Undoubtedly a future historian would wonder about the mixed messages in artifacts found among the remains of a typical 2008 church.  What icons of idolatry might be found among your own artifacts?  Would pins or rings with emblems of pop stars, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and other non-Christian iconic images make a future archaeologist wonder how to interpret the find?  Would an icon of Darwin be the modern equivalent of the Babylonian god Sin?

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