First Extra-Biblical Evidence That Bethlehem Dates From First Temple Era

ICEJ News, 23 May 2012

Sifting the City of David soil, archaeologists recently discovered a 1.5 cm bulla, or piece of clay for sealing a document or object, containing three lines of ancient Hebrew script, including the words: Bishv'at ("in the 7th"), Bet Lechem ("Bethlehem") and [Lemel]ekh (to/for the king").

"This is the first time the name Bethlehem appears outside the Bible, in an inscription from the First Temple period, which proves that Bethlehem was indeed a city in the Kingdom of Judah, and possibly also in earlier periods," said Eli Shukron, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

Shukron dated the bulla to the seventh or eighth centuries BCE during a period in which bullae were used for taxation of shipments. Bethlehem is first mentioned in Genesis describing where Rachel died and was buried (Gen. 35:19; 48:7).

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