Significant biblical artfacts in the Istanbul Museum

My favorite place in Istanbul is the Archaeological Museum. There are several buildings. One contains items from the Ancient Orient, that is, from Mesopotamia, Assyria, Babylon, and a collection of Hittite items. Another has numerous items from the Greco-Roman world. On the third floor artifacts from Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, and Cyprus, are displayed.

The Ottoman Empire controlled Palestine in from the 16th to the 20th centuries. The earliest archaeology in Palestine was done at Megiddo, Tanaach, and Gezer. Since the Turks were in charge, many of the artifacts were brought to Istanbul. These items have not always been easy to see. Once or twice, in past years, I had to made a “donation” to the museum in order to get in room where these items are exhibited. Even now, it is difficult (for older visitors) because there are no elevators going to the third floor.

There is not time now to mention all of these items. However, I am pleased to share with you what I consider an unusually good photo made without a tripod and special lighting. It is the famous Siloam Inscription. We sometimes call its the Hezekiah;s tunnel inscription.

This inscription was cut from Hezekiah’s tunnel in Jerusalem shortly after it was discovered in 1880. The tunnel was built to connect Gihon Spring with the Pool of Siloam (ca. 710 B.C.; 2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chronicles 32:30; cf. John 9:7). Palestine was part of the Turkish empire at the time of the discovery and this is how the inscription came to be in Istanbul. The inscription, written in the ancient Hebrew script, describes the completion of the tunnel when the workers met near the middle on the last day of work. It reads, in part:

while there were still three cubits to be cut through, (there was heard) the voice of a man calling to his fellow, for there was an overlap in the rock on the right (and on the left). And when the tunnel was driven through, the quarrymen hewed (the rock), each man toward his fellow, axe against axe; and the water flowed from the spring toward the reservoir for 1,200 cubits, and the height of the rock above the head(s) of the quarrymen was 100 cubits. (Ancient Near Eastern Texts 321)

I have walked through Hezekiah’s tunnel several times and have seen the place from which the inscription was taken.

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