Tag Archives: Destruction of Jerusalem

Roman sword & menorah engraving discovered

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced Monday the discovery of a Roman sword still in a scabbard and a stone with the engraving of the temple menorah.

Roman sword in scabbard. IAA photo by Clara Amit.

Roman sword in scabbard. IAA photo by Clara Amit.

During the course of work the Israel Antiquities Authority carried out in Jerusalem’s ancient drainage channel, which begins in the Siloam Pool and runs from the City of David to the archaeological garden (near the Western Wall), impressive finds were recently discovered that breathe new life into the story of the destruction of the Second Temple. The excavations are being conducted on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority and are underwritten by the City of David Foundation.

A 2,000 year old iron sword, still in its leather scabbard, was discovered in work the Israel Antiquities Authority is doing in the channel, which served as a hiding refuge for the residents of Jerusalem from the Romans at the time of the Second Temple’s destruction. In addition, parts of the belt that carried the sword were found. According to the excavation directors Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, “It seems that the sword belonged to an infantryman of the Roman garrison stationed in Israel at the outbreak of the Great Revolt against the Romans in 66 CE. The sword’s fine state of preservation is surprising: not only its length (c. 60 cm), but also the preservation of the leather scabbard (a material that generally disintegrates quickly over time) and some of its decoration”.

A stone object adorned with a rare engraving of a menorah was found in the soil beneath the street, on the side of the drainage channel. According to Shukron and Professor Reich, “Interestingly, even though we are dealing with a depiction of the seven-branched candelabrum, only five branches appear here. The portrayal of the menorah’s base is extremely important because it clarifies what the base of the original menorah looked like, which was apparently tripod shaped”. The fact that the stone object was found at the closest proximity to the Temple Mount to date is also important. The researchers suppose a passerby who saw the menorah with his own eyes and was amazed by its beauty incised his impressions on a stone and afterwards tossed his scrawling to the side of the road, without imagining that his creation would be found 2,000 years later.

Menorah found beneath 1st century street. IAA photo by Vladimir Naykhin.

Menorah found beneath 1st century street. IAA photo by Vladimir Naykhin.

An AP report with several enlargeable photos is available here.

I think this blog was the first one to report walking through the sewer more than 15 months ago. See here.

Two words are used for sword in the Greek New Testament. The more common word is machaira which describes a short, tongue-shaped sword or dagger. The term rhomphaia, which describes a long sword, is used only in Luke 2:35 outside the book of Revelation. It is used 6 times in Revelation. Probably all but one of these finds Christ as the bearer of the sword (1:16; 2:12; 2:16; 6:8; 19:15; 19:21). The book of Revelation has a setting in the Roman Empire outside of Palestine. The use of rhomphaia seems to be the appropriate term.

In one of the news reports about the recently found sword, archaeologist Elie Shukron is quoted as saying that the sword was the type used by Roman centurions, but that it was probably taken from the Roman garrison by one of the Jewish rebels (see here). This seems much more plausible to me.

G. K. Beale comments on the sword coming out of the mouth of Jesus:

The Christians in Asia are to understand that Jesus will do battle in this manner not only against the evil nations (19:15) but also against all those among the churches who compromise their faith (2:16). The consensus is that this sword alludes to that of the Roman soldier, used in battle, further enhancing this idea. (The Book of Revelation in NIGTC, 212)

This photo was made at the RACE show (Roman Army and Chariot Experience) in the hippodrome at Jerash, Jordan. It shows the centurion wearing both swords.

Roman Centurion at Jerash with two swords. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Centurion at Jerash with two different swords. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Bible Places Blog; Joseph Lauer.

Featured on The Book & The Spade program

“The Sewers of Jerusalem” is featured as the lead to program #1235 on The Book & The Spade radio program. This long-running radio program providing backgrounders on the Bible through Biblical archaeology is hosted by Gordon Govier and Professor Keith Schoville. Govier is the archaeology correspondent for Christianity Today magazine. Professor Schoville is retired professor of Hebrew and Semitic Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His book, Biblical Archaeology in Focus, has been used by many students of archaeology.

The link to the newly designed blog of The Book & the Spade is here. You may listen to the entire radio broadcast, or download it in MP3 format, here. I think you will need to use Internet Explorer to be able to save the program. The current program remains available for free download for only a few weeks. The programs produced by Govier and Schoville are always interesting and informative. I keep a permanent link to the site at the Biblical Studies Info Page (under Scholarly).

Our post on “The sewers of first century Jerusalem” may be read here. There are four recent photos with the post. Here is a photo of Roman street and mural of the Pool of Siloam as it is thought to have looked. This is where we expected to turn back and leave the area when one of the booksellers told us the sewer was open.

Perhaps the Pool of Siloam looked like this in the time of Jesus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Perhaps the Pool of Siloam looked like this in the time of Jesus. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.