A Letter About the Temple

The small potsherd with writing shown here (also known as an ostracon) was discovered by archaeologists digging at a Judean fortress in southern Israel. The name of the site is Arad; this ostracon and the others found at the same site are known as the Arad Letters. They date to about 600 BC, not long before the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon. Arad is located in the desert, about 35 miles straight south of Jerusalem. Both Arad and Jerusalem can be seen on this Google Earth map.

Map of southern Israel showing Jerusalem and Arad.

What is most interesting about this ostracon is that it makes reference to the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, referring to it as the “House of Yahweh.” Here is the text of the letter:

To my lord Eliashib, may Yahweh seek your welfare! And now: Give to Shemaryahu a lethekh, and to the Kerosite give a homer.  As to the matter which you commanded me – it is fine; he is in the house of Yahweh.”

Mysterious! It appears from this letter that someone (unnamed) fled to the temple in Jerusalem for refuge. This is reminiscent of Adonijah when he feared Solomon (1 Kings 1:50), or Joab when he fled to the tabernacle (1 Kings 2:28). At any rate, this is a very rare contemporary reference to the temple that Solomon built.

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