Tag Archives: British Museum

Visualizing Isaiah 22: Shebna cut a tomb for himself

Shebna, the steward over the household of David, is to be replaced by Eliakim the son of Hilkiah. He will have the key of the house of David with power to open and shut. Consider the use of this text by Jesus in Revelation 3:8.

Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts, “Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the household, and say to him: What have you to do here, and whom have you here, that you have cut out here a tomb for yourself, you who cut out a tomb on the height and carve a dwelling for yourself in the rock? Behold, the LORD will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you and whirl you around and around, and throw you like a ball into a wide land. There you shall die, and there shall be your glorious chariots, you shame of your master’s house. I will thrust you from your office, and you will be pulled down from your station. In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your sash on him, and will commit your authority to his hand. And he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house. (Isaiah 22:15-23 ESV)

D. J. Wiseman comments on this text and a discovery possibly related to it.

The historical background of the prophecies of Isaiah is provided by a number of contemporary records. One inscription, on a rock lintel from a tomb, was read by Avigad in 1953: ‘This is the (the sepulcher of Shebna) yahu who is over the house. There is no silver or gold here, but only (his bones) and the bones of his slave-wife with him. Cursed be the man who breaks this open.’ (Illustrations from Biblical Archaeology, 60)

Shebna inscription from a tomb. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shebna inscription from a tomb in Silwan. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This tomb inscription was discovered in 1870 by Charles Clermont Ganneau in the village of Silwan. Following the 1967 war David Ussishkin and Gabriel Barkay examined numerous tombs in Silwan. For more information about the inscription, see Lost Treasures of the Bible by Fant and Reddish (154-157).

Visualizing Isaiah 3: a skirt of sackcloth

Isaiah describes the luxurious life of the women of Jerusalem in vivid terms. The prophet was definitely not politically correct.

16 The LORD said: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet,
17 therefore the Lord will strike with a scab the heads of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will lay bare their secret parts.
18 In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents;
19 the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves;
20 the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets;
21 the signet rings and nose rings;
22 the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags;
23 the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils.
24 Instead of perfume there will be rottenness; and instead of a belt, a rope; and instead of well-set hair, baldness; and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty. (Isaiah 3:16-24 ESV)

When the Assyrians captured Lachish and other cities of Judea they took some of the people captive. Something similar must have happened when the Babylonians took captive many of the citizens of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

Our photo shows a portion of the relief Sennacherib left on his palace wall after the capture of Lachish. You may recognize that this is not the original now displayed in the British Museum. This replica is in the Israel Museum. Notice especially the women in the center of the bottom panel.

Sennacherib's relief showing the women of Lachish going into captivity. Replica in Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sennacherib’s relief showing the women of Lachish going into captivity. Replica in Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Here is the original of the same scene as it is displayed in the British Museum. Click the photo for a larger image.

Sennacherib's Relief in British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sennacherib’s Relief in the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The women of the Shephelah were country women and the attire they are wearing may have been normal. The stylish women of Jerusalem would become like the plain women of the country and don a skirt of sackcloth.

David Ussishkin, excavator of Lachish, describes the scene:

The deportees are distinguishable by their appearance and dress. The women—adults and girls alike—wear a long, simple garment. A long shawl covers their head, shoulders and back, reaching to the bottom of the dress. The heads of both the adult men and boys are wound with scarves whose fringed ends hang down, covering the ears and reaching the level of their shoulders. A thick horizontal line below the belt probably marks the bottom of a sleeveless shirt. The garment has a fringed (?) tassel hanging between the legs, apparently attached to the bottom of the shirt. The men have short beards. Both men and women are barefooted. (The Conquest of Lachish by Sennacherib, 109).

Acts 27 #2 — Did Paul dock at Cnidus (Knidos)? — Photo Illustration

Paul’s voyage to Rome, as it is often called, was actually a trip as a prisoner on a variety of ships from Caesarea Maritima to Puteoli in Italy (Acts 27:1 – 28:13. The trip westward from Myra, on the Mediterranean coast, took the ship near Cnidus (also spelled Knidos) (Acts 27:6-7).

We sailed slowly for many days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus. Because the wind prevented us from going any farther, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. (Acts 27:7 NET)

Mark Wilson says,

Paul would have passed within sight of Cnidus on his return to Jerusalem during his second and third journeys, possibly even stopping at the city (Acts 18:21-22; 21:1). The grain ship upon which Paul was traveling on his captivity voyage to Rome encountered fierce head winds as it tacked westward along the coast of Asia Minor. It is not clear if Paul’s ship was able to make port in Cnidus’ commercial harbor, but the sailing conditions probably prevented it (Acts 27:7). — Biblical Turkey, 192.

A British archaeologist excavated at Cnidus in 1957-59. A colossal marble lion that once rested on a monumental tomb was taken to the British Museum where it is displayed in the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court. The lion dates to the late 4th-early 3rd century B.C.

Colossal marble lion from Cnidus. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Colossal marble lion from Cnidus. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The sign in the British Museum informs us that,

This lion crowned a monumental tomb at the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea. The hollow eyes were probably inset with glass to catch the light.

Did Paul see this lion? More than likely, I think, during the return from the second and third journeys.

The map below shows the location of Cos, Cnidus, Rhodes and Patara. Click the image for a higher resolution.

Map showing Cnidus, Rhodes, and Patara. Made with Bible Mapper 4.

Map showing Cnidus, Rhodes, and Patara. Made with Bible Mapper 4.

Turkey wants British Museum to return sculptures from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

According to an article in The Guardian (here), the town of Bodrum in Southwest Turkey wants the British Museum to return several priceless sculptures once associated with the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in the 4th century B.C.

Human rights legislation that has overturned the convictions of terrorists and rapists could now rob the British Museum of sculptures created for one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

A Turkish challenge in the European court of human rights will be a test case for the repatriation of art from one nation to another, a potential disaster for the world’s museums.

Halicarnassus is where Mausolus built a gigantic tomb in honor of himself. Leon Mauldin and I visited the site earlier in the year. You may read about our visit (with photos) here. It became known as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Two of the sculptures that the town of Bodrum wants returned are through to be of Mausolus and Artemisia, his wife. Here is a photo of the marble statue thought to be Mausolus.

Statue of Mausolus in British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of Mausolus in British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next statue is usually identified as Artemisia, wife of Mausolus.

Statues from the Mausoleum of Maussollos - Marble, About 350 B.C

Statue from Halicarnassus, usually identified as Artemisia, the wife of Mausolos. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Another reason to visit the British Museum soon, or Turkey later.

HT: Jack Sasson

Cyrus Cylinder scheduled for a U.S.A. tour

The British Museum announces that the Cyrus Cylinder will tour to five major U.S.A. museums in 2013. Plan your vacation how.

The Cylinder will travel with an exhibition of sixteen objects under the title ‘The Cyrus Cylinder in Ancient Persia’. The exhibition shows the innovations initiated by Persian rule in the Ancient Near East (550 BC-331 BC). The Persian Empire was then the largest the world had known. It had a huge impact on the ancient world, introducing changes in terms of ethical behaviour as witnessed in the proclamation on the Cyrus Cylinder.
For more information see Artdaily here. A nice photo of the Cylinder is included.

The Cyrus Cylinder is important to Bible students because Cyrus is the Persian king who allowed the Judeans to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:  “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up.’” (2 Chronicles 36:22-23 ESV; cf. Ezra 1:1-4).
Cyrus Cylinder.

Cyrus Cylinder in the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The U.S.A. schedule is as follows:
  • Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 9th March – 28th April 2013
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 3rd May – 14th June 2013
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 20th June – 4th August 2013
  • Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, 9th August – 22nd September 2013
  • J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa, Los Angeles, 2nd October – 2nd December 2013
HT: Jack Sasson

The Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone was found by Napoleon’s soldiers in Egypt in 1799. It was read by Jean-François Champollion in 1822, and thus became the key to unlock Egyptian hieroglyphics. The Rosetta Stone is now displayed in the British Museum in London, where it has been since 1802.

The Rosetta Stone in the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Rosetta Stone in the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Candace Keener writes the story of the Rosetta Stone in HowStuffWorks here.

HT: Jack Sasson

The looting of Sardis

Finally, Greece and Turkey can agree on something. They wish they had back the archaeological treasures that have been taken to other countries in the past. Greece wants back the Elgin marbles taken from Athens to the British Museum. Turkey wants back the treasures taken from Sardis in September 1922, the days of unrest during the fall of the Ottoman Empire. According to the article by John Leonard in Athens News, the port city of Smyrna (modern Izmir) was burning when John Horton sent crates of antiquities to the United States.

Numerous Turkish artifacts, including some real big ones (in size and importance), are displayed in the British Museum, and in the Pergamum Museum in Berlin.

It is a fascinating story with two sides. Read Leonard’s article here.

The photo below is one I made at Sardis earlier this month. The view is West over the ruins of the Temple of Artemis. One of the Ionic capitals is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The temple dates back to at least the 6th century B.C., but was destroyed in 499 B.C., and then underwent three rebuilding phases. The columns seen here date to the third rebuilding phase (ca. A.D. 150). Ruins of a restored Byzantine church from the fourth century A.D. may be seen in the left corner of the photo.

Sardis. Temple of Artemis. View West. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sardis. View west over the Temple of Artemis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sardis is mentioned in the Bible only in Revelation (Apocalypse) 1:11 and 3:1-6.

saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”  (Revelation 1:11 ESV)

Another post about efforts to retrieve artifacts from foreign museums may be read here.

HT: Jack Sasson

Neil MacGregor: 2600 years of history in one object

A friend just forwarded a link to a fascinating talk by Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, about the Cyrus Cylinder. MacGregor took the Cyrus Cylinder from the British Museum to Iran when it was loan to the museum in Tehran.

What I learned was the use made of the Cyrus Cylinder by the Jews at the time of the Balfour Declaration, and the use made of it by the Shah of Iran.

MacGregor speaks of the Cyrus Cylinder as a “major player in the politics of the Middle East.”

Follow this link. The film is about 20 minutes old.

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:  “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up.’” (2 Chronicles 36:22-23 ESV)

The Cyrus Cylinder in the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Cyrus Cylinder in the British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Check some of our previous links to the Cyrus Cylinder here and here. Use the search box to locate others.

Sinaitic Manuscript now online (with some problems)

The AP news release about the Sinaitic Manuscript can be read here. The release correctly points out that the manuscript from the fourth century is the oldest complete New Testament. Of course, we have manuscripts of portions of the New Testament from the early second century.

The British Library says the full text of the Codex Sinaiticus will be available to Web users by next July, digitally reconnecting parts that are held in Britain, Russia, Germany and a monastery in Egypt’s Sinai Desert.

It is significant that all parties owning portions of the manuscript have agreed to work together to make the material available online. In the past I have made a few photos of the open pages of the manuscript in the British Museum. But with the glare of the glass it was always difficult to get a good photo. More recently the British Museum manuscript has been displayed in the new British Library, but in a dimly lit room.

Now you eventually will be able to read the manuscript online. The manuscript includes some portions of the Old Testament, too. To illustrate the high quality of the manuscript I am posting a photo of the first few lines of the Lamentation of Jeremiah over the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. This is from a manuscript in Leipzig.

Notice that the words for Israel and Jerusalem are abbreviated. They are the words with the line over them. The name of Jeremiah is seen in the last line.

The first release of the Codex Sinaiticus Project went online a few minutes ago here. The only New Testament book in the present collection is Mark. At the moment the page is not behaving correctly, but I think that will be corrected in time. I am unable to see the image of the MS, but the transcription shows up fine. Take a look, and be patient. You will find some valuable information about the manuscript and the project.

I think I am getting a message saying the system is out of memory. Try later after the crowd leaves home!