Impressions about the “new” Israel Museum

Many groups visit the campus of the Israel Museum. There are now three areas of interest:

  • The Israel Museum
  • The Shrine of the Book where some Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed
  • The Second Temple Model

We wrote about the planned reopening of the Israel Museum here, and about the opening here. The Shrine of the Book remained open during the time the Museum was closed, and the Second Temple Model has been open since it was moved from the grounds of the Holyland Hotel in the middle of 2008. See here.

The  galleries devoted to archaeology remain in the same place as before, but there is a significant difference from before. The entrance to the galleries is not at the top of the steps, but about half way up by the apple core sculpture. There is a small cafe with snacks and drinks at the entrance. Tickets are purchased down below at the entrance to the entire complex.

Entrance to Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Entrance to Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Once inside the galleries entrance, the archaeology section is on the left. One is greeted by a display of seven standing anthropoid clay coffins from Deir el-Balah, a site south of Gaza city excavated by Trude Dothan in 1972. These coffins which bear the evidence of Egyptian influence date to the 13th century B.C.

Clay coffin (sarcophagus) from Deir el-Balah.

Clay coffin from Deir el-Balah

In the March, 1976, issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Hershel Shanks closed an article about the discovery of these sarcophagi this way:

We may close on a Biblical note. “Aron”, or coffin, is used only once in the Bible (Genesis 50:26)—in connection with Joseph’s burial. Joseph, a high-ranking minister in the Egyptian government was naturally buried in accordance with Egyptian rites, including mummification and a coffin. It is likely that his coffin resembled the anthropoid coffins unearthed at Deir el-Balach.

Many sections of the archaeology section remains much the same as before. I will list a few of the items that I think are extremely important to biblical study.

  • The Tel Dan “House of David” Inscription (Isaiah 22:22, et al.)
  • The cult shrine from Hazor.
  • A few pieces of ivory from Samaria (1 Kings 22:39; Amos 3:15; 6:4).
  • Ekron inscription found at Tel Miqne, naming the city and five of its rulers (1 Samuel 6:17).
  • Silver plaques inscribed with the priestly blessing (Numbers 6:23-26). Also known as the Ketef Hinnom discovery.
  • The “Holy of Holies” from the temple at Arad.
  • The Edomite Shrine from biblical Tamar (aka Ein Hazevah).
  • The basalt stele showing a stylized figure of a horned bull from Geshur (aka New Testament Bethsaida).
  • Sennacherib’s siege of Lachish. The original is in the British Museum, but the replica in the Israel Museum has been enhanced to better show the scene (2 Chronicles 32:9).
  • Lachish Ostracon. I only saw one of the letters on display.

And much more…. My time was limited, but I look forward to returning for a longer visit in a few months.

A few things I had seen before, but did not see this time. (It may be that I missed some of these items.)

  • The broken inscription from Ashdod naming Sargon (Isaiah 20:1).
  • The inscribed ivory pomegranate mentioning donations for the priests of the house of the [LORD]. The Israel Museum declared the inscription a forgery in late 2004. There are scholars who believe it to be genuine.

General comments. The display are beautiful and the halls are spacious. Many of the artifacts are displayed in the open (without glass). Visitors are allowed to enter the museum with their cameras. In the past cameras had to be checked. I saw no signs about photography. Shortly after making my first photos I was admonished by one of the docents.

Information about location, hours, tickets, etc. is available at the museum website here.

In another post I will make reference to some of the items of importance to New Testament study.

5 responses to “Impressions about the “new” Israel Museum

  1. Were you able to visit this site?
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/02/israel-archeology-byzantine-mosaic-phrophet-zecharia
    Seems right up your alley?
    Mark Russell

  2. It’s bad they are still not allowing making photo’s.

  3. Mark, I drove past the Madras Ruins, but did not visit this time. This is the site where we have a first century rolling stone tomb.

  4. Pingback: Prayers disturbed by a snake in the wall | Ferrell's Travel Blog

  5. Pingback: Wealthy Canaanite coffin discovered in Jezreel Valley | Ferrell's Travel Blog

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