Archaeologists find first proof of ancient Bethlehem

The artifact, a bulla, or piece of clay for sealing a document, may prove existence of Bethlehem dating back to First Temple Period.

May 23, 2012 11:09
1 minute read.
Ancient Bethlehem bulla

Ancient Bethlehem bulla. (photo credit: Courtesy Israel antiquities authority)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


Archaeologists recently discovered the first artifact constituting tangible evidence of the existence of the ancient city of Bethlehem, which is mentioned in the Torah, according to an Israel Antiquities Authority statement released Wednesday.

The artifact, a bulla, or piece of clay for sealing a document or object, may prove the existence of Bethlehem dating back to the First Temple Period.

The dramatic discovery was made while sifting soil from archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting in the City of David, in the “Walls around Jerusalem National Park.”

The bulla, measuring 1.5 cm, was discovered bearing the name of the city, written in ancient Hebrew script. The dig is underwritten by the Ir David Foundation.

A bulla would be impressed with the seal of the person who sent the document or object, and its integrity was evidence that no one had viewed or opened the document who unless authorized.

Three lines of ancient Hebrew script appear on the bulla, including the words: Bishv'at, Bet Lechem and [Lemel]ekh. 

Eli Shukron, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, stated that the discovery appears to show that “in the seventh year of the reign of a king (it is unclear if the king referred to here is Hezekiah, Manasseh or Josiah), a shipment was dispatched from Bethlehem to the king in Jerusalem."

Shukron dated the bulla to the seventh or eighth centuries BCE during a period in which bullae were used for taxation of shipments in the Kingdom of Judah.

He emphasized the bulla's significance as, “this is the first time the name Bethlehem appears outside the Bible, in an inscription from the First Temple period, which proves that Bethlehem was indeed a city in the Kingdom of Judah, and possibly also in earlier periods.”

In the Torah, Bethlehem is first mentioned in the verse “in Ephrath, which is Bethlehem”, it was on the way to Bethlehem that Rachel died and it is the site where she was buried (Genesis 35:19; 48:7). The descendants of Judah settled there, among them the family of Boaz (Book of Ruth).

Bethlehem became a more central biblical city with the anointing of David, son of Jesse, as king (1 Samuel 16).

Now is the time to join the news event of the year - The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference!
For more information and to sign up,
click here>>

Related Content

Supreme Court President Asher Grunis
August 28, 2014
Grapevine: September significance


Cookie Settings