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First Temple Seal Found in Jerusalem!
Evidence of a family mentioned in the Bible and its significance to today.
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January 17, 2008 - Audio, 10.00 MIN
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A seal of one of the temple servants or "Nethinim" has been discovered in Jerusalem, at a sensitive time when there is talk of turning over eastern Jerusalem and the temple mount to the Arabs. Indeed, a small party in the Israeli ruling coalition government, quit this week because these things were on the table in the so called "peace talks". What an incredible discovery! For a 2500 year old artifact to be unearthed relating to the first Jewish temple, just when the site of that aforesaid temple is up for discussion. Welcome to Bible in the News at, this is your host David Billington.
The archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar who is leading the dig, summed up the significance of the find as relating to the text of the Bible: "The seal of the Temech family gives us a direct connection between archeology and the biblical sources and serves as actual evidence of a family mentioned in the Bible," she said. "One cannot help being astonished by the credibility of the biblical source as seen by the archaeological find." The New York Sun ran the headline: "Royal Seal Supports Biblical Depiction of Jerusalem". Just over a year ago when visiting  the temple mount in Jerusalem we were informed by our Muslim guide that there was no evidence of a Jewish temple on the site and that the Al Aqsa mosque's origins date from Abraham. What about Herod's temple we rejoined? "Well there may have been one somewhere, but were not sure where." Later, he readily pointed out the foundation stones of the Antonia fortress--a military barracks built by Herod the Great in Jerusalem on the site of an earlier Hasmonean stronghold joined to the temple platform, this no doubt is the castle into which the Apostle Paul was brought.

The seal "was discovered just dozens of meters away from the Opel area, where the servants of the Temple, or "Nethinim," lived in the time of Nehemiah" reports the Jerusalem Post quoting Eilat Mazar. The text she is referring to is Nehemiah 11:20,21 where we read: "And the residue of Israel, of the priests, and the Levites, were in all the cities of Judah, every one in his inheritance. But the Nethinims dwelt in Ophel: and Ziha and Gispa were over the Nethinims." The reason that they dwelt here is because of its close proximity to the temple. This is where the seal was discovered. They were also involved in the reconstruction of this section of the wall as we read in Nehemiah 3:26 "Moreover the Nethinims dwelt in Ophel, unto the place over against the water gate toward the east, and the tower that lieth out." The sense of the passage within the context, is stating the section of wall that the Nethinim repaired. So the Nethinim were involved in rebuilding the city of Jerusalem.

The seal refers to the family of Tamah recorded in Nehemiah 7:55 and Ezra 2:53. This family was of the Nethinims (Nehemiah 7:46). They had been carried away to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar and are recorded in the register of those who returned, or the ones who "went up" (Nehemiah 7:6), from the Hebrew "Ha'Olim", these are those who made "Aliyah". Both these terms are still used today in Israel; Olim are new immigrants, and to immigrate is to make "Aliyah" or to go up. The family of Tamah were some of the first to go up to Jerusalem and their names are recorded in scripture.

The Nethinim is a plural hebrew word. It is from the root "natan" meaning "he gave", from which comes the names Nathan meaning "he gave" i.e. "a gift" and Nathaniel, "given of God". In Nehemiah it is "Ha'Nitinim" with the article "the", indicating it is not a proper name, rather meaning "the given ones". This idea is expressed in Ezra 8:20: "Also of the Nethinims, whom David and the princes had appointed for the service of the Levites..." The verb appointed is "natan", "he gave", the natan-im who were natan. The given ones who were given for the service of the Levites. So the Nethinim trace their origin back to king David and the setting in order of the service and the construction of the temple itself.

Their origins however go even further back than this, even to the very founding of the nation itself. In Numbers 8:19 we read: "And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the service of the children of Israel in the tabernacle of the congregation, and to make an atonement for the children of Israel: that there be no plague among the children of Israel, when the children of Israel come nigh unto the sanctuary." The Levites were given for the service of the tabernacle. Later there were others given to the Levites to assist with the work of the tabernacle, as is recorded in Numbers 31:47. Later still there was the matter of the Gibeonites, whom Joshua made (gave), "them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar of the LORD, even unto this day, in the place which he should choose." The place which the LORD chose was Jerusalem and so it was that the Nethinim took up residence just outside the temple mount.

The Nethinim were removed from the land because of their transgressions (1 Chronicles 9:1,2), along with the rest of the Jewish people. They also were under the responsibility of the covenant in
Dueteronomy 29:10-13 "Ye stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the LORD thy God, and into his oath, which the LORD thy God maketh with thee this day: That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob."

When they returned to the land of Israel the Nethinim were included with those who renewed the covenant that God had made with them through Moses, as we discover in Nehemiah 10:28,29: "And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinims, and all they that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, every one having knowledge, and having understanding; They clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God's law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes".

According to the archeologist the seal contains a symbol from the Babylonian religion--the very reason that they were expelled from the land. As we have seen the Nethinim put away their idolatry and renewed their covenant with God, they helped build the walls of Jerusalem and no doubt the temple before that. This seal bears a stark warning to those who would bargain away the temple mount for a false promise of peace!

God brought back the family of Tamah from Babylon even though they had been idolators and the city of Jerusalem and the temple were rebuilt. Today God has brought the Jewish people back to the land of Israel and to Jerusalem according to his promises. He will make a great covenant with them and the temple will yet be rebuilt where the Jewish people will serve. All the nations will come to Jerusalem as declares Isaiah the prophet: "The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem." Zechariah the prophet adds: "Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass , that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you."

Thanks for listening! Come back next week God Willing.

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