The Oldest Benediction in the Bible


Silver scrolls of the oldest benediction discovered in excavation

The oldest benediction found in scripture, indeed, in any literature, is found in Numbers 6:24–26 known as the “Priestly” or “Aaronic” Benediction:

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace.

I had the unique privilege of viewing these original silver scrolls when I visited The Israel Museum last week. It is something to behold an artifact over 2600 years old that hearkens to the revelation of the Living God.

The most important fact about this benediction is the revelation of the One who: blesses, keeps, makes His face shine, is gracious, who turns His face toward you, and who gives you peace.

Second to that is our own faithful paying this forward as we bless those in the spheres of our influence.

Lastly, if you are so inclined and need such information, here is a little word about a discovery made of this benediction.” reports:

“Excavations in Jerusalem in 1979–80 by Gabriel Barkay turned up two [silver] amulets dating from the late seventh century BC. They were found in the fourth of several burial caves he discovered on an escarpment known as Ketef Hinnom, which overlooks the Hinnom Valley (Gehenna) just opposite Mt. Zion. Each amulet contained a rolled-up sheet of silver which, when unrolled, revealed the Priestly Benediction inscribed on them. The exact Hebrew words (translated into English) are:

May Yahweh bless you and keep you;
May Yahweh cause his face to
Shine upon you and grant you
Peace   (Coogan 1995: 45).

“This is now the earliest occurrence of a Biblical text in an extra-Biblical document, significantly predating the earliest of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is also the oldest extra-Biblical reference to YHWH, the God of Israel,” said Archeologist Kathleen Kenyon (1987: 124; cf. King and Stager 2001: 306).

“Time magazine, reporting on the find, stated that this discovery suggests that at least part of the Old Testament was written soon after some of the events it describes (Lemonick 1995: 65)…The discovery made it clear that parts of the Old Testament were being copied long before some skeptics had believed they were even written (ibid., 67).

Michael D. Coogan, professor of religious studies at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, similarly remarked that,

“The two [silver] amulets are evidence of the antiquity of traditions preserved in the Bible; it also provides indirect evidence, as do the Dead Sea Scrolls and other manuscripts from the Second Temple period, of the accuracy of scribes who for centuries copied sacred texts (1995: 45).

Especially interesting to note is the fact that the words of the blessing, including the sacred personal name of God, were written on silver. This sheds light on Psalm 12:6: “The words of the LORD [= YHWH] are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace…” Barkay’s discovery thus shows this verse to be literally true as well as spiritually.”

About R.H. (Rusty) Foerger

As I enter the third third of life, I am becoming aware of the role of elders today “to enlarge spiritual vision, being devoted to prayer, living in the face of death, as a living curriculum of the Christian life” (Dr. James M. Houston). I am a life long and life wide learner who seeks to: *decipher the enigma of our worth *rescue from the agony of prayerlessness *integrate spiritual friendship.
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