‘Do not contrive evil’: 2,000-year-old biblical Scriptures unearthed in Israel

By Joe Kovacs

Sections of the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets scroll discovered in the Judean Desert. (Photo courtesy Shai Halevi, Israel Antiquities Authority)

In what’s being hailed as the first such discovery in 60 years, a new set of Dead Sea Scrolls matching the Old Testament has been unearthed in the Judean desert of Israel.

The Israel Antiquities Authority on Tuesday announced its four-year archaeological project located fragments of ancient Scriptures from the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets, including the books of Zechariah and Nahum.

One fragment, written in Greek with God’s name appearing in paleo-Hebrew, quotes Zechariah 8:16-17: “These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates. And do not contrive evil against one another, and do not love perjury, because all those are things that I hate – declares the LORD.”

An archaeologist deals with difficult conditions locating the latest Dead Sea Scrolls. (Photo by Yoli Schwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Another features Nahum 1:5–6, which indicates: “The mountains quake because of Him, And the hills melt. The earth heaves before Him, The world and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before His wrath? Who can resist His fury? His anger pours out like fire, and rocks are shattered because of Him.”

The ancient treasures were located in what’s known as the “Cave of Horror,” which was discovered four years ago. Researchers actually had to rappel down a dangerous cliff to reach the opening of the cave, some 262 feet below the top, with gorges on each side. Archaeologists also used drones to survey portions of caves that were difficult to reach, adding about half of the area remains unexplored.

A researcher rappelling to the ‘Cave of Horror.’ (Photo by Eitan Klein, Israel Antiquities Authority)

The authority stressed that accessing the cave is forbidden on safety grounds, and the treasures were part of an Israeli project to prevent thieves from stealing Holy Land artifacts, a constant threat since the first Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd in the same area. That first set of scrolls is considered among the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century.

Israel Hasson, director of the IAA, noted: “The aim of this national initiative is to rescue these rare and important heritage assets from the robbers’ clutches.”

“The newly discovered scroll fragments are a wake-up call to the state. Resources must be allocated for the completion of this historically important operation. We must ensure that we recover all the data that has not yet been discovered in the caves, before the robbers do. Some things are beyond value.”

Archaeologists Hagay Hamer and Oriah Amichai sift finds at the ‘Cave of Horror’ in the Judean Desert. (Photo by Eitan Klein, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Hananya Hizmi, head staff officer of the Civil Administration’s Archaeology Department in Judea and Samaria, said: “This is definitely an exciting moment, as we present and reveal to the public an important and significant piece in the history and culture of the land of Israel.”

“In as early as the late 1940s, we became aware of the cultural heritage remains of the ancient population of the Land of Israel with the first discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” he added.

“Now, in this national operation, which continues the work of previous projects, new finds and evidence have been discovered and unearthed that shed even more light on the different periods and cultures of the region. The finds attest to a rich, diverse and complex way of life, as well as to the harsh climatic conditions that prevailed in the region hundreds and thousands of years ago.”

Researchers also unearthed a trove of coins from the time of the Bar Kochba Revolt, a 6,000-year-old skeleton of a partially mummified child and a basket they said could be the oldest in the world, as they used a figure of 10,000 years old.

Is this the oldest basket in the world? (Photo by Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)

A CT scan indicated the child was between 6 and 12 years of age, with skin, tendons and hair partially preserved.

“On moving two flat stones, we discovered a shallow pit intentionally dug beneath them, containing a skeleton of a child placed in a fetal position,” IAA prehistorian Ronit Lupu stated.

“It was obvious that whoever buried the child had wrapped him up and pushed the edges of the cloth beneath him, just as a parent covers his child in a blanket,” she said.

“A small bundle of cloth was clutched in the child’s hands. The child’s skeleton and the cloth wrapping were remarkably well preserved, and because of the climatic conditions in the cave, a process of natural mummification had taken place; the skin, tendons, and even the hair were partially preserved, despite the passage of time.”

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