Biblical Archaeology Review 12:6, November/December 1986

When the Priests Trumpeted the Onset of the Sabbath

A monumental Hebrew inscription from the ancient Temple Mount recalls the signal

By Aaron Demsky

One of the most magnificent finds from the excavation adjacent to the Temple Mount—directed since 1968 by Professor Benjamin Mazar of the Hebrew University—is a monumental Hebrew inscription carved in stone. The eight-foot-long inscribed stone once graced the topmost pinnacle of the Temple Mount—where the priests announced the beginning and end of the Sabbath with a blast of the trumpet.1

The stone was toppled to the pavement below when the Roman legions destroyed Jerusalem and burnt the Temple in 70 A.D. After 1,900 years, almost to the day, 20th-century archaeologists recovered the inscription from the debris.

Unfortunately, when the stone fell amidst the fiery destruction of the city, its left edge broke off. The Hebrew, of course, reads from right to left; as a result of the break, the concluding letters of the inscription are missing. All efforts by the archaeologists to find the remaining piece of stone have proved unavailing.

The letters that were recovered, however, are beautifully preserved and exquisitely carved in a fine Herodian style. The inscription consists of two words about which there can be no question, and a third word cut off somewhere in the middle. It reads as follows:

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