Biblical Archaeology Review 8:6, November/December 1982

BAR Jr.: "Lachish and Azekah Were the Only Fortified Cities of Judah That Remained" (Jeremiah 34:7)

By Rodney Wright

Professor Larry Geraty of Andrews University gave his class in Biblical Archaeology the instructive assignment of writing a BAR Jr. column. In this issue, we print one of the papers submitted in response.

Talk about bringing the Bible to life!

Imagine you’re digging at a Judean outpost southeast of Jerusalem, and you unearth correspondence written shortly before the Babylonians destroyed the city in 586 B.C. That’s what happened to British archaeologist John L. Starkey digging at Biblical Lachish in the 1930s.

The first letters were found during the third season of digging at Tell ed-Duweir, which most scholars identify as the site of Biblical Lachish. They were written with reed pen and iron carbon ink on broken pieces of pottery, called ostraca (singular, ostracon), the notepads of their day. These letters describe the general social and political situation shortly before the fall of Jerusalem, a time also described in chapter 34 of the book of Jeremiah. The ostraca were found in and near a guardroom located in the outer gate of the city. In all, 21 letters, or fragments of letters, were found.

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