Jerubbaal Inscription Discovered!

Jerubbaal Inscription Discovered!

Jerubaal shard
The Jerubbaal inscription, written in ink on a pottery vessel.

An inscription that dates to the time of the judges of Israel (1100 B.C.), has been discovered. The 3100 year old inscription was written in ink on a pottery vessel. Epigrapher Christopher Rollston of George Washington University has deciphered the letters as the name “Jerubbaal.” The piece of pottery was uncovered at Khirbet el-Ra’i, an archaeological site not far from the ancient cities of Gath and Lachish in the southern Judean foothills. The alphabet used was the ancient script that was current in Canaan at the time (see my articles, “Alphabet’s Missing Link Discovered“, and “Oldest Hebrew Writing Discovered From Egypt?“).

Who Was Jerubbaal?

Gideon or Jerubaal
Gideon. also known as Jerubbaal, leads his men against the Midianites.

Jerubbaal is better known by his other name, Gideon. Gideon was the biblical judge who was famous for attacking a large army of Midianites that had invaded the land with only three hundred men carrying torches and pitchers (Judges 7). The name Jerubbaal comes from an incident where God commanded him to tear down the altar of Baal (Judges 6:25-32). Not only was this a risky venture that could have cost Gideon his life, but his father, Joash, was also a priest of Baal! The Bible notes, however, that Joash protected his son and told the towns people who wanted to punish Gideon that if Baal was a god he could contend for himself. Thus Gideon is given the name Jerubbaal, “let Baal contend.”

It should be pointed out that it is not possible to prove that the inscription found refers to the Jerubbaal of Scripture. There may well have been others with that name. However, the archaeologists that discovered the inscription (Yosef Garfinkel and Sa’al Ganor) are not ruling out the possibility that it could refer to the biblical Jerubbaal. It does come from the correct time period and Gideon was a powerful and well-known figure of that time according to the Book of Judges.

The Significance of the Inscription

Ganor and Garfinkel
Sa’al Ganor and Yosef Garfinkel (Credit: Yoli Schwartz Israel Antiquities Authority)

Whether this inscription refers to the actual Jerubbaal of Scripture, or not, the inscription is still very significant. Garfinkel and Ganor state, “As we know, there is considerable debate as to whether biblical tradition reflects reality and whether it is faithful to historical memories from the days of the Judges and the days of David.” The fact that the name Jerubbaal is only found in Scripture during the period of the Judges and that this inscription dates to that period offers some corroborating evidence that the Bible has preserved reliable information. Garfinkel was also the archaeologist responsible for discovering the name Ishbaal on a pot in his excavation of Khirbet Qeiyafa (see my post The Ishbaal Inscription at Khirbet Qeiyafa). The name Ishbaal only occurs in Scripture during the reign of King David (2 Sam. 2-4). The remains at Khirbet Qeiyafa also date to the time of David. This leads these archaeologists to conclude: “The fact that identical names are mentioned in the Bible and also found in inscriptions recovered from archaeological excavations shows that memories were preserved and passed down through the generations.”

For more information see the following articles:

Jerusalem Post: 3,000 year old inscription bearing name of biblical judge found in Israel Israeli archaeologists find biblical name ‘Jerubbaal’ inked on pot from Judges era

Times of Israel: Five-letter inscription inked 3,100 years ago may be name of biblical judge

The Israelite Diet: What Did the Ancient Israelites Eat?

The Israelite Diet: What Did the Ancient Israelites Eat?

What Did the Ancient Israelites Eat?
MacDonald’s thorough investigation of ancient Israel’s diet is available at Amazon USA / UK

The pages of the Bible are filled with references to food of various kinds. Have you ever wondered, what the ancient Israelite diet consisted of? Or how healthy it was? In What Did the Ancient Israelites Eat?, Nathan MacDonald provides some interesting and thought-provoking answers. In recent times a popular genre of books have sought to promote a “biblical” diet, selling it as the healthiest of all diets. MacDonald’s book takes a scholarly look at the available evidence and presents a “well-balanced” view.

How Can We Determine What the Ancient Israelites Ate?

The Bible is the obvious starting point for determining the ancient Israelite diet, but what other resources might prove helpful? MacDonald identifies five main sorts of evidence relevant to examining the ancient Israelite diet. They include:

  1. The Bible
  2. Archeological remains (including paleopathology, and zooarchaeology)
  3. Comparative evidence of diet from related cultures in the ancient Near East (e.g., Egypt, Mesopotamia)
  4. Modern anthropological research of nonindustrialized societies
  5. Scientific knowledge on food production and consumption. This category includes considering geography, meteorology, soil science and archaeobotanical work.

Variable Factors in the Ancient Israelite Diet

As Macdonald points out, it is a misnomer to speak of the “ancient Israelite diet,” as if we could lay out a menu that described the cuisine of every Israelite. At the same time MacDonald writes, “We should not speak of Israelite diets, which would suggest a greater diversity within the Israelite diet” (p. 92). A number of variable factors must be considered in determining what was on the dinner table of an ancient Israelite.

Geography and Meteorology

The Israelite diet is partially determined by geography
The ancient Israelite diet was partially determined by geography and climate.

The landscape of ancient Israel was (and still is) very diverse, ranging from the coastal plain, to the foothills, to the central mountainous region, to the Rift Valley and desert area (see map at left). Climate and geography determine what kind of crops can be grown and whether a certain area is agricultural or more pastoral. For example, living near a water source would increase the likelihood of fish being a regular meal fixture. Those living in the Negev (southern region), a drier area would lead a more pastoral life and would thus have greater availability of animal products such as milk, cheese, and the occasional meat dish.

Economic and Social Status

Feasting like a king was a social reality. An average Israelite did not have access to the same quantity and variety of food.

As in any society, the rich always eat better (in terms of quality and variety) than the poor. Royalty and wealthy elites naturally had more access when it came to traded foodstuffs. “Feasting like a king”, was not just an idiom, it was a social reality (1 Sam. 25:36). MacDonald notes that a few passages seem to suggest that the head of the family had the right to determine how food was distributed among family members (e.g., 1 Sam. 1:5; also see, Gen. 43:34). Therefore, he concludes, “It seems likely that prestigious foods, such as meat, would have been distributed with preference given to the family head and his male children” (78). MacDonald also notes that the male, priestly elite would have had more access to meat than the average Israelite. Thus gender and social status played a role in who ate what and how much.

Famine and Enemy Attacks

Famine effecting Israelite diet
Each of the patriarchs experienced a famine in their lifetime.

Ancient, as well as modern Israel, is susceptible to drought, which, when prolonged can lead to famine (E.g., Gen. 12:10; Ruth 1:1). MacDonald states that a genuine famine may occur only once or twice in the lifetime of an Israelite (p. 58). That seems quite enough for me! However, while famines were more rare, an ancient Israelite might experience food shortages  a little more frequently, especially those among the poorer ranks of society.

Judges 6:3-6 is perhaps the clearest statement of how an enemy could devastate the food supply. In Judges 6 we read of the Midianites raiding Israel year after year (for seven years) and not only taking their crops, but their animals as well. The devastation was so complete that Judges 6:5 uses the metaphor of locusts to describe the Midianites.

Temporal Variations

Changing seasons affected the Israelite diet
Changing seasons affected food availability.

In the modern Western world we are pretty used to getting whatever product we want whenever we want it. But throughout most of history, and certainly in ancient Israel, foods were seasonal. This would not only be true of fruits and vegetables, but also animal products. The main source of milk for the ancient Israelite was not the cow, but the goat. This milk would only have been available for five months out of the year. Sheep milk was available for even less time–only three months out of the year. Thus, what ended up on your plate depended a lot of the time of year.

So What Foods Were Available for the Ancient Israelite?

The Israelite diet included bread
Woman preparing bread for her family

First and foremost, the Mediterranean Triad of bread, oil, and wine provides the foundation of the ancient Israelite diet. MacDonald states, “The staple food for ancient Israel was bread, as indeed it was for her ancient Near Eastern neighbors and the rest of the Mediterranean world” (p. 19).MacDonald also points out what I have noted many times in my personal reading of the Hebrew Bible: the word for bread in Hebrew (lechem) also means “food.” Oil from olives had many uses, including being a steady part of the diet, while grapes supplied the main beverage for the ancient Israelite. MacDonald, citing Shimon Dar, states that the average Israelite would consume about one liter of wine per day. Water was not always plentiful and not always suitable for drinking.

This chart illustrates the types of food available for the ancient Israelite diet.

Without laboriously listing the other types of food available, the above chart gives a good indication of what might be included in an ancient Israelite diet. It is interesting that vegetables are on the bottom of the food chart. According to MacDonald vegetables were not thought of as highly as other foods. He cites Proverbs 15:17 as evidence: “Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred.” MacDonald also notes that vegetables are hard to trace in the archaeological record since they easily perish and leave no evidence behind. Therefore, it is difficult to know how important vegetables were to the ancient Israelite diet. At least one Israelite king thought so highly of having a vegetable garden that he was willing to murder for it (1 Kings 21)! Although meat is found in the column next to the bottom, this does not speak of its low value, but rather, of its availabilty. MacDonald does correct a 20th century scholarly misconception about meat in the Israelite diet. He notes that meat consumption was more frequent than previously thought. However, this does not mean it was a daily occurrence for most Israelites. And, as noted above, there was probably an uneven distribution of meat (p. 92).

How Healthy Was An Ancient Israelite?

Ancient Israelite family partaking of the Passover. From

Answering this question would, once again, involve taking into consideration various factors such as social status, gender, and location. However, based on the available evidence obtained through the examination of ancient skeletons, MacDonald states, “There are good grounds for believing . . . that malnourishment was something that many Israelites would have experienced at some point during their lives” (p. 57). MacDonald notes that this was especially true of Iron Age Israel (1200 B.C. – 586 B.C.), the period of the Judges and Monarchy. While much research remains to be done, “. . . currently the evidence suggests that the population of ancient Israel did not enjoy good health (pp. 86-87). This is a surprising reversal of the modern attitude that the Mediterranean diet is the healthiest of all diets. Perhaps there is some truth to this, I’m not a nutritionist, but, regarding ancient Israel, this assertion fails to take into account the many variables pointed out by MacDonald.

Conclusion: The Israelite Diet

Studying the ancient Israelite diet is more fascinating than I imagined. Hopefully, for those interested, this article has provided some basic information. For those seeking a more in-depth treatment I would highly recommend MacDonald’s book, What Did the Ancient Israelites Eat?. Wikipedia also has a very informative article at Ancient Israelite Cuisine, which delves much deeper into the foods available for the ancient Israelite than I did.

Alphabet’s Missing Link Discovered

Alphabet’s Missing Link Discovered

Ostraca with alphabet's missing link
This inscribed potsherd, discovered at Tel Lachish, dates to the 15th century B.C. and is the earliest known alphabetic inscription from the ancient land of Canaan.

An ostracon (piece of broken pottery with writing) discovered at Tel Lachish, has been hailed as the alphabet’s missing link by Austrian Archaeologist Dr. Felix Höflmayer. The discovery is being referred to as the alphabet’s missing link because until now a chronological gap existed between the earliest evidence for the alphabet and its appearance in ancient Canaan. The earliest form of alphabetic writing known comes from the Sinai (Serabit el-Khadim) and Egypt (Wadi el-Hol) and dates to the 19th century B.C. (see my article Oldest Hebrew Writing Discovered From Egypt?). Previous to this discovery at Lachish the oldest alphabetic writing in the Levant (the area which includes Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel) dated to the 13th century B.C. This discovery helps to close the chronological gap and demonstrates that writing existed in ancient Canaan earlier than previously thought.

This map shows the locations of the earliest alphabetic inscriptions. Serabit el-Khadim in the Sinai and Wadi el-Hol in Egypt.

Alphabet’s Missing Link: What Does It Say?

The ostracon contains a total of nine letters. Two words of three letters each appear, along with 3 miscellaneous letters. Reading from right to left, the first word, written diagonally in the upper left, contains the letters ʿayin (ע), bet (ב), and dalet (ד) which spells the Hebrew word ‘ebed meaning “slave.” Höflmayer suggests this may be part of a name since names containing these components are common in all Semitic languages (e.g., Ebed-Melech–Jer. 38:7ff.). The second word, at the bottom, reading right to left contains the letters, nun (נ), pe (פ), tav (ת) which spells the word “honey” or “nectar.” The two letters in the upper righthand corner and the letter between the two words are all the letter nun (נ). The significance of these letters is not known, although it appears there was more to the inscription than what appears on this potsherd. It needs to be noted that the words “slave” and “honey” are conjectural. During this period when the alphabet was being developed there was no standard direction for writing letters, so the letters might be read from left to right or right to left (sometimes they were even written vertically!).

Why Is a Small Piece of Pottery With 9 Letters On It So Significant?

The area at Tel Lachish where the alphabet's missing link was discovered
This picture shows the area at Tel Lachish where the alphabet’s missing link was discovered. Area S, looking west. Early Late Bronze Age fortification, with the southern wall of building 100 (L1027) on the right side (figure by J. Dye & L. Webster, Austrian Academy of Sciences).

For Bible believers, the discovery is significant because it shows that writing was possible and more widespread than previously thought. Some have argued that Moses couldn’t have composed the writings contained in the Torah because an alphabet hadn’t been invented yet. The alphabetic writings from Egypt, Sinai, and now Lachish, demonstrate that the alphabet not only existed during the time of Moses but was being used throughout the region the Bible locates the Israelites in.

Map of Lachish where alphabet's missing link was discovered
The location of Lachish, ancient Judah’s second largest city.

The discovery is also significant because it can be precisely dated. Höflmayer writes, “The newly discovered inscription from Tel Lachish is currently the earliest securely dated example of early alphabetic writing in the Southern Levant.” Other examples of early writing exist, but either they were not found in a secure archaeological context, or it is disputed if the writing is alphabetic. One example of this, which also comes from Lachish, is the Lachish Dagger (photo can be found here). This dagger, discovered in 1934 at a tomb in Lachish contains what most scholars believe is four alphabetic symbols. This dagger dates to the late Middle Bronze Age (1650 B.C. – 1550 B.C.). Some, however, dispute that the symbols are alphabetic.

The discovery of this “missing link,” along with the dagger, and other writings, has some scholars believing that Lachish was an important center of writing. Höflmayer states, “Indeed, Lachish has yielded more examples of Late Bronze Age early alphabetic inscriptions than any other site.”

For more on the Biblical significance of this discovery see, Alphabet’s Missing Link Discovered in Canaan.

Höflmayer’s own account is available at Early alphabetic writing in the ancient Near East: the ‘missing link’ from Tel Lachish.

For more on the significance of Tel Lachish see my article Tel Lachish in the Toilet.



What Do Clothes Have to Do With Sin and Redemption?

What Do Clothes Have to Do With Sin and Redemption?

We can tell a lot about others by the clothing they wear.

Picture with me a doctor, a business woman, or a football player. What all of these people have in common, including the cowboys in the picture above, is a certain type of clothing that identifies their profession. A few months ago I wrote an article entitled “Clothing in Samuel: You are What You Wear,” where I examined the significance of the clothing motif in the books of Samuel.  This post continues that investigation by focusing on a particular theme communicated by clothing in Scripture, namely, what clothes have to do with sin and redemption.

Available at Amazon USA /UK and Lexham Press.

In his book Figuring Resurrection, Jeffrey Pulse notes what clothes have to do with sin and redemption. A number of the insights that follow are based on his observations. Pulse points out that clothing is frequently associated with three main concepts: 1)Sin and deception; 2) blood; and 3) redemption. Since the clothing motif in Scripture is widespread, I will focus on the Book of Genesis, and a few passages from the prophets, the Gospels and Pauline letters.

What Clothes Have to Do with Sin and Redemption in Genesis

Adam & Eve (Genesis 2-3)

What clothes have to do with sin and redemption
A favorite Bible cartoon of mine!

Clothing, or the lack of it, becomes a major focus at the very beginning of Genesis in the story of Adam and Eve. Perhaps the inspired author considered it important to mention that Adam and Eve were naked, since we normally picture people with clothes on. More significantly, nakedness represents trust and vulnerability in the story. The serpent takes advantage of this vulnerability and the trust between Adam, Eve, and God is shattered as they scramble to cover themselves and hide among the trees in the garden (Gen. 3:7-13). The covering of fig leaves suggests the inadequacy of human beings to deal with their own sin. By the end of the story, God has provided coverings of skin for the couple (Gen. 3:21). Thus, in the first story of Scripture, we find the clothing motif identified with sin (the covering of fig leaves), blood (the killing of animals to provide skins), and redemption (God clothes the couple, as only He can adequately provide a proper covering for them).

Jacob Steals the Blessing (Genesis 27)

Jacob steals the blessing
Jacob uses garments to deceive his father Isaac.

I will only briefly mention here the scene where Noah lies uncovered in his tent (Gen. 9:20-27). This story has similarities in language and theme with the Adam and Eve story. However, it is with the story of Jacob, that the clothing motif picks up steam in the Book of Genesis. The story of Jacob and Rebekah stealing the blessing involves the changing of garments (Jacob puts on Esau’s clothes and uses the hair of the goats to cover his skin), and the shedding of blood (goats are slaughtered), all in an effort to deceive blind, old Isaac. There is also the potential of Jacob’s blood being shed by his brother Esau who desires to kill him (Gen. 27:41). Salvation comes to Jacob, however, when Rebekah is informed of Esau’s desire. Jacob is sent to Paddan Aram to spend time with Rebekah’s family (Gen. 27:42-45), until Esau’s anger is assuaged.

The Story of Joseph and His Brothers (Genesis 37-50)

The Coat of Many Colors
What clothes have to do with sin and redemption
The Joseph story is an excellent example of what clothes have to do with sin and redemption. Photo taken from Your Bible.

Clothing is a very important motif in the Joseph story. In fact, his ups and downs can be traced by the type of apparel he wears. When Joseph is introduced we are informed that his father gave him a special garment (the famous “multi-colored” robe), because he loved him (Gen. 37:3). The garment is actually suggestive of royalty (see the story of David’s daughter Tamar who is the only other person in Scripture said to wear this kind of garment–2 Sam. 13:19). The garment foreshadows Joseph’s royal destiny, but in Genesis 37 it provokes his brothers to a jealous rage. When Joseph is sent on an errand to check on the welfare of his brothers, they strip him of the robe (Gen. 37:23), dip it in blood (Gen. 37:31) and leave it to their father to draw the conclusion that Joseph has been killed (Gen. 37:32-33). Note how clothing continues to communicate the theme of deception and how, once again, clothing is associated with blood. In fact, the motifs of goats and garments recall Jacob’s deception of his father and brother. It seems he is reaping what he has sown, as his own sons now deceive him.

Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38)

Genesis 38 tells us of Judah’s marriage to a Canaanite woman. Judah has three sons by her but two of them die due to their wickedness (Gen. 38:7-10). As a result, Judah is reluctant to give his youngest son to Tamar, the wife of his other two sons. When Tamar realizes that Judah is not going to fulfill his promise to give her his son Shelah, she removes her widow’s clothes and dresses like a prostitute (Gen. 38:13-15). Judah has relations with her and she gives birth to twin sons. Once again, clothing is the source of sin and deception.

Joseph in Potiphar’s House (Genesis 39)
Joseph resists
Once again Joseph’s clothing gets him in trouble!

The story returns to Joseph in Genesis 39. In spite of being sold as a slave, Joseph rises quickly in prominence within the household of his master Potiphar. This, we are told, is because, “The Lord was with him” (Gen. 39:2-3). All is well until Mrs. Potiphar propositions the handsome young Joseph (Gen. 39:6-7). One day Joseph foolishly enters the house when no one is there except for Potiphar’s wife. Taking matters into her own hands (quite literally), she grabs Joseph’s garment as she attempts to seduce him. Joseph, however, flees, leaving his garment in her hand. Spurned by her slave, Mrs. Potiphar seeks revenge by using Joseph’s garment against him in a claim of attempted rape (Gen. 39:11-18). Once again, Joseph’s clothing gets him into trouble! Joseph is put in prison, but the story reminds us that God is still with him (Gen. 39:20-23).

From Rags to Riches: Joseph’s Rise (Genesis 40-41)
Joseph in Pharaoh's court
Joseph Interprets the Dream of Pharaoh (19th Century painting by Jean-Adrien Guignet)

When no one is able to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, Pharaoh’s cupbearer recalls Joseph’s ability and Joseph is brought out of prison. As Joseph is preparing to meet Pharaoh, the story pauses to tell us that he changes clothes (Gen. 41:14). This change in clothing is a hopeful sign that things are looking up for Joseph. After his successful interpretation and wise counsel, Joseph is elevated to second in command over all Egypt. This elevation is noted by a further change in clothing and accessories. Joseph is given Pharaoh’s signet ring, a gold chain around his neck, and, of course, a change of garments (Gen. 41:42). The changes of garments in this part of the story signify Joseph’s redemption.

Joseph Saves His Family (Genesis 42-45)
Joseph reveals himself to his brothers
Joseph reveals himself to his brothers.

Pharaoh’s dreams, as interpreted by Joseph had predicted a severe famine. When the famine hits, Joseph’s brothers are sent to Egypt looking for food. When the brother’s appear before Joseph, they don’t recognize him (Gen. 42:8). No doubt this was due to his clothing (both royal and Egyptian), and the fact that he spoke through an interpreter (Gen. 42:23). Over a period of time, and after putting his brothers through several severe tests, Joseph finally reveals himself to them (Gen. 45:1-5). Although they fear retribution from Joseph, he reassures his brothers that he means them no harm. Besides sending them home with plenty of provisions and urging them to return with his father so that he can provide for them during the famine, Joseph demonstrates his forgiveness in yet another way. He gives each of his brothers a change of clothes (Gen. 45:22). Although his brothers had stripped him of his clothes many years before, Joseph doesn’t seek revenge, but blesses each brother with a new garment. Of course, the old problem of favoritism is still with the patriarchs as Joseph gives his brother Benjamin 5 changes of clothing along with 300 pieces of silver! But the brothers seem to have overcome the obstacle of jealousy by this time and show no animosity towards Benjamin. Once again, clothing becomes a sign of redemption in the story. Joseph’s gift of clothing to his brothers is a symbol of his forgiveness and a pledge that he will provide for them. Following this motif through Genesis demonstrates that clothes are an important symbol of proclaiming the themes of sin and redemption.

Beged and Bagad: The Relationship Between Clothing and Deception

One of the Hebrew words for clothing is the noun beged. It occurs frequently in Genesis and throughout Scripture (over 200 times). The verbal form of beged is bagad. What is fascinating about the verbal form is that it means “to deceive,” “to act faithlessly,” or “to act treacherously.” It occurs forty-three times in Scripture (NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 582). Given the use of clothing to cover up or deceive, it is easy to see a relationship between the noun and the verbal form. While many scholars support this connection, others believe that beged is not related to the verb bagad meaning to act treacherously. They contend that there is another word with the same spelling as bagad that has a different meaning but is never used in Scripture. This may sound confusing, but it can be illustrated by using some examples in English. For example, the word “bear” can be used to say, “I can’t bear that,” or it can be used to say, “Look there’s a bear.” Although the words are spelled the same and pronounced the same, they have no relationship to each other. Many other examples could be adduced in English. I might say, “that sounds fair,” or “I went to the fair.” Again, we have two words that look and are pronounced the same but with totally different meanings. Thus some scholars argue that even though beged is related to bagad, it is a different bagad than the one which means to act treacherously. While we cannot be certain then that beged is related to the verb that means “to deceive” or “act treacherously,” I would still argue there is a connection. Biblical Hebrew is famous for its puns on words. Therefore, in places where beged (clothing) is being used in the context of deception and sin, it would certainly recall the verb bagad which means to deceive. So either beged comes from the verb which means to deceive, or it is at least a pun on that word.

What Clothes Have To Do With Sin and Redemption in the Prophets

I will keep this section brief by noting two passages from Isaiah and one from Zechariah. In a famous passage from Isaiah the prophet says, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6, NKJV). The word translated “rags” is the word beged. Here Isaiah uses the clothing motif to speak of human sin. The passage is very poignant because it compares human righteousness with God’s glory. In His presence our righteous clothing is nothing but filthy garments. Isaiah’s clothing imagery is not all negative however. Although our garments may be as filthy rags, Isaiah, speaking about God, says that he rejoices because, “He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness (Isa. 61:10).

Jeshua clothed by the Angel of the Lord
In Zechariah 3:1-5, the High Priest Jeshua has his filthy garments removed as he is clothed by the Angel of the Lord.

In a scene reminiscent of the Isaiah passages just mentioned, the book of Zechariah pictures the High Priest Jeshua in filthy garments (i.e., garments covered in excrement), but the Angel of the Lord clothes him in clean garments stating, “See I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes” (Zech. 1-5). Once again, clothing is a picture of sin and redemption.

Clothing, Sin and Redemption in the Gospels

Woman with issue of blood
The woman with the issue of blood is one of many stories in the Gospels that uses the clothing motif.

My main focus here will be on two passages. One concerning the crucifixion of Jesus and the other his resurrection. But before examining these passages, I would like to inspire you to think of as many examples in the Gospels that involve clothing as you can. Here are a few to get you started. When the Prodigal Son returns, his father clothes him in a robe and puts a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet (Luke 15:22). Jesus tells a parable about a man who comes to a wedding, but because he is not wearing the proper wedding garment, he is cast out (Matt. 22:11-14). Then there is the story of a woman with an issue of blood, who believes she will be healed if she can just touch the hem of Jesus’s garment (Mark 5:25-34). All of these stories use the clothing motif to speak of sin and redemption. However, the clothing motif found in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is the most impactful of all.

Part of the cruelty of the cross was not only the physical pain associated with it, but also the shame and humiliation connected with it. Romans crucified their victims naked as a way of further humiliating them. This is, of course, not shown in paintings or in film as it would be too graphic and perhaps considered blasphemous to depict Jesus in this way. But the Romans had no such scruples. The Scripture is clear that Jesus’s clothing was taken from him. Matthew 27:35 records the taking of Jesus’s clothing, which fulfills the prophecy of Ps. 22:18. The shame that Jesus bears on the cross, however, is not his shame. It is ours. The cross brings us full circle from the story of Adam and Eve who, following their sin, realized they were naked and became ashamed. In the cross, the themes of sin, blood, and redemption are united and the clothing motif helps to communicate the truth of what God has accomplished in Jesus’s sacrifice.

Jesus' grave clothes
The grave clothes testify to the resurrection.

Curiously, several stories in the Gospels also mention that the grave clothes of Jesus remained in the tomb. Luke 24:12 states, “But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened” (ESV). The Gospel of John records the same event: “Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself” (John 20:6-7, ESV). Only dead people wear grave clothes, and so the significance of these passages is to point out that Jesus was no longer dead. Jesus the risen Lord no longer needed the apparel of earth, because he had been clothed in an immortal body (cf. 1 Cor. 15:42-57).

Clothing, Sin, and Redemption in the Pauline Epistles

While we could look at other writings of the New Testament, we will conclude this investigation by noting a few examples of the clothing motif in the letters of Paul. Paul, who was heavily influenced by the writings of Isaiah, picks up the idea that the believer has been clothed in God’s righteousness. In Romans 13:14, Paul encourages his readers by saying, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (ESV). Similarly in Galatians 3:27 Paul writes, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (ESV). The Christian’s filthy rags have been exchanged for the clothing of God’s righteousness which is described as actually putting on Christ. Paul also speaks about “putting off the old self and putting on the new” (Col. 3:9), and uses the idea of “putting on” various Christian virtues which demonstrate a believer belongs to Christ. In Colossians 3:12-14 Paul exhorts, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (ESV). Thus the clothing of the believer is more than mere outward attire. In a famous passage, Paul exhorts believers to put on the armor of God in order to withstand the spiritual powers of wickedness (Eph. 6:11-17). In each of these instances Paul’s use of the clothing motif emphasizes the redemption that is ours in Christ and the new nature that He has given us.

Conclusion and Summary

So what do clothes have to do with sin and redemption? Apparently, everything, according to Scripture. Our clothing actually becomes a teaching aid in the story of redemption. Keeping the Scriptural motif in mind, as we put on and take off our clothes we are reminded of a number of important truths. First, our clothing reminds us that we are sinners and there is a need to cover our shame and nakedness. Second, we are also reminded that our ability to clothe ourselves, like Adam and Eve, is inadequate. Third, we can accessorize and cloth ourselves in a way that presents a certain image to the world; an image of ourselves that may be deceptive and not fully accurate. Finally, our sin can only be dealt with by the One who willingly gave up his clothing on the cross, so that we might be clothed in His Righteousness. The clothing that we all desperately need is the armor of God, and the virtues of kindness, humility, and love.

If you’ve made it to the end of this long post, I would love to hear your reflections in the comments below on other passages of Scripture that use the clothing motif to emphasize the message of sin and redemption.

3000 Year Old City Discovered in Egypt

3000 Year Old City Discovered in Egypt

3000 year old city, The Rise of Aten
This 3000 year old city is the largest ever discovered in Egypt. Photo Credit: Dr. Zahi Hawass, Facebook.

It has been hailed as, “the second most important archeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun” (Betsy Bryan, Egyptologist, Johns Hopkins University). The lost city known as Aten, is the largest ancient city ever discovered in Egypt. This 3000 year old city dates to the time of Amenhotep III, one of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs. Amenhotep III was the ninth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty and reigned from 1391 to 1353 B.C. and is the grandfather of the famous Tutankhamun (King Tut). Aten was the homebase of the Pharaohs during this time until Akhenaten, the son of Amenhotep III, moved the capital to Amarna.

Discovery and Location

Location of Aten
Aten is located approximately 300 miles south of Cairo near the Valley of the Kings.
Location of Aten
Aerial view of the location of the archaeological site near the Valley of the Kings. Photo Credit: Zahi Hawass, Facebook.

Zahi Hawass, the director of the excavation, and former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, stated, “Many foreign missions searched for this city and never found it.” The 3000 year old city was discovered accidentally while searching for the Mortuary Temple of Tutankhamun. Excavations began in September 2020 near Luxor (ancient Thebes) and the Valley of the Kings, about 300 miles south of Cairo. The Valley of the Kings is famous as the burial place of many pharaohs and state officials from the 16th to the 11th centuries B.C. King Tut’s tomb was discovered in this location in 1922. While Hawass still believes the Temple of Tutankhamun will be discovered, the uncovering of the 3000 year old city was something no one anticipated.

The Pompeii of Ancient Egypt

Egyptian Scarab from Aten
This scarab was among the finds, along with jewelry, pottery, some with writing, and other daily items. Photo Credit: Zahi Hawass Facebook.

When I first read about the discovery of Aten, the first thought that came to me was that this discovery was the equivalent of the discovery of Pompeii. (I have since seen a YouTube video using the same language.) The reason is that the city was found in an amazing state of preservation. According to Hawass the discovery included the, “city’s streets flanked by houses,” with intact walls up to 9-10 feet high (3 meters) and “rooms filled with tools of daily life … left by the ancient residents as if it were yesterday.” This provides an unprecedented ability to learn much about daily Egyptian life during this most prosperous period of Egypt’s history. Among the items found were, jewelry, pottery, amulets and mud bricks bearing seals of Amenhotep III. An inscription dated to the 37th year of Amenhotep III, found on a container filled with boiled or dry meat (anyone hungry for some 3000 year old meat?), gives a secure date for the city.

The City’s Layout

3000 year old city
©AFP via Getty Images

The amazing state of preservation of this 3000 year old city has allowed the excavators to identify 7 different residential neighborhoods. There is also an industrial and administrative center.   There is evidence of glassmaking, metal work, and even a bakery. In fact, the bakery is quite large and includes a cooking and preparation area with ovens and storage pottery. Hawass notes, “From its size, we can state the kitchen was catering a very large number of workers and employees.” A cemetery, along with stone tombs similar to those in the Valley of the Kings, has also been located, although they have yet to be explored. It has been stated that, “The mission expects to uncover untouched tombs filled with treasures.” While most of the southern portion of the city has been excavated, the northern region still awaits the excavator’s spade. This, of course, means that we can look forward to more exciting finds.

For some beautiful photos of the site and the various finds see “First Look Inside Egypt’s ‘Lost Golden City.'”

Informative videos can be found at the following links:

Rise of Aten: Lost Golden City Discovered 3000 Years Old!

Archaeologists Unearth 3000 Year Old Stunningly Preserved Lost Egyptian City (this video has some interviews with Zahi Hawass).