Temech Family Seal Confirms Detail of Old Testament Book of Nehemiah
by Rich Deem


Bible: History or Fiction?

Does the Bible contain real history or is it just made-up fiction? A recent discovery of a fifth to sixth century BC family seal goes a long way to confirm the accuracy of biblical narrative accounts.

Rich Deem

Skeptics often claim that Old Testament writers made up the names of families who were captured and enslaved by the Assyrian empire. However, the recent discovery of Temech family seal dated to 538-445 BC confirms one of the minor details about the existence of an obscure Jewish family mentioned in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah.

Biblical background

According to the Old Testament, the Hebrews were conquered by the Babylonian empire in the eighth year of the reign of Jehoiachin, the king of Judah.1 Nehemiah, born in captivity in Babylon, was pressed into service as King Artaxerxes's cupbearer. At some point, he was visited by his brother, Hanani and some others from Judah, who indicated that Jerusalem's walls and gates were in ruin.2 Nehemiah was greatly troubled and prayed about what to do. The King, in recognizing Nehemiah's sadness asked what was wrong and was told about the condition of his homeland.3 King Artaxerxes asked Nehemiah what he could do for him, and sent him off to Jerusalem with safe passage to rebuild the wall.4 The events of the book of Nehemiah are estimated to have taken place around 445 BC, making the book the last historical account before the New Testament (with Malachi being the last prophetic book).

Much of the rest of the book consists of list of the families that worked to repair the walls and rebuild the gates. Among the lists is mentioned the "sons of Temech."

These are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his city, who came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah. The number of men of the people of Israel: the sons of Barkos, the sons of Sisera, the sons of Temech, (Nehemiah 7:6-7, 55)

New evidence

A black stone seal with the inscription of the Temech name was found outside the walls of the old city of Jerusalem near the Dung Gate, during a dig headed by archeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar. The area in which it was found was close to the Opel area, where the servants of the first temple lived. The seal was dated between 538-445 BC.

Conclusion Top of page

The discovery of the Temech family seal confirms the existence of an obscure family mentioned in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. Most previous archeological had only confirmed biblical figures who were well-known kings. However, along with the recent discovery of cuneiform receipt from King Nebuchadnezzar's court that confirmed the existence of an obscure, once-mentioned minor official in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, this discovery goes a long way to confirm the accuracy of biblical historical accounts.

References Top of page

  1. At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon went up to Jerusalem, and the city came under siege. And Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon came to the city, while his servants were besieging it. Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he and his mother and his servants and his captains and his officials. So the king of Babylon took him captive in the eighth year of his reign. (2 Kings 24:10-12)

  2. The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month Chislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capitol, that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem. They said to me, "The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire." (Nehemiah 1:1-3)

  3. So the king said to me, "Why is your face sad though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart." Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, "Let the king live forever. Why should my face not be sad when the city, the place of my fathers' tombs, lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire?" Then the king said to me, "What would you request?" So I prayed to the God of heaven. I said to the king, "If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor before you, send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' tombs, that I may rebuild it." Then the king said to me, the queen sitting beside him, "How long will your journey be, and when will you return?" So it pleased the king to send me, and I gave him a definite time. (Nehemiah 2:2-6)

  4. Then I said to them, "You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach." (Nehemiah 2:17)

  5. First Temple seal found in Jerusalem, The Jerusalem Post

Last Modified January 18, 2008


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