TEL AVIV – An extremely rare stone weight inscribed with a word from the Hebrew Bible dating back 3,000 years was discovered by archaeologists near the Western Wall.
The weight, known as a “beka,” was used to measure worshipers’ half-shekel levy prior to ascending the Temple Mount. This was the first time such a stone weight was found with this particular inscription of the word “beka” written from left to right.
“Beka weights from the First Temple period are rare; however, this weight is even rarer because the inscription on it is written in mirror script,” archaeologist Eli Shukron told Haaretz.
Shukron said this is likely a sign that it was made by a seal-maker, “since seals were always written in mirror script so that, once stamped, the inscription would appear in regular legible script.”
“Apparently, the seal craftsman got confused when he engraved the inscription on the weight and mistakenly used mirror script as he was used to doing. From this mistake we can learn about the general rule: the artists who engraved weights during the First Temple period were the same artists who specialized in creating seals,” said Shukron.
The word “beka” makes two appearances in the Bible. The first instance is when the matriarch Rebecca is gifted a nose-ring weighing a “beka” in the Book of Genesis. The second occurs in the Book of Exodus as a weight for the Temple donation: “One beka per head; half a shekel, according to the holy shekel, for each one who goes through the counting, from 20 years old and upward, for 603,550 [persons].”
“When the half-shekel tax was brought to the Temple during the First Temple period, there were no coins, so they used silver ingots. In order to calculate the weight of these silver pieces they would put them on one side of the scales and on the other side they placed the Beka weight. The Beka was equivalent to the half-shekel, which every person from the age of 20 years and up was required to bring to the Temple,” Shukron said.
According to Shukron and others, the fact that the artifact was found next to King Solomon’s Temple is yet more proof of deeply rooted Jewish ties to Jerusalem.
“This is a word that is used both inside and outside of the Bible. You don’t need to ask too many questions, just open the Bible and see it. It’s very simple. You can see beka written in the Bible and what it was used for, and there you have it,” he said.
“The Bible, the artifact found close to Solomon’s Temple, north of the City of David, the Temple foundations — everything is connected,” said Shukron.
“This three thousand-year-old Beka weight, inscribed with ancient Hebrew, was likely used in the First Temple, anchoring once again the deep historical connection of the Jewish People to Jerusalem,” said Doron Spielman, Vice President of the City of David Foundation, which funded the excavation.