Completely intact oil lamp from Hasmonean era uncovered on Pilgrimage Road

by Phil Schneider
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The Land of Israel has many layers of history. Each and every day, more and more layers are being unearthed in many places across the Land of Israel. But, the heart and soul of the unearthing activities is the area that has become known as the City of David. This is indeed exactly where King David set up his kingdom in Jerusalem. Saul was the first King before King David, but was not based in Jerusalem. King David purchased the Land from the Yebusites and began the preparation for the building of the Temple, right where these archaeological finds are being unearthed.

The areas that are being dug up today are not within the confines of the Old City Walls of Jerusalem. The Old City Walls are not that old – in Jerusalem terms. They are “only” around 500 years old. Suleiman the Great, the King of Turkey built them. But, there are many old ancient walls of Jerusalem that are located beneath layers of Jerusalem that have been built up on top of them. The walls of Jerusalem extended out from where they are today back in the First Temple period. The City of David was largely outside of the walls that exist today. It is there that many of the most amazing finds are being discovered.

But this lamp was from a time period around 1,000 years late – around the year 200 B.C.E. The Hasmonean revolt against the Greeks is one of the most fascinating periods in Jewish History. It is not just a glorious time. It is a very complex time when various groups of Jewish people differed radically as to how to deal with the Hellenist movement that was spreading across the Greek Empire. The Hasmoneans were basically a small group of Jews who decided that they would not give up on their Jewish traditions, and they were willing to fight the mighty Greek empire, even at impossible odds. They fought hard, and won most of the battles. They cleaned up the defiled Temple, rededicated it, lit the candelabra, and established a Jewish holiday, Hannukah, for all time. The oil in the candelabra lasted miraculously for eight days and that was viewed as a sign from God that their actions were Godly inspired and that God viewed their radical actions as proper indeed. Their spirit has given strength to the Jewish people throughout the long exile that lasted nearly 2,000 years. Despite all odds, the spirit of the Jewish people has survived due to their dedication to traditional practice and dedication to age-old Jewish values, symbolized by the light of the candelabra.

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