The Israel Museum, located on the west side of Jerusalem near the Knesset, serves as Israel’s Smithsonian. Like any vast museum, it’s full of exhibits and one must be selective in visiting due to time restraints. Here are four areas worth investigating for a pleasant half-day’s adventure. (You might check the schedule before you go. I sent a group there recently only to learn the place didn’t open that day until 4 pm.)
First, outside the building near the entrance is an enormous scale model of first-century Jerusalem on an acre or so of ground. When I first saw it in the 1970s, it was sitting on the grounds of the Holyland Hotel; but when the hotel closed, the model was disassembled and transferred to Israel’s national museum. Studying it from various angels is like taking a helicopter trip over the ancient city in the days of Christ.
Second, the Shrine of the Book is the permanent exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The unique architecture of the building is designed to resemble the lids of the jars in which the scrolls were found. Various fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls are exhibited, along with an equally fascinating exhibition of the Allepo Codex, the oldest known Hebrew Bible and the earliest text we had of the Old Testament prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
- These ancient Hebrew scrolls pushed back our oldest extant Old Testament texts by a thousand years, allowing us to compare the manuscript of the Allepo Codex with Bibles from a millennium earlier and conforming for us the accuracy of the transmission of our Scriptures.
- The Dead Sea Scrolls date from the time of Christ (and before) and were stashed in clay jars and hidden in caves overlooking the Dead Sea as the Romans overran Judea in AD 70 – 70. The scrolls remained untouched until a Bedouin shepherd boy came upon them by accident in 1947, ironically the year before the modern nation of Israel came into existence.
Third, some of the most important biblical artifacts ever discovered are housed in the archaeology wing of the museum, including the tomb of Herod and the David Inscription from Dan. It’s amazing how archaeology has confirmed many facts and historical figures in the Bible. Below are pictures of some of the finds, including:
- Carved ivory items from the days of the Kings of Israel.
- The gravestone of King Uzziah of the Bible
- The silver scrolls — the oldest extant Biblical text ever discovered. These small silver pieces of jewelry were inscribed with the words of the priestly blessing: “The Lord bless you and keep you….”
- Jewelry from the days of the Bible
- The Sennacherib cuneiform account of the siege of Judah
- The Uzziah Tablet, marking the grave of the biblical King Uzziah (Isaiah 6:1 says, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord…”)
- The gate of Hazor from the time of King Ahab
- Philistine pottery from the days of Samuel through David
- The “House of David” inscription found among the ruins of Dan, which proved the literal existence of David and his dynasty
- A clay basin used to wash feet in biblical times
- A statute of the head of Alexander the Great
- A gruesome first-century ankle bone with a spike through it — a crucifixion victim named Yohohanan
- The burial box that contained the bones of Joseph ben Caiaphas, the high priest who presided over the trail of Jesus
- Dishes and other household items from Jerusalem during the days of Christ, which came from the kind of homes in the Upper City that Jesus and His disciples would have used at the Last Supper.
- The tomb of Herod the Great
- The seal of Hezekiah, King of Judah
Fourth, take a little extra time to go into the fine arts building to see some of the religious art as well as the impressionists.
Whether you’re on your own or with a tour, the Israel Museum is worth half-a-day of enriching and pleasant investigation. Check out my pictures below and plan a trip soon. If you want to go with me, we’re planning another trip, Lord willing, in 2019. Message me on Facebook at Robert J. Morgan Ministries.