Ramat Rahel (Jeremiah 22)

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Illustration: Ramat Rahel

Ramat Rahel, located between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, was fortified during the eighth century B.C. and occupied, with some breaks, until the eighth century A.D. An Israelite citadel during the late seventh century B.C., it included a palace and administrative buildings. Archaeologists have discovered small, decorative capitals (the top of columns that bear their weight) and columns with traces of red paint that formed the banister and railing of a window. Larger capitals were found with recesses at the top for ceiling beams, which were typically made of cedar wood. These finds remarkably match the description of Jehoiakim’s palace in Jeremiah 22:13-15; indeed, Ramat Rahel may have served as the king’s summer palace (cf. Jeremiah 36:22).

In addition, numerous jar handles were discovered there. Of those found, 145 were stamped with the Hebrew word lmlk, which means either “(belonged) to the king” (indicating that there were a royal stock) or “(certified) by the king” (specifying that they conformed to royal standards of weights and measures). Another handle was found stamped with the Hebrew words for “belonging to Eliakim, steward of Jehoiachin”. This Eliakim may have been a subordinate of Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim, who was exiled to Babylon in 597 B.C. Later jar handles, stamped with “Jerusalem”, “Judah”, Judah, the governor” etc., indicates the site’s use as an administrative centre during the Persian period.

Evidence suggest that Ramat Rahel may be identified with Beth Hakkerem, which means “house of the vineyard” (Nehemiah 3:14, Jeremiah 6:1). Herodian remains include coins dated up to A.D. 69, the year before the destruction of Herod’s temple.


 

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