Lachish Letter I

Israelite, 586 BC
From Lachish (modern Tell ed-Duweir), Israel

A letter written on a piece of pottery

This is one of a group of letters written on ostraka (pot sherds) found near the main gate of ancient Lachish (modern Tell ed-Duweir) in a burnt layer associated with the destruction of the city by the Babylonians in 586 BC. It is written in ink in alphabetic Hebrew, and reads:

Gemaryahu, son of Hissilyahu
Yaazanyahu, son of Tobshillem
Hageb, son of Yaazanyahu
Mibtahyahu, son of Yirmeyahu
Mattanyahu, son of Neryahu

Presumably this list had some administrative function. Though several of the names occur in the Old Testament, it cannot be proved that the same individuals are intended.

The letters were received by Ya’osh, the military governor of Lachish, from Hosha’yahu, a subordinate officer in charge of a military outpost during the invasion by the Babylonian forces under Nebuchadnezzar which ended in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC.

Subsequently only Azekah, about 18 miles south west of Jerusalem, and Lachish itself, about 12 miles further on, remained in Judean hands, until they too fell. There followed a large-scale deportation of a part of Judah's population. Thus began the exile, a period of great significance for the Jews spiritually, and one which would profoundly influence later religious ideology and teaching.

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More information


A. Lemaire, Inscriptions Hebraiques I: Les (Paris, Cerf, 1977)

R.D. Barnett, Illustrations of Old Testament, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1976)


Height: 10.000 cm
Width: 8.000 cm

Museum number

ME 125701


Gift of the Trustees of Sir Henry Wellcome


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