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Isaiah Inscription on the Western Wall, 5th century CE

Isaiah_Inscription

Isaiah Inscription on the Western Wall

“And when ye see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like an herb”

This verse from Isaiah 66-14 was carved on a stone block in the western wall of the Temple Mount. A number of inscriptions carved by Jewish pilgrims at various times have been found in the Temple Mount area. They also generally added their names to the inscription.

There are a number of theories as to the dating of this inscription. It was first thought to have been carved by a Jewish pilgrim who came to Jerusalem during the rule of the Emperor Julian (361-363), when he granted permission to the Jews to rebuild the Temple. However, there are a number of problems arising out of such an assumption, among others dearth of information about the period.

Another theory believes that it was carved in the Umayyad period. In this period the street level was higher than it is today, and thus the person wishing to carve the inscription would be able to reach the stone block. It was in this period also that the Jews began to settle in the city once more, and the Jewish Quarter of the city was not far from the site of this inscription.

The most rational dating seems to be the Byzantine period. This possibility is based on the assumption that there is a link between this inscription and a letter sent by a Jew from Galilee in the fifth century. In this missive there were expressions of the feelings prevalent at the time among the Jews that the redemption was near- “Behold, the Roman kings have ordered that the gates of Jerusalem be returned to us. Speedily come up to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Tabernacles, for our kingdom is about to be rebuilt in Jerusalem.” The time the letter was written and the sentiments expressed in it, similarly to those expressed in the inscription, link them with the period the Empress Eudocia lived in Jerusalem in the mid fifth century. It was at this time that she showed tolerance to the Jews, and even permitted them to visit Jerusalem.

It would seem that the writer worked under pressure, because he did not succeed in completing the biblical verse.

Dan Bahat. The Illustrated Atlas of Jerusalem. The Israel Map and Publishing Company LTD, Israel, 1996. p. 75.

Posted in: Byzantine Period

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