Thursday, August 27, 2009

The ben Ya'ir Ostracon

Excavations at Masada found 11 inscribed potsherds (ostraca) containing individual names. One of the names, ben Ya'ir, is believed to be that of Eleazar ben Ya'ir, leader of the Masada defenders (see above).

Josephus provides an account of how the defenders and their families chose to take their own lives rather than submit to the Romans who were on the verge of taking their stronghold. Lots (potsherds with names printed on them) were cast to determine which Jewish soldiers would take the lives of the others. This decision technique provides insight into Luke's account of the selection of the replacement for Judas through the casting of lots in Acts 1.

For more about the last days at Masada, including part of the Josephus account, read Ehud Netzer's article from Biblical Archaeology Review by clicking here.

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