I love this stuff. Not very long ago at all, some "revisionist" Israeli archaeologists were arguing that there was no evidence of a developed Kingdom of Judah in the First Temple era, and that Biblical-era Judah consisted of a few tiny villages of some illiterate herding people, rather than the Kingdom of David and Solomon. Since then much evidence has been discovered demonstrating that Jerusalem was the well-developed government and commercial center of a kingdom, including evidence of a centralized tax collection system.
The latest development is the discovery in Jerusalem of a clay seal, or bulla, containing three lines of ancient Hebrew words, including "Beit Lechem," the Hebrew name for Bethlehem. As reported by JTA:
"This is the first time the name Bethlehem appears outside the Bible, in an inscription from the First Temple period, which proves that Bethlehem was indeed a city in the Kingdom of Judah, and possibly also in earlier periods,” according to Eli Shukron, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The bulla was likely affixed to a tax shipment of silver or agricultural produce sent from Bethlehem to the King of Judah in the eighth or seventh century B.C., according to Shukron.
It is particularly fitting that this discovery was announced just prior to the festival of Shevuot (the Feast of Weeks--Pentecost), on which the Book of Ruth is read in synagogues. The story of Ruth, the great grandmother of King David, takes place in Bethlehem. Bethlehem is also the birthplace of King David.
Abba Eban once noted that the modern State of Israel is the only nation whose citizens live on the same land, speak the same language and practice the same religion as their ancestors did 3000 years ago. Of course, the Palestinians will denounce the discovery as a Zionist fraud and another attempt to Judaize Jerusalem and Palestine. Good luck with that, guys. And to the rest of you, Chag Shevuot Sameach--Happy Shevuot!