Golden Bell from the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (photo City of David & IAA)

Discovered: Golden Bell from the High Priest robe in Jerusalem’s Holy Temple

2000 year old gold bell from Jerusalem Holy Temple

Gold bell from hem of Jewish High Priest’s robe. (credit City of David & Israel Antiquities Authority)

Is it possible to hear an actual musical note from bible times? Well, here’s an incredible find that sheds light (photo credit City of David & Israel Antiquities Authority): The Bible and book of Psalms are full of references to musical sounds.  We recall Miriam, the sister of Moses, who after the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea “took a timbrel in her hand… and sang” (Ex. 25:20) and David who would “take up his “kinor” (harp) and bring relief  and solace to King Saul (1Sam.16:23). Ongoing archaeological excavations around Jerusalem in recent years have revealed so much to us from Bible times.  In 2011, an actual golden bell, probably one of 72 that were sewn on the hem of the sky-blue “mei-eel” or robe, one of the eight vestments worn by the High Priest in the Holy Temple.  We read about the golden bells in the book of Exodus:

Exodus 28:33-35
“And upon the hem of it thou shall make… a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about. It shall be on Aaron when he performs the service, and its sound shall be heard when he enters the Holy before the Lord and when he leaves, so that he will not die.” (Ex. 28:33-35)

Call to prayer and repentance
The Sages explain that the whole people gave themselves up to prayer and repentance, while the High Priest stepped into the Holy of Holies to officiate in their name.  It was therefore most appropriate that they should all know the moment when he entered the Holy of Holies.

The gold bell was discovered in an underground drainage channel dating from the time of Christ, when the Temple was still standing.  The finely engraved, pomegranate shaped, gold bell was sealed all around, so it was x-rayed, and archaeologists could see the 4mm clapper, still intact.  It was suspended on a gold wire, striking the bell precisely in the middle. The amazing thing is that the bell still rings!  So it was sent to a music lab where it was sampled, amplified 72 times, and played back in rapid succession, the way the bells would have sounded on the hem of the vestments when the High Priest walked barefoot into the Holy of Holies of the Temple itself.  Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and then only on Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, but his movements could, thanks to the bells, be heard..

Why the note “B”?
It’s interesting to note that the frequency of the bell is 240 hz, which corresponds closely to the musical note B.  But why “B”?  In the ancient world, the note B represented the planet Saturn or Saturday, which was the 7th day of the week.  For the Jews of course this is the Sabbath day, known as “Shabbat” in Hebrew.  Indeed the word for bell in Hebrew, “pa’amon” has a numeric value of 240. So the ringing of the bells on the hem of the High Priest sounded out a central tenant and message of our biblical faith:  The Sabbath, the celebration of life, and belief in a premeditated act of Creation by a Creator.

Hear the bell sound!
To hear the sound of the bells click on

Visit Israel & see the golden bell remains of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem
I invite you to join me here in Israel and experience a 3-D living color Bible- a blessing without measure!   Shalom! Shalom! Zack Shavin, Jerusalem

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