20 And Achan answered Joshua and said, “Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I have done: 21 When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it.”
Later this year, Spanish archaeologists of the University of Barcelona, working in El Bahnasa, a Nile River town in central Egypt, made another remarkable parallel discovery: three burials (a man, woman and child), belonging to Egypt’s 26th and last native dynasty (seventh to sixth centuries b.c.e.), each containing a gold tongue. The woman’s and three-year-old child’s tomb had been raided in antiquity—clearly, the tongues overlooked—but the man’s tomb was in pristine, untouched condition, an extremely rare and valuable find.
In their announcement of the discovery, Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities stated that the gold foil tongues were likely intended to help the dead speak with the gods in the afterlife. Commenting on the discovery, Dr. Lorelei Corcoran of the University of Memphis stated: “Within an Egyptian funerary context, its reference is to Spell 158 of the Book of the Dead [a text which first began to be composed c. 1550 b.c.e.], which ensures that the deceased has the ability to breathe and speak, as well as to eat and drink, in the afterlife. It may be conflated with the Greek funerary practice of placing a coin on or in the mouth of the deceased as payment for the ferryman, Caron, who transported the deceased across the River Styx to the Underworld.”
With these discoveries in mind, consider a peculiar biblical verse.
Several passages of the Hebrew Bible make figurative comparisons between the tongue and precious metals or jewels (i.e. Proverbs 10:20; 20:15; 25:11; Psalm 119:72). But an especially notable mention is found in Joshua 7.
The book of Joshua famously accounts the arrival of the Israelite slaves from Egypt into the Promised Land and the conquest of Canaan. Chapter 7 describes the first major setback for the Israelites—their defeat at Ai. Achan stole for himself certain items from the last-defeated city, Jericho, thus bringing a curse upon the Israelites.
In verses 20-21, Achan fesses up to his actions: “‘Of a truth I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done. When I saw among the spoil a goodly Shinar mantle [coat], and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.’” The term “wedge”is not a literal translation; the Hebrew word is lashon, or “tongue.” Achan then is referring to a tongue of gold. -Watch Jerusalem