Zev Radovan/www.biblelandpictures.com

“CURSED BE THE MAN who will open this,” warns an inscrip-tion that was placed over the entrance to a tomb on a cliff overlooking Jerusalem. The tomb was discovered in 1870 by the French diplomat and archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau, who was unable to read the inscription. He chiseled it out of the rock and sent it to the British Museum, where it still resides.

The name of the occupant has mostly been lost, except for the theophoric ending “-yahu,” but he is described as being “over the house.” In a 1953 article, the great epigra-phist Nahman Avigad convincingly demonstrated that this tomb belonged to Shebnayahu, or Shebna, the steward in King Hezekiah’s palace whom Isaiah castigates for having an elaborate tomb hewn for himself, “an abode on the cliff” (Isaiah 22:15–17).