The words are among the most familiar and ecumenical in the liturgies of Judaism and Christianity.
At the close of a worship service, the rabbi, priest or pastor delivers, with only slight variations, the comforting and fortifying benediction: "May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord cause his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and grant you peace."
An archaeological discovery in 1979 revealed that the Priestly Benediction, as the verse from Numbers 6:24-26 is called, appeared to be the earliest biblical passage ever found in ancient artifacts. Two tiny strips of silver, each wound tightly like a miniature scroll and bearing the inscribed words, were uncovered in a tomb outside Jerusalem and initially dated from the late seventh or early sixth century B.C. - some 400 years before the famous Dead Sea Scrolls.