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10th Century Hebrew Inscription is a Game Changer

John on January 8, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Four years ago I wrote about a discovery which appeared to do damage to the minimalist school of Hebrew history.

This week, a for more significant discovery was unveiled which solidifies the idea that there was indeed a literate Jewish kingdom in the 10th century BC:

The inscription itself, which was written in ink on a 15 cm X 16.5 cm trapezoid pottery shard, was discovered a year and a half ago at excavations that were carried out by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel at Khirbet Qeiyafa near the Elah valley.

The inscription was dated back to the 10th century BCE, which was the period of King David’s reign, but the question of the language used in this inscription remained unanswered, making it impossible to prove whether it was in fact Hebrew or another local language.

Prof. Galil’s deciphering of the ancient writing testifies to its being Hebrew, based on the use of verbs particular to the Hebrew language, and content specific to Hebrew culture and not adopted by any other cultures in the region.

“This text is a social statement, relating to slaves, widows and orphans. It uses verbs that were characteristic of Hebrew, such as asah (“did”) and avad (“worked”), which were rarely used in other regional languages. Particular words that appear in the text, such as almanah (“widow”) are specific to Hebrew and are written differently in other local languages,” Prof. Galil explained.

The deciphered text:

1′ you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].

2′ Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an]

3′ [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and]

4′ the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king.

5′ Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.

Once this deciphering is received, Prof. Galil added, the inscription will become the earliest Hebrew inscription to be found, testifying to Hebrew writing abilities as early as the 10th century BCE. This stands opposed to the dating of the composition ofthe Bible in current research, which would not have recognized the possibility that the Bible or parts of it could have been written during this ancient period.

Of course there are still many problems, not the least of which is the paucity of evidence for the Exodus (or the ability to even narrow down the window of time), but this is a significant find which undoes a great deal of false supposition about the history of the Jews.

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Category: Archaeology |

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