Tel el-Hesi Shard
Tel el Hesi is an ancient tel in the lowland (Shfela) on the bank of the Shikma river. The site´s name in Arabic is Wadi el Hesi and the tel is located 7 km south of the city Kirjat Gat. According to one theory, this is the place of the Biblical city Eglon, that is mentioned in the wars of Joshua (Joshua chapter 10) as one of the cities of the tribe of Judah. Regardless of what has been said before, there is no evidence that this is indeed the city of Eglon.
|Location of Tel el Hesi|
The site has been excavated in the end of the 19th century. The excavators exposed layers from the early Bronze Age until the late Arabic period. Among the artifacts that were found in the site, is a letter in cuneiform from the 14th century BCE, as well as a shard of pottery with an inscription.
Tel Hesi Excavations
The Tel Hesi shard with the inscription on it, was found in the excavations in the years 1890-1893. The inscription consists of three letters on the shard near to the edge of an ancient bowl. On the inscription was written the combination Bela (see drawing). The letters were carved into the clay before the bowl was burned in the potter´s furnace.
|Tel el Hesi at the end of the 19th century|
|Pottery from Tel el Hesi|
Tel Hesi Inscription
The shard was found in a layer that belongs to the middle of the late Bronze Age. In this layer, the excavator found candles, scarab stamps, cylinder stamps etc. These artifacts had fixed the layer date to the middle of the 14th century BCE.
|Tel el Hesi inscription|
The three letter inscription has been written with a proto Canaanite script. The combination of the letters from right to left give the words "Bela". This name is mentioned in the Bible three times.
The name "Bela" in the Bible
1. Bela - is the name of one of the cities of the plan
Genesis 14 "8. And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela--the same is Zoar; and they set the battle in array against them in the vale of Siddim;".
בראשית יד "ח. וַיֵּצֵא מֶלֶךְ-סְדֹם וּמֶלֶךְ עֲמֹרָה וּמֶלֶךְ אַדְמָה וּמֶלֶךְ צְבוֹיִם וּמֶלֶךְ בֶּלַע הִוא-צֹעַר וַיַּעַרְכוּ אִתָּם מִלְחָמָה בְּעֵמֶק הַשִּׂדִּים".
2. Bela - is the name of one of the earliest kings of Edom.
Genesis 36 "32. And Bela the son of Beor reigned in Edom; and the name of his city was Dinhabah.".
בראשית לו "לב. וַיִּמְלֹךְ בֶאֱדוֹם בֶּלַע בֶּן-בְּעוֹר וְשֵׁם עִירוֹ דִּנְהָבָה ".
3. Bela - The name of one of Benjamin´s sons
Genesis 36 "21. And the sons of Benjamin: Bela, and Becher, and Ashbel, Gera, and Naaman, Ehi, and Rosh, Muppim, and Huppim, and Ard.".
בראשית מו "כא. וּבְנֵי בִנְיָמִן, בֶּלַע וָבֶכֶר וְאַשְׁבֵּל, גֵּרָא וְנַעֲמָן, אֵחִי וָרֹאשׁ; מֻפִּים וְחֻפִּים, וָאָרְדְּ."
Archaeology : The tree letters on the shard give the combination ”bla”(בלע), the short inscription, suggests that it is a personal name.
Bible: It seems that this name was common in Biblical periods in the southern part of Canaan.
S. Yeivin, the Palestino-Sinaitic Inscriptions (Bulletin of the Jewish Palestine Exploration Society 1937), p 01-10.