Isaiah Bulla

Isaiah Bulla

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Tel el-Hesi shard

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.

Facsimile of Tel el-Hesi shard
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."

Conclusion
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.

References
S. Yeivin, the Palestino-Sinaitic Inscriptions (Bulletin of the Jewish Palestine Exploration Society 1937), p 01-10.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Inscribed jar handle from Khirbet Raddana

Inscribed Jar Handle from Khirbet Raddana
Khirbat Raddana location in the blue circle
The site is west to Ramallah, it was excavated in the 1930-ies by an American group. The diggers found a small village from the 12-13th century BCE.
The excavation at the village revealed a few houses, and near every house the inhabitants had dug a cistern.

House excavation in Khirbet Raddana
In the floor of a room in one of the houses the excavators found an inscribed jar handle. On the handle where 3 signs carved vertically, the shape of the signs testify that they are letters from the Proto-Canaanite script which was widely spread during that era.

The room that the inscription was found in
The inscription on a jar handle
As previously said, on the jar handle were carved three letters. When reading from above to bottom, we get the combination a.h.l.- in Hebrew "אחל". Since the handle is not long, there is not enough room for many letters, and it seems that the original inscription was short. It is logical to assume that the combination of the letters is a private name (maybe the name of the jar owner).
The jar handle from Khirbet Raddana
Two resembling Biblical names come to mind, the name "Ahilud", and "Ahali". It is to be point out that both names are mentioned in the stories about King David.


the jar handle with the three letters א ח ל

2 Samuel 8,16 "And Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the host; and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud secretary; "

"טז.  וְיוֹאָב בֶּן-צְרוּיָה, עַל-הַצָּבָא; וִיהוֹשָׁפָט בֶּן-אֲחִילוּד, מַזְכִּיר"

1 Chronicles 11,41 "Uriah the Hittite, Zabad the son of Ahlai;"

"{מא.  אוּרִיָּה, {ר} הַחִתִּי, {ס} זָבָד, בֶּן-אַחְלָי. {ס"


In ancient Semitic inscriptions the name Ahilud  "אֲחִילוּדwould be written without Mater lectionis, ahl[d] "[אחל[ד". 







The Tel Gezer shard

Tel Gezer
Tel Gezer is an Archaeological site and National Park, located near the ancient sea road.
26 settlement strata were found at the site, starting in the Chalcolithic period (3500 BCE), and most of the remains are from the Canaanite and Israelite period. The city is mentioned in many historical sources, including the letters of Al-Amarna (1360 BCE)

Tel Gezer location in the blue circle
In the years 1902-1909, the tel was first excavated by the British explorer Macalister. 
In the area of ​​the tel there are several prominent sites: the Canaanite water system, the Canaanite gate, the Solomon Gate, the Canaanite tombstones, etc.


Gezer Canaanite High Place with some stands stones

The Israelite gate from the 10 century BCE
The inscription 
The pottery discovered in 1929 in Tel Gezer by a group from the American Schools of Oriental Research, the size of the sherd is 7 x 5 cm, of a closed vessel. The shard was a fragment of a cylindrical cult stand, with an inscription incised before burning the clay. 

The shard was found in the fortress tower of the Canaanite city of the Middle Bronze Age, which has been dated to approximately 1600 BCE. On the shard were three letters which give the combination ‘KLB’  in Hebrew (כלב)

The Gezer shard
The combination "KLB" (כלב) appears to be a Semitic known private name. 

Deuteronomy 1,36 "except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh, he shall see it; and to him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon, and to his children; because he hath wholly followed the LORD". 

Numbers 34,19 "And these are the names of the men: of the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh".

Facsimile of the Gezer shard

The name ‘KLB’ (כלב) was common in the city of Ugarit (ancient city on the Syrian shore), where archaeologists found thousands of clay tablets with ancient cuneiform writing. Some of the tablets were associated with people’s private names (see tablet 1).



Conclusion
Archaeology : The tree letters on the shard depicts the combination ”klb”, and in light of the short inscription, we can assume that the three letters on the shard is a personal name.
This name was also found in Ugaritic texts, which was written the northern Canaanite language.
The dating of the layer where the shard was found, and the ancient writing of the letters (proto Canaanite script), both fit the time period of the inscription to the 16th century.
Bible: The stories about Caleb the son of Jephunneh in the Bible (Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Chronicles) reflect a very early period, since it is not mentioned (as a personal name) in the 
later period of the Bible.
It looks like whoever wrote about Caleb in the Bible, was very knowledgeable about the Canaanite names from the bronze age in the Levant.


Two options come into mind, Either he lived close to these periods of time or he wrote from oral stories about human Levantine heroes.

References
Joseph Naveh, Early History of the Alphabet (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, Hebrew University, 1982),
p 22-27.

B. Sass, The Genesis of the Alphabet and its Development in the Second Millennium B. C. (Wiesbaden 1988) , p 55-56 .

Finkelstein, Israel and Benjamin Sass. 2013. "The West Semitic Alphabetic Inscription: Late Bronze II to Iron IIA: Archeological and Context. Distribution Chronology Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel: 156 , 208.

Gregorio del Olmo Lete and Joaquín Sanmartín. A dictionary of the Ugaritic language in the alphabetic tradition. Boston: Brill, 2003.

Jesus-Luis Cunchillos y Jose-Angel Zamora. Ugaritic Data Bank: The Texts. Madrid 2003

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Mesha Stele



The Mesha Stele 

The Mesha stele is an inscription that reflects the deeds of Mesha king of Moab.The stele was erected in the Moab city of Dibon, 20 km east to the Dead Sea, over against Ein-Gedi.

In 1868 the stele was found in one piece by local Bedouins. The French archeologist Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau got permission from the Bedouins to make a copy of the inscription with a papier-mâché. Since the stele was complete, everyone 
wanted to purchase it (French, Americans, Germans etc).

The Bedouins believed that since everyone was interested in the stele, it was containing gold. They put the stele in a bonfire, threw cold water upon it and broke it to pieces. At the end Clermont-Ganneau managed to buy it from the Bedouins, and to bring it to Louvre in France, where is has been on display until today.

In blue circle: The ruins of Dibon in the eastern Jordan valley

The Mesha stele was written in the ancient Hebrew alphabet; by its contents, it was dated to the years 882- 871BCE and it is mentioning Omri the king of Israel. The Mesha stele is one of the earliest inscriptions that verifies some written aspects in the Biblical story.

The Mesha Stele


Facsimile of the Mesha Stele


Transliteration to Hebrew
  
  1. אנך. משע. בן. כמש.. . מלך. מאב. הד
  2. יבני | אבי. מלך. על. מאב. שלשן. שת. ואנך. מלכ
  3. תי. אחר. אבי | ואעש. הבמת. זאת. לכמש. בקרחה | במ[
  4. שע. כי. השעני. מכל. המלכנ. וכי. הראני. בכל. שנאי | עמר
  5. י. מלך. ישראל. ויענו. את. מאב. ימן. רבן. כי. יאנף. כמש. באר
  6. צה | ויחלפה. בנה. ויאמר. גמ. הא. אענו. את. מאב | בימי. אמר. כ]
  7. וארא. בה. ובבתה | וישראל. אבד. אבד. עלמ. וירש. עמרי. את כ[
  8. צ. מהדבא | וישב. בה. ימה. וחצי. ימי. בנה. ארבענ. שת. ויש
  9. בה. כמש. בימי | ואבן. את. בעלמען. ואעש. בה. האשוח. ואב[
  10. את. קריתן | ואש. גד. ישב. בארץ. עטרת. מעלם. ויבן. לה. מלך. י
  11. שראל. את. עטרת | ואלתחם. בקר. ואחזה | ואהרג. את. כל. העם.
  12. הקר. רית. לכמש. ולמאב | ואשב. משמ. את. אראל. דודה. וא[
  13. חבה. לפני. כמש. בקרית | ואשב. בה. את. אש. שרן. ואת. אש
  14. מחרת | ויאמר. לי. כמש. לכ. אחז. את. נבה. על. ישראל | וא
  15. הלך. הללה. ואלתחם. בה. מבקע. השחרת. עד. הצהרם | ואח
  16. זה. ואהרג. כל[]. שבעת. אלפן. גברן. וגרן | וגברת. וג[
  17. ת. ורחמת | כי. לעשתר. כמש. החרמתה | ואקח. משם. א[
  18. לי. יהוה. ואסחב. המ. לפני. כמש | ומלך. ישראל. בנה. את
  19. יהצ. וישב. בה. בהלתחמה. בי | ויגרשה. כמש. מפני | ו
  20. אקח. ממאב. מאתן. אש. כל. רשה | ואשאה. ביהץ. ואחזה.
  21. לספת. על. דיבן | אנך. בנתי. קרחה. חמת. היערן. וחמת
  22. העפל | ואנך. בנתי. שעריה. ואנך. בנתי. מגדלתה | וא
  23. נך. בנתי. בת. מלך. ואנך. עשתי. כלאי. האש[.....]ין. בקרב
  24. הקר | ובר. אן. בקרב. הקר. בקרחה. ואמר. לכל. העם. עשו. ל
  25. כם. אש. בר. בביתה | ואנך. כרתי. המכרתת. לקרחה. באסר
  26. י. ישראל | אנך. בנתי. ערער. ואנך. עשתי. המסלת. בארנן.
  27. אנך. בנתי. בת. במת. כי. הרס. הא | אנך. בנתי. בצר. כי. עין
  28. ]באש. דיבן. חמשן. כי. כל. דיבן. משמעת | ואנך. מלך
  29. ת[ ]ל[ ] מאת. בקרן. אשר. יספתי. על. הארץ | ואנך. בנת
  30. י[ ]דבא. ובת. דבלתן | ובת. בעלמען. ואשא. שמ. את נ[ ].
  31.    ] צאן. הארץ | וחורנן. ישב. בה. בת[]וד [ ]אש[
  32.       ]אמר. לי. כמש. רד. הלתחם. בחורנן | וארד
  33.          ]בה. כמש. בימי. ועל[...]. משמ. עש
  34.            ]שת. שדק | וא
Translation to English 

  1. I am Mesha, son of Kemosh, king of Moab, the Dibonite (from the city of Dibon).
  2. My father was king of Moab thirty years, and I reigned
  3. after my father. And I built this high-place for Kemosh in QRHA ("the citadel"), a  high-place of salvation,
  4. because he saved me from all the kings, and let me be victorious over all my adversaries.
  5. Omri was king of Israel. and they oppressed Moab for many days because Kemosh was angry with his land.
  6. And his son replaced him; and he also said, "I will oppress Moab". In my days he spoke thus.
  7. And I will see (the end of) him and his house. And Israel suffered everlasting destruction, and Omri had conquered the land of Madaba (city)
  8. And he dwelt there during his reign and half the reign of his son, forty years. But Kemosh
  9. returned it in my days. So I [re]built Baal Meon (city), and I made the water plant in it. And I bu[ilt]
  10. Qiryaten (city). The man of Gad had dwelt in Ataroth (city) from ancient times; and the king of Israel
  11. built Ataroth for him. But I fought against the city and took it. And I slew all the people, [and]
  12. the city will belong to Kemosh and Moab. And I brought from there the Davidic lion god (AREL DVDH), and I
  13. dragged it before Kemosh in Qeriot (city), and I settled in it men of Sharon(city), and m[en]
  14. of Maharat(city). And Kemosh said to me, "Go! Seize Nebo (city), from Israel." So I
  15. proceeded by night and fought with it from the crack of dawn to midday, and I held 
  16. it and I slew all of them: seven thousand men and boys, and women and girls,
  17. because I had dedicated it to Ashtar Kemosh and I took from there [the vessels]
  18. of YHWH, and I dragged them before Kemosh. And the king of Israel had built
  19. Yahaz (city), and he dwelt in it while he was fighting with me, but Kemosh drove him out before me.
  20. So I took from Moab two hundred men, every head (counted). And I brought them to Yahaz, and I seized it
  21. and added it to Dibon. I have built Qrha(city), the walls of the forest[YARAN],and the wall
  22. of the acropolis [OPHEL]. And I built its gates; and I built its towers. And
  23. I built the house of the king; and I made the fortification for the water plant
  24. of the city. But there was no cistern in the midst of the citadel, so I said to all the people, "Make
  25. yourselves each man a cistern in his house". And I dug a pit and the water facility for the citadel with the prisoners
  26. of Israel. I built Aroer (city), and I made the road in the Arnon (to the river).
  27. I built Beth-Bamot (city) [the house of the high place], because it was in ruins. I built Bezer (city), because it was in
  28. heaps of ruins [with] fifty men from Dibon (city) because all of Dibon was under orders and I ruled
  29. [over] hundreds in the towns which I have annexed to the land. And I built
  30. [Me]deba (city)and Beth-Diblaten (city) and Beth-Baal-Meon (city), and I carried there the n[...
  31. …]cattle of the land, and Hornan (tribe of people) settled in it, house of  David [BT (D)VD] when
  32. ………][s]aid to me Kemosh, "Go down, fight against Hornan". And I went down [………
  33. ………][BH] Kemosh in my days. Then I went up from there ten[……...]
  34. ………………………..] the[T]to do justice[………


  35. Translation of the The Mesha Stele and Parallels in the Bible 

    1. I am Mesha, son of Kemosh, king of Moab, the Dibonite (from the city of Dibon)

    Biblical parallel - 2 Kings 3 "4. Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheep-master; and he rendered unto the king of Israel the wool of a hundred thousand lambs, and of a hundred thousand rams". 
    Joshua 13. "9 from Aroer, that is on the edge of the valley of Arnon, and the city that is in the middle of the valley, and all the plain from Medeba unto Dibon". 

    2. My father was king of Moab thirty years, and I reigned
    3. after my father. And I built this high-place for Kemosh in QRHA ("the citadel"), a  high-place of salvation, 

    Biblical parallel - 1 Kings 11."7 Then did Solomon build a high place for Chemosh the detestation of Moab, in the mount that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestation of the children of Ammon." 

    4. because he saved me from all the kings, and let me be victorious over all my adversaries.
    5. Omri was king of Israel. and they oppressed Moab for many days because Kemosh was angry with his land.
    Biblical parallel - 1 Kings 16. "23 In the thirty and first year of Asa king of Judah began Omri to reign over Israel, and reigned twelve years; six years reigned he in Tirzah."

    6. And he dwelt there during his reign and half the reign of his son, forty years. But Kemosh
    7. returned it in my days. So I [re]built Baal Meon (city), and I made the water plant in it. And I bu[ilt]
    8. Qiryaten (city). The man of Gad had dwelt in Ataroth (city) from ancient times; and the king of Israel
    9. built Ataroth for him. But I fought against the city and took it. And I slew all the people, [and] 

    Biblical parallel - Joshua 13. "17 Heshbon, and all her cities that are in the table-land; Dibon, and Bamoth-baal, and Beth-Baal-Meon."

    10. Qiryaten (city). The man of Gad had dwelt in Ataroth (city) from ancient times; and the king of Israel 

    Biblical parallel - Numbers 32. "34 And the children of Gad built Dibon, and Ataroth, and Aroer

    11. Built Ataroth for him. But I fought against the city and took it. And I slew all the people, [and] 
    12. The city will belong to Kemosh and Moab. And I brought from there the Davidic lion god (AREL DVDH), and I 
    Biblical parallel - 2 Samuel 23,"20 And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, who had done mighty deeds, he smote the two lion gods of Moab [SHNEY-AREL MOAB]; he went down also and slew a lion in the midst of a pit in time of snow". 

    13. dragged it before Kemosh in Qeriot (city), and I settled in it men of Sharon(city), and m[en] 
    14. Of Maharat(city). And Kemosh said to me, "Go! Seize Nebo (city), from Israel." so I 
    Biblical parallel - Numbers 32. "37 And the children of Reuben built Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Kiriathaim; 38 And Nebo, and Baal-meon--their names being changed--and Sibmah; and gave their names unto the cities which they builded."

    15. proceeded by night and fought with it from the crack of dawn to midday, and I held
    16. it and I slew all of them: seven thousand men and boys, and women and girls, 
    17. because I had dedicated it to Ashtar Kemosh and I took from there [the vessels] 
    Biblical parallel - 1 Kings 11. "5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the detestation of the Ammonites. 6 And Solomon did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father. 7 Then did Solomon build a high place for Chemosh the detestation of Moab, in the mount that is before Jerusalem and for Molech the detestation of the children of Ammon." 

    18. Of *YHWH [יהוה], and I dragged them before Kemosh. And the king of Israel had built 

    * The oldest written tetragrammaton that have been found in an archaeological inscription 

    19. Yahaz (city), and he dwelt in it while he was fighting with me, but Kemosh drove him out before me. 
    20. So I took from Moab two hundred men, every head counted. And I brought them to Yahaz, and I seized it 

    Biblical parallel - Deuteronomy 2. "32 Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, unto battle at Yahaz."

    21. And added it to Dibon. I have built Qrha (city) ,the walls of the forest[YARAN],and the wall 
    22. Of the acropolis [OPHEL]. And I built its gates; and I built its towers. And 

    Biblical parallel - 2 Kings 5. "24 And when he came to the ‘Ophel’ (acropolis), he took them from their hand, and deposited them in the house; and he let the men go, and they departed."

    23. I built the house of the king; and I made the fortification for the water plant 
    24. Of the city. But there was no cistern in the midst of the citadel, so I said to all the people, "Make
    25. yourselves each man a cistern in his house". And I dug a pit and the water facility for the citadel with the prisoners 
    26. of Israel. I built Aroer (city), and I made the made the road in the Arnon (to the river). 

    Biblical parallel - Numbers 22. "36 And when Balak heard that Balaam was come, he went out to meet him unto Ir-moab, which is on the border of Arnon, which is in the utmost part of the border." 
    Numbers 32. "34 And the children of Gad built Dibon, and Ataroth, and Aroer"

    27. I built Beth-Bamot (city) [the house of the high place], because it was in ruins. I built Bezer (city), because it was in

    Biblical parallel - 1 Kings 12. "31 And he made *Beth-Bamot [house of high places], and made priests from among all the people, that were not of the sons of Levi."

    * in the Hebrew bible "בֵּית בָּמוֹת" = "Beth-Bamot" , Beth (house), Bamot (high places).

    28. heaps of ruin [with] fifty men from Dibon (city) because all of Dibon was under orders and I ruled 
    29. [over] hundreds in the towns which I have annexed to the land. And I built 
    30. [Me]deba(city) and Beth-Diblaten (city) and Beth-Baal-Meon (city), and I carried there the n[...

    Biblical parallel - Jeremiah 48. "22 and upon Dibon, and upon Nebo, and upon Beth-diblathaim".
    Joshua 13. "17 Heshbon, and all her cities that are in the table-land; Dibon, and Bamoth-baal, and Beth-baal-meon".

    31. …]cattle of the land, and Hornan(tribe of people) settled in it, house of David [BT (D)VD] when
in the Mesha inscription [בת (ד)וד] the original house of David

Biblical parallel - 1 Kings 12. "19 So Israel rebelled against the house of David, unto this day". 

"house of David" in Other Archaeological inscription – see the Tel Dan stele line 9.

32. ………][s]aid to me Kemosh, "Go down, fight against Hornan". And I went down [………

Biblical parallel - Isaiah 15. "5 My heart crieth out for Moab; her
fugitives reach unto Zoar, a heifer of three years old; for by the ascent of Luhith with weeping they go up; for in the way of Horonaim they raise up a cry of destruction"


33. ………][BH] Kemosh in my days. Then I went up from there ten[……...]
34. ………………………..] the[T]to do justice[………

Conclusion
As we have seen, there are numerous of parallels like personal names, idol names, cities, geographical terms and general Semitic terms concerning construction and other Semitic terms. Clearly, the person/people that wrote the Bible, lived in the same area and in the same general period of time as Mesha.

References
Shmuel Ahituv - "HaKetav VeHaMiktav" second edition 2012 ,Handbook of Ancient Inscriptions from the Land of Israel and the Kingdoms beyond the Jordan from the Period of the First Commonwealth.

F.J. Andersen - "Moabite Syntax", Orientalia 35 (1966), pp. 81-120;

J. Liver - "The Wars of Mesha, King of Moab", PEQ 99 (1967), pp. 14-31; 

M. Miller - "The Moabite Stone as a Memorial Stela", PEQ 106 (1974), pp. 9-18;

A. Lemaire - "House of David' Restored in Moabite Inscription", BAR 20/3 (May-June 1994), pp. 31-37;

"New Photographs and ryt or hyt in the Mesha Inscription, Line 12", IEJ 57 (2007), pp. 204-20

Jackson, K.P. -1989 'The Language of the Mesha` Inscription', Studies in the Mesha and Moab (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press): 96-130. 

Jackson, K.P. - et J.A. Dearman 1989 'The Text of the Mesha` Inscription', dans A. Dearman (ed.), Studies in 

the Mesha Inscription and Moab (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press): 93-95.

N. Na'aman - “King Mesha and the Foundation of the Moabite Monarchy", IEJ 47 (1997), pp. 83-92;

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Belam Bar Beor Inscription


Belam Bar Beor Inscription

In 1967, a Dutch excavation team revealed an inscription on a plastered wall in Tel Deir Alla, which is probably the Biblical settlement Sukkot in the Jordan valley. The tel is located 8 km east of the Jordan river and North to the Jabokk river. The plastered fragments, and on them the writings in ink, were found on the floor on one of the structures. After the defragmentation of the plastered fragments, it became clear that there were two major texts. More fragments were found, but they were too small and could not be defragmented to a logical meaning. Surprisingly it turned out that the name Belam bar Beor, which is Elam, son of Beor, returned several times in the first text. In fact, this text is beginning with the words of this Belam. 
This is the oldest source mentioning the name Belaam bar Beor, outside the Bible that has been found until now. The appearance of that name in the East of the Jordan river, is of great interest for Biblical scholars and ancient epigraphy. 

Location of tel Deir Alla in the red circle 

Date of the inscription 
Based on C14 tests in the complex where it was found, the archaeologists assumed that the date of the inscription is between 800-900 BCE 
It should be emphasized that this dating points to the time that the text was written in on the plaster, and not necessarily the time of the original text that might have been written on an ostracon or a scroll. The tel is located in the Sukkot valley, which is mentioned in the Bible as a settlement in the Eastern side of the Jordan river- Judges 8 ”5. And he said unto the men of Succoth: 'Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto the people that follow me; for they are faint, and I am pursuing after Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.”.

Belam bar Beor inscription

Who wrote the inscription 
The scholars assume that the population of the tel in that time period was Israelite (although there is no mentioning of the God of Israel in the inscription). The Israelites were populating the area before the Assyrian conquest and the exile by Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser at the 8th century BCE. 

This assumption of the scholars, that the Balaam inscriptions are Israelite formations is based on the full name of the Biblical prophet as well as on the linguistic contents of the inscription. The Biblical imagery comes up from the Balaam story in book of Numbers. There is high similarity between the inscription and the story of Balaam and Balak in the book of Numbers. From the reasons above, it seems that the Tel Deir Alla inscription confirms the existence of this ancient prophet in the area of the eastern Jordan river.

Facsimile of the inscription
Translation of the Inscription

1. The torments of the Book of Blaam son of Beor, a seer of the gods is he, the gods came to him at night, and he saw a vision. 
2. The words of them to Blaam son of Beor , “So will it be done by gods at the end, no man has seen what you’ve heard”. 
3. Balaam arose in the morning, and he mourned many days over the word of the gods to him, he did not eat, he fasted and wept. 
4. And the people went up to him, and said to him “Why are you fasting and why are you crying?” 
5. And he told them “Sit brothers, and see what the demons have done, go and see the acts of the gods, the gods have gathered. 
6. The demons are standing now, and saying to the sun: -Sow and close the sky with cloud, put darkness. 
7. And son of natsats and misfortune of the young chicken of the egret and the passer and the vulture.  
8. And you will not shine ever, and you will be closed and be like a seal in a dark cloud which will never be removed forever, because the crane curses the eagle. 
9. Curse the vulture and the voice of carrion-vulture will call as the stork, a son of natsats and misfortune of the young chicken of the egret and the passer and the vulture. 
10. A dove and all the birds of the sky a stick that drives the sheep will lead them as a staff and rabbit will eat. 
11. A wolf ........and the hyenas drink wine and will hear the moral of (........). 
12. And a fox (.........) to the smart will take and the poor will pour ... myrrh and a priest. 
13. To the carrier of belt made from web and the important will now. import others more important than themselves. 
14. And the deaf could hear from a distance. 
15. And the fools have visioned the misfortunate Shagar and Ashtar. 
16. Tiger and a piglet will do like a chicken. 

Belam bar Beor inscription
The literature text
The inscription tells us about the prophet Blaam son of Beor, his prophecy and his visions. It looks like he speaks about the end of times judgment to his believers. 
The inscription tells us : Belam Bar (son of) Beor, a man that is envisioning the words of the gods, in the night, the gods revealed to him what will happen in the end of times. As a result, Belam cried in the morning. When his people asked him why he was crying and fasting, he told them about the vision that he saw. In his vision, the demons came to a decision and commanded the sun to close and sow the sky together. This act caused darkness in the world and made it desolate. Following the darkness and the chaos that changed the regularity of nature, the laws of the animal kingdom in the world was changing. The little birds will curse the vultures. The shepherd’s staff that was leading the flock, will now be led. Rabbits will eat wolfs. Hyenas will speak words of moral and poor people will start to make potions like priests.

Similarity between the BelAm inscription and the Bible 
1. The name BelAm:

i. Bible: Well known and singular name, mentioned mainly in Numbers. Numbers 22,5 "And he sent messengers unto Balaam the son of Beor, to Pethor, which is by the River, to the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying: - Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt; behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me." 
ii. Inscription: The name of the main character in the inscription is BelAm.

2. Bar Beor: 

i. Bible: Numbers 22,5 "And he sent messengers unto Balaam the son of Beor, to Pethor…" , Beor is the father of BelAm 
ii. Inscription: Following the name BelAm, was the word BarBeor, it is well-known that the Aramaic word bar means "son of " in Hebrew. Therefore BarBeor means son of Beor

3. The origin of BelAm 

i. Bible: Numbers 23,7 "And he took up his parable, and said: - From Aram Balak bringeth me, the king of Moab from the mountains of the East: 'Come, curse me Jacob, and come, execrate Israel." 
ii. Inscription: the linguistic characters testify on the Aramaic origin of the writer and the inhabitants that populated the tel. 
a. Aramaic origin of the name, see paragraph number 2 

b. In the first line of the inscription, the original language (Hebrew) reads:
 "יסרי ספר [.ב]ל[עם .ברבער. אש. חזה. אלהן.] הא . ויאתו. אלוה. אלהן. בלילה " 
"The torments of the Book of Blaam son of Beor, a seer of the gods is he, the gods came to him at night, and he saw a vision." 
The root אתא is the same as the verb came, we can find this root frequent in the Onkelos Aramaic translation of the Torah for example in Genesis 33,18 
" יח. וַאֲתָא יַעֲקוֹב שְׁלִים לְקַרְתָּא דִּשְׁכֶם, דִּבְאַרְעָא דִּכְנַעַן " 
Genesis 33,18 "And Jacob came in peace to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram; and encamped before the city."

4. The title of main character: 

i. Bible: in the Bible, Blaam is described as a prophet and a seer that has visions from god
Numbers 24 ,3 "And he took up his parable, and said: The saying of Balaam the son of Beor, and the saying of the man whose eye is opened; 4 "The saying of him who heareth the words of God, who seeth the vision of the Almighty, fallen down, yet with opened eyes". 
ii. Inscription: In line number 1 in the inscription indicate that Blaam is a seer that hears the word of god : "The torments of the Book of Blaam son of Beor, a seer of the gods is he, the gods came to him at night, and he saw a vision".

5. A way to get the messages from God:

i. Bible: The visions of Blaam happen at night. Numbers 22,20 "And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him: - If the men are come to call thee, rise up, go with them; but only the word which I speak unto thee, that shalt thou do.".
ii. Inscription: line number 1 in the inscription tells us that Blaam receives his messages from the gods at night : " The torments of the Book of Blaam son of Beor, a seer of the gods is he, the gods came to him at night, and he saw a vision”.

6. Using a specific kind of bird in prophecy:

i. Bible: Jeremiah 8,7 "Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the swallow and the crane observe the time of their coming; but My people know not the ordinance of the LORD.".


In the same verse in the Hebrew Bible,
"גַּם-חֲסִידָה בַשָּׁמַיִם, יָדְעָה מוֹעֲדֶיהָ, וְתֹר וסוס (וְסִיס) וְעָגוּר, שָׁמְרוּ אֶת-עֵת בֹּאָנָה; "וְעַמִּי--לֹא יָדְעוּ, אֵת מִשְׁפַּט יְהוָה 
ii. Inscription: in line number 7 of the inscription the original language (Hebrew) reads:

"ואל נגה. עלם. ואל. סכרכי. תהבי. חתם[. בע]ב. חשך. ואלן. תהגי. עד. עלם. כי. ססעגר. חר"



Conclusion
In general, there is no doubt in the mind of the scholars that the inscription is talking about the Biblical Blaam son of Beor.
From the two sources (the Bible and the inscription) comes the strong Aramaic connection of Blaam son of Beor. In addition, it reflects that he was seen as a great prophet among the people in this general area. Therefore, it is no wonder that this Blaam was the subject of legends and stories even much later than his own time.


References

J.A. Hoftijzer &G . van der Kooij, Aramaic Texts from Deir Alla, Leiden 1976.

Idem, The Balaam Text from Deir Alla Re-Evaluated (Proceedings of the International Symposium Held at Leiden, August 1989), Leiden 1991.

J.A. Hackett, "Deir Alla, Tell — Texts", Anchor Bible Dictionary, II, New York 1992, pp. 129-130.

Shmuel Ahituv "HaKetav VeHaMiktav" second edition 2012 ,Handbook of Ancient Inscriptions from the Land of Israel and the Kingdoms beyond the Jordan from the Period of the First Commonwealth.