Isaiah Bulla

Isaiah Bulla

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Khirbet el-Qom inscription

Khirbet el-Qom inscription 
Khirbet el-Qom is an archaeological dig located on the western slopes of the Hebron mountains on the area of the settlement al-Qom, about twelve kilometers west of Hebron. Some scholars proposed that Khirbet el-Qom is the biblical city of Makada.  The biblical Makada is in the boundaries of the tribe of Yehuda. This proposal is based on the bible only.
Location of Khirbet el-Qom

Two inscriptions were engraved on the walls of tombs near the ledge (where the dead body of the deceased was laid).
Based on the shape of the letters, the tombs can be dated to 700-750 BCE.

The first inscription
The inscription (see  was purchased in Jerusalem from an antique dealer who said it had been carved out from one of the tomb rooms. The inscription was engraved on the soft lime stone and the letters were painted in a black ink and the reading is quite clear:

“לעו[..] בן נתניהו. ” “to o[...] son of Netanyahu ”

to o[...] son of Netanyahu inscription

Names in the inscription
Netanyahu - נתניהו: appears several times in the Bible, the biblical chronology is the 7th BCE. It should be noted that the inscription was written in full spelling way (with a Mater lectionis letter), similar to the Masoretic text.

To O[..] - לעו[..] : perhaps the name is “ofi עופי“This name appears in the Bible only one time and incidentally in the same verse in which the name "Netanyahu"appears.

Jeremiah 40 "8. then they came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, even Ishmael the son of Netanyahu, and Johanan and Jonathan the sons of Kareah, and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth, and the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jezaniah the son of the Maacathite, they and their men."

יִרְמְיָהוּ מ "ח. וַיָּבֹאוּ אֶל-גְּדַלְיָה, הַמִּצְפָּתָה; וְיִשְׁמָעֵאל בֶּן-נְתַנְיָהוּ וְיוֹחָנָן וְיוֹנָתָן בְּנֵי-קָרֵחַ וּשְׂרָיָה בֶן-תַּנְחֻמֶת וּבְנֵי עופי (עֵיפַי) הַנְּטֹפָתִי, וִיזַנְיָהוּ בֶּן-הַמַּעֲכָתִי--הֵמָּה, וְאַנְשֵׁיהֶם."

A view into the interior of the cave
The second inscription 

In an additional excavation a second tomb was discovered, the tomb seems to be plundered recently. 

A few days later, a local Bedouin sold an inscription he “found” in the same area, to an American archaeologist who was in charge of the excavation, the inscription has four lines that are carved on the stone in ancient Hebrew letters. Below the inscription was carved a decoration in the shape of a human hand. The script reading is difficult.

Facsimile of the inscription
Translation of the Inscription
Insights from the inscription

1. The name of the deceased is "Ariho" “אריהו”, the meaning of the name in Hebrew is -Lion of the Lord, a parallel name (with the same meaning) in the bible is "Arel" "אראל".

2. The inscription and the magnificent tomb attest to a distinguished deceased.

3. Ariho was probably a senior official in the kingdom of Judea, as the inscription attests to "Arihothe Minister (sar)- אריהו השר", in Akkadian "Saru - שרו " is a king and in Egypt "Sir" is a nobleman, a senior official or an adviser.
In the Bible the word sar –שר means ruler/captain /minister
For example Judges 9 "30. And when Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled."

“ וַיִּשְׁמַע, זְבֻל שַׂר-הָעִיר, אֶת-דִּבְרֵי, גַּעַל בֶּן-עָבֶד; וַיִּחַר, אַפּוֹ.”

Or 2 Samuel 2 "8. Now Abner the son of Ner, captain of Saul's host, had taken Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahanaim;"

“וְאַבְנֵר בֶּן-נֵר, שַׂר-צָבָא אֲשֶׁר לְשָׁאוּל--לָקַח, אֶת-אִישׁ בֹּשֶׁת בֶּן-שָׁאוּל, וַיַּעֲבִרֵהוּ, מַחֲנָיִם.”

4. The inscription asks the God of Israel "YHWH" to bless the deceased, and to protect him from his enemies.

5. The connection of the Canaanite goddess “ASHERA” in the inscription was not clear at first, according to the inscription, it seems that “Ariho” will be blessed by “YHWH and his ASHERA”. This inscribing format is already known from another source, the site of Kuntillet Ajrud, where two inscriptions were found in the format of “TO YHWH[name of a place] and his ASHERA”.

By writing “YHWH and his ASHERA”, the scribe refers to ASHERA as the wife of the Israeli god YHWH

Marriage between EL and ASHERA is the foundations of Canaanite theology, According to this theology, ASHERA is the wife of EL (the supreme god of the Canaanite pantheon), according to the Hebrew bible the two names EL and YHWH represented the same deity.

The reflection of worshiping YHWH and ASHERA together, can be found in some verses of the Bible, for example The Judean king Manasseh in 2 Kings Chapter 21 “7. And he set the graven image of Asherah, that he had made, in the house of which the LORD said to David and to Solomon his son: 'In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, will I put My name forever”.

 statue of ASHERA
Some scholars suggest that the name “ASHERA” does not refer to the Canaanite goddess, but to a tree, that was planted for the purpose of idolatry. The Torah forbids planting such trees :Deuteronomy 16 “21. Thou shalt not plant thee an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the LORD thy God, which thou shalt make thee”.


Dever, W. G. - “Inscriptions from Khirbet el-Kom”,Qadmoniot: A Journal for the Antiquities of Eretz, Vol. No. 3 (15) / 1971), pp. 90-92.

Dever, W. G., “Iron Age Epigraphic Material from the Area of Khirbet el Kém”, HUCA 40-1 (1970), pp. 139-204.

“Recent Archaeological Confirmation of the Cult of Asherah in Ancient Israel”, Hebrew Studies 23 (1982), pp. 37-44.

Dorsey. D. A., “The Location of Biblical Makkedah". Tel mm: 7 (1980). pp. 185-93.

Gilula, M., “To Yahweh Shomron and his Ashera”, Shnaton 3 (1978-9), pp.129-37.

“Who or What Was Yahweh's Asherah?", Biblical Archaeology Review 10/6 (1984), pp. 42-51.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

[.....]Yehu which is over the house inscription

[.....]Yehu which is over the house inscription

In 1870, the French archaeologist Clermont-Ganneau found a man made structure carved into the rock, the structure stood among the street houses in the village Silwan, which is south to the temple mount. The structure turned out to be a tomb that has a chiseled front, the tomb dimensions are 4 meters high and 8 meters length.
Inside the tomb Ganneau found one burial chamber.

The entrench to the chamber

Above the entrance to the structure a rectangular depression was inscribed with a three-line inscription in ancient Hebrew script.
A second inscription with only one line was found near the first inscription, The two inscriptions were severely damaged, it seems that this was deliberate sabotage, the damage left the short inscription almost unreadable, Clermont-Ganneau carved out the long inscription and took it to the British Museum.
the long inscription

In 1950 Nachman Avigad proposed a reading suggestion to the two inscriptions

"זאת [קבורת ...]יהו אשר על הבית. אין פה כסף וזהב [כי] אם [עצמותיו] ועצמות אמתו אִתו. ארור האדם אשר יפתח את זאת "
"This (the) [burial ...]Yehu which is over the house, there is no silver and gold here [for] if [his bones] and the bones of his bondwoman with him: cursed the man who will opens this"

Insights from the inscriptions 

1. From the location of the tomb (close to the Temple Mount), it’s structure (carved into the bedrock), and the fact that the inscription informs us that there is no money or gold in the tomb, it is obvious that the deceased was a rich man and an important figure in his time in Jerusalem.

2. The name of the deceased that was immortalized in the inscription was intentionally corrupted; it seems that the person who corrupted the inscription knew how to read it, the part that was erased was the name of the deceased. It is reasonable to assume that the vandalism was done in ancient times, and that the deceased was not popular at the time. 

3. Whoever destroyed the name of the deceased, left the theophoric addition (God's name) "יהו" (Yeho) which was at the end of the deceased name. The vandal was careful not to destroy the name of the Israelite God. 

4. The title of the deceased was " אשר על הבית" (which is over the house). 

5. The deceased was buried with his bondwoman / concubine, it is unclear whether she was buried only after she died a natural death or she was buried with him at the time of his death. 

6. The deceased was afraid that his grave would be looted, so he made sure that at the end of the inscription a curse would be added to the man who dared to open the grave.

Facsimile of the inscription

“Which is over the house”

The title of the deceased in the inscription is "Which is over the house". In the Bible this title is reserved for the senior officials in the court. Seven people in the Bible bore this title:

1. Unknown man : in the house of Joseph in Egypt: Genesis 43" 19. And they came near to the steward of Joseph's house, and they spoke unto him at the door of the house”

2. Ahishar : minister of King Solomon: 1 Kings 4 "6. And Ahishar was over the household; and Adoniram the son of Abda was over the tax.". 

3. Obadiah : that is on the house of King Ahab : 1 Kings 18 "3. And Ahab called Obadiah, who was over the household.-Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly".

4. Arza : which is on the house of the Israelite king Elah : 1 Kings 16 "9. And his servant Zimri, captain of half his chariots, conspired against him; now he was in Tirzah, drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza, who was over the household in Tirzah; "

5. Yotam : son of Azariah king of Judah served in this position during his father's illness, 2 Kings 15 "5. And the LORD smote the king, so that he was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a house set apart. And Yotham the king's son was over the household, judging the people of the land. "

6. Shebna : which was over the house during the reign of Hezekiah king of Judah, Isaiah 22 "15 Thus saith the Lord, the GOD of hosts: Go, get thee unto this steward, even unto Shebna, who is over the house"

7. Eliakim son of Hilkiah : 2 Kings 18 "18 And when they had called to the king, there came out to them Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebnah the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder.".

Shebna, who is over the house
Isaiah 22 , “15. Thus saith the Lord, the GOD of hosts: Go, get thee unto this steward, even unto Shebna, who is over the house: 16. What hast thou here, and whom hast thou here, that thou hast hewed thee out here a sepulchre, thou that hewest thee out a sepulchre on high, and gravest a habitation for thyself in the rock?”.

Analysis of the verse

1. Shebna was known as a man who carved a fancy grave for himself.
2. The tomb is in a conspicuous place.
3. The tomb was carved in bedrock.

The magnificent tomb in Silwan is consistent with the Biblical description of Shebna tomb in Isaiah 22, all though two problems arise:

1. The name of the deceased has the theophoric ending "יהו" (Yeho), while "Shabana" lacks the suffix.
2. The role of Shebna as a high official in the kingdom is known only from the bible.

NOTE - The full name Shebnyhu, can be found in 1 Chronicles 15 “24 And Shebnyhu, and Joshaphat, and Nethanel, and Amasai, and Zechariah, and Benaiah, and Eliezer, the priests, did blow with the trumpets before the ark of God; and Obed-edom and Jehiah were doorkeepers for the ark.” 

The Shebnyhu of Chronicles is not the same person as Shebna of Isaiah 22, but another man from the time of king David

About Judean names 
It is known that some Hebrew names such as Ezria (עזריה)Ahijah (אחיה), are abbreviations of the Hebrew names Azaryahu* (עזריהו) see 2 Kings 15 (6,7) and Achiyahu* (אחיהו) 1 Kings 14 (1 to 7).

* see the spelling in the Hebrew bible

On this base Yigael Yadin and Nahman Avigad suggested that the erased part of the inscription was “זאת [קברת שבנ]יהו אשר על הבית” "This is the burial place of Shebneyahu over the house"
This approximation is appropriate in terms of the number of missing letters.

The first seal from Tel Lachish 
In 1966-1968 excavations in tel Lachish, weights and seals with various inscriptions were found. One of the seals bears the inscription "Shebneyahu... the King" (the dots indicate letters that did not survive). 

The inscription attests that Shebneyahu is connected in some way to the king. Unfortunately, the third lower right of the seal is missing. It is possible that the missing part had the word "servant / slave" (senior officials were known as "the servant of the king"). If the missing word is "servant / slave" in Hebrew “עבד”, it may refer to the buried man with our inscription in Silwan. Since the middle word is completely missing, the scholars could not reach a conclusion on the subject. Therefore it is not possible to know the nature of the connection between this Shebneyahu of the seal and the royal house in Judea.

The second seal
In 2007 another seal appeared in the Jerusalem antiquities market, the seal had similar structure. As the first seal this too, was found broken, but in addition to the words " Shevniahu " were the letters "ד המלך".. From this we can assume that the two seals bears the same inscription “Shevniahu the King's servant” in Hebrew “לשבניהו עבד המלך”. 

drawing of Shevniahu seal

It seems possible that Shevniahu “שבניהו”, who appears in the seal from Lachish, is the "servant of the king" whom Isaiah condemned, and who was buried in a cave in Silwan. And that this Shevniahu sent a letter with his seal from the royal court of King Hezekiah to Lachish.