Inscription indicates Kingdom of Israel existed in the 10th century BCE
Jan. 8, 2010
Shalhevet Zohar , THE JERUSALEM POST
A breakthrough in the research of the Bible has shed new light on the period in which the Bible could have been written, testifying to Hebrew writing abilities as early as the 10th century BCE, the University of Haifa announced on Thursday.
Prof. Gershon Galil of the Department of Biblical Studies at the University of Haifa recently deciphered an inscription dating from the 10th century BCE, and showed that it was a Hebrew inscription, making it the earliest known Hebrew writing.
This breakthrough indicates that at least some of the scriptures were composed hundreds of years before the dates previously believed, and that the Kingdom of Israel already existed at that time. The 10th century BCE was the period of King David's reign.
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.
Though it was dated to the 10th century BCE, it was not immediately clear whether it was written in 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," Prof. Galil explained. "It uses verbs that were characteristic of Hebrew, such as asa ("did") and avad ("worked"), which were rarely used in other regional languages. Particular words that appear in the text, such as almana ("widow") are specific to Hebrew and are written differently in other local languages."
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 confirmed, 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.