Name from Davidic era found inscribed on 3,000-year-old vessel
Archaeologists in Israel have discovered a large, clay storage pot in the Elah Valley with a name from the era of King David inscribed on it in raised Canaanite letters. The pot dates to the Iron Age of about 1020 to 980 BC. Archaeological discoveries in recent years in Israel show the people of the Kingdom of Judah were writing in Canaanite script during the era of King David, about 300 years before previous estimates. Researchers say the rulers of Judah must have had a cadre of clerks and writers.
It was originally thought that Hebrew writing started in the 6 th or 7 th century BC. However, this latest discovery, the second ancient inscription found at the site of Khirbet Qeiyafais, shows Judean writing existed before that, said Professor Yosef Garfinkel of Hebrew University.
The Kingdom of Judah was in the south of Palestine. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin broke away from the other 10 Jewish tribes to form their own state. King David was the second king to rule over Judah and also the northern Jewish state of Israel after the Israelite ruler Eshba'al Ben Shaul was assassinated. The name Eshba'al Bedn Beda was inscribed in Canaanite script on the 3,000-year-old jar. Archaeologists unearthed it at a dig in Khirbet Qeiyafais in what had been the ancient Kingdom of Judah, where writing was not known to have existed then until about five years ago.
Scholars had previously thought Hebrew writing began in the 6 th century BC, according to a 2010 article on Live Science . So they thought the Bible’s Old Testament was not written down until around that time. Some of the Bible stories predate writing, and were believed to have been passed down orally until they could be recorded in documents. But in 2010, a discovery at the same site showed Hebrew writing dated to the 10 th century BC.
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A drawing of Hebrew writing on a clay pot found in 2010 at the same site (Michael Nester drawing/ Wikimedia Commons )
Garfinkel issued a joint statement with Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority :
Until about five years ago we knew of no inscriptions dating to the tenth century BCE from the Kingdom of Judah. In recent years, four inscriptions have been published: two from Khirbet Qeiyafa, one from Jerusalem and one from Bet Shemesh. This completely changes our understanding of the distribution of writing in the Kingdom of Judah and it is now clear that writing was far more widespread than previously thought. It seems that the organization of the kingdom required a cadre of clerks and writers and their activity is also manifested in the appearance of inscriptions.” --Archaeologists Garfinkel and Ganor.
The jar itself was broken in hundreds of shards that researchers pieced together, which is when the inscription was revealed. The name on the jar reads ‘Eshba'al Ben Beda’, the first time the name Eshba'al has been found on an ancient artifact. The fact the man's name was inscribed on the jar indicates he was an important personage, say the researchers at the Israel Antiquities Authority website.
Eshbaʽal Ben Shaul, who ruled over Israel at the same time as David, is known from the Bible. Eshbaʽal was murdered by assassins and decapitated and his head was brought to David in Hebron (II Samuel, Chaps. 3-4). It is interesting to note that the name Eshbaʽal appears in the Bible, and now also in the archaeological record, only during the reign of King David, in the first half of the tenth century BCE. This name was not used later in the First Temple period. The correlation between the biblical tradition and the archaeological finds indicates this was a common name only during that period. The name Bedaʽ is unique and does not occur in ancient inscriptions or in the biblical tradition.”--Garfinkel and Ganor
The researchers surmise Eshba'al Ben Beda owned a large agricultural estate and packed and shipped his produce in large clay jars inscribed with his name. This is evidence of social stratification and commerce and trade in the beginning of the Jewish kingdom of the time, they say.
The western gate of Khirbet Qeiyafais (Photo by Yaels/ Wikimedia Commons )
The name Ba'al refers to a Semitic storm god mentioned several times in the Bible who fell out of favor with the Jews after strict monotheism was introduced. In the Book of II Samuel, the writers appeared to avoid using the name Eshba'al and changed it to Ish-Bashat. But in the Book of Chronicles, the original name of Eshba'al was preserved. “Thus, for example, the name of the warlord Gideon Ben Joash was also changed from Jerrubaal to Jerubesheth,” they said.