2,800-Year-Old Fortress Is Discovered In Sinai -- By: Terence Smith

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 05:4 (Autumn 1976)
Article: 2,800-Year-Old Fortress Is Discovered In Sinai
Author: Terence Smith


2,800-Year-Old Fortress Is Discovered In Sinai

Terence Smith

On a lonely, isolated hill called Kuntillet Ajrud, overlooking a vast and empty desert plain, an Israeli archaeological team has discovered an ancient Judean fortress containing a rare collection of Hebrew and Phoenician inscriptions dating to about 800 B.C. The inscriptions were discovered on pottery and the plaster walls of a remarkable 2,800-year-old fortress apparently built by King Jehoshaphat of Judea to protect the Solomonic route to the port of Elath and the rich Red Sea trade lanes to the biblical Ophir.

The inscriptions are considered doubly significant because several refer to “Jehovah,” the traditional name of God that the ancient Jews wrote rarely because it was so extremely sacred. It is the largest collection of eighth century B.C. inscriptions ever found at a single site. The site itself had been discovered in the 19th century by a Briton who drew erroneous conclusions from what he found.

Important inscriptions found at the site of Kuntillet Ajrud.

Clues From Inscriptions

Some of the inscriptions are still being deciphered at Tel Aviv University and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. But Zeev Meshel, the archaeologist who headed the dig, has reached some tentative conclusions. The more provocative include the following:

The fortress is the southernmost and

westernmost Judean site ever discovered. It stands at a crossroads between the ancient Gaza-Elath route and a track leading to the southern Sinai region. To Mr. Meshel, this suggests that effective control of the Judean kingdom of the period extended much farther south and west than had previously been believed.

Mr. Meshel believes that the Judean kings probably passed this way as they headed for Elath, which according to the Bible, King Solomon developed as a major port for the Red Sea trade. The existence of this fortress raises the possibility that others like it may lie undiscovered on the Gaza-Elath route.

The Phoenician inscriptions on the walls are evidence that some Phoenicians passed this way, again probably going to Elath, then known as Ezion Geber. In the book of Chronicles, the Bible records that Hiram, king of the Phoenician city of Tyre, sent to Solomon ships and seamen for his navy at Ezion Geber (2 Chronicles 8:18).

The Phoenician inscriptions found here tend to support the speculation that the ships were actually assembled in what is now Lebanon, were sailed down the Mediterranean to a point near...

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