News And Notes -- By: Bryant G. Wood

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 06:4 (Autumn 1993)
Article: News And Notes
Author: Bryant G. Wood


News And Notes

Bryant G. Wood

New Inscription Mentions House of David

One of the most important discoveries to be made in Israel in recent years is that of an inscription etched in stone mentioning the “House of David.” This is the first royal stele (inscribed stone) with a historical text ever found in Israel and the first mention of David in a contemporary text outside the Bible. It was found last July at Tel Dan where excavations have been going on for 27 years under the direction of Avraham Biran (for previous reports, see Bible and Spade 1/1 [Winter 1972]:16-17; 3/1 [Winter 1974]:15-20; 4/4 [Autumn 1975]:107; 5/1 [Winter 1976]:22-27; Archaeology and Biblical Research 4/4 [Autumn 1991]:107-109).

The stele was found in secondary use in the remains of a wall bordering the east section of a large pavement or plaza at the entrance to the outer gate of the city. The outer gate is part of an elaborate gate system dating to the

Arrow shows the find spot of the “House of David” inscription. (1) newly discovered entrance gate, (2) plaza, (3) outer gate, (4) main gate.

Tel Dan stela found in July 1993 mentioning the “House of David” in line 9. This is the first royal inscription to be found in Israel and the first ancient reference to David outside the Bible. (Courtesy of Tel Dan Excavations.)

mid-9th century BC. Based on the archaeological context, the archaeologists believe the inscription was erected in the first half of the 9th century BC. Since David ruled ca. 1010–970 BC, the inscription dates to approximately 100 years after David’s death. Thus, the stele is closer in time to David than we are to Abraham Lincoln!

Engraved on basalt stone, with the face and one side smoothed off, the surviving text represents only about one-fourth of the original, much larger, monumental inscription. It measures 12 1/2 x 8 1/2 in, with the original size being ca. 40x20 in. Needless to say, the excavators are searching for more pieces of the stele. Thirteen lines are preserved, none of them complete. The widest line has 14 letters, about half of what was there originally. Written in early Aramaic, the script can be dated to the 9th century BC. Letters are clearly and neatly inscribed, and words are separated by dots. The words of the phrase “House of David” in line 9, however, are not separated by dots. “House of David” was a dynastic name for the kingdom of Judah (see 1 Kgs 12:19 [=

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