From Israel The Oldest Known Hebrew Writing -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 07:1 (Winter 1978)
Article: From Israel The Oldest Known Hebrew Writing
Author: Anonymous

From Israel
The Oldest Known Hebrew Writing

In our Winter 1977 issue we gave a short report on the discovery of the earliest known example of Hebrew writing. The text scratched on a piece of pottery (an “ostracon”), has now been published, giving further details on this important discovery.

The Site

The ostracon was found at a site call Izbet Sartah in the Ephraimite hill country in central Israel, some three km east of Tel Aphek (for a report on the excavations at Tel Aphek, see the Summer 1976 issue of Bible and Spade, pages 90–97). Two brief seasons of excavations were carried out in February and August of 1976 under the direction of Moshe Kochavi of the Tel Aviv University. The excavations revealed three occupational strata. Stratum III, the earliest, consisted of dwellings and adjacent silos which the archaeologists dated to the 12th century B.C. This was followed by the most important period, Stratum II, consisting of a typically Israelite “four-room house,” extending over more than 200 square meters in the center of the settlement, with smaller buildings at the periphery. The exterior walls of the central building were one meter or more in thickness. In the open space between this building and the surrounding houses, dozens of circular stone-lined silos, dug down to bedrock, were discovered. The four-room house had been built on the ruins of Stratum III, and after a short period of abandonment at the end of Stratum II it was rebuilt by the people of Stratum I. The finds of Stratum II date its abandonment to the middle of the 11th century B.C. and the renewed settlement of the upper stratum (Stratum I), of very short duration, to around the end of the 11th or the beginning of the 10th century B.C. After the Stratum I occupation, Izbet Sartah lay deserted and forgotten until Israeli archaeologists began probing her secrets.

Survey map of Aphek region.

Biblical Connections

Izbet Sartah is thus seen to be an Israelite site of the period of the Judges. As the nearest Israelite neighbor of Aphek, lying on the road

leading up to Shiloh, the site is ideally located for a mustering center for the Israelite forces who went forth to battle the Philistine armies assembling at Aphek and thus is probably to be identified as the Eben-ezer of 1 Samuel 4:1. The founders were no doubt Ephraimite families who pushed westwards to the edge of the hill country and settled the site in the 12th century B.C. To move further west into the Yarkon basin where Aphek was located, would have...

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