Great Discoveries in Biblical Archaeology: The Tell Dan Stela -- By: Gary A. Byers

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 16:4 (Fall 2003)
Article: Great Discoveries in Biblical Archaeology: The Tell Dan Stela
Author: Gary A. Byers

Great Discoveries in Biblical Archaeology:
The Tell Dan Stela

Gary A. Byers

Three Pieces of an Aramaic inscription engraved on a basalt monument were discovered in the early 1990’s at the Biblical city of Dan. Now referred to as the Tel Dan Stela, the original stone had been smashed in antiquity and the pieces reused in a later wall. Parts of 13 lines are readable, about one-third of the 3 ft x 2 ft inscription. Aramaic is a sister language to Old Testament Hebrew and, based on the shape of the letters, scholars date the text to the mid-ninth century B C., during the period of the divided Israelite monarchy.

Possibly Commissioned by the king of Aram (modern Syria), this is the first royal monumental inscription with a historical text ever found in Israel. While not mentioning their actual names, the text speaks of “the king of Israel” and “the House of David,” and most likely memorializes the victory of Hazael, king of Aram, over Joram, king of Israel, and Ahaziah, king of Judah, at Ramoth Gilead recorded in 2 Kings 8:28–29.

King David’s dynasty through Solomon, commonly referred to in the Bible as “the House of David,” ruled the Southern Kingdom from their capital of Jerusalem. This inscription, the first-known mention of David in a contemporary text outside the Bible, was made by an enemy only a little over 100 years after David’s death! At a time when some scholars are maintaining that David was only a mythical figure, an archaeological find has once again demonstrated the historical reliability of the Bible.

(For further information, see Bryant G. Wood, The Tel Dan Stela and the Kings of Aram and Israel, Bible and Spade 13 [2000]:59-63.)

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