Recently Discovered Hebrew Inscriptions -- By: A. R. Millard

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 11:1 (Oct 1962)
Article: Recently Discovered Hebrew Inscriptions
Author: A. R. Millard


Recently Discovered Hebrew Inscriptions

A. R. Millard

The substance of a paper read to the Old Testament Group of the Tyndale Fellowship, July 1962.

THE EARLY HEBREW texts known before 1950 have been collected and discussed in the works of Diringer and Moscati.1 Since the publication of Moscati’s corpus a number of inscriptions have come to light as the result of excavation and of chance discovery. Although there are few which contain more than half a dozen words, they have some significance for Old Testament studies. It may therefore be useful to make a brief survey of them in conjunction with those already known. All the ones we shall consider date from the last century of the kingdom of Israel and the ensuing years of the state of Judah. There have been press reports of earlier texts from Arad, near Masada, but no details have yet been announced.2

Before turning to the early Hebrew texts, we should notice a group of three bronze arrowheads found near Bethlehem. They have the owner’s name engraved upon them in early ‘phoenician’ letters: ḥṣbdlb't, ‘arrowhead of ‘Abd-leba’at’. The type of arrowhead and the form of the characters point to a date in the twelfth century B.C.3 These, then, are examples of Canaanite writing from the time of the Judges, from the days when Gideon made a boy at Succoth write out a list of the elders of the city for him ( Jdg. 8:14).

The finest specimens of Hebrew writing are naturally those which may be supposed to have emanated from the royal chancelleries in Jerusalem and Samaria. The text from the Siloam tunnel is rightly the most renowned of these and its script clearly shows the transference of the cursive hand to stone. The wealthy Judaeans who could afford the construction of tombs in the rock of the Siloam valley may well have used the skills of the royal scribes in the composition and engraving of their epitaphs. Remains of three of these have been found. Two are merely fragments.4 The third has been

brillantly reconstructed by N. Avigad.5 The wording is simple, comparable with later tomb inscriptions. There is no need to repeat here the details of its possible connection with Is. 22:15-16.6...

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