The Ostracon From The Days Of David Found At Khirbet Qeiyafa -- By: Alan R. Millard

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 62:1 (NA 2011)
Article: The Ostracon From The Days Of David Found At Khirbet Qeiyafa
Author: Alan R. Millard

The Ostracon From The Days Of David Found At Khirbet Qeiyafa

Alan Millard


A newly discovered ostracon at Khirbet Qeiyafa which dates from about 1000 BC is a welcome addition to the meagre examples of writing which survive from that period. The letters are difficult to read and the language may be Hebrew, Canaanite, Phoenician or Moabite. Translations range from a list of names to commands concerning social justice. The simplest explanation is that this is a list of Hebrew and Canaanite names written by someone unused to writing. They help to suggest that writing was practised by non-scribes, so the skill may have been widespread.


Discoveries of written documents in the Holy Land are always noteworthy, especially those from the Eleventh and Tenth Centuries BC. From those centuries there are very few examples indeed. There are only two of any length. The Gezer Calendar is well known, found during the Palestine Exploration Fund’s work at the site in 1908, and generally dated to about 925 BC. A more recent find is the alphabet scratched on a boulder unearthed at Tel Zayit by the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary expedition in 2005.1 Apart from these there are only personal names scratched on a stone and on potsherds that can be placed approximately in the Tenth Century, the period of the reigns of David and Solomon. They are part of a gaming board from Beth

Shemesh,2 and sherds from Tell eṣ-Ṣafī (probably Gath),3 from Tel ‘Āmal, near Beth-Shan, from Timnah, and from Khirbet Rosh Zayit, near Kabul in the north, which might be Phoenician.4 Earlier than that, there are equally few documents assigned to the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries: little more than names on potsherds from Khirbet Raddana, Lachish, Manaḥat and Qubur el-Walayda, the ‘Izbet Ṣarṭah ostracon bearing several lines faintly scratched, one legible as an abc, a hardly legible ink-written ostracon from Beth Shemesh, names incised on bronze arrowheads and a name incised on a bronze bowl found at Kefar Veradim in the north, which may be Phoenician.5

The scarcity of inscriptions from the Holy Land in the Twelfth to Tenth Centuries BC and the relative rarity of Hebrew epigraphic remains from the Ninth Century when compared with the Eighth to Sixth Centur...

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