A 3,000-year-old scrap of pottery has been hailed as the first archeological evidence the biblical King David did exist. The tiny shard was unearthed at the site where the Bible says the shepherd boy David killed the giant Goliath.
It is said to feature the oldest-ever Hebrew inscription, predating the famous Dead Sea Scrolls by at least 850 years.
Researchers have not yet been able to decipher the full text of its five lines but they have translated the words for “king”, “judge”, and “slave,” suggesting it was written by a trained scribe in the king’s court.
The lead archaeologist says the shard and the fortress-city in which it was uncovered are rare evidence of the biblical kingdom of David.
Professor Gershon Galil of the Department of Biblical Studies at the University of Haifa has deciphered an inscription dating from the 10th century BCE (the period of King David’s reign) and has proven the inscription to be ancient Hebrew, thus making it the earliest known example of Hebrew writing.
The significance of this breakthrough relates to the fact that at least some of the Biblical scriptures are now proven to have been composed hundreds of years before the dates presented today in research and that the Kingdom of Israel already existed at that time.
The inscription itself, which was written in ink on a 15 x 16.5 cm trapezoid pottery shard, was discovered a year and a half ago at excavations that were carried out by Professor Yosef Garfinkel near the Elah valley, south of Jerusalem, and west of Hevron. Professor Galil’s deciphering of the ancient writing testifies to it being authentic Hebrew based on its use of verbs particular to the Hebrew language and content specific to Hebrew culture not adopted by other regional cultures at the time.
“This text is a social statement, relating to slaves, widows and orphans. It uses verbs that were characteristic of Hebrew, such as “asah” (did) and “avad” (worked), which were rarely used in other regional languages. Particular words that appear in the text, such as “almana” (widow) are specific to Hebrew and are written differently in other local languages. The content itself was also unfamiliar to all the cultures in the region besides the Hebrew society: The present inscription provides social elements similar to those found in the Biblical prophecies and very different from prophecies written by other cultures postulating glorification of the gods and taking care of their physical needs.”
Galil added that once this deciphering is received at research centers, the inscription will become the earliest Hebrew inscription to be found, testifying to Hebrew writing abilities as early as the 10th century BCE. This stands opposed to the dating of the composition of the Bible in much current academic research, which does not recognize the possibility that the Bible or parts of it could have been written during this ancient period.
Gail stated: “It can now be maintained that it was highly reasonable that during the 10th century BCE, during the reign of King David, there were scribes in Israel who were able to write literary texts and complex historiographies such as the books of Judges and Samuel.” He added that the complexity of the text, along with the impressive fortifications revealed at the site, refute theories that attempt to deny the existence of the Kingdom of Israel at that time.
1′ you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].
2′ Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an]
3′ [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and]
4′ the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king.
5′ Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.
A pottery shard found in Israel probably does not refer to the biblical Goliath, but it does lend credence to the story surrounding him, surmises Lawrence Mykytiuk, author of Identifying Biblical Persons in Northwest Semitic Inscriptions of 1200-539 B.C. The shard dates to 950 B.C., making it the oldest Philistine inscription yet found.
That is roughly 70 years after Goliath reportedly was killed by the Hebrew shepherd boy with a sling. ‘q-his is evidence that non-Semitic names that are remarkably similar to Goliath were used within the time frame of this Philistine warrior in his reputed hometown of Gath. It provides well-grounded cultural background that supports the biblical narrative.