Posted Sunday, March 09, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Comments: None
Show Introduction

Since I am still feeling sick and not up to writing actual intelligent thoughts yet, I thought I would bring out a paper from the years past. This is a final for a class I took on Hebrew inscriptions while I was at Hebrew University several years. This is a very interesting area, so I hope that you enjoy reading some of the inscriptions. I've got a transcription and a translation of each of the inscriptions and answers to various questions about them, whether it be details of Hebrew grammar or how it relates to the Bible. I hope you enjoy them!
Read more of Inscriptions

The Gezer Calendar

Posted Sunday, March 09, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Comments: None
Show Introduction

ירחו אסף ירחו ז

רע ירחו לקש

ירח עצד פשת

ירח קצר שערים

ירח קצר וכל

ירחו זמר

ירח קץ




Two months of harvest

Two months of sowing

Two months of late planting

One month of hoeing flax

One month of barley-harvest

One month of harvest and measuring

Two months of vine-pruning

One month of summer fruit




Follow the link for a discussion of Hebrew gramamr, the purpose of the calendar and the date of the calendar (it's old!).  

Read more of The Gezer Calendar

The Moabite Stone

Posted Tuesday, March 11, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Comments: None
Show Introduction

The Mesha stone is a fairly long inscription from King Mesha of Moab (see 2 Kings 3). The discovery of the stone 100 years ago is worthy of a movie. Someone saw it in Jordan and recognized its value, so he made a squeeze of it (a copy). But as he was finishing it, some men came to attack him, so the last part was rather rushed. He later offered to buy the stone, but since they saw it was valuable, they decided there must be some kind of valuable metal in it, so they put it in a fire and broke it into pieces. It eventually ended up in the Louvre in Paris. Follow the link below for a discussion of the theology of the Moabite stone, the relationship to 2 Kings 3, and the differences between Hebrew and Moabite. 

This section is found in the midst of a series of accounts of military actions taken by Mesha. The stele begins with an introduction (lines 1-4), then continue with the military actions (4-21). After the battles comes a description of the repairs undertaken by Mesha (21-28). A conclusion comes after that (28-31), and then strangely more battles are described again in the unclear bottom of the stele (31-34). This particular section is the first battle described in the battle section and highlights the actions of Chemosh as opposed to Mesha, who is only described as rebuilding, not fighting. 


י. מלך. ישראל. ויענו. את. מאב. ימן. רבן. כי. יאנף. כמש. באר

צה \ ויחלפה. בנה. ויאמר. גם. הא. אענו. את. מאב \ בימי. אמר כ

וארא. בה. ובבתה \ וישראל. אבד. אבד. עלם.                        


Omri King of Israel, and he subjected Moab for many days, because Chemosh was angry with his land. His son succeeded him, and he also said “I will subject Moab.” In my days thus he said. And I saw up on him and upon his house [my desire? my will?] and Israel was destroyed forever.


Read more of The Moabite Stone

Silwan Tunnel Inscription

Posted Friday, March 14, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Comments: None
Show Introduction


This inscription was found in Hezekiah's Tunnel in Jerusalem and is now located in Istanbul (it was found during the time of the Ottoman empire). It appears to commemorate the day of the finishing of the tunnel from the perspective of the workers, without a word about Hezekiah or anyone else "important." The details below include information the type of inscription, the spelling, and the way the letters are formed.  

 ×”נקבה. וזה. ×”×™×”. דבר. הנקבה. בעוד                     

הגרזן. אש. אל. רעו. ובעוד.שלש. אמת. להנ      ×¢. קל. אש. ק

רא. אל. רעו. ×›×™. הית. זדה. בצר. מימן  ומ    אל. ובים. ×”     

נקבה. הכו. החצבם. אש. לקרת. רעו. גרזן. על   רזן. וילכו

המים. מן. המוצא. אל. הברכה. במאתים. ואלף. אמה. ומ 

ת. אמה. ×”×™×”. גבה. הצר. על. ראש. החצב                       


[The day of ] the tunnel. And this is the record of how the tunnel was made. While [the diggers were digging?] the axe of a man toward his neighbor and while three cubits to cu[t through] the voice of a man calls to his neighbor for there was a fissure in the crack from the south to the [north]. So on the day the tunnel was made the diggers struck, each man towards his neighbor, axe on axe. And the water came from the spring to the pool, a distance of 1200 cubits. One hundred cubits was the height of the rock above the head of the diggers.

Read more of Silwan Tunnel Inscription

Tomb of the Royal Steward

Posted Sunday, March 16, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Comments: None
Show Introduction

זאת         יהו אשר על הבית. אין פה כסף. וזהב             

  אם       ועצמת אמתה אתה. ארור האדם אשר              

יפתח את זאת

This inscription was found in the village of Silwan, across the Kidron valley from the City of David. This area seemed to be a cemetary during the Iron Age. Sadly for us, a Byzantine monk decided to make this tomb his home and put a beam across the room, obliberating part of the inscription. And he even chose to rub out the name of the person buried. Very sad, since it might very well refer to a biblical character. But even without the name, it is still a very interesting inscription. Details below include a commentary on the inscription, short comments on the writing style, and the biblical connection. 


This is the [grave of ????]yahu who was the royal steward. There is no silver or gold here, only the [his bones] and the bones of his maid servant with him. Cursed the man who will open this.

Read more of Tomb of the Royal Steward

Khirbet El-Qom

Does God have a consort?

Posted Tuesday, March 18, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Comments: None
Show Introduction

a. Following Naveh.

אריהו השר כתבה

ברך אריהו ליהוה

נצרי ולאשרתה הושע לה



Uriyahu the governor wrote it

May Uriyahu be blessed by Yahweh

My guardian and by his Asherah. Save him

(save) Uriyahu


Read more of Khirbet El-Qom

Khirbet Beit Lei

Posted Wednesday, March 19, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Comments: None
Show Introduction

These inscriptions are hard to decipher, so there are two transcriptions of them into Hebrew.  

a. Naveh


A. יהוה אלהי כל הארץ ה

רי יהד לו לאלהי ירשלם 


YHWH is the God of the whole earth, the mountains

of Judah belong to him, to the God of Jerusalem


B. המוריה אתה חננה נוה יה יהוה

The (Mount of) Moriah you have favored, the dwelling of Yah, YHWH




A. אני יהוה אליכה ארצה

ערי יהדה וגאלתי ירשלם  


I am YHWH your God

I will accept the cities of Judah

And will redeem Jerusalem


B. נקה יה אל חננ נקה יה יהוה


Absolve (us) O merciful God!

Absolve (us) O YHWH

Read more of Khirbet Beit Lei

Kuntilet Ajrud

Posted Monday, March 24, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Comments: None
Show Introduction

More inscriptions which raise the issue of whether YHWH has a consort. 

Pithoi A “[  ] says: Say to [   ] and Yaush and to [   ] I bless you by YHWH of Samaria and by his Asherah”


Pithoi B “Amaryau: Say to my lord [   ] I bless you by YHWH of Teman and by his Asherah he will bless you and keep you and will be with my lord.”

One of the main options for the Asherah is that she is a goddess and the consort of YHWH (Freedman). She appears as the consort of the great god El in Ugarit, so it would be logical to assume the same here. If YHWH had “replaced” El, then we can expect Asherah to follow. Also, she is asked to bless someone, so that would assume something more than a tree or a temple, it would mean something that can give a blessing. There are also some Biblical references that support Asherah as a goddess. For example, 1 Kings 18:19 refers to 400 prophets of Asherah, which Freedman views as being inherited by YHWH after the defeat of Baal. Many fertility figurines have been found in Israel from this time period, and it is possible to identify them with Asherah. Further, there is a picture at Ajrud that might be Asherah.

The problem with this view is that third person suffix: his Asherah. Personal names in Hebrew do not appear with a suffix, so this strongly encourages the view that Asherah is not referring to the goddess. Freedman tries to get around this argument by quoting a section from Shakespeare about “her Romeo,” and while I understand what he is saying, it does not seem to be a likely interpretation of this particular text. The picture that supposedly refers to Asherah really shows one or two pictures of Bes and a woman playing the lyre, none of whom can be Asherah. While the Ugaritic texts can be helpful, there are several hundred years prior to our text here and in a different country. The Phoenician texts are closer in time, but do not have any mention of a Asherah with Baal. The Biblical evidence, while it might hint sometimes toward a goddess, usually goes against that view. For example, Asherah appears with the article, which does not appear with names.

The other main view of the Asherah (Lemaire, for example) is that it refers not to a goddess but to a concrete item that was used in a shrine. There is an Akkadian word “asirtu” which means a holy place. There are also cognates from Old Aramaic and Middle and Late Phoenician which have the same meaning. The Biblical evidence indicates that the Asherah was some kind of tree. For example, Deuteronomy 6:21 talks about planting a tree as an Asherah and Deuteronomy 16:21 speaks of one being planted, and Exodus 34:13 describes them as being cut. LXX reads Asherah as grove. The most likely meaning of Asherah is as a sacred tree that was used in various holy sites and sanctuaries.

These inscriptions help us understand a little bit about Israelite religion. While the Asherah (sacred trees) had been used for a long time apparently, they were on the verge of becoming personalized in these inscriptions, which is seen as a common pattern in the ANE (McCarter). They were not yet, but they appear to be on the way. This process could be why the strongly monotheistic prophets react so strongly against the Asherah. For example, Hosea 10:8 talks about the high places (of which the Asherah were apparently a key part) will be destroyed. The other aspect of Israelite religion that appears is the linking of YHWH with a locale. Apparently the people who wrote these inscriptions viewed YHWH as directly connected with local places and not just as a national god.


Read more of Kuntilet Ajrud

Ketef Hinnom

Posted Thursday, March 27, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Comments: None
Show Introduction

This is one of the more important finds in the past few decades in Israel. This is the earliest part of the Bible that has ever been discovered, even though it is only a few verses, and its relationship to the Bible is debated. But it is very old, at least back to pre-exilic times. The tombs in which this was found can be seen today, behind the Begin building across the valley from Mt. Zion and Jerusalem University College. Gabriel Barkai, one of my teachers at Hebrew University, was the director at the dig and told us the story about how it was found. The tombs had been known for a long time, so they were not expecting any great finds. One day there were some junior high kids who came to help at the dig, and one boy in particular turned out to be very annoying to Barkai, asking incessant questions. So he gave him a broom and told him to sweep out one of the repositories, the hollow area under the place where the bodies are laid and in which the bones are stored. Just a few minutes later the boy came up to Barkai and showed him a nearly complete lamp. It turned out that the boy had gotten bored and started pounding on the floor of the repostiory with a hammer. Underneath he found a secret stash of items, untouched since they had been buried thousands of years ago. The junior highers were sent home and archaeology students from Hebrew U. were enlisted. The dig was done around the clock in utmost secrecy for several days until all the items were taken out. There were many, many items of various types, including a lot of silver items. The most famous are the two tiny silver scrolls which contain part of the Aaronic blessing, available for viewing at the Israel Museum. They are so small the second one was not even noticed until they sifted the dirt. Great story.  

Ketef Hinnom 1:

YHWH…. The great one who keeps the covenant and kindness to those who love him and guard [his commandments?] … the eternal… blessing more than any snare or evil because in him is redemption. For YHWH is our restorer and rock. May YHWH bless and keep you. May YHWH make his face shine…

Read more of Ketef Hinnom

Yavneh Yam

Posted Monday, March 31, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Comments: None
Show Introduction

 ×•×™×‘א הושעיהו בן שב

י ויקח את בגד עבדך כאשר כלת

את קצרי זה ימם לקח את בגד עבדך

וכל אחי יענו לי הקצרים אתי בחם

  ש   אחי יענו לי אמן נקתי מא



And Hoshayahu son of Shobi came and took the garment of your servant. After I measured the grain over those days, he took the garment of your servant. And all my brothers will answer for me, the ones harvesting with me in the heat of the [sun]. My brothers will answer for me “Amen”. I am innocent from blame.

This is only part of the letter, the complete letter can be read elsewhere.This seems to be a clear case of oppression of the poor, such as Deuteronomy fights against. Follow the link for a discussion of the background of the letter and why the garment was actually taken. 

Read more of Yavneh Yam

Lachish 3

Posted Sunday, April 20, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Comments: None
Show Introduction

ועת. הפקח

נא את אזן    ×¢×‘דך. לספר. אשר

שלחתה   אל עבדך. אמש. ×›×™. לב

עבדך דוה. מאז. שלחך. אל. עבד

ך   וכי  אמר. אדני. לא. ידעתה

קרא ספר חיהוה. אם. נסה. א

יש לקרא לי. ספר לנצח. וגם

כל ספר   אשר יבא. אלי   אם.

קראתי. אתה ועוד אתננהו

אל. מאומה                    


And now, please explain to the ear of your servant the letter which you sent to your servant last night because the heart of your servant is sick since you sent to your servant. And when my lord said “You do not know to read a letter” (Or “You do not understand! Call a scribe!). By God never has any man tried to read to me a letter, and every letter which comes to me, surely I read it myself, and moreover I can repeat it!

 This is one of a series of letters that were found at Lachish before the attack by Nebuchadnezzar. 

Read more of Lachish 3