Oldest Hebrew Inscription
(photo courtesy of the University of Haifa)
Never a dull moment for the history of the Hebrew language.
A breakthrough in the research of the Hebrew scriptures has shed new light on the period in which the Bible was written. Prof. 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 shown that this is a Hebrew inscription. The discovery makes this the earliest known Hebrew writing. The significance of this breakthrough relates to the fact that at least some of the biblical scriptures were composed hundreds of years before the dates presented today in research and that the Kingdom of Israel already existed at that time.
Here is a translation of the text:
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.
See here for the full press release.
Yes, this is probably the earliest example of the Hebrew language, but how does it follow as proof that parts of the Bible were composed hundreds of years earlier? It doesn’t. It provides a plausible context for literary activity and ability, but it doesn’t provide proof that scribes were creating complex literary texts like what is found in the Bible.