Most ancient Hebrew biblical inscription deciphered

January 7, 2010, University of Haifa
A breakthrough in the research of the Hebrew scriptures has shed new light on the period in which the Bible was written. Professor Gershon Galil of the Department of Biblical Studies at the University of Haifa has deciphered an inscription on a pottery shard discovered in the Elah valley 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. Credit: Courtesy of the University of Haifa

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 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.

Prof. Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa who deciphered the inscription: "It indicates that the Kingdom of Israel already existed in the 10th century BCE and that at least some of the biblical texts were written hundreds of years before the dates presented in current research."

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.

The inscription itself, which was written in ink on a 15 cm X 16.5 cm trapezoid pottery shard, was discovered a year and a half ago at excavations that were carried out by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel at Khirbet Qeiyafa near the Elah valley. The inscription was dated back to the 10th century BCE, which was the period of King David's reign, but the question of the language used in this inscription remained unanswered, making it impossible to prove whether it was in fact Hebrew or another local language.

Prof. Galil's deciphering of the ancient writing testifies to its being Hebrew, based on the use of verbs particular to the Hebrew language, and content specific to Hebrew culture and not adopted by any other cultures in the region. "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 almanah ("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," Prof. Galil explains.

This undated picture released by the University of Haifa shows an ancient inscription on a piece of pottery in early Hebrew writing. The 3,000 year-old inscription discovered at a site where the Bible says David slew Goliath has been deciphered, showing it to be the earliest known Hebrew writing, Israeli archaeologists said.

He adds that once this deciphering is received, 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 current research, which would not have recognized the possibility that the Bible or parts of it could have been written during this ancient period.

Prof. Galil also notes that the inscription was discovered in a provincial town in Judea. He explains that if there were scribes in the periphery, it can be assumed that those inhabiting the central region and Jerusalem were even more proficient writers. "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 adds that the complexity of the text discovered in Khirbet Qeiyafa, along with the impressive fortifications revealed at the site, refute the claims denying the existence of the Kingdom of Israel at that time.

The contents of the text express social sensitivity to the fragile position of weaker members of society. The inscription testifies to the presence of strangers within the Israeli society as far back as this ancient period, and calls to provide support for these strangers. It appeals to care for the widows and orphans and that the king - who at that time had the responsibility of curbing social inequality - be involved. This inscription is similar in its content to biblical scriptures (Isaiah 1:17, Psalms 72:3, Exodus 23:3, and others), but it is clear that it is not copied from any biblical text.

Explore further: Earliest known Hebrew text in Proto-Canaanite script discovered in area where David slew Goliath

More information: English translaton of the deciphered 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.

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2.1 / 5 (7) Jan 08, 2010
Sorry but this alleged translation "proves" nothing of the kind that is claimed.

If such grand speculation were made in all areas of science on such flimsy "evidence" we would still be buying astrological claims.

Use of the word "king" does not mean that a kingdom existed, that "king" might have been a demented sheepherder, and worse still the translation is not known to be correct.

Lastly, even if the translation were 100% correct the writing could be the scribblings of a nobody.

The fact remains that there is NO CREDIBLE EVIDENCE for the existence of the Kingdom of David or that of his son Solomon. Such a vast kingdom would have left vast tracts of archaeological evidence, just as those found in Egypt which are much much older.

Biblical Archaeology has shown us that the old testament is but a collection of bronze age fairy tales of an enslaved people.

2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 09, 2010
powercosmic seems to be not only unable to discern the importance of the inscription, but betrays his prejudices which would never allow him to accept the evidence, no matter how strong. The use of "king" does not imply a kingdom? A demented sheepherder? Does he have either some basis or some expertise to question Galil's translation? And what if it is the scribblings of a "nobody." If 2000 years from now someone finds the scribblings of a "nobody" which mention President Obama and health care, does their anonymity overturn the evidence? Obviously not. Cosmo has also undervalued excavations at Solomon's stables, and the amount of sites yet to be excavated. It is not biblical archaeology which has impuned the content of the Old Testament, but antisupernatural skeptics who will remain unconvinced no matter what the evidence available.
5 / 5 (3) Jan 10, 2010
@JamesT A shard of pottery with some words on it doesn't come anywhere near proving anything about God. But I think you're right - people walk in with a bias, and see what they see through that bias.

On the other hand, I don't have a hard time believing there were people who called themselves Israelites, had a King, wrote some stuff down. It doesn't mean everything they wrote down is automatically accurate and true. So what's supernatural about it?

Was the author a nobody? If any demented sheepherder could read and write at the time, wouldn't there be even MORE texts kicking around?

Really, I can't see why this is so contentious. There's a pottery shard, it's old, it has writing on it. There were people back then, had a culture, were writing. It has nothing to do with what you think about modern Israel, or whatever it is that's getting everyone so freaked out about it. Sheesh.
3 / 5 (2) Jan 10, 2010
@JamesT, I won't argue with you, at your request. But in return you might avoid making sketchy arguments in a scientific forum - they come across as an invitation to respond. I.e. most people agree the universe is amazing, but that doesn't imply any particular god or religion is true, or any are.

Whether or not the Bible is a credible holy book, this new evidence is historically interesting and seems to shed light on a colorful part of human history. Hooray for science!
not rated yet Jan 14, 2010
Why are some religious people trying to misuse science for their ends?
Doesn't that indicate that they are in search of something to help them trust their beliefs?

some people believe there is no god and some belive there is god. Actually what is god?
For what reason these two groups are fighting?
Both are talking of believes and the word "believe" is an abstract term(can be interpreted in more than one way) then why are these people (not the one i quoted) involving science(which works with concrete things) into believes?

I think we getting off the track by this debate.
1 / 5 (3) Jan 14, 2010
Some scrolls contain "lost arc" like secrets. You will Shun by some space metals that do exotic things,singularity existing in metals, ancient bones,old wood that attracts cereals like r_ "iice" (to prevent search engines from accessing) etc, these objects pull the r_ "iice" and turn them them black & burn them, they attract flame, they transfer power to "ccooppper" wire and this in turn attracts the cereal R_ "iice". The main principle to test behind this is any non metallic hydride is being pulled by these exotic objects, ie they suck the hydrogen . They neutralize electronics.

Their power is increased 1000's of times in a German lab, these can stop any air vehicle by gravity beams etc.
some text too will be there in 1970's books on "Rare Earth Metal Applications"
Some proof on utube

1 / 5 (1) Jan 14, 2010
Physorg why is this on your site? This is a science site not some cockamamy theology website. Not only that the entire article is laughable. Nothing found in this supposed discovery in any way supports or conflicts with so called Biblical Archeology. More importantly there exists no evidence to support anything in the Old testament. I am very disappointed with the webmasters of Physorg right now, this should not be anywhere near or even linked to your website. This is not science.
not rated yet Jan 17, 2010
Actually, this shard has many of the same phrases from Isaiah 1:17 and other verses/chapters in the Old Testament. This is proof indeed. We must not ignore or cherry-pick that which we choose from legitimate scientific evidence.
not rated yet Jan 20, 2010
The enuma elish is from approximately 700BC (some say "probably" 1700 BC, which is not reliable for obvious reasons). The Jewish Torah has now been proven to be "at least" 1000 BC. So who exactly is plagiarizing who?
not rated yet Jan 20, 2010
First, I do not use wiki as a source. Second, we must hold to what can be proven. The shard of pottery recently found completely goes against what 'scholars' have been saying for years concerning the apparent 'late' date of the OT. There are many liberal 'scholars' that have made much--ad infinitum--about the differences of city names in the Bible, but this is easily explained in that names of cities went through minor changes and even nicknames as time marched on. Just as Chicago is known as "chi-town", etc. The only true translation that is in accord with the original Hebrew, Syriac (note I did not say "Greek") is the Authorized Version.

Unfortunately, many do not 'truly' have an open mind to the discovery of hard, contradictory information that goes against what they have learned. This is true not only in society in general, but also, can be found in the scientific community to a lesser extent. I.E., Climategate and more recently, 'apparent' Himalayan glacier shrinkage
not rated yet Jan 20, 2010
Let me also add that this shard of pottery gives us hard proof that proves a date of at least 1000 BC. We must then ask at what earlier date was the original OT text (that the shard of pottery is based on) written? The only logical answer is that we look forward to future excavations with heightened anticipation.
not rated yet Jan 20, 2010
There been dozens more discoveries via excavations, including the Moabite Stone.

To get back on topic, Kitchens had this to say about maintaining the apparent "older" date of the Enuma Elish, "In characteristic fashion, religious modernists allege that the biblical writer/writers borrowed from the Babylonian record. But sound scholarship has demonstrated that such a view is fallacious. Simpler accounts (e.g., the Genesis record) may give rise to more embellished versions, but the reverse is not the case."

Time reveals all things Mr. Otto.

not rated yet Jan 20, 2010
Kenneth (I misspelled his name as "Kitchens" earlier) Kitchen is a professor of Egyptology and Archaeology from the University of Liverpool.

His quote above is essentially common sense. Embellishments happen in routine day-to-day gossip. Remember, the Babylonians were notorious for human sacrifice and other wicked practices. They were also known for incorporating other beliefs as their own.

Keep in mind, there are even people today that would deny there was ever a Temple with artifacts in Jerusalem, even though there is secular proof (Arch or Titus) outside of the OT.

I think you are confusing the Moabite Stone as a Jewish artifact. It is not. The Moabites were not Jews.
not rated yet Jan 20, 2010
"Kitchen- ah, evangelical. Prolific Egyptologist, university of Liverpool (their affiliation?). Success based on a career faithfully toeing the line? A totally unbiased source."

Evangelical is a word that describes someone that believes in the Great Commission, as mentioned by Christ. There is nothing negative with that description.

I have no desire to debate you Mr. Otto. I have had literally dozens and dozens of similar conversations in the past. I only have the desire to consider facts, and the facts show--based on more and more excavations--that the historicity of the Bible is true.

I hope you read sources of information from all angles.
not rated yet Jan 21, 2010
"if you look closely, those beardless gents carrying the menorah and other booty are roman soldiers"

What legend are you referring to? Christ said that the temple would be torn down and not a stone left unturned. Of course it was Roman soldiers! The Bible does not say it would not be Roman soldiers !

Your "legend" comment has no merit.

Let's try to keep this civil please.
not rated yet Jan 21, 2010
"As were the Israelites"

A few apostate Israelites did sacrifice when they absorbed some of the pagan rituals. God was against them and this practice and the Jews were judged for these acts (they did not have a nation for over 2000 years). Sin is sin.
not rated yet Jan 21, 2010
"In this article Herzog 'claims' "...

Opinion. Like I said earlier, people will curse and swear and believe this drivel, yet ignore proof through the dozens of excavations. Just as we have no empirical evidence of observed evolution (and I'm not talking about adaptation or microevolution).

It's funny that agnostics/atheists generate so much hatred and vitriol toward Christians. One thing is certain, truth will be revealed to all upon death. It's just sad that it will be too late that point to repent. Something to consider.

Kirk out.

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