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Friday, January 15, 2010

Earliest Known Hebrew Writing

The topic of the following article by Clara Moskowitz at is worthy of discussion in and of itself… (I just love it when science finally discovers that, in spite of all the cynicism from those who have scoffed at the Biblical record for the last two hundred years, what the Bible says is true after all.)

However, in this post I do not so much want to discus the implications of this discovery on our understanding of when the Bible was possibly written… but instead I want to discuss the content of this discovery. Indeed it is quite fascinating to discover a pottery shard with Hebrew writing dating back to the period of King David’s reign… But what is equally amazing to me it that the scientists get all excited about the age of this discovery, and completely ignore the content of the message itself. To me this is like being the caption of the Titanic and getting a warning message of a massive iceberg directly in your path and being so excited over this wonderful new technology (wireless) that allows ships to talk to one another that you completely forget to read the message.

Anyway, I digress… It’s the message that’s important not the pottery shard itself.

(Article begins here)

Bible Possibly Written Centuries Earlier, Text Suggests

Clara Moskowitz
LiveScience Staff Writer

Scientists have discovered the earliest known Hebrew writing - an inscription dating from the 10th century B.C., during the period of King David's reign.

The breakthrough could mean that portions of the Bible were written centuries earlier than previously thought. (The Bible's Old Testament is thought to have been first written down in an ancient form of Hebrew.)

Until now, many scholars have held that the Hebrew Bible originated in the 6th century B.C., because Hebrew writing was thought to stretch back no further. But the newly deciphered Hebrew text is about four centuries older, scientists announced this month.

"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," said Gershon Galil, a professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Haifa in Israel, who deciphered the ancient text.

BCE stands for "before common era," and is equivalent to B.C., or before Christ.

The writing was discovered more than a year ago on a pottery shard dug up during excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, near Israel's Elah valley. The excavations were carried out by archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. At first, scientists could not tell if the writing was Hebrew or some other local language.

Finally, Galil was able to decipher the text. He identified words particular to the Hebrew language and content specific to Hebrew culture to prove that the writing was, in fact, Hebrew.

"It uses verbs that were characteristic of Hebrew, such as asah ('did') and avad ('worked'), which were rarely used in other regional languages," Galil said. "Particular words that appear in the text, such as almanah ('widow') are specific to Hebrew and are written differently in other local languages."

The ancient text is written in ink on a trapezoid-shaped piece of pottery about 6 inches by 6.5 inches (15 cm by 16.5 cm). It appears to be a social statement about how people should treat slaves, widows and orphans. In English, it reads (by numbered line):

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.

The content, which has some missing letters, is similar to some Biblical scriptures, such as Isaiah 1:17, Psalms 72:3, and Exodus 23:3, but does not appear to be copied from any Biblical text.

(End of article)

The principals (ideals) of social conduct contained on this simple shard of pottery dating back to the period of King David are simply extraordinary.

1st – That it was written upon a clay tablet indicates that the wisdom it contented (the message) was of such importance that it should be persevered for all future generations.

2nd – The text is in essence a “Constitution” or “Social Contract” laying down the very foundational rules for this society.

3rd – This society is first of all to be a “Religious Society” and not a “Secular Society”. The establishment of a purely secular state, so entrenched in the thinking of our society today, is not found here.

4th – In this society “Religious Tolerance” is NOT a virtue. God alone is to be worshiped.

5th – Justice for all, regardless of their station in life, is to be one of the foundational principals upon which this society is built. Regarless if one is a slave, a widow, an orphan, or even a stranger (Immigrant) in the land, all are to be treated justly.

6th – Unlike in other societies, where the strong rule over the weak and the defenseless, in this society the rights of the weak and the defenseless are to be earnestly protected. I am deeply moved by the fact that the earliest known Hebrew writing ever discovered says; “Plead for the Infant” . Which I strongly believe applies to the unborn child and the ongoing abortion holocaust of the last fifty years.

7th – And lastly the Poor, the Slave, and the Stranger (Immigrant) are not to be abused, or taken advantage of.

I may come back and expand upon my initial observations latter (depending upon if anyone is interested or not), but duty calls me away and I must end this post for now.

Grace Always,