3,000-Year-Old Hebrew Inscription Discovered
A Hebrew inscription on a jar unearthed at Tel Abel Beth Macaah may resolve a long-running dispute about the extent of Israelite territory in the 9th-century B.C.E. Written in Hebrew, the inscription reads Ibnayo: “belonging to Benaiyo.” Benaiyo was an Israelite name, suggesting–but not proving–that Abel Beth Macaah was an Israelite city at the time when Ahab was the Israelite King.
Abel Beth Maacah is in the area where ancient Israel, Aram and Phoenicia met. As Lauren Monroe explains in “Abel Beth Maacah in the Bible” (Bible History Daily), different mentions in the book of Samuel imply that Abel Beth Maacah was either an Israelite or an Aramaean city. Avraham Biran was the first advocate of the theory that it was an Israelite city. Israel Finkelstein, and others, argue that the Israelite Kingdom did not extend that far until generations later.
The find was announced by Azusa Pacific University, runners of the dig with Hebrew University. The directors are Robert Mullins of Azusa Pacific University, and Naama Yahalom-Mack and Nava Panitz-Cohen of the Institute of Archaeology at Hebrew University.
The researchers discovered a room from the ninth-century B.C.E. that contained broken jars. The ink inscription was so faint that they did not see it until the pieces were sent for restoration. It took multispectral images from the lab to enable them to read the Hebrew writing. Another jar contained grape residue and a grape seed. The room may have been an ancient wine cellar.
There have been other important finds at Tel Abel Beth-Macaah, including a late Bronze age silver hoard, one of the earliest ever found in Canaan. In the future, further discoveries may further establish the that Abel Beth-Maacah was an Israelite city in the time of King Ahab. Or new evidence might contradict this find, revealing the site was Aramaean or Phoenician, or even an independent city.
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