Thursday, October 29, 2009



Charles Warren (1840-1927) discovered this on a wall on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem: "The third stone north on the second course ... and on it are found, in red paint, ... the 'marks of King Solomon'. " (Recovery of Jerusalem, p. 112).

The seven characters are hard to fit into the Iron Age.

They are all different, but not sufficient for us to see the whole system and to distinguish the various letters.

I could make a case for the Bronze Age, but would this wall (or at least this stone) fit into that era?

The basis for my case is at ALPHABET AND HIEROGLYPHS

And the alphabet table at the end of that article.

Starting from the top line, reading from right to left:

Y : arm with hand (side view) >- here; yad, hence Y/y/. (See [11] Y)

O : circle representing the sun ($m$, shimshu). It usually has a snake with it. (See [22] Sh)

Second line (right to left).

? : possibly a tied bag, and so S. /Ss (Sadey). (See [16] Ss)

0 : apparently an eye (`ayin). (See [3] `ayin)

P : reversed, a human head (Rosh) (See [2] R); but it has two protruding lines at the top, and this is a feature of Q in the Bronze Age; both disappear in the Iron Age.

D : reversed, a human mouth (on its side) (Pe). (See [14] P)

+ : the cross is T at all stages of the alphabet (See [24] T)


(1) Y Sh (2) Ss ` R P T

YSh: is
Ss`r : small
PT : corner, edge, side (pi`at; Hbr pe'ah)

However, in the Bronze Age the word Ss`R has ghayin (Ugaritic, also Arabic).

Reading the bottom cluster from left to right:
PR `S. ('fruit of tree')

Ss`Q means 'cry out'.
Putting the circle and the cross together:
Sh T (Hebrew shiyt, 'pit', used for pits under the Temple! M. Jastrow, Dictionary, p. 1570)

Warren (p 112) says: "This stone has no draft at the top, but one of 13 inches at the bottom".

George Grena reports, concerning one of the characters: "Warren described one of the locals removing its red-paint tail". If this was the `ayin, it would produce a snake, like the one on the vertical section of the Wadi el-Hol inscription. This would give:
SsN "Sion" (Zion), with the semi-vowel y not represented (a characteristic of Bronze-Age inscriptions);
SsNR the mysterious s.innor of 2 Samuel 5:8; waterpipe?

Is this one of those warnings for diggers?
"There is (YSh) a waterpipe (SsNR) here (P)"
The + (like x) marks the spot.

There are similar mason marks at Megiddo and Samaria, described in G. R. Driver's SEMITIC WRiTING (1954) (the chapter on "The origin of the alphabet", and all his photographs, drawings, and tables, started me off on my own quest, which has now arrived at a culminating point, I like to think).

In his chapter on Alphabetic Writing, GRD includes (115-116) "masons' marks on stone" from those 3 places, and considers the  Megiddo and Samaria marks to be Iron Age Israelite, and to be letters of the Hebrew and Phoenician alphabet, and the Jerusalem marks to be the earliest;  18 examples, besides Warren's drawing (with the omission of the character I was taking to be N (snake) not `ayin (eye) after  I was told by George Grena that a tail had been rubbed out by a visitor, but Driver's drawing omits it entirely!). The two lines of other letters on his figure 67 look proto-alphabetic to me.

Still trying possibilities, the large Y Sh T (arm, sun, signature-mark) could be from the root ShT (Hebrew, Ugaritic) 'set, place'.

If this were saying the "the pipe ( should be put here", this would be an amazing discovery. I wonder whether the great Biblical Archaeologist William Foxwell Albright (1891-1971) would "buy" it.

It appears that there are fourteen letters, and half of them are now incomplete characters; but in the middle of the inscription we can read fairly securely (from right to left):

' Sh B ` L (Aleph, Shin, Beth, `Ayin, Lamed)

This looks like a personal name, and if ʾIšbaʿal is the correct rendering of the word (as in the title of the BASOR article) then it is masculine, meaning "Man of Ba`al" (though this is certainly not certain).

'Eshba`al happens to be the name of one of King Saul's sons, who had his own kingdom after his father's death (2 Samuel 2-4). But the late scribes of the Bible had him as Ishbosheth (Man of shame): 2 Samuel 2 (11x). Nevertheless, the Chronicler chose to call him 'Eshba`al (1 Chr 8.33, and 9.39): "Ner begat Qish ... begat Sha'ul... begat ... 'Eshba`al". Accordingly, 'Eshba`al was a son of King Saul.

But this Qeiyafa 'ShB`L apparently styles himself BN BD`. Is BD` another name of Saul? Or the mother's name? But Saul's wife was Ahino`am Bath-Ahimo`as (1 Sam 15:50); incidentally, the mother of Amnon, the firstborn son of David, was also named Ahinoam, of Jezreel, one of David's wives (1 Sm 25:43; 2 Sm 3:2). Saul had at least one concubine, named Rizpah, and when Abner took her as his own, Eshbaal objected, causing Abner to go over to David's side (2 Sm 3:6-12); she could have been Eshbaal's mother, and might have functioned as Queen Mother, but in any case Abner was possibly thinking of founding his own dynasty through her, but he yielded to the divine decree and popular support for David (2 Sm 3:17-19).

If the text of the inscription said BN BL`, instead of BN BD`(although the D is clear enough), we could presume that he was asserting his lineage in the tribe of Benjamin; that same chapter 8 of 1 Chronicles begins thus (8.1): "Benjamin begat Bela` his firstborn". This appears to be a definite possibility, as a scribal error.

Then again, is this ' Sh B ` L really a personal name? The place where the jar was found (Room B of Building C11, 6x5 m) possibly had no roof, and with its central hearth and water-basin, it could have been a sanctuary for performing sacrifices. (A cultic chamber, with a standing stone, has been excavated elsewhere in Area C, in the adjoining C10.) The sequence ' Sh B ` L , if read as 'Eshba`al, could mean "fire of the Lord"; and if the Lord is not human but divine, he is not necessarily the weather god Ba`al Hadad, but Yahweh. Christopher Rollston (in his first account of this inscription) refers us to a Benjaminite in the service of King David with the personal name “Ba‘alyah” (1 Chr 12:5/6), a name that means “Yahweh is Ba‘al (or "Yah is Lord"). However, we have seen B`L as a verb in line 3 of the Qeiyafa Ostracon (above): BA`ALA DAWIDI, "David has prevailed".

Incidentally, we might ask whether the supposed BN sequence ("son of") might actually be BG. Below I suggest that the final sequence (BD`) could be interpreted as "house of knowledge", possibly referring to this Room C11; and BG could be understood as begaw, "within" or "inside". Hence we have: "the fire of Ba`al within the house of knowledge".

However, the reading BN can be defended: what looks like a G (an angle) is more likely to be the top part of a Nun, as represented on the Gerbaal arrowhead, and in the new inscription from Beth-Shemesh (it is N on its side, that is, like Z).

The presence of a hearth in the room where the storage jar was discovered suggests that it might be 'eš b`l, "fire of Ba`al", and the container held fuel (oil?) for this fire-place. Or does the basin in the room suggest the jar was for water?

The form ʾIšbaʿal seems to be confirmed in Ugaritic documents, showing initial 'i. But 'iš as 'man' has not been found at Ugarit, has it? Also, "fire" is 'št ('išat) in Ugaritic, but 'eš in Hebrew.

The idea of the name meaning not "Baal's man" but "Baal is" or "There is a Baal" or "Baal is really someone", is appealing; but would this be possible in early Israel? Yes, since Ba`al could refer to Yah/Yahweh in those days, as already noted, above.

Here is a relevant comment from William Foxwell Albright (1891-1971),

Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, Baltimore, 1968 edn.

'One of Saul's sons was called "Esh-Baal" (Baal exists)'. (p. 113)|
'The usual translation, "Man of Baal," is linguistically difficult, and must, in my opinion, be replaced by the rendering ... [Baal exists]. Note that in the Baal Epic of Ugarit the resurrection of Baal is greeted with the triumphant words, "And I know that triumphant Baal lives (h.y), that the Prince, lord of the earth, exists ('it, which would be 'ish in later Canaanite)." Moreover, there are several passages in the Bible where 'ish or 'esh is employed instead of classical yesh.' (p.207, n.62).

However, another possible Eshbaal has been found as the first person named among David's mighty men (2 Sam 23:8; S. R. Driver, Notes on ... the Books of Samuel ..., Oxford 1913, 362-364): y$b b$bt might be a corruption of 'y$-b$t, where Ba`l has been replaced by bosheth ('shame'); the Septuagint Greek translation has 'Iebosthe, and Lucian has 'Iesbaal. Was this outstanding warrior holding the double-gated fort for David at some time? He is further qualified as 'chief among the captains', and th.kmny ("a Takhkemonite"?). The Chronicler (1 Chron 11:11) has him as y$b`m bn h.kmwny, and the occurrence of the root, referring to 'wisdom', hints at a connection with the bn bd` (son of the House of Knowledge?) of the Eshbaal jar inscription, though I am reluctant to accept this personage instead of Saul's son Eshbaal.

Another complication is that a name Eshbaal or Ishbosheth does not occur in the list of Saul's sons in 1 Samuel 14:49; in second place, between YWNTN (Jonathan) and MLKYShW`(Malkishua`) is YShWY (see Driver, Notes, 120-121). In the account of the death of Saul and his sons at the Battle of Gilboa (31:2), the name between Jonathan and Malkishua`is 'BYNDB ('Abinadab) (see Driver, Notes, 227), A later list (1 Chronicles 8:33, also 9:39) has four sons, of Saul, in this order: Jonathan, Malkishua`, 'Abinadab, and 'Eshbaal. Accordingly, it seems that 'Eshbaal, alias 'Ishbosheth, who survived the wrath of the Philistian hordes, and succeeded his father as king (2 Sam 2:8), was YShWY; and this name apparently includes a form of YHWH (perhaps YW or YH, remembering that the divine name Yahu appears on the ostracon, at the end of line 2). It seems best, even though Israelites had worshipped "the Baalim and the Ashtaroth" (1 Sam 7:3-4), to accept that the original form of the second son of Saul was 'ShB`L, as on the Qeiyafa jar, but the intended Lord (B`L) was Yahweh, or Yahu (as on the Qeiyafa ostracon); in Judaism and Christianity words for LORD replace the divine name, to avoid blasphemy, "taking God's name in vain" (Exodus 20:7); and when the association of Baal with "strange gods" became strongly felt in Israel, Baal names were banned, and -baal was replaced by -yahu, as in 'Eliyahu (Elijah). Therefore, the name Eshbaal or Ishbaal or Yishbaal had to be Ishbosheth (man of shame), or Baal had to be replaced with YHWH, in the form Yahu or Yah.

In the present context, we are confronted by 'SHB`L BN BD`. A Hebrew root BD`is not attested, so it may be necessary to break this sequence of signs into more than one part. I have long maintained that the letters of the protoalphabet could be used as logograms; Beth represents a house (bayt) and could stand for "house" here, followed by d` (knowledge, a masculine noun, Job 36:3; or it could be the feminine noun d`h, without the -h, since the matres lectionis were not in use at that time); hence "house of knowledge", preceded by "son of", that is, a student of that school.

Adding to the uncertainty is the possibility that BN is not "son" but "builder", which would later be written with helping consonants as bwnh. An analogy might be found in the St Mark's Isaiah of the Dead Sea Scrolls (49:17), which has "thy builders", whereas the received text (Masoretic) has "thy sons"; but the term "builders" fits comfortably with the walls of Sion in the context (49:16), though "a son of her womb" is clear enough in 49:15. In the present instance Eshbaal would be the builder of the house of knowledge, presumably meaning its founder, but the nature of the edifice or institution remains mysterious, unless it is the room in which the jar was found (C11), or even the whole complex of sacred places (C10 + C11) associated with the South Gate.

Looking again at that D in the inscription: it could have had a stem, which has been lost in the break; it would then be R, like the 6th letter in line 4 on the ostracon, or the second character in line 5. This is "stretching" it, literally and figuratively, but we are now looking at a word BR`. This could be "house of evil", but also a personal name. There is Bera` (King of Sodom, Gen 14.2), and four instances of Beri`â, one of whom belonged to the tribe of Benjamin (1 Chron 8.13), as did King Saul. In the current square Hebrew script , Resh and Dalet are easily confused (both are basically a right angle) but at this stage, in the Iron Age, it is Q and R that cause us grief. And the fourth letter in the jar inscription has a stem and a missing circle (Q?) or triangle (R?).

So, the first word could be KPQT or KPRT; and since the hypothetical P is represented only by a single horizontal stroke, a telegraph-pole Samek could also be constructed. The resulting sequence KS is found at the start of inscriptions with the meaning "cup"(written on beakers and bowls), but that does not seem applicable here.

But KSRT and KSQT are possible as restored readings.

However, we should explore some possibilities for the extremely uncertain reading kprt. The final letter is only half there, but it is probably T (a cross, +). It could mark -ot, the plural of a feminine noun, or singular -at (construct state). As a toponym it might be Kepirâ, one of the Gibeonite towns (Joshua 9.17). This is worth considering, as a place name is a likely word to appear as the source of the pot or its contents; and Gibeon is not far north of Khirbet Qeiyafa. If the H on the end of the Hebrew form (kpyrh) indicates an original -at ending, then it would fit the presumed KPRT nicely.

We could suppose that kprt refers to the contents of the pot. As a substance it could be koper, that is, henna, though its plural is in -im (masculine), and likewise koper, bitumen. Could it possibly be copra (coconut oil from India). If the presumed "knowledge" (d`) at the end of the text implies mind-altering drugs, then a distinct possibility is cannabis, as found in a temple at Arad in the Beersheba Valley, in the Negev: Note also that kprt can mean "henna bush" (Ugaritic), and perhaps that is what was in the jar. Would a man want to own such a shrub? Henna is an orange dye for use on the body (from the hair down to the toes). Or does this "cyprus flower", which grows wild in Israel, act here as a decorative indoor plant? Henna certainly has a place in the Song of Songs: a cluster in a vineyard (1:14); in the secret garden with pomegranates, nard, saffron, cinnamon (4:13); and out in the fields (henna rather than villages, kprym, 7:12).

As an object it might be a kepor (m), a bowl, or a kepir (m), a copper vessel, but it is neither.

As an abstract idea it could come from the root kpr, cover, make expiation, and we immediately think of Yom kippur, the Day of Atonement; and yet this word always appears as kippurim in the Bible. Another term with the same connection is, yet again, koper (m), ransom.

There is one KPR noun that would fit kprt, and that is kaporet (f), a mysterious word, said to mean the cover or lid of the Ark of the Covenant, and then "the mercy seat" where a propitiatory rite was performed on Atonement Day.

KPRT could be a verb: "Thou hast atoned, O Eshbaal". Incidentally, that is how I see the beginning of the Qeiyafa ostracon: "Thou hast cursed" ('LT). But that was on an ostracon; a sermon or oracle would probably not be engraved on a storage jar.

Actually, the first three letters of the supposed KPRT only have tiny remnants of their originals.

We must draw a veil over the possibility of kepir, young lion, which would raise the spectre of the Lion of Judah (cp Gn 49.9). We remember that Eshbaal did not take part in the Battle of Gilboa, with his brothers.

Another thought: if the final T (constructed from a remaining right angle) was in fact M, KPRM would suit kippurim, 'atonement'. However, it needs to be said that the drawings made by Ada Yardeni (her figs 15, 16, 17) are plausible in their reconstructing of the text. Here is one of them:

Is there anyone out there who could falsify this in this wise: we know where the s.innor was located, and it was not near that inscription?

However,  Warren would surely have made his drawing before the visitor disfigured it, especially as he saw this "renegade Greek from Crete" do it: "putting up his finger, [he] rubbed off the tail of a Q, and it became O".  The only mark fitting this description is the central one, with a tail, which could indeed be a Q, as noted above, or it is R.

Solomon (Shelomo) is nowhere in sight, since L and M are lacking; but at a pinch we could take the three central signs as DWD, and thus discover David!

We are left with my fundamental principle of epigraphy: Only the person who wrote a particular inscription knew its intended meaning, and now God alone knows the truth.

1 comment:

G.M. Grena said...

"Draft - a line or border chiseled at the edge of a stone to guide the stonecutter in leveling the surfaces. Also known as a margin."

Don't forget that one of those oyins or possibly the one you interpret as a "tied bag" might have originally been a Quf, as Warren described one of the locals removing its red-paint tail. It's too bad he didn't draw it with a dotted line. Too bad we can't send Capt. Warren an E-mail requesting clarification!