Israeli archaeologists find 3,100-year-old inscription linked to book of Judges

A worker for the Israel Antiquities Authority stands on the mosaic floor of a monastery unearthed during excavations in Hura, east of Beersheba April 1, 2014.
A worker for the Israel Antiquities Authority stands on the mosaic floor of a monastery unearthed during excavations in Hura, east of Beersheba April 1, 2014. | Reuters/Amir Cohen

Israeli archaeologists excavating in the Judean foothills have uncovered an extremely rare 3,100-year-old inscription from the era of the biblical judges and carrying a name from the book of Judges.

The inscription — the name “Jerubbaal” — on a small jug from 1,100 BCE, which the archaeologists uncovered from a storage pit at the Khirbet el Rai site, could be the first hard evidence of a name from the biblical stories of the judges that is on an artifact contemporary to the period, The Times of Israel said.

“The name of the Judge Gideon ben Yoash was Jerubbaal, but we cannot tell whether he owned the vessel on which the inscription is written in ink,” the archaeologists said in a press release, UPI reported.

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“According to the Bible, Gideon organized a small army of 300 soldiers and attacked the Midianites by night near Ma’ayan Harod,” lead archaeologists Yossef Garfinkel and Sa’ar Ganor, who are professors at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said.

The story of Gideon is found in Chapters 6, 7 and 8 in the book of Judges.

“In view of the geographical distance between the Shephelah and the Jezreel Valley, this inscription may refer to another Jerubbaal and not the Gideon of biblical tradition, although the possibility cannot be ruled out that the jug belonged to the judge Gideon,” the two archaeologists added. “In any event, the name Jerubbaal was evidently in common usage at the time of the biblical Judges.”

In any case, the discovery, which was published in the open-access Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology, is significant because of the “debate as to whether biblical tradition reflects reality and whether it is faithful to historical memories from the days of the Judges and the days of David,” they continued. “The name Jerubbaal only appears in the Bible in the period of the Judges, yet now it has also been discovered in an archaeological context, in a stratum dating from this period.”

The inscription was written in Early Alphabetic/Canaanite script, evidence of which has been found throughout Egypt and the Levant, The Times of Israel noted.

“We know very little about this period from the archaeological point of view and we (didn’t) have any meaningful inscription from this period,” Garfinkel told CBN News.

In an earlier interview with CBN News, Garfinkel said he believes pottery dating back to the time of King David, geography and biblical history all point to Khirbet el Rai as the Philistine town of Ziklag where David escaped King Saul.

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