Rare Inscription from Davidic Times Unearthed
Israel Antiquity Authority (IAA) discovers 3,000 year-old jar with mysterious name engraved: Eshba’al.
A rare inscription from the time of King David was discovered at Khirbet Qeiyafain, in the Valley of Elah, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) revealed Tuesday.
A ceramic jar c. 3,000 years old that was broken into numerous sherds was discovered in 2012 in excavations carried out there by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University (HUJI) and Saar Ganor of the IAA.
Letters written in ancient Canaanite script could be discerned on several of the shards, sparking the curiosity of researchers.
Intensive restoration work conducted in the laboratories of the Israel Antiquities Authority Artifacts Treatment Department, during which hundreds of pottery shards were glued together to form a whole jar, solved the riddle – the jar bears the inscription: Eshbaʽal Ben Badaʽ.
Dr. Mitka Golub and Dr. Haggai Misgav were among the team of researchers involved in deciphering the text.
“This is the first time that the name Eshbaʽal has appeared on an ancient inscription in the country. Eshbaʽal Ben Shaul, who ruled over Israel at the same time as David, is known from the Bible. Eshbaʽal was murdered by assassins and decapitated and his head was brought to David in Hebron (II Samuel, Chaps. 3-4),” Professor Yosef Garfinkel of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University and Saar Ganor of the IAA stated. “It is interesting to note that the name Eshbaʽal appears in the Bible, and now also in the archaeological record, only during the reign of King David, in the first half of the tenth century BCE.”
“This name was not used later in the First Temple period.The correlation between the biblical tradition and the archaeological finds indicates this was a common name only during that period. The name Bedaʽ is unique and does not occur in ancient inscriptions or in the biblical tradition.”
Researchers suggest that Eshba’al was important, due to his prominence enough to be inscribed on the pottery. He was apparently the owner of a large agricultural estate and the produce collected there was packed and transported in jars that bore his name. This is clear evidence of social stratification and the creation of an established economic class that occurred at the time of the formation of the Kingdom of Judah.
“In II Samuel there was apparently reluctance to use the name Eshbaʽal, which was reminiscent of the Canaanite storm god Baʽal, and the original name was therefore changed to Ish-Bashat, but the original name of Eshbaʽal was preserved in the Book of Chronicles,” Garfinkel and Ganor added. “Thus, for example, the name of the warlord Gideon Ben Joash was also changed from Jerrubaal to Jerubesheth.”
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