Tel Dan Inscription

George Athas gathas at
Tue Dec 28 15:39:17 EST 1999

> I don't understand how the lexeme byt dwd can be construed as any thing
> else than House of David, considering the context of a royal inscription
> boasting of the victory over two enemy kings in battle, and considering
> that in contemporary Assyrian inscriptions Bit Humri always refers to
> the House of Omri, the founder of the regnant dynasty in Northern
> Israel.

You're correct about the Bit Humri concept. However, the Tel Dan Inscription is a
different inscription and must treated on its own merits firstly, and then compared with
other texts, like the Assyrian annals. Within the Tel Dan Inscription itself, the
orthography employed does not allow _bytdwd_ to be a construct phrase, such as "House of
David" or "Temple of Dod" or anything else like that. The orthography of the inscription
suggests that it is to be read as a single word and concept. A toponym is the only real
possibility in this case, much like the toponym "Bethel". From this understanding and a
careful analysis of the text's content, you will find that this toponym may well point to
"David" (or some such personage), but it does not offer a complete and conclusive link.
It's plausible, but not conclusive.

(Amos calls the regnant dynasty of Aram Damascus Bet Hazael, but
> I imagine that's to be discounted because the uterrer of these
> prophecies "certainly" could not have lived or written before the 15th
> century CE, when printing was invented)

I'll ignore the dismissive sarcasm.

> Somehow I get the impression that some scholars, in their attempt to
> cast doubt at all costs and for all reasons, scholarly or otherwise, the
> historical existence of  a King David, are ignoring the pertinent
> parallels and analogies.

> BTW, it's been claimed that the dwd of Tel Dan is a god. Does this hold
> for Humri and Hazael as well?

Ignoring the dismissive sarcasm again, I'll take this as a legitimate point rather than a
fanciful jab. There is evidence that _dwd_ is a divine epithet of some sort. In the case
of the Tel Dan inscription, any link with a divine _dwd_ is inconclusive, just as it is
with "David". Plausible, but inconclusive. I tend to lean towards the position that the
inscription points to a "David" person rather than a _dwd_ deity, but I cannot offer you
any conclusive proof. The link is not quite made in the inscription. And besides this, I
cannot tell you anything about that "David" personage because the inscription tells me
nothing about him because it's not about him. It's about someone else.

Best regards,
George Athas
 Dept of Semitic Studies,
 University of Sydney
Tel Dan Inscription Website
< gathas@ >

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