Tel Dan Inscription

George Athas gathas at
Tue Dec 28 16:13:44 EST 1999

> In context, with the mention of Ahazyahu, who is attributed to the
> Davidic dynasty by Kings,

The current arrangement of the fragments is erroneous. Yet, even allowing for it, it is
physically impossible to restore "Ahazyahu" in Line 8. There is simply not enough room for
the reconstructed text suggested by Biran and Naveh. The handwriting on each fragment
suggests that Fragments B1 and B2 were actually a lot further down the original
inscription than where they are currently placed. The current arrangement is practically
impossible on physical, epigraphic and textual grounds. The archaeological context in
which the fragments were found also don't really allow a reference to Ahazyahu.

> and with the biblical use of beit David to
> mean the dynasty of David or the regnant Davidic king,

The Bible, which dates much later than the Tel Dan Inscription, writes "House of David" as
_byt dwd_ -- two words, not a single word like _bytdwd_. If there were two words in the
Tel Dan Inscription, then we probably would have had "House of David".

what else can
> bytdwd mean? Are you assuming that he is king of some GN called bytdwd?
> Isn't this somewhat strained?

First of all, the text is not referring to Ahazyahu. It's physically not possible.
Secondly, if the text does refer to a GN called bytdwd, then it's not a strain at all to
see someone as its king. In fact, it's quite logical. We need to look firstly at the
inscription and then at other sources if we are to understand what _bytdwd_ means. How the
Bible uses _byt dwd_ is a secondary issue. How does the author of the Tel Dan Inscription
use it? That's the prime issue. For this, we must look at the content and orthography of
the Tel Dan Inscription -- not the Bible or the Assyrian annals. We cannot assume that the
author was using the same terminology and concepts as the Bible written a few centuries
later. That's drawing a conclusion first and then seeing how the evidence conforms to it.
In the Tel Dan Inscription, the orthography points to bytdwd being a GN.

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

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