What other ancient Hebrew texts?

Dave Washburn dwashbur at nyx.net
Wed Feb 28 09:04:14 EST 2001

Raymond wrote:
> On 26-02-2001 15:44 Karen Spray <karen.spray at lineone.net> wrote:
> > I was wondering what (if any) other Hebrew texts of comparative antiquity
> > exist which might shed light on word meanings etc in the Hebrew Bible.
> Karen, 
> there are Hebrew inscriptions dating from the biblical times. However, they
> do not help very much with regard to the meaning of words, though sometimes
> they do. 
> On the other hand, sometimes they are rather revolutionary with regard to
> the religion or history of ancient Israel. For example, an inscription from
> Kuntillet `Ajrud mentions that Yhwh has an Ashera. An inscription from Tel
> Dan (though in Aramaic) mentions the _BYTDWD_ which refers to the house of
> David (see http://members.nbci.com/gathas/teldan.htm for much more
> information).

Agreed.  At the same time, it's necessary to use caution when 
interpreting what these items really mean.  In particular, does the 
Kuntillet `Ajrud inscription indicate that ancient Israel *universally* 
and consistently believed YHWH had an Asherah, or does it 
indicate a localized phenomenon that took place during one of 
Israel's many reported periods of idolatry?  People's answers will 
vary with their presuppositions about things like what we can know 
about ancient Israel, how reliable the biblical texts are, the history 
of religions and other aspects of the field.  But in most cases, there 
are several ways of looking at the implications of these brief and 
often cryptic messages.

> In case you're interested in some additional material for the study of the
> meaning of (Biblical) Hebrew words, you will have to study some other
> NW-Semitic languages, like Aramaic and Ugaritic.

Most definitely.  Ugaritic has done a lot for my study of Hebrew, 
Aramaic (non-biblical kind) less so but still useful.  I found 
Akkadian negotiable; in some cases it seemed to shed a little light 
on the Hebrew language, but not much and not very often.  I spend 
almost no time in that one any more.  Your Mileage May Vary.

Dave Washburn
"No study of probabilities inside a given frame can ever
tell us how probable it is that the frame itself can be
violated."  C. S. Lewis

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