[b-hebrew] question re: Tel Dan stela

George Athas gathas at hotkey.net.au
Wed May 26 05:35:30 EDT 2004

Hi Scott!

The Tel Dan Stele incorporates word dividers even in construct expressions -- witness line 8 of Fragment A and the expression MLK.Y$R)L. This makes the word BYTDWD particularly interesting. I have suggested that this shows the word BYTDWD to be a place name (a toponym) rather than a construct expression.

The dominant theory has been to see the phrase [ML]K.BYTDWD as similar to other Ancient Near Eastern designations for states, such as "Bit-Humri" (House of Omri) for Israel. This sees the state named after one of its prominent rulers. The problem with this reasoning is that it would require the phrase in the Tel Dan Stele to actually read: [ML]K.DWD -- in other words, the element BYT should not be there. The fact that BYT is there, however, is the thorn in the side of the dominant theory. To say "King of the House of David" is a bit like saying "President of the Bush Household" or even "President of the Whitehouse". Such expressions don't make sense. Using our contemporary examples, we would have to say "President of the USA", or some such expression.

This to me says that BYTDWD is indeed the name of a place, rather than the name of a dynasty. I suggest that this place is actually Jerusalem. In other words, BYTDWD (Bayt-Dawid) is an Aramaic version of the Hebrew name (YR-DWD (City of David). This would see the Tel Dan Stele, which I date to c.795 BC (written by Bar-Hadad, son of Hazael), being a witness to some sort of state entity in Jerusalem. That is, it sees Jerusalem as a city state, albeit very small, ruled by a famous family -- a kind of Monaco of the ancient world, only far less glamorous.

You can find a more detailed argument in my book, The Tel Dan Inscription: A Reappraisal and a New Interpretation (Sheffield Academic, 2003).

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Scott Needham 
  To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org 
  Sent: Tuesday, May 25, 2004 6:50 AM
  Subject: [b-hebrew] question re: Tel Dan stela


  N.P. Lemche, "'House of David': The Tel Dan Inscription(s)",
  _Jerusalem in Ancient History and Tradition_, ed. Thomas L. Thompson,
  2003, pp. 46-67, [and, I guess, with TLT in the 'Biran Killing David'
  article some years ago] asserts (1) that the "byt dwd" part of the
  inscription actually appears as "bytdwd" and (2)that the two word
  usage would in BH carry significantly different implications than the
  one word version.

  Regarding (1), one specific question: If this is so, why do 99% of the
  writers on the stela present the two word version?

  Generally: Anyone care to explicate?

  Regards and Happy Trails,

  Scott Needham
  Boulder, Colorado, USA

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  b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org

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