BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

3,000-Year-Old Hebrew Inscription Discovered

Find may show that Tel Abel Beth Macaah was an Israelite city in the time of King Ahab

Hebrew inscription reads “Ibnayo,” “Belonging to Benaiyo” (reading provided by Christopher Rollston, The George Washington University). Photo: Dead Sea Scrolls Laboratory, Israel Antiquities Authority

A Hebrew inscription on a jar unearthed at Tel Abel Beth Macaah may resolve a long-running dispute about the extent of Israelite territory in the 9th-century B.C.E. Written in Hebrew, the inscription reads Ibnayo: “belonging to Benaiyo.” Benaiyo was an Israelite name, suggesting–but not proving–that Abel Beth Macaah was an Israelite city at the time when Ahab was the Israelite King.

Abel Beth Maacah is in the area where ancient Israel, Aram and Phoenicia met. As Lauren Monroe explains in “Abel Beth Maacah in the Bible” (Bible History Daily), different mentions in the book of Samuel imply that Abel Beth Maacah was either an Israelite or an Aramaean city. Avraham Biran was the first advocate of the theory that it was an Israelite city. Israel Finkelstein, and others, argue that the Israelite Kingdom did not extend that far until generations later.

The find was announced in late 2020 by Azusa Pacific University, runners of the dig with Hebrew University. The directors are Robert Mullins of Azusa Pacific University, and Naama Yahalom-Mack and Nava Panitz-Cohen of the Institute of Archaeology at Hebrew University.

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abel-beth-maacah-jug-hoard

Found in a complete jug, the silver hoard of Abel Beth Maacah, pictured here before undergoing conservation work to separate the silver pieces, is one of the earliest discovered in Canaan. Photo: Gabi Laron.

The researchers discovered a room from the ninth-century B.C.E. that contained broken jars. The ink inscription was so faint that they did not see it until the pieces were sent for restoration. It took multispectral images from the lab to enable them to read the Hebrew writing. Another jar contained grape residue and a grape seed. The room may have been an ancient wine cellar.

There have been other important finds at Tel Abel Beth-Macaah, including a late Bronze age silver hoard, one of the earliest ever found in Canaan. In the future, further discoveries may further establish the that Abel Beth-Maacah was an Israelite city in the time of King Ahab. Or new evidence might contradict this find, revealing the site was Aramaean or Phoenician, or even an independent city.


Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Rare Inscription Dedicated to Hadrian Found in Jerusalem IAA excavations north of Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate have uncovered a stone fragment engraved with an official Latin inscription dedicated to the Roman emperor Hadrian.

Were There Arameans at Abel Beth Maacah? Because of its border location and the Biblical references that associate Arameans with Maacah, Robert Mullins and Nava Panitz-Cohen are digging for Arameans at the site of Abel Beth Maacah in northern Israel.

Who Is the Wise Woman of Abel Beth Maacah? In 2 Samuel 20:14–22, this woman stands up to Joab, the commander of King David’s army, and adroitly negotiates the salvation of her town.


This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on January 4, 2021.—Ed.


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1 Responses

  1. Ezra says:

    IOW, the evidence, a Jewish name etched in stone declaring ownership of property in a certain place, sides with a written document that says that Israel existed at a certain time and with given borders. Those who disagree do so because they were taught that the particular document could not exist that early and so must be in error. That document is the Bible. Bible=bad. It can never be right. What most call prejudice others call science.

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1 Responses

  1. Ezra says:

    IOW, the evidence, a Jewish name etched in stone declaring ownership of property in a certain place, sides with a written document that says that Israel existed at a certain time and with given borders. Those who disagree do so because they were taught that the particular document could not exist that early and so must be in error. That document is the Bible. Bible=bad. It can never be right. What most call prejudice others call science.

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