The ancient curse

Publish date 19-09-2022

by Agnese Picco

Archaeologists working in the area of ​​Mount Ebal have found a small lead tablet, the size of a postage stamp, engraved with signs belonging to an ancient proto-alphabet used by the Jewish people during the late Bronze Age. According to Scott Stripling, head of the research team, on the tablet are 40 letters in an archaic Proto-Canaanite alphabet, translated as “Cursed, cursed, cursed - cursed by the god YHW - cursed, cursed, cursed. You will die cursed. Surely you will die cursed. Cursed by YHW ».

If the dating to 1200 BC, proposed by the archaeologists involved in the research, were confirmed it would be the first attestation of the divine trigram YHW. Stripling, who communicated the discovery during a press conference, believes the tablet belongs to the complex called the Altar of Joshua, on Mount Ebal. The altar is mentioned in Deuteronomy (11:29) as a place for curses and, in chapter 27, as the place where a group of Israelites had built an altar and cast curses. The dating of the tablet would be confirmed by epigraphic evidence and chemical analyzes that indicate the origin of the lead from a Greek mine in use in 1200 BC.

Not all scholars agree with the conclusions proposed by Stripling's group and, although it will be necessary to await the scientific publication of the findings, they raise some objections.

Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University notes that there is a big difference between the hype about the news and the actual impact the discovery could have for Bible studies. The tablet, in fact, was not found during an archaeological excavation, but by analyzing the remains of a previous excavation, carried out in the 1980s. Finkelstein argues that the translation of the text may be subject to different interpretations, as well as the dating of the find. The site, in fact, most likely belongs to the 11th century, a period in which we witness the construction of various settlements located on highlands, which will then become the nucleus of the Northern Kingdom in the following century.

Agnese Picco
NP Maggio 2022

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