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Yehud coinage

Yehud coinage

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Obverse of a Judean silver Yehud coin from the Persian era (0.58 gram), with falcon or eagle and Aramaic inscription YHD (Judea). Denomination is a Ma'ah
Reverse of a Yehud coin from the Persian era, with lily (symbol of Jerusalem)
A silver drachm probably struck by the Persian administration in Jerusalem (4th century BCE). The coin shows a deity seated on a winged wheel, often interpreted as a depiction of Yahweh (Yahu).

The Yehud coinage is a series of small silver coins bearing the Aramaic inscription Yehud.[1] They derive their name from the inscription YHD (𐤉‬𐤄𐡃‬) , "Yehud", the Aramaic name of the Achaemenid Persian province of Yehud; others are inscribed YHDH, the same name in Hebrew.

Types of coinage[edit]

The YHD coins are believed to date from the Persian period. On the other hand, it is possible that the YHDH coins are from the following Ptolemaic period.[1]

Mildenburg dates Yehud coins from the early 4th century BCE to the reign of Ptolemy I (312–285 BCE), while Meshorer believes there was a gap during Ptolemy I's time and that minting resumed during Ptolemy II and continued into Ptolemy III, although this has been questioned.[1] The earlier coins were almost certainly produced in imitation of Athenian coins, and were used locally as small change to supplement the larger denominations from more centralised mints elsewhere in the region.[2]

A lot of these coins were probably minted in Jerusalem.

The use of figural art[edit]

Unlike later Jewish coinage, Yehud coins depict living creatures, flowers and even human beings.

During the First Temple period figural art was frequently used, such as the cherubim over the Ark of the Covenant, the twelve oxen that supported the giant laver in front of Solomon's Temple, etc. Thus, it is likely that the Yehud coins are continuing the use of figural art from the previous period. The prohibition against graven images in Exodus was probably seen as relating only to idolatrous images rather than the purely decorative.

Depictions on the coinage include imagery borrowed from other cultures, such as the Athenian Owl, and various mythological creatures. The lily flower was also commonly portrayed.

Various human images are also portrayed. Some coins bear images of Persian rulers. The identity of other human images are not always clear; some of them may even be images of Jewish leaders, such as Temple priests.[3]

One coin depicts an enthroned deity, claimed by some experts to be Yahweh, while this is disputed by others.[4] It has been suggested recently that this coin was actually minted in Samaria and depicts Samarian Yahweh.[5]

Coin features and chronology[edit]

An example of the 'Hezekiah the governor' coin, ca. 350 BCE. The image of Hezekiah with the Persian title 'governor' or 'satrap'. The Hebrew inscription is YHZQKYH HPHH: “Yehezkiya the peha”

The coins from the Persian period tend to be inscribed in Aramaic "square script" or Paleo-Hebrew and use the Aramaic spelling of the province as 'y-h-d', while those coins from the Ptolemaic/Hellenistic period (or maybe earlier) are inscribed in the Paleo-Hebrew script and usually spell Judea as 'y-h-d', 'y-h-d-h' or 'y-h-w-d-h'.[6]

Recent study by Yehoshua Zlotnik attempts to relate different kinds of coins, and the specifics of their manufacture to the changing political situation in Judea in the 4th century BCE. He deals with different coins-types, and with such unusual phenomena as minting on only one side of the coin, and seemingly deliberate flaws on certain dies. According to Zlotnik, these and other features can clarify the political state of affairs in Judah -- such as independence, autonomy, or transition period.[7] Zlotnik also does a comparison of Yehud coins with contemporary coins from various neighbouring mints, such as Samaria, Edom and Sidon.

Athenian silver obol ca. 450 BC -- the type of coin widely imitated in Judea and Egypt around 400 BCE. Helmeted head of Athena right / Owl standing right. In Judea, the olive sprig of the Athenian coin was replaced by the lily, and instead of the Greek "AΘE" (Athens) the Hebrew letters 'y-h-d' were used (examples)

According to Zlotnik, the first minting of “Yehud” coins began around 400 BCE under the influence of the contemporary Egyptian revolts against Persia. These were small silver coins (obols) imitating the Athenian model -- the coins that were also quite common in Egypt at that time. Such coins were also the most commonly used coins in circulation in Philistia, Judea and Edom at this time.[8]

When the Persian reconquered the area after 360 BCE, they gave permission for further minting of similar silver coins under their own governors. This type of minting continued also under the Ptolemies.[9]

Mildenberg divides most of the Persian period 'Yehud' coinage into three groups: an early group of poorly defined coins with the head of Athena on the obverse with her owl on the reverse with the inscription 'y-h-d' in Paleo-Hebrew; the second group are more clearly defined and depict a lily, and an Egyptian falcon (see pictures), and the head of the Persian king, with the inscription 'y-h-d'; the third group has the Hebrew inscription 'Hezekiah the governor' (yhzqyh hphh). All these coins have been found in the area of Judea.[10]

The Yehud coins come in two denominations, approximately .58 gram as a ma'ah and approximately .29 gram as a half ma'ah (chatzi ma'ah). These coins might have been minted in the first 40 years of the Second Temple era. For larger coinage, they first used Persian coinage, the Persian daric and the Sigloi; then Greek (Alexandrian Empire) coins like the drachma and the tetradrachm.

See also[edit]


  1. Jump up to:a b c Rooke, Deborah W., "Zadok's heirs: the role and development of the High Priesthood in ancient Israel" (Oxford, 2000) p.225
  2. ^ Rooke, Deborah W., "Zadok's heirs: the role and development of the High Priesthood in ancient Israel" (Oxford, 2000) pp. 225–6
  3. ^ Lee I. Levine, Jerusalem: Portrait of the City in the Second Temple Period (538 B.C.E. – 70 C.E.). Jewish Publication Society, 2002 ISBN 0827607504
  4. ^ Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible by David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, Astrid B. Beck Published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000 ISBN 0-8028-2400-5, pg 914
  5. ^ Shenkar, M. “The Coin of the ‘God on the Winged Wheel’”, BOREAS. Münstersche Beiträge zur Archäologie 30/31, 2009, pp. 13–23
  6. ^ The Emergence of Yehud in the Persian Period: A Social and Demographic Study by Charles E. Carter Published by Continuum International Publishing Group, 1999 ISBN 1-84127-012-1, pg269
  7. ^ Yehoshua Zlotnik (2009), Coin minting in Eretz Israel during the Persian period – does it reflect various political situations? The Open University of Israel, Department of History, Philosophy and Judaic Studies
  8. ^ Yehoshua Zlotnik (2012), Minting of coins in Jerusalem during the Persian and Hellenistic periods.
  9. ^ Yehoshua Zlotnik (2012), Minting of coins in Jerusalem during the Persian and Hellenistic periods.
  10. ^ A History of the Jews and Judaism in the Second Temple Period: Yehud, the Persian Province of Judah by Lester L. Grabbe Published by Continuum International Publishing Group, 2004 ISBN 0-567-08998-3, pg 65

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]



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Tel Dan Stele

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Tel Dan Stele
JRSLM 300116 Tel Dan Stele 01.jpg
Tel Dan Stele, Israel Museum. Highlighted in white: the sequence BYTDWD.
WritingOld Aramaic (Phoenician alphabet)
Created870–750 BCE
Present locationIsrael Museum

The Tel Dan Stele is a broken stele (inscribed stone) discovered in 1993–94 during excavations at Tel Dan in northern Israel. It consists of several fragments making up part of a triumphal inscription in Aramaic, left most probably by Hazael of Aram-Damascus, an important regional figure in the late 9th century BCE. Hazael (or more accurately, the unnamed king) boasts of his victories over the king of Israel and his apparent ally[1] the king of the "House of David" (bytdwd). It is considered the earliest widely accepted reference to the name David as the founder of a Judahite polity outside of the Hebrew Bible,[2] though the earlier Mesha Stele contains several possible references with varying acceptance. A minority of scholars have disputed the reference to David, due to the lack of a word divider between byt and dwd, and other translations have been proposed. The stele was not excavated in its primary context, but in its secondary use.[3] The Tel Dan stele is one of four known inscriptions made during a roughly 400-year period (1200-800 BCE) containing the name "Israel", the others being the Merneptah Stele, the Mesha Stele, and the Kurkh Monolith.[4][5][6]

The Tel Dan inscription generated considerable debate and a flurry of articles, debating its age, authorship, and authenticity;[7] however, the stele is generally accepted by scholars as genuine and a reference to the House of David.[8][9][10] It is currently on display in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.[11]

Discovery and description[edit]


Fragment A of the stele was discovered in July 1993 by Gila Cook of the team of Avraham Biran studying Tel Dan in the northern part of modern Israel. Fragments B1 and B2 were found in June 1994.[12] The stele was not excavated in its "primary context", but in its "secondary use".[3]

The fragments were published by Biran and his colleague Joseph Naveh in 1993 and 1995.[12]


The Tel Dan Stele: Fragment A is to the right, Fragments B1 and B2 to the left

The following is the transcription using Hebrew letters provided by Biran and Naveh. Dots separate words (as in the original), empty square brackets indicate damaged/missing text, and text inside square brackets is reconstructed by Biran and Naveh:

1. [          א]מר.ע[   ]וגזר[ ]
2. [     ---].אבי.יסק[.עלוה.בה]תלחמה.בא[ ]
3. וישכב.אבי.יהך.אל[.אבהו]ה.ויעל.מלכי[ יש]
4. ראל.קדם.בארק.אבי[.ו]המלך.הדד[.]א[יתי]
5. אנה.ויהך.הדד.קדמי[.ו]אפק.מן.שבע[ת---]
6. י.מלכי.ואקתל.מל[כן.שב]ען.אסרי.א[לפי.ר]
7. כב.ואלפי.פרש.[קתלת.אית.יהו]רם.בר.[אחאב.]
8. מלך.ישראל.וקתל[ת.אית.אחז]יהו.בר[.יהורם.מל]
9. ך.ביתדוד.ואשם.[אית.קרית.הם.חרבת.ואהפך.א]
10. ית.ארק.הם.ל[ישמן ]
11. אחרן.ולה[... ויהוא.מ]
12. לך.על.יש[ראל... ואשם.]
13. מצר.ע[ל. ]

Translated in English:

1. [ ]...[...] and cut [...]
2. [...] my father went up [against him when h]e fought at [...]
3. and my father lay down, he went to his [ancestors (viz. became sick and died)]. And the king of I[s-]
4. rael entered previously in my father's land, [and] Hadad made me king,
5. And Hadad went in front of me, [and] I departed from the seven [...-]
6. s of my kingdom, and I slew [seve]nty kin[gs], who harnessed th[ousands of cha-]
7. riots and thousands of horsemen (or: horses). [I killed Jeho]ram son [of Ahab]
8. king of Israel, and [I] killed [Ahaz]iahu son of [Jehoram kin-]
9. g of the House of David, and I set [their towns into ruins and turned ]
10. their land into [desolation ]
11. other [... and Jehu ru-]
12. led over Is[rael and I laid]
13. siege upon [ ][13]


In the second half of the 9th century BCE (the most widely accepted date for the stele) the kingdom of Aram, under its ruler Hazael, was a major power in the LevantDan, just 70 miles from Hazael's capital of Damascus, would almost certainly have come under its sway. This is borne out by the archaeological evidence: Israelite remains do not appear until the 8th century BCE, and it appears that Dan was already in the orbit of Damascus even before Hazael became king in c. 843 BCE.[14]

The author of the inscription mentions conflict with the kings of Israel and the 'House of David'. The names of the two enemy kings are only partially legible. Biran and Naveh reconstructed them as Joram, son of Ahab, King of Israel, and Ahaziah, son of Joram of the House of David. Scholars seem to be evenly divided on these identifications.[15] It is dependent on a particular arrangement of the fragments, and not all scholars agree on this.

In the reconstructed text, the author tells how Israel had invaded his country in his father's day, and how the god Hadad then made him king and marched with him against Israel. The author then reports that he defeated seventy kings with thousands of chariots and horses. In the very last line there is a suggestion of a siege, possibly of Samaria, the capital of the kings of Israel.[15] This reading is, however, disputed.[16]

Interpretation and disputes[edit]


The stele was found in three fragments, called A, B1 and B2. There is widespread agreement that all three belong to the same inscription, and that B1 and B2 belong together. There is less agreement over the fit between A and the combined B1/B2: Biran and Naveh placed B1/B2 to the left of A (the photograph at the top of this article). A few scholars have disputed this, William Schniedewind proposing some minor adjustments to the same fit, Gershon Galil placing B above A rather than beside it, and George Athas fitting it well below.[17]


Archeologists and epigraphers[which?] put the earliest possible date at about 870 BCE, whilst the latest possible date is "less clear", although according to Lawrence J. Mykytiuk it could "hardly have been much later than 750".[18] However, some scholars (mainly associated with the Copenhagen school) – Niels Peter LemcheThomas L. Thompson, and F. H. Cryer – have proposed still later datings.[19]

Cracks and inscription[edit]

Two biblical scholars, Cryer and Lemche, analyzed the cracks and chisel marks around the fragment and also the lettering towards the edges of the fragments. From this they concluded that the text was in fact a modern forgery.[20] Most scholars have ignored or rejected these judgments because the artifacts were recovered during controlled excavations.[8][9][10]


The language of the inscription is a dialect of Aramaic.[21] Most scholars identify Hazael of Damascus (c. 842 – 806 BCE) as the author, although his name is not mentioned. Other proposals regarding the author have been made: George Athas argues for Hazael's son Ben-Hadad III, which would date the inscription to around 796 BCE, and J-W Wesselius has argued for Jehu of Israel (reigned c. 845 – 818 BCE).

"House of David"[edit]

Since 1993–1994, when the first fragment was discovered and published, the Tel Dan stele has been the object of great interest and debate among epigraphers and biblical scholars along the whole range of views from those who find little of historical value in the biblical version of Israel's ancient past to those who are unconcerned about the biblical version, to those who wish to defend it.

Its significance for the biblical version of Israel's past lies particularly in lines 8 and 9, which mention a "king of Israel" and a "house of David". The latter is generally understood by scholars to refer to the ruling dynasty of Judah. However, although the "king of Israel" is generally accepted, the rendering of the phrase bytdwd as "house of David" has been disputed by some. This dispute is occasioned in part because it appears without a word divider between the two parts.[22] The significance of this fact, if any, is unclear, because others, such as the late Anson F. Rainey, have observed that the presence or absence of word-dividers (for example, sometimes a short vertical line between words, other times a dot between words, as in this inscription) is normally inconsequential for interpretation.[23]

The majority of scholars argue that the author simply thought of "House of David" as a single word – but some have argued that "dwd" (the usual spelling for "David") could be a name for a god ("beloved"), or could be "dōd", meaning "uncle" (a word with a rather wider meaning in ancient times than it has today), or, as George Athas has argued, that the whole phrase might be a name for Jerusalem (so that the author might be claiming to have killed the son of the king of Jerusalem rather than the son of the king from the "house of David".[24][25]

Other possible meanings have been suggested: it may be a place-name, or the name of a god, or an epithet.[22] Mykytiuk observes that "dwd" meaning "kettle" (dūd) or "uncle" (dōd) do not fit the context. He also weighs the interpretive options that the term bytdwd might refer to the name of a god, cultic object, epithet or a place and concludes that these possibilities have no firm basis. Rather, he finds that the preponderance of the evidence points to the ancient Aramaic and Assyrian word-patterns for geopolitical terms. According to the pattern used, the phrase "House of David" refers to a Davidic dynasty or to the land ruled by a Davidic dynasty.[26] As an alternative, Francesca Stavrakopoulou remains sceptical about the significance and interpretation of the inscription and claims that it does not necessarily support the assumption that the Bible's David was a historical figure since "David" which can also be translated as "beloved" could refer to a mythical ancestor.[22] In Schmidt's view it is indeed likely[27] that the correct translation is "House of David."




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See also[edit]


  1. ^ Athas, George (2006). The Tel Dan Inscription: A Reappraisal and a New Introduction. A&C Black. p. 217. ISBN 9780567040435. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
  2. ^ Finkelstein 2007, p. 14.
  3. Jump up to:a b Aaron Demsky (2007), Reading Northwest Semitic Inscriptions, Near Eastern Archaeology 70/2. Quote: "The first thing to consider when examining an ancient inscription is whether it was discovered in context or not. It is obvious that a document purchased on the antiquities market is suspect. If it was found in an archeological site, one should note whether it was found in its primary context, as with the inscription of King Achish from Ekron, or in secondary use, as with the Tel Dan inscription. Of course texts that were found in an archaeological site, but not in a secure archaeological context present certain problems of exact dating, as with the Gezer Calendar."
  4. ^ Lemche 1998, pp. 46, 62: “ No other inscription from Palestine, or from Transjordan in the Iron Age, has so far provided any specific reference to Israel... The name of Israel was found in only a very limited number of inscriptions, one from Egypt, another separated by at least 250 years from the first, in Transjordan. A third reference is found in the stele from Tel Dan - if it is genuine, a question not yet settled. The Assyrian and Mesopotamian sources only once mentioned a king of Israel, Ahab, in a spurious rendering of the name.”
  5. ^ Maeir, Aren. "Maeir, A. M. 2013. Israel and Judah. Pp. 3523–27 in The Encyclopedia of Ancient History. New York: Blackwell"The earliest certain mention of the ethnonym Israel occurs in a victory inscription of the Egyptian king MERENPTAH, his well-known “Israel Stela” (ca. 1210 BCE); recently, a possible earlier reference has been identified in a text from the reign of Rameses II (see RAMESES I–XI). Thereafter, no reference to either Judah or Israel appears until the ninth century. The pharaoh Sheshonq I (biblical Shishak; see SHESHONQ I–VI) mentions neither entity by name in the inscription recording his campaign in the southern Levant during the late tenth century. In the ninth century, Israelite kings, and possibly a Judaean king, are mentioned in several sources: the Aramaean stele from Tel Dan, inscriptions of SHALMANESER III of Assyria, and the stela of Mesha of Moab. From the early eighth century onward, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah are both mentioned somewhat regularly in Assyrian and subsequently Babylonian sources, and from this point on there is relatively good agreement between the biblical accounts on the one hand and the archaeological evidence and extra-biblical texts on the other.
  6. ^ FLEMING, DANIEL E. (1 January 1998). "MARI AND THE POSSIBILITIES OF BIBLICAL MEMORY". Revue d'Assyriologie et d'archéologie orientale92 (1): 41–78. JSTOR 23282083The Assyrian royal annals, along with the Mesha and Dan inscriptions, show a thriving northern state called Israël in the mid—9th century, and the continuity of settlement back to the early Iron Age suggests that the establishment of a sedentary identity should be associated with this population, whatever their origin. In the mid—14th century, the Amarna letters mention no Israël, nor any of the biblical tribes, while the Merneptah stele places someone called Israël in hill-country Palestine toward the end of the Late Bronze Age. The language and material culture of emergent Israël show strong local continuity, in contrast to the distinctly foreign character of early Philistine material culture.
  7. ^ Lemche 1998, p. 41: “The inscription is kept in a kind of “pidgin” Aramaic, sometimes looking more like a kind of mixed language in which Aramaic and Phoenician linguistic elements are jumbled together, in its phraseology nevertheless closely resembling especially the Mesha inscription and the Aramaic Zakkur inscription from Aphis near Aleppo. The narrow links between the Tel Dan inscription and these two inscriptions are of a kind that has persuaded at least one major specialist into believing that the inscription is a forgery. This cannot be left out of consideration in advance, because some of the circumstances surrounding its discovery may speak against its being genuine. Other examples of forgeries of this kind are well known, and clever forgers have cheated even respectable scholars into accepting something that is obviously false.”
  8. Jump up to:a b Grabbe, Lester L. (28 April 2007). Ahab Agonistes: The Rise and Fall of the Omri Dynasty. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. ISBN 9780567251718The Tel Dan inscription generated a good deal of debate and a flurry of articles when it first appeared, but it is now widely regarded (a) as genuine and (b) as referring to the Davidic dynasty and the Aramaic kingdom of Damascus.
  9. Jump up to:a b Cline, Eric H. (28 September 2009). Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199711628Today, after much further discussion in academic journals, it is accepted by most archaeologists that the inscription is not only genuine but that the reference is indeed to the House of David, thus representing the first allusion found anywhere outside the Bible to the biblical David.
  10. Jump up to:a b Mykytiuk, Lawrence J. (1 January 2004). Identifying Biblical Persons in Northwest Semitic Inscriptions of 1200-539 B.C.E. Society of Biblical Lit. ISBN 9781589830622Some unfounded accusations of forgery have had little or no effect on the scholarly acceptance of this inscription as genuine.
  11. ^ "Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Archaeology Wing". The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Archived from the original on 12 August 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  12. Jump up to:a b Brooks 2005, p. 2.
  13. ^ Avraham Biran and Joseph Naveh (1995). "The Tel Dan Inscription: A New Fragment". Israel Exploration Journal45 (1): 1–18. JSTOR 27926361.
  14. ^ Athas 2003, pp. 255–257.
  15. Jump up to:a b Hagelia 2005, p. 235.
  16. ^ Athas 2003, pp. 259–308.
  17. ^ Hagelia 2005, pp. 232–233.
  18. ^ Mykytiuk 2004, pp. 115, 117fn.52.
  19. ^ Compare: Hagelia, Hallvard (2005) [2004]. "Philological Issues in the Tel Dan Inscription". In Edzard, Lutz; Retsö, Jan (eds.). Current Issues in the Analysis of Semitic Grammar and Lexicon. Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, ISSN 0567-4980, volume 56, issue 3. 1. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 233–234. ISBN 9783447052689. Retrieved 21 September 2016Except for some extremely late datings, most scholars date the text to the second half of the 9th century. The late datings come mainly from the Copenhagen scholars N. P. Lemche,[...] T. L. Thompson[...] and the late F. H. Cryer.[...] A not so late dating is argued by Athas, [...] dating the inscription to around 796 BC.
  20. ^ House of David, Lemche, 2004, p. 61.
  21. ^ Mykytiuk 2004, pp. 115,117fn.52.
  22. Jump up to:a b c Stavrakopoulou 2004, pp. 86–87.
  23. ^ Rainey 1994, p. 47.
  24. ^ Lemche 1998, p. 43.
  25. ^ Athas 2003, pp. 225–226.
  26. ^ Mykytiuk 2004, pp. 121–128.
  27. ^ Schmidt 2006, p. 315.




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  Stele of Ördek-Burnu

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An undeciphered alphabetic stele found in Ördek-Burnu, 20 km south of Sam'al (8 miles south of Zinjirli) in what is now northern Syria, dates to the 9th century BCE. The language of the inscription is difficult to interpret. It contains Semitic words but is not grammatically Semitic, and may be a mixture of Luwian and a Semitic language.[1] It is kept in Istanbul.


  • Mark Lidzbarski: VI. Die Stele von Ördek-burnu. Ephemeris für Semitische Epigraphik III. Giessen 1915, pp. 192–206, pls. 13–15.
  • André Lemaire and Benjamin Sass: The Mortuary Stele with Sam’alian Inscription from Ördekburnu near Zincirli, in: BASOR 369, 2013, pp. 57–136.


  1. ^ Holger Gzella, Language and Script, in: Herbert Niehr (2014), The Aramaeans in Ancient Syria, p. 75, but. cf. Lemaire and Sass 2013.




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Sefire steles

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The Sfire or Sefire steles are three 8th-century BCE basalt stelae containing Aramaic inscriptions discovered at Al-Safirah ("Sfire") near AleppoSyria.[1] The Sefire treaty inscriptions are the three inscriptions on the steles.[2]

Identification of the treaty kings[edit]

Two treaties conducted between minor kings from the Kingdom of Arpad inscribed on the stelae are often cited as evidence of the Aramaean tradition of treaty-making.[3] The Sefire inscriptions are of interest to those studying beliefs and practices in ancient Syria and Palestine and the text is considered notable for constituting "the best extrabiblical source for West Semitic traditions of covenantal blessings and curses."[1]

They tell of "The treaty of King Bar-ga'yah of K[a]t[a]k, with Mati'el son of Attarsamak, king of Arpad." Some have identified this as the treaty of "Ashurnerari V" (Adad-nirari III or his son Tiglath-pileser III?) of Assyria and Matiilu (unknown) of Arpad (probably modern Tel Rifaat, Syria).[4]

Description of the inscriptions[edit]

Sefire I[edit]

This is a basalt slab broken in two horizontally. The first two steles each have three faces bearing writing.

Sefire II[edit]

As with Sefire I stele Sefire II had three faces bearing writing. While most of the text of Sefire II A and B permit coherent translation only with comparison with Sefire I and III, the concluding portion of Sefire II A and B is quite clear.[5][6][7]

Sefire III[edit]

Nine fragments of the reverse of a broad slab.


The inscriptions record two treaties that "list curses and magical rites which take effect if the treaty is violated."[8]

One is a treaty between two minor kings, Barga'yah and Matti'el, who hailed from the southwestern periphery of the Assyrian empire.[9] In the text, Matti'el swears to accept dire consequences for himself and his cities should he violate the stipulations of the treaty:[9]

As this wax is consumed by fire, thus Ma[tti'el] shall be consumed b[y fi]re.
As this bow and these arrows are broken, thus Inurta and Hadad (= names of local deities) shall break [the bow of Matti'el] and the bows of his nobles.
As a man of wax is blinded, thus Matti'el shall be blinded.
[As] this calf is cut up, thus Matti'el and his nobles shall be cut up."[9]

This loyalty oath from the Sefire inscriptions is similar to other loyalty oaths imposed by Assyrian kings on other less powerful monarchs in the Levant throughout the 8th and 7th centuries BCE.[9]

The inscriptions may, under one possible interpretation, record the names of El and Elyon, "God, God Most High" possibly providing prima facie evidence for a distinction between the two deities first worshipped by the Jebusites in Jerusalem, and then elsewhere throughout the ancient Levant.[10]

Thought to be reflective of Assyrian or neo-Assyrian culture and similar to other documents dating from the first millennium BCE, scholars such as Joseph Fitzmyer have perceived Canaanite influences in the text, while Dennis McCarthy has noted similarities to second millennium BCE treaties imposed by Hittite kings on Syrian vassals.[11]


  1. Jump up to:a b S. A. Kaufman. "Aramaic" (PDF). Anchor Bible Dictionary. pp. 173–78. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 4, 2005.
  2. ^ Joseph A. Fitzmyer The Aramaic inscriptions of Sefîre 1967
  3. ^ John F. Healy (13 June 1987). "Ancient Aramaic Culture and the Bible" (PDF)University of Durham. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 28, 2008. Retrieved 2007-10-12.
  4. ^ Steven Elliott Grosby Biblical ideas of nationality: ancient and modern 2002 p126 "Thus, they think that the Sefire treaty is the Aramaic version of the treaty of approximately 754 bc between Ashurnerari V and Matîoil of Arpad. But why the use of KTK as a pseudonym for Assyria? If, in fact, Dupont-Sommer's (1958) ..."
  5. ^ James Bennett Pritchard The ancient Near East: supplementary texts and pictures 1969 "In Sfire II A 9, lions seem to be mentioned in the same context, offering a good parallel to ... (Sfire II C) (While most of the preserved text of Sfire II A and B permits a coherent translation only where the missing links can be supplied on the basis of Sfire I and III, the concluding portion is quite clear.
  6. ^ Holger Gzella, M. L. Folmer Aramaic in its historical and linguistic setting 2008 p153 "personal names: Sfire II, C, 14; place names: Zkr B:10, 11 and perhaps B 4; Sfire II, C, 5; "
  7. ^ M. L. Folmer The Aramaic language in the Achaemenid period 1995 p427 "6,8 In combination with the infinitive (hbzthm Sfire ii B 7)"
  8. ^ Ann Jeffers (1996). Magic and Divination in Ancient Palestine and Syria. BRILL. p. 18. ISBN 90-04-10513-1.
  9. Jump up to:a b c d Christopher A. Faraone (1993). "Molten Wax, Spilt Wine and Mutilated Animals: Sympathetic Magic in near Eastern and Early Greek Oath Ceremonies" (– Scholar search)The Journal of Hellenic Studies. The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies. 113: 60–80. doi:10.2307/632398JSTOR 632398. Retrieved 2007-10-12.[dead link]
  10. ^ John Day (2000). Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan. Continuum International. p. 20. ISBN 0-8264-6830-6.
  11. ^ William Morrow (2001). Paul-Eugène Dion; et al. (eds.). "The Sefire Treaty Stipulations and the Mesopotamian Treaty Tradition". The World of the Aramaeans. Continuum International: 83–84. ISBN 1-84127-179-9.


Fitzmyer, Joseph A., The Aramaic inscriptions of Sefîre, Biblica et orientalia Sacra Scriptura antiquitatibus orientalibus illustrata, 19; Revised edition; Rome: Pontificial Biblical Institute, 1995.

Greenfield, Jonas C., "Three Notes on the Sefire Inscription," JSS 11 (1966), 98-105.



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Stele of Zakkur

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Stele of Zakkur
Zakkur Stele 0154.jpg
The surviving part of the Stele of Zakkur with the inscription
Height62 centimetres (24 in)
Width13 centimetres (5.1 in)
WritingAramaic inscription
Createdc. 805 – c. 775
PlaceTell AfisSyria
Present locationMusée du LouvreParis
IdentificationAO 8185

The Stele of Zakkur (or Zakir) is a royal stele of King Zakkur of Hamath and Luhuti (or Lu'aš) in the province Nuhašše of Syria, who ruled around 785 BC.

The Stele was discovered in 1903 at Tell Afis (mentioned in the Stele as Hazrach),[1] 45 km southeast of Aleppo, in the territory of the ancient kingdom of Hamath.[2] It was published in 1907.[3] Its small part reads:

I am Zakkur, king of Hamath and Luash . . . Bar-Hadad, son of Hazael, king of Aram, united against me seventeen kings . . .all these kings laid siege to Hazrach . . . Baalshamayn said to me, "Do not be afraid! . . .I will save you from all [these kings who] have besieged you"[4]

'Bar-Hadad' mentioned in the inscription may have been Bar-Hadad II or Bar-Hadad III, son of Hazael.[5]

Two gods are mentioned in the inscription, Baalshamin and Iluwer. Iluwer was the personal god of king Zakkur, while Baalshamin was the god of the city. It is believed that Iluwer represents the earlier god Mer or Wer going back to 3rd millennium BC.

This inscription represents the earliest Aramaean evidence of the god Baalshamin/Ba'alsamayin.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Scott B. Noegel, The Zakkur Inscription. In: Mark W. Chavalas, ed. The Ancient Near East: Historical Sources in Translation. London: Blackwell (2006), 307-311.
  2. ^ Yildiz, Efrem "The Aramaic Language and Its Classification" Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies [1]
  3. ^ Gibson J.C.L., Textbook of Syrian Semitic Inscriptions II, Oxford 1975, num. 5.
  4. ^ As translated in Poobalan, Ivor "The Period of Jeroboam II with Special Reference to Amos" [2]
  5. ^ Scott B. Noegel, The Zakkur Inscription. In: Mark W. Chavalas, ed. The Ancient Near East: Historical Sources in Translation. London: Blackwell (2006), 307-311.
  6. ^ Herbert Niehr (ed), The Aramaeans in Ancient Syria. Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section 1: The Near and Middle East. BRILL, 2014 ISBN 9004229434

External links[edit]



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 Pul-i-Darunteh Aramaic inscription

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Pul-i-Darunteh Aramaic inscription
Lampaka inscription.jpg
Pul-i-Darunteh Aramaic inscription
MaterialNatural stone.
Createdcirca 260 BCE
Period/culture3rd Century BCE
Discovered34.5846°N 70.1834°ECoordinates34.5846°N 70.1834°E
PlacePul-i-Darunteh, Laghman ProvinceAfghanistan
Present locationPul-i-Darunteh, Laghman ProvinceAfghanistan
Pul-i-Darunteh Aramaic inscription is located in Afghanistan
Pul-i-Darunteh Aramaic inscription
Location of the Aramaic inscription of Pul-i-Darunteh.
Lampaka valley, Laghman Province.

The Pul-i-Darunteh Aramaic inscription, also called Aramaic inscription of Lampaka, or Laghman I inscription, is an inscription on a rock in the valley of Laghman ("Lampaka" being the transcription in Sanskrit of "Laghman"), Afghanistan, written in Aramaic by the Indian emperor Ashoka around 260 BCE. It was discovered in 1932 at a place called Pul-i-Darunteh. Since Aramaic was the official language of the Achaemenid Empire, which disappeared in 320 BCE with the conquests of Alexander the Great, it seems that this inscription was addressed directly to the populations of this ancient empire still present in northwestern India, or to border populations for whom Aramaic remained the language of use.[1]


The discovery of this inscription follows that of several other inscriptions in Aramaic or Greek (or both together), written by Asoka. The most famous is the Bilingual Kandahar Inscription, written in Greek and Aramaic, or the Greek Edicts of Ashoka, also found in Kandahar. Earlier, in 1915, Sir John Marshall had discovered the Aramaic Inscription of Taxila. In 1956, another inscription was discovered in the Laghman Valley about thirty kilometers away, the Aramaic Inscription of Laghman. Then in 1963 an inscription in "Indo-Aramaic" alternating the Indian Prakrit language and the Aramaic language, but using only the Aramaic script, the Aramaic parts translating the Indian parts transcribed in the Aramaic alphabet, was also found in Kandahar. This is the Aramaic Inscription of Kandahar.[1]

Content of the inscription[edit]

The inscription is incomplete. However, the place of discovery, the style of the writing, the vocabulary used, makes it possible to link the inscription to the other Ashoka inscriptions known in the region. In the light of other inscriptions, it has been found that the Pul-i-Darunteh inscription consists of a juxtaposition of Indian and Aramaic languages, all in Aramaic script, and the latter representing translations of the first.[2] This inscription is generally interpreted as a translation of a passage of the Major Pillar Edicts n°5 or n°7,[3] although others have proposed to categorize it among the Minor Rock Edicts of Ashoka.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. Jump up to:a b A new Aramaic inscription of Asoka found in the Laghman Valley (Afghanistan), André Dupont-Sommer Proceedings of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres Year 1970 114-1 p.173
  2. ^ Essenism and Buddhism, Dupont-Sommer, André, Proceedings of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres Year 1980 124-4 pp.698-715 p.706
  3. ^ Handbuch der Orientalistik by Kurt A. Behrendt [https: // p.39]
  4. ^ Inscriptions of Asoka from DC Sircar p.33





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Edicts of Ashoka
(Ruled 269-232 BCE)
Regnal years
of Ashoka
Type of Edict
(and location of the inscriptions)
Geographical location
Year 8End of the Kalinga war and conversion to the "Dharma"
Year 10[1]Minor Rock EdictsRelated events:
Visit to the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya
Construction of the Mahabodhi Temple and Diamond throne in Bodh Gaya
Predication throughout India.
Dissenssions in the Sangha
Third Buddhist Council
In Indian language: Sohgaura inscription
Erection of the Pillars of Ashoka
Kandahar Bilingual Rock Inscription
(in Greek and AramaicKandahar)
Minor Rock Edicts in Aramaic:
Laghman InscriptionTaxila inscription
Year 11 and laterMinor Rock Edicts (n°1, n°2 and n°3)
(PangurariaMaskiPalkigundu and GavimathBahapur/SrinivaspuriBairatAhrauraGujarraSasaramRajula MandagiriYerragudiUdegolamNitturBrahmagiriSiddapurJatinga-Rameshwara)
Year 12 and later[1]Barabar Caves inscriptionsMajor Rock Edicts
Minor Pillar EdictsMajor Rock Edicts in Greek: Edicts n°12-13 (Kandahar)

Major Rock Edicts in Indian language:
Edicts No.1 ~ No.14
(in Kharoshthi script: ShahbazgarhiMansehra Edicts
(in Brahmi scriptKalsiGirnarSoparaSannatiYerragudiDelhi Edicts)
Major Rock Edicts 1-10, 14, Separate Edicts 1&2:
Schism EdictQueen's Edict
(Sarnath Sanchi Allahabad)
Rummindei EdictNigali Sagar Edict
Year 26, 27
and later[1]
Major Pillar Edicts
In Indian language:
Major Pillar Edicts No.1 ~ No.7
(Allahabad pillar Delhi pillar Topra Kalan Rampurva Lauria Nandangarh Lauriya-Araraj Amaravati)

Derived inscriptions in Aramaic, on rock:
Kandahar, Edict No.7[2][3] and Pul-i-Darunteh, Edict No.5 or No.7[4]



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  1. Jump up to:a b c Yailenko,Les maximes delphiques d'Aï Khanoum et la formation de la doctrine du dhamma d'Asoka, 1990, pp.243.
  2. ^ Inscriptions of Asoka de D.C. Sircar p.30
  3. ^ Handbuch der Orientalistik de Kurt A. Behrendt p.39
  4. ^ Handbuch der Orientalistik de Kurt A. Behrendt p.39



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Letoon trilingual

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The Letoon trilingual stele in Fethiye Museum.
Lētōon temple complex. The foundations of the three temples are clearly visible.

The Letoon trilingual, or Xanthos trilingual, is an inscription in three languages: standard Lycian or Lycian A, Greek and Aramaic covering the faces of a four-sided stone stele called the Letoon Trilingual Stele, discovered in 1973 during the archeological exploration of the Letoon temple complex, near Xanthos, ancient Lycia, in present-day Turkey. The inscription is a public record of a decree authorizing the establishment of a cult, with references to the deities, and provisions for officers in the new cult. The Lycian requires 41 lines; the Greek, 35 and the Aramaic, 27. They are not word-for-word translations, but each contains some information not present in the others. The Aramaic is somewhat condensed.[1]

Although the use of the term "Letoon" with regard to the inscription and the stele is unequivocal, there is no standard name for either. Xanthos trilingual is sometimes used, which is to be distinguished from the Xanthos bilingual, meaning the Xanthos stele. However, sometimes Xanthos stele is used of the Letoon trilingual stele as well as for the tomb at Xanthos. Moreover, the term Xanthos trilingual (Lycian A, Lycian B, Greek) is sometimes used of the tomb at Xanthos. In the latter two cases only the context can provide clues as to which stele is meant.

Find site[edit]

The Lētōon was a temple complex about 4 kilometers (2 mi) south of Xanthus, capital of ancient Lycia. The complex dates to as early as the 7th century BC and must have been a center for the Lycian League. In it were three temples to LētōArtemis and Apollō. The stele was found near the temple of Apollo. It has been removed to the museum at Fethiye. The entire site is currently under several inches of water.

Date of the inscription[edit]

The first five lines of the Aramaic version mention that the inscription was made in the first year of the reign of the Persian king, Artaxerxes, but does not say which Artaxerxes:

In the month Siwan, year 1 of King Artaxerxes. In the fortress of Arñna (Xanthos). Pixodarus, son of Katomno (Hecatomnus), the satrap who is in Karka (Caria) and Termmila (Lycia)....[1]

If the king in question was Artaxerxes III Ochus, the date of the inscription would be the first year of his reign, hence 358 BC.[1] But Hecatomnus is thought to have ruled from ca. 395 to 377 BC and Pixodarus, son of Hecatomnus, was satrap of Caria and Lycia no earlier than 341/340. Therefore the Persian king most likely was Artaxerxes IV Arses, son of Artaxerxes III, who took his father's name on coming to power. In that case the trilingual is dated to the first year of Artaxerxes IV, that is 337/336 BC.[2]

Sample of the Lycian text[edit]

Letoon trilingual stele, portion in Lycian.
Letton trinlingual stele. Aramaic inscription.

Below is a transliteration of a sample of lines and an interlineal English translation:[3]

1.Ẽke: trm̃misñxssaθrapazatepigeserekatamlah: tideimi:
 When Pixodarus, the son of Hecatomnus, became satrap of Lycia,
2.sẽñneñtepddẽhadẽ: trm̃mile: pddẽnehm̃mis: ijeru: senatrbbejẽmi: se(j)arñna: asaxlazu: erttimeli:
 he appointed as rulers of Lycia Hieron (ijeru) and Apollodotos (natrbbejẽmi), and as governor (asaxlazu) of Xanthus, Artemelis (erttimeli).
3.mehñtitubedẽ: arus: se(j)epewẽtlm̃mẽi: arñnãi:
 The citizens (arus) and the Xanthian neighboring residents decided
4.m̃maitẽ: kumezijẽ: θθẽ: xñtawati: xbidẽñni: se(j)arKKazuma: xñtawati:
 to establish an altar to the Kaunian Ruler and the King Arkesimas
5.sẽñnaitẽ: kumazu: mahãna: ebette: eseimiju: qñturahahñ: tideimi:
 and they chose as priest Simias, the son of Kondorasis
6.sede: eseimijaje: xuwatiti:
 and whoever is closest to Simias
7.seipijẽtẽ: arawã:
 and they granted him exemption (arawã)
8.ehbijẽ: esiti:
 from taxes.

See also[edit]



  1. Jump up to:a b c Teixidor, Javier (April 1978). "The Aramaic Text in the Trilingual Stele from Xanthus". Journal of Near Eastern Studies37 (2): 181–185. doi:10.1086/372644JSTOR 545143. First page displayable no charge.
  2. ^ Bryce (1986) pages 48-49.
  3. ^ Bryce (1986) pages 68-71.


External links[edit]



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Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae

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Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae (CIIP) is a corpus of all ancient inscriptions from the fourth century BC to the seventh century CE discovered in Israel.

Inscriptions are in ten different languages, including Hebrewancient GreekLatinPhoenicianAramaicSyriac and Nabatean. The seven volume series documents inscriptions from JerusalemCaesarea and the northern coastal plain, Jaffa and the southern coastal plain, Ein Gedi and MasadaGalilee.[1]

The researchers partners are Prof. Hannah Cotton, Chair of Classics at the Hebrew University, Prof. Jonathan Price from Tel Aviv University and a team of German researchers led by Professors Werner Eck and Walter Ameling. The project began in 1999 and is mostly funded by the German Research Foundation, which gave the project a million euros.

See also[edit]


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