The dream of every archaeologist is to find writing in the ancient debris of Biblical cities! It happens rarely, but the excavators of the Biblical city of Dan struck gold. Digging in the plaza outside the main gate of the ancient city, archaeologists found a remarkable inscription.
It was broken in two pieces (plus one fragment). Both were in secondary use as part of a wall. The larger piece was found in July, 1993 and two smaller fragments, part of the same inscription, were found a year later, in June, 1994. These pieces are part of a larger inscription which has not yet been found. All of them were discovered buried under a layer of debris caused by the Assyrian destruction of much of the northern kingdom of Israel by Tiglath-Pileser III in 733 BCE. Therefore, we know that the inscription is older than that.
When finally assembled and deciphered, the thirteen- line inscription – in Aramaic, not Hebrew — is (apparently) a report from Hazael, long time (842 BCE – 805 BCE) king of Aram-Damascus. Hazael was well known to the Biblical writers. In I Kings 19:15we read how God sent Elijah the Prophet to anoint him King of Syria. Hazael returns to the Biblical narrative at a later date, featuring prominently in the wars and conquests described in II Kings, Chapters 12,13, having fulfilled the prophecy of Elisha (II Kings. 8:7-15) that he would become king even though he was of unknown ancestry.
In this stele, Hazael tells of a military campaign he waged against Israel. He boasts that he killed many kings, including ….. the king of Israel, son of Ahab, and …. the king of Judah, the son of … “of the house of David.” The inscription is fragmentary, of course, and the names are therefore not complete. But “the house of David. Is complete and there to be treasured by all for whom the veracity of the Biblical narrative is important.
An exquisitie reproduction of this inscription is available at www.biblicalreproductions.com Licensed by the Israel Antiquities Authority.