Hebrew Bible and ANE History Lists Commentary

News and Comments that relate to the Hebrew Bible and to my posts on various ANE and Hebrew Bible related mailing lists - Yitzhak Sapir

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Jerusalem Conference

The Conference Program (Hebrew)
Source: Israel Antiquities Authority Events Calendar
The following conference was publicized in Israeli newspapers this weekend. Maybe I'll end up attending. Here is a translation of the program.

The Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies, The Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, The Faculty of Jewish Studies, Bar-Ilan University, in cooperation with: Yad Ben-Zvi, The Center for the Study of the Land of Israel, and the Israel Antiquities Authority: Jerusalem District

are honored to invite the public for the 11th yearly conference on the topic:

"New Directions in the Study of Jerusalem"

This coming Thursday, Nissan 1, 5766 (March 30, 2006), in the Mintz Auditorium (Building 403), at Bar Ilan University.

The Program follows ...


8:00 - Gathering
8:30 - Opening Remarks and greetings
  • Prof. Moses Orfali, Dean of the Faculty of Jewish Studies at Bar Ilan University
  • Prof. Joshua Schwartz, Director of the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies
  • Mr. Shuka Dorfman, Manager of the Antiquities Authority
  • Mr. Jon Seligman, Jerusalem District Archaeologist

Session 1 - Chair, Joshua Schwartz

  • 8:50 - Eilat Mazar - "Have we uncovered King David's Palace?"
  • 9:10 - Ronny Reich and Eli Shukrun, "Excavations at the 'Hewn Pool' near the Gihon Spring."
  • 9:30 - Michael Avioz, "The Date of the Destruction of the First Temple in the Bible and Post-Biblical Sources."
  • 9:50 - Uri Davidovitz, Yoav Pirchi, Shlomo Kol-Yaacov, Misgav Har-Peled, Dalit Weinblatt-Krauss, and Yoav Alon - "Salvage Excavations at the Ramot Forest and Ramat Beit HaKerem: A New Source for Understanding the Agricultural Periphery of Jerusalem in the First and Second Temple Period."
  • 10:10 - Asher Grossberg - "How did Hezekiah prepare for the Siege by Sennacherib?"
  • 10:30 - Immanuel Eisenberg and *Alon De Groot - "An Iron Age Fort near Ramat Rahel."
  • 10:50 - Discussion
  • 11:00 - Pause

Session 2 - Chair: Boaz Zissu

  • 11:20 - Opening Remarks - Zvi Greenhut - "Survey of the Digs in the Jerusalem Area in 2005."
  • 11:35 - Haim Barba and Tufiq Da'adla - "Jerusalem, the Old City, the Ohel Yitzhak Synagogue on the Gei Street."
  • 11:55 - Jacob Billig - "The Many Facets of the Herodian Gates on the Temple Mount."
  • 12:15 - Zvi Greenhut - "A Living District Dating to the Second Temple Period in the Slopes of the Upper City - Jerusalem."
  • 12:35 - Yehoshua Peleg - "The Temple in the Dora Europos Synagogue Drawings."
  • 12:55 - Ram Bouchnik, Guy Bar-Oz, Eli Shukrun, and Ronny Reich - "Animal Bones from the Late Second Temple Period at the Hewn Pool near the Gihon Spring in Jerusalem."
  • 13:15 - Discussion
  • 13:25 - Lunch

Session 3 - Chair: Jon Seligman

  • 14:30 - Yael Israeli - "A Glass Factory in the Jewish Quarter from the Herodian Period."
  • 14:50 - Hillel Geva - "Stone Implements from the Herodian Period in the Jewish Quarter - An Attempt at a Typology."
  • 15:10 - Yuval Shahar - "What Happened to a Jerusalemite Exile: Did Rabban Yohanan Ben Zakkai leave Yavneh for Beror-Hayil?"
  • 15:30 - Gabriel Barkay and Zachi Zweig - "The Temple Mount Dump Filtering Project - Initial Report."
  • 15:50 - Amos Kloner - "The Dating of the Southern Dechomenos of Aelia Capitolina and the Wilson Arch."
  • 16:10 - Yuval Baruch and Ronny Reich - "Remains of the Aelia Capitolina Period near the South Eastern Corner of the Temple Mount."
  • 16:30 - Discussion
  • 16:40 - Pause

Session 4 - Chair: Moshe Fischer

  • 17:00 - Tziona Grossmark - "R' Zera said: 'Because no furnaces are made in Jerusalem.' (Bavli, Zevahim 96a)."
  • 17:20 - Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah - "Possible Interpretations of the Repetitive Use of Building Materials from an Earlier Source (spolia) in the Monumental Building of Jerusalem in the Late Ancient Age."
  • 17:40 - Haim Barba and Yechiel Zelinger - "A Monastery from the Byzantine Period near the Qidron Valley."
  • 18:00 - Deborah Sklar-Parnes, Alon De Groot, Rachel Bar-Natan and David Amit - "New Excavations near the Third Wall."
  • 18:20 - Irena Zilberbod and David Amit - "The Antilia Well at the Timnah Valley."
  • 18:40 - Avi Sasson - "Water for the Walker and Pilgrim - Water Provision in Jerusalem from the Ayyubian Period to the Late Ottoman Period - Archaeological, Geographical and Social Perspectives."
  • 19:00 - Discussion

The Conference is dedicated to the memory of Israel Shalem, of blessed memory, a colleague at the Rennert Center.

For Details, call the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies, Bar Ilan University at +972-3-5317703

The public is invited.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Treasure Hunters Destroy Tell en-Najila and other ancient sites

A Maariv article by Dalia Mazori reports (Hebrew) that treasure hunters searching for gold destroyed Tell en-Najila:

Tell en-Najila, Photo source: Yochai Gootwine, tiuli.com (Hebrew)
The site of Tell en-Najila lies on the banks of the Shiqma river, between Qiryat Gat and Bet Qama. The Tell was settled in different periods from the Chalcolithic period, some 7000 years ago, to the Middle Ages. Legend says that near a tamarisk tree on the top of the Tell, the Turkish army buried a crate containing soldiers' wages as it fled from the British army.

Last weekend, a group of antiquities looters chose to see if the legend was accurate. They came to the Tell with various mechanical machines and tools, metal detectors, trucks and digging tools. With these heavy tools, the looters began digging the tell, destroying anything that lies in their way: ancient walls, an ancient Muslim grave with the bones inside, and settlement layers from the Iron and Bronze Ages. The tamarisk was left with its roots out in the open, a big hole lying below it.

The looters also dug up Khirbet Abu-Hof, near Kibbutz Lahav, a site that was continuously inhabited from the prehistoric period to the Middle Ages. Illegal excavations have been carried out in this site in the past, only this time the looters used heavy tools that caused heavy damage to the entrance of the cave at the site. It seems the looters used a false map on which the treasure was marked.

Further excavations were carried out near graves of Sheikhs at Tell Haror, Sheikh Abu Obel, Beer Almuth, Rosh Maale Tsurim, and Beer Molada.

The director of the Antiquities Prevention Unit at the Antiquities Authority, Amir Ganor, said that the Turkish treasure legend has kept the IAA for years. So far, no real reports of treasure finding have reached the IAA and all the maps that were confiscated from looters were found to be false. "In the past, the looters even hired conjurors that were supposed to help them by conjuring and communicating with ghosts and animals." Ganor emphasized that damage and illegal digs at an antiquities site are felonies, for which the law specifies a five year prison term.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Kfar Cana Excavations reveal buildings from Monarchic Israel

The Antiquities Authority reports on Iron Age remains found in recent excavations in Kafr Kana (Hebrew כפר כנא Kfar Kana, site of the ancient "Cana of the Galilee"). It says:

Complete storage jars found in excavations
Photo source: Israel Antiquities Authority
In salvage excavations conducted by the Antiquities Authority in Kfar Kana remains of a settlement are being uncovered that existed at the time of the United Kingdom of King Solomon and the Kingdom of Israel (following the split between Israel and Judah, from the 10-9th centuries BCE). During the course of the excavations a section of the city wall and remains of buildings were exposed. The director of the excavation on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, Yardenna Alexandre, reported that evidence was found there indicating the place was vanquished during the 9th century BCE, probably by an enemy. In addition pottery vessels, large quantities of animal bones, a scarab depicting a man surrounded by two crocodiles and a ceramic seal bearing the image of a lion were discovered at the site.

Jim Davila also blogged a shorter Arutz 7 report at the PaleoJudaica blog. A longer Arutz 7 article (with photos) is now available here. Joseph Lauer also points out that it has now been reported in an Haaertz/AP report and a report in the Jerusalem Post. In Hebrew, this has been reported also by Arutz 7, ynet and nfc. Surprisingly, no Hebrew Haaretz report yet, apparently. Christopher Heard posted some comments on the dig in his blog, Higgaion, suggesting Egyptian influence and noting the need for a deeper look. Unfortunately, this may never come about as these are salvage excavations - excavations performed ahead of private or commercial construction. In the case of the Megiddo Prison, the Antiquities Authority recommended that the prison be moved due to the early Christian remains found at the site. But this is the exception, and normally construction continues over the site.

Related Links:


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Mosaic Revealed in Tiberias Excavations

Updated March 9: Added "Totally Jewish" news report and link to Modica conference blog entry

Silver coins discovered this week
Photo source: Yaron Kaminsky, Haaretz (Hebrew)
Haaretz (Hebrew) reported that in excavations this week at Tiberias, archaeologists discovered a mosaic containing a picture of a lion or dog, a flying dove, and grapevine branches with grape clusters. The mosaic, dating to the 4th century CE, was uncovered in a semicircular niche in the basilica structure, where scholars believe the Sanhedrin was operating, after it had moved to Tiberias in the 3rd century CE. The archaeologists say that this shows how beautiful the basilica must have been. Unfortunately, a wall built later divides the mosaic. An inscription that may have originally been written in the mosaic has been destroyed and all that is left is a corner of the frame inside of which an inscription was possibly present.


Helping in the dig are dozens of local and international volunteers. Among them are the couple Judith and Lionel Kohn of Calgary, Canada. The couple, who are archaeology lovers, intend to help donate towards the excavation of the Roman theater that lies buried under large mounds of dirt.

Also uncovered in the dig was a hoard of 92 silver coins that were buried under one of the stores being uncovered currently, dating to the second half of the 11th century CE. Seljuk warriors were attacking the city during this period and one of the attacks, in 1078, ended in a large massacre. Perhaps the shop owner hoped to save his fortune should the security improve and he will be able to return to his shop. Prof. Yizhar Hirschfeld, who is managing the dig, suggests that he probably died. "In 1099, when the Crusaders reached Tiberias, they found a ghost town and rebuilt the city, north of the Roman town."

Update: Sammy Herman, apparently participating in the dig, describes the discovery of the hoard as follows:

Here and there, groups of volunteers struggle with buckets and spades. The professionals supervise from a distance, encouraging the amateurs with patient smiles at every shard of pottery they turn up. Bedouin from the north work on their own section, at a pace that makes the rest of the excavators look like they’re playing with sand at the beach. The sun beats down and a breeze catches the water on Lake Kinneret, making it glisten softly.

Then suddenly there’s a rush as news of the hoard spreads. Everyone runs to see what the fuss is about. The professor offers an impromptu lecture to the assembled crowd and magically we’re transported back to a distant past as a man, about to lose all he has, hides a few coins in his shop, which he’ll never see again.

Note last month, in a conference in Modica, Italy nine Mediterranean states signed an agreement to protect Mosaics in the Mediterranean area.

Related Links:


  • Gross, Netty C. "Rediscovering Tiberias". The Jerusalem Reporter May 3, 2004. p. 18-20
  • Hirschfeld, Yizhar. Roman, Byzantine, and Early Muslim Tiberias: A Handbook of Primary Sources.
    This book includes the most updated information available about Tiberias. In it you will find a wide selection of written sources, including coins and inscriptions from Tiberias and/or mentioning the city, as well as updated plans, maps and artist’s reconstructions of the city. All proceeds from the purchase of this book go directly to support the dig. The cost of each personally autographed copy of the book is $20.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

New Comparative Biblical Hebrew and Akkadian Lexicon to be published

The Yeshiva University official student newspaper Commentator reports that a comparative lexicon of Biblical Hebrew, Biblical Aramaic, and Akkadian will soon be released from CDL Press:

Dr. Hayim Tawil
Photo source: Yeshiva College Commentator
After eight years of diligent research, distinguished Yeshiva College Associate Professor (non-tenured) Hayim Tawil will be releasing a Biblical Hebrew and Akkadian Comparative Lexicon to be published by CDL Press within the next month. The Lexicon, which will be the first of its kind to focus on the comparative study and interpretation of Akkadian, Aramaic and Hebrew languages, is seen by many scholars within the field as a groundbreaking intellectual and spiritual endeavor.


Structurally, the Lexicon, which features over 1,000 entries, involves a direct comparison of Akkadian, Biblical Hebrew and Biblical Aramaic. Tawil's central thesis states that unmediated comparison can assist in explicating otherwise difficult biblical lexemes and idioms. The assumption behind this thesis, as Tawil conveys in the Lexicon's introduction, is that Akkadian lexicography is further advanced than its Hebrew counterpart.

The Lexicon will aid both students and premier scholars in several areas of research. In particular, the work aims at uncovering meanings for Hebrew words that eluded clear definition in specific contexts and to propose nuances for Hebrew words suggested by similar Akkadian usages. In addition, Tawil's work attempts to illuminate idioms from related expressions in Akkadian, to correct a certain understanding of Hebrew words and expressions in light of their Akkadian equivalents, and to shed insights Akkadian literature may have on interpreting difficult Biblical Hebrew.


Read the whole thing. Thanks to Uri Hurwitz and George Athas for passing it along via the b-hebrew list.

Related Links:

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Hellenistic Phoenician fortifications discovered in Galilee

The Israeli Antiquities Authority reported yesterday (March 6, Hebrew) on discoveries dating to the Hellenistic period during salvage excavations that the IAA is carrying out in the home of a resident of Kfar Nahif. This includes Hellenistic fortifications built from chiseled field stones and large hewn stones. The fortifications include a large wall that is more than 3.5 meters high and 1.2 meters wide. Also discovered were large quantities of jug fragments, some of which are of local production while others were imported from Greece. Howard Smithline, who is managing the dig for the IAA, said that this is Phoenician building from 2200 years ago.

Related Links:

Related References:

Monday, March 06, 2006

A New Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew

Jim West at Petros Baptist Church Blog announces the publication of a dictionary of Biblical Hebrew written in Modern Hebrew. An earlier version of the same dictionary published in the 1960s included only the letters Alef through Tet. This appears to be a totally revised and complete dictionary. He writes:

אוצר לשון המקרא מאל"ף עד ת"ו

Prof. Menachem Zevi Kaddari

The is the first book of its kind – a comprehensive academic dictionary of Biblical Hebrew written in modern Hebrew. ... This book will appeal to a broad educated public interested in the Bible as the foundation of Jewish culture, and especially to students and teachers of Biblical Studies and Semitic languages including Hebrew. They will benefit particularly from the comparison of biblical words with their parallels in other Semitic languages, as well as the clarification of difficult, seemingly irregular forms in biblical Hebrew. ... The entries are accompanied by copious notes commenting on the etymology and the roots of words and presenting opinions of biblical and linguistic scholars on grammatical issues.


1,256 pp. high-quality paper, elegant hardcover. Hebrew. 2006. List price: $ 120.-
Postage in registered surface mail is at our expense.

Read Jim West's post for the full description. Other titles from Bar Ilan are available at http://www.biu.ac.il/Press/ (note the capital "P").

I will be seriously considering buying this book come Hebrew Book Week in a few months. Although the price tag is a bit high, I am missing a Biblical Hebrew dictionary of any kind in my library. I hope some experts will be able to provide their opinions by that time.

See the order form provided by Jim West.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Phoenician Temple Discovered

Aerial view of excavation area
Photo source: Monsters and Critics Science News
Jim Davila at paleojudaica notes the discovery of a Phoenician Temple in Sicily. The Italian news agency report states:
The temple came to light last year after a portion of a lagoon surrounding the Phoenician city of Motya (present-day Mozia) was drained ...

Digs at the site, on the westernmost tip of Sicily near Marsala, have brought to light the ruins of a "monumental" temple including columns of a type used by the Phoenicians on Cyprus - as well as fragments of an obelisk .

"The similarity with the Temple of the Obelisks at Byblos, Lebanon, is clear," Nigro said .

Nigro believes the pool flanking the temple was used for water rituals and offerings to Baal, the Phoenician god of the sea and the underworld.

However, other Italian archaeologists do not agree with him.


Motya - whose name means "wool-spinning centre" - was founded in the 8th century BC, about a century after the foundation of the most famous Phoenician colony in the ancient world, Carthage in Tunisia .

Greeks also began to colonise Sicily at the same time as Motya's foundation and conflicts broke out between Greek and Phoenician settlements. The Greek tyrant ruler of Siracusa, Dionysius I, destroyed Motya in 397 BC.

There is no doubt that a Sea god was of importance to Phoenicians, who were known sailors. In Ugaritic mythology, Yam, not Baal, was the Sea and Underworld God. However, Ribichini writes that there may be several Phoenician dieties that could be associated as the "Lord of the Sea" and mentions Baal Malage as a possible Sea god. He also mentions dedications to the originally Tyrian Melqarth in Sicily. So it's not clear which Baal is refered to here.

Here is a slightly different shorter report (but perhaps that makes it more accurate). It also has an image gallery of the excavations that actually captions the photos. I couldn't tell from the Italian news agency article if the column photo was from the excavations, but thanks to the caption in the image gallery, it probably is.


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Rare 1489 Prague Bible Online

The first page of the book of Esther in the Prague Bible
Photo source: The Prague Bible
Yeshiva University News reports:

Imagine being able to study Torah using a rare, illuminated Bible written in 1489. Thanks to technology, today anyone can now enjoy this privilege by visiting Yeshiva University’s Library Web site. Individuals can see every page of the nearly 2,000 images of the Bible, even enhance the images, and literally use the Bible as a textbook. To view the Prague Bible click on the Digital Projects link at "http://www.yu.edu/libraries/".

One of the finest examples of a complete Hebrew manuscript Bible in existence, the three-volume manuscript includes 84 leaves with illuminated panels, gold calligraphy against foliate decorations and commentary by Rashi, the renowned medieval sage in a version of interest to scholars due to textual variants. The Bible was recently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City as part of its “Prague, The Crown of Bohemia, 1347-1437” exhibition.

Read the rest of the article.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

More on Jerusalem, Solomon, and the Amarna Letters

Jerusalem in the Amarna tablets?
Photo source:EA 287 in Instituto de Filología
Duane Smith has commented on my post in his blog. Reading it suggested to me that I better explain myself on my earlier post on the subject.

Duane noted a lack of clarity in my post. So I'll try to explain further. My current study embraces many more subjects than simply Solomon and Jerusalem. It deals with the Amarna period, the early Iron Age periods, and much more. At one point I use the common element "Shalem" in the names of Solomon and Jerusalem to suggest that the Biblical statement that "Solomon came from Jerusalem" is accurate and useful as historical evidence.


As the term "came from" is actually a wide term in English, even Niels Peter Lemche's essay on the issue could be considered to say that "Solomon" came from "Jerusalem" because Solomon is essentially a personification of Jerusalem, according to Professor Lemche. In the ANE-2 list, John Croft suggested that Solomon's and Jerusalem's names were "suspiciously theophoric". This generated a lot of conversation, and we may say that even scholarship was furthered as Robert Whiting corrected Niels Peter Lemche on that small point mentioned earlier. At the end of all this discussion, I feel that we don't know from the Amarna cuneiform whether the name "Jerusalem" was then linked to the diety Shalem or the word-component Shalem, which would suggest a connection with Solomon. But we know the identification was made a little over a thousand years later in attested Biblical manuscripts. The earliest such clear attestation is possibly the Genesis Apocryphon which was composed possibly in the 2nd century CE but dated paleographically to the first half of the 1st century CE or late 1st century BCE. Around column 22, line 13, it says "When the king of Sodom learned that Abram had brought back all the captives and all the booty, he came out to meet him; and he went to Salem, which is Jerusalem." Professor Lemche notes this in his article too. But what about earlier times? At what point did the Judaeans or Canaanites start identifying Jerusalem with the diety/word Salem? This is unclear. But if the late 1st Millenium Judaeans felt this way, the earlier inhabitants, even the Canaanite or Hurrian Abdi-Heba of Jerusalem, may have felt so too.

As I was working on this post, Blogger was having problems continuously. I used this time to try to figure out where in EA 287, one of the Amarna tablets sent by Abdi-Heba of Jerusalem, was the word "Jerusalem" written. Using Duane's post which contained a nice concordance of the word, Shlomo Izreel's online work, "The Amarna Tablets," and John Heise's pages on Akkadian cuneiform, I tried figuring out where it was written. It turns out, that a first important step was when I realized that EA 287 (2) was in fact the beginning of the letter and EA 287 (1) was the end, seen by matching Izreel's transcription which includes the missing lines around 8-9 on EA 287 (2) and the horizontal lines on EA 287 (1) which seem to be indicated in Izreel's transcription towards the end. Now I counted so many lines down and tried to figure out where's what. I think, that the cropping I have attached displays the word "Jerusalem," although I'm not sure. I read the left three downward wedgemarks as KUR. The next mark to its right would perhaps be URU. Then to the right of that, I see two horizontal lines intersected by three downward wedges. This seems to be ú. Then we have two signs that I couldn't locate in Heise's table and a mark that seems to match Heise's mark for "lim" at the rightmost corner of the above photo. So if those two unclear marks are "ru" and "$a10", respectively, then that would give us "KUR URU ú-ru-$a10-lim" as in Izreel's transcription.

Finally, a little note on Velikovsky. How did Velikovsky come into this? He comes in because the CIAS website has a glowing endorsement of his views. Originally, I linked to their website via the "Photo source" link as I normally try to link the photos to their site of origin so interested readers can look up more related information to the specific subjects. However, because I believe in furthering proper methodical scholarship, I don't see any reason to point readers to a pseudo-science site that would misinform them. This is why I had removed the "Photo source" link under the picture I took off their site as soon as I understood that they endorse him. If you want to read about Velikovsky, I suggest Henry H. Bauer's Beyond Velikovsky: The History of a Public Controversy (1999). In college, an earlier version of this book proved to be very useful for me and provided me with an objective review of his views. There's no need to spend any more bandwidth on him.


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