Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ancient rock adds evidence of King David’s existence

Stone slab with earliest reference to House of David, on display at Met, said to be ‘one of the most important Biblical artifacts ever found’

By Menachem Wecker, The Times of Israel

NEW YORK (JTA) — Dimly lit, the stone slab, or stele, doesn’t look particularly noteworthy, especially when compared to the more lavish sphinxes, jewelry and cauldrons one encounters en route to the room where it is installed

Indeed, in a Twitter post this fall, art journalist Lee Rosenbaum described the nearly 13-by-16 inch c. 830 BCE rock, as “homely.”

What’s significant about this stone — on view at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of its “Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age” exhibit running through January 4 — is its inscription: “the earliest extra-biblical reference to the House of David.”

“There is no doubt that the inscription is one of the most important artifacts ever found in relation to the Bible,” Eran Arie, curator of Israelite and Persian periods at the Israel Museum, wrote in the exhibit catalog.

As is to be expected with a rock nearly three millennia old, the slab is missing considerable portions, and Arie’s translation of the remaining 13 lines of text is full of ellipses and bracketed additions. What is clear is that the Aram-Damascene king Hazael brags of having killed 70 kings, including of Israel and of the “House of David” (The round number, scholars agree, is probably exaggerated, although Hazael did have a reputation for being ruthless and successful).

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