The ancient Hebrew inscription consists of 48 letters and is centuries older than any known Hebrew inscription from ancient Israel.
Photo: Folded Lead Tablet. Photograph by Michael C. Luddeni.
Late last week, the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR) announced the publication of a formulaic curse recovered on a small, folded lead tablet. The defixio came to light in December 2019 when archaeologist Scott Stripling, Director of the Archaeological Studies Institute at The Bible Seminary in Katy, Texas, led an ABR team to wet sift the discarded material from Adam Zertal’s excavations (1982–1989) on Mt. Ebal.
ABR announced the find at a press conference on March 24, 2022, at the Lanier Theological Library in Houston, Texas. The announcement generated intense public interest and scrutiny. The academic article appeared today in Heritage Science, a highly rated peer-reviewed journal, and can be accessed as follows: rdcu.be/dbWDF
The article citation is as follows:
Stripling, S., Galil, G., Kumpova, I., Valach, J., van der Veen, P.G., Vavrik, D. “You are Cursed by the God YHW:” An Early Hebrew Inscription from Mt. Ebal. Herit Sci 11, 105 (2023). doi.org/10.1186/s40494-023-00920-9
The ancient Hebrew inscription consists of 48 letters and is centuries older than any known Hebrew inscription from ancient Israel. Stripling formed a collaboration with four scientists from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and two epigraphers (specialists in ancient scripts): Pieter Gert van der Veen of Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz and Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa. The scientists employed advanced tomographic scans to recover the hidden text. In collaboration with Stripling, Galil and van der Veen deciphered the proto-alphabetic inscription, which reads as follows:
You are cursed by the god yhw, cursed.
You will die, cursed – cursed, you will surely die.
Cursed you are by yhw – cursed.
According to Stripling, “The publication of the Mt. Ebal defixio inscription marks an important new horizon in the research of the Manasseh Hill Country and the discussion of Israel’s earliest emergence as a nation. My colleagues worked tirelessly over the last year to bring this to fruition.”
Almost immediately Galil recognized the formulaic literary structure of the inscription: “From the symmetry, I could tell that it was written as a chiastic parallelism.” Reading the concealed letters proved tedious, according to van der Veen, “but each day we recovered new letters and words written in ancient proto-alphabetic script from the Late Bronze Age. Eventually, the entire inscription came to light.”
Daniel Vavrik and his colleagues from Prague ensured the accuracy of the raw data which the team interpreted. Mt. Ebal was the biblical mountain of the “curse,” and Joshua 8:30 indicates that Joshua built an altar on Mt. Ebal. The defixio derived from previously excavated and discarded material from a structure Zertal believed was Joshua’s altar.
The collaborative team consists of Scott Stripling, Gershon Galil, Ivana Kumpova, Jaroslav Valach, Pieter Gert van der Veen, Daniel Vavrik, and Michal Vopalensky.
Media should contact the collaborative partners as follows:
Czech – Daniel Vavrik (firstname.lastname@example.org)
English – Scott Stripling (email@example.com)
German – Pieter Gert van der Veen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Hebrew – Gershon Galil (email@example.com)
Spanish – Scott Stripling (firstname.lastname@example.org)