This month’s news items include three finds related to names that were considered divine in the ancient world: Baal, Horus, and YHWH. One of these discoveries will almost certainly be high on most year-end Top Ten lists. Here were the top three news reports in March 2022.
3. Sacred Pool In Honor of Baal Identified in Sicily
In a new article in the journal Antiquity, Prof. Lorenzo Nigro of Sapienza University in Rome argues that a structure once thought to be a Phoenician harbour in Sicily was actually a sacred pool in honor of Baal. When the rectangular, artificial basin was first discovered in 1906, it was thought to be an artificial harbor, called a kothon. In his article, Nigro points out that the structure was a freshwater pool with three temples surrounded by a circular wall, and that it was not connected with the sea. Rather, it is more consistent with other Phoenician sites where natural and artificial water sources were used for ritual purposes. A statue would have once stood in the center of the pool; the statue is gone, but one fragment of a foot has been found. More importantly, a Greek inscription dedicated to “Belios” was found in a votive pit beside the pool’s south-eastern corner (Baal was worshiped as Belios by the ancient Greeks). Nigro believes the sacred pool would have also served another purpose: a smooth surface with which to view the stars. He argues that the ancient Phoenicians adored the stars as gods or deceased ancestors and that the position of the constellations was important to the sailors among them. If his identification is correct, this will lead to a better understanding of the worship of ancient Phoenicians. The Bible refers to the Phoenicians from Tyre as “the princes of the sea” (Ez. 26:16).
2. Ancient Wells Discovered Along The Horus Road Through the Sinai
Archaeologists excavating near Tel el-Kedwa in the North Sinai have unearthed a group of wells on the famous Way of Horus road. They believe the wells were built before the reign of Seti I, but were later deliberately filled in so that Persians, who invaded in 525 BC could not use them. Only one well was not filled in, and it was constructed in an unconventional way, dug into yellow sand with 1-meter pottery rings placed on top of each other. Pottery vessels, which were discovered at the well, date to the 26th Dynasty, also known as the Saite period. The Way of Horus was an ancient road lined with military fortresses that connected Egypt and Canaan. It is referred to in the Bible as the “way of the land of the Philistines.” Exodus 13:17 reads, “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.”
1. Oldest Proto-Alphabetic Inscription in Israel Contains the Name of YHWH
The Associates for Biblical Research (ABR) have announced the discovery of a curse tablet bearing an ancient Hebrew inscription which was recovered in the dump piles from Adam Zertal’s excavations on Mt. Ebal. The small, folded lead tablet was discovered in December 2019 through the process of wet-sifting during the Mt. Ebal Dump Salvage project, led by Dr. Scott Stripling. A team of scholars, including Dr. Stripling and four scientists from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, as well as two epigraphers – Pieter Gert van der Veen of Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz and Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa – used advanced tomographic scans to recover the hidden text. The recently deciphered the proto-alphabetic inscription reads:
Cursed, cursed, cursed – cursed by the God YHW.
You will die cursed.
Cursed you will surely die.
Cursed by YHW – cursed, cursed, cursed.
From 1982–1989 Adam Zertal excavated a rectangular altar, dating to the 13th century BC, on Mt. Ebal. Beneath this structure and at the exact geometric center, was a round altar, which may date to the Late Bronze Age, the time of Joshua. The biblical text describes Joshua building an altar on Mt. Ebal (Josh. 8:30) and it being the mountain from which curses were pronounced (Deut. 27:13-26).
If this artifact does indeed date to the Late Bronze Age, is an important discovery! Inscriptions from ancient Israel are rare, and this one bears the name YHWH, the name by which God revealed Himself to Moses (Ex. 3:14). It is the oldest inscription containing the divine name YHW yet discovered in ancient Israel. Moreover, the lead curse tablet has been dated to the Late Bronze Age, and may be connected with the renewal of the covenant on Mt. Ebal (Josh. 8:30-35). It is also further evidence that the Bible was written at the time it purports to be, and not centuries later as those who hold to the documentary hypothesis assert.
An academic, peer-reviewed article is in process and will be published later in 2022.
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