(Posted by Michael J. Caba)

This limestone monument, known as the Kurkh Monolith, is approximately seven feet high and is now located in the British Museum. Discovered in 1861 in Kurkh, Turkey, it was originally carved in c. 852 BC by the Assyrians. The cuneiform writing on the monument refers to a battle at Qarqar involving King Ahab of Israel, who is also frequently referred to in the Bible (cf. 1 Kings 16-22).

Of interest to Biblical studies is the fact that the battle mentioned on this monolith is not mentioned in the Bible, thereby indicating that the Biblical writers were selective in the events they recounted. Further, King Ahab is depicted in the inscription as being one of the major military contributors to a coalition of local forces which was assembled to counter the Assyrian threat. This coalition also included Damascus, which was often at odds with Israel. Though the monolith contains the typical Ancient Near Eastern talk by the Assyrian king claiming victory and so forth, it appears from subsequent events that the battle may not have gone so well for the Assyrians.

(Photo: BiblePlaces.com. Significant resource for further study: The Context of Scripture, Volume 2, pages 261-264.)

(Posted by Michael J. Caba)

This inscribed basalt stone contains the oldest reference to King David outside of the Bible.*  Being roughly a foot tall, it was written in Aramaic in the mid 9th century BC and is known as the Tel Dan Stela.  The text actually refers to the “House of David,” meaning his royal family. Found during excavations in the ancient city of Dan in 1993/94, it is now located in the Israel Museum.

The artifact is particularly significant in the discussions related to the historicity of the Biblical accounts of the kingdom of David. Prior to its discovery some critics had maintained that the Biblical figure of King David was mythological in nature. However, subsequent to this finding scholarly opinion is now summed up well by Eric Cline from The George Washington University: “At a single blow, the finding of this inscription brought an end to the debate and settled the question of whether David was an actual historical person.”

It is of course true that the Bible is an ancient source in itself that can be trusted outright; still, support such as this further strengthens the case for the Bible’s reliability on historical matters.

(Photo: BiblePlaces.com. Significant resource for further study: The Context of Scripture, Volume 2, pages 161-162.)

*Possible additional references to David which are contemporaneous, or older, than the Tel Dan Stela are found on the Moabite Stone (Mesha Stela) and at Karnak Temple in Egypt (10th century BC).


(Posted by Michael J. Caba)

This month’s artifact is an engraved slab of granite that is more than ten feet tall. It was discovered in 1896 in Western Thebes, Egypt by Sir Flinders Petrie and it contains the oldest* certain reference to “Israel” outside of the Bible. It is commonly referred to as the Merneptah Stela and the text was carved c. 1210 BC in hieroglyphs under the auspices of Pharaoh Merneptah.  It is now located in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and the word “Israel” is in the darkened section in the second line from the bottom that can be seen more clearly by clicking on the photo to enlarge it.
The wording on the stela is hymnic in nature and recounts the military exploits of Pharaoh Merneptah, especially against the Libyans. Indeed, of the 28 lines of inscribed text, 23 deal with the Libyan conflict. It is only in the later part of the inscription that Israel is mentioned, and in this regard the Israelites are referred to with the language designating them as an ethnic group instead of a settled nation state. This description is fully in line with the Biblical portrayal of the Israelites during the era of the Judges, which represents them as a  people group lacking in central leadership and without a capital city.  
(Photo: BiblePlaces.com. Significant resource for further study: The Context of Scripture, Volume 2, page 40-41.)
*The Berlin Pedestal may contain a reference to Israel that is older than the Merneptah Stela. See:  Israel in Canaan (Long) Before Pharaoh Merenptah? A Fresh Look at Berlin Statue Pedestal Relief 21687. Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections 2.4: 15–25.


About the BiblePlaces Blog

The BiblePlaces Blog provides updates and analysis of the latest in biblical archaeology, history, and geography. Unless otherwise noted, the posts are written by Todd Bolen, PhD, Professor of Biblical Studies at The Master’s University.


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