Who Are You, Eshbaʽal Ben Bedaʽ? A Rare Inscription from the Time of King David was Discovered in the Valley of Elah

Photographic credit: Tal Rogovsky

A rare inscription from the time of King David was discovered at Khirbet Qeiyafain the Valley of Elah. A ceramic jar c. 3,000 years old that was broken into numerous sherds was discovered in 2012 in excavations carried out there by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University and Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Letters written in ancient Canaanite script could be discerned on several of the sherds, sparking the curiosity of researchers.

Intensive restoration work conducted in the laboratories of the Israel Antiquities Authority Artifacts Treatment Department, during which hundreds of pottery sherds were glued together to form a whole jar, solved the riddle – the jar was incised with the inscription: Eshbaʽal Ben Badaʽ. Dr. Mitka Golub and Dr. Haggai Misgav were among the team of researchers involved in deciphering the text.
According to Professor Yosef Garfinkel of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University and Saar Ganor of the IAA, “This is the first time that the name Eshbaʽal has appeared on an ancient inscription in the country. Eshbaʽal Ben Shaul, who ruled over Israel at the same time as David, is known from the Bible. Eshbaʽal was murdered by assassins and decapitated and his head was brought to David in Hebron (II Samuel, Chaps. 3-4). It is interesting to note that the name Eshbaʽal appears in the Bible, and now also in the archaeological record, only during the reign of King David, in the first half of the tenth century BCE. This name was not used later in the First Temple period.The correlation between the biblical tradition and the archaeological finds indicates this was a common name only during that period. The name Bedaʽ is unique and does not occur in ancient inscriptions or in the biblical tradition.”
According to the researchers, the fact that the name Eshbaʽal was incised on a jar suggests that he was an important person. He was apparently the owner of a large agricultural estate and the produce collected there was packed and transported in jars that bore his name. This is clear evidence of social stratification and the creation of an established economic class that occurred at the time of the formation of the Kingdom of Judah.
Garfinkel and Ganor add, “In II Samuel there was apparently reluctance to use the name Eshbaʽal, which was reminiscent of the Canaanite storm god Baʽal, and the original name was therefore changed to Ish-Bashat, but the original name of Eshbaʽal was preserved in the Book of Chronicles.  Thus, for example, the name of the warlord Gideon Ben Joash was also changed from Jerrubaal to Jerubesheth.”
 Khirbet Qeiyafais identified with the biblical city Shaʽarayim. During several seasons of excavations directed by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel and Saar Ganor, a fortified city, two gates, a palace and storerooms, dwellings and cultic rooms were exposed there. The city dates from the time of David, that is, the late eleventh and early tenth centuries BCE. Unique artifacts that were previously unknown were discovered at the site. For example, in 2008 the world’s earliest Hebrew inscription was uncovered there. Now, another inscription from the same period is being published from the site.

According to Garfinkel and Ganor,”Until about five years ago we knew of no inscriptions dating to the tenth century BCE from the Kingdom of Judah. In recent years four inscriptions have been published: two from Khirbet Qeiyafa, one from Jerusalem and one from Bet Shemesh. This completely changes our understanding of the distribution of writing in the Kingdom of Judah and it is now clear that writing was far more widespread than previously thought. It seems that the organization of the kingdom required a cadre of clerks and writers and their activity is also manifested in the appearance of inscriptions. “

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Visit Israel with us this summer

Shaul et Orah SoferWe are Licensed Tour Guides in Israel, Certified guides at City of  David, Certified guides at the Temple Institute, and have many years of experience in tourism- Sailing boats charter- Airline flight attendant- VIP tours organisers and more.

We offer unique tours in Eretz Israel that feature amazing archeological, historical, and spiritually significant, touristic treasures of the Land of the Bible. Whether you are an individual, a couple, a family unit or with a group looking to experience nature, biblical history and discover ancient archeological ruins, we are confident that the richness of our programs will surely satisfy your expectations. .. Watch our video:

Come visit Israel, the authentic: Yisrael ha Mekorit!

Visit our websites: http://www.israelrediscovered.com- http://www.visiterisrael.com

Spoken languages: French- English- Hebrew

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Shilo Byzantine olive Grinding stone Photo credit Orah Sofer

Today we will be talking about Shilo, the place where the Mishkan stood for over 369 years. Shilo was the first capital of Israel. It is there that Joshua erected the Mishkan and separated the country into lots for each one of the tribes.  Jos 18:1 The whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there. The country was brought under their control.

It is also there that Chana, who had prayed to G-d for a child, had the joy of consecrating him to the work of the Mishkan. Shmuel then became Cohen Gadol and a prophet after receiving his divine calling.

Because of the presence of the Arch and the Mishkan, Shilo was a holy place were sacrifices were made. The tribes were invited for the pilgrimage three times a year and rejoiced with meat and the flow of abundant wine that was made locally. Archeological excavations have uncovered pottery and shards belonging to that prestigious period of time. Olive oil was produced locally as well. Located close to the Road of the Patriarchs, the site of Shilo was the perfect gathering place for young men and women who were dancing in the fields during the period of Tu Be’Av (after the incident of Benyamin).  Jug 21:21 When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife. Then return to the land of Benjamin.

The Arch of Covenant remained in Shilo for over two centuries before being taken by the Philistines, who brought it to Ashdod and placed it in the temple of their god Dagon. The Philistines later destroyed the city because of its many sins and disrespect towards G-d. (Yoma 9a).

Centuries later, churches were built on the biblical site. Eusebius wrote during the 5th century that the church had been built on the location where the Mishkan of the children of Israel was.

Excavations prove the biblical story and it is very touching to tour this thousand year old site, remnant of the early Jewish history. Funds were allocated in order to restore this precious site and we will be following the evolution of the excavations with enthusiam! A site not to be missed! Follow the guide!

Orah Sofer

Picture credit: Bible Places

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Purim: Chance doesn’t exist

Purim sameach  Shabbat Zakhor: Let’s remember what Amalek did and is still doing: Deut.25:17-19

Chance doesn’t exist!

Purim, פורים, is a Persian word meaning “to cast lots.” It was on the 13th day of the month of Adar that Haman, Achashverosh’s minister, decided to cast lots in order to destroy the Jewish people. This month was also the month in which Moshe died and Haman thought it was a good omen foretelling the death of the people he hated; but he had forgotten that the month of Adar was also the month of Moshe’s birthday! Esther-and-the-King

Purim is the story of a young Jewish queen who was instrumental in the salvation of the Jewish nation through the miraculous, but hidden intervention of G-d, who’s Name isn’t revealed in the Meguilat Esther (Esther scroll). Haman’s evil plan of genocide was reversed and instead, it became a day of victory over the enemies and an official day of rejoicing for the Jewish people and for future generations to come.

In Jewish tradition, it is said that the Feast of Purim will still be celebrated in the Messianic times because it symbolizes the victory over Amalek and the demonstration of G-d’s love for His people.

Purim is the last feast before the end of the Jewish year and comes before Pesach, already proclaiming the deliverance.

Historical context:

This story happens during the seventy years of captivity of the Jewish people in Babylonia, about 2370 years ago according to Jewish sources. Achashverosh (Atarxerces I or II depending on the source), is the ruler of the Persian Empire which succeeded the Babylonian one. His wife, Vashti, is the only remaining descendant of Nebuchadnezzar.

The king gives a banquet to rejoice because the seventy years of captivity are almost gone; the Jewish people haven’t been delivered as yet and Jerusalem hasn’t been rebuilt as prophesied by the Jewish prophets . It was under his reign that the rebuilding of the Temple ceased and just like his predecessor, Belshatzar, he too sat drinking and serving wine in the sacred cups of the Temple.

Being drunk, he invites his wife Vashti, to appear naked (as mentioned in the Midrash) in front of his nobles and officers. After her refusal, he decides to divorce her and looks for a new wife among the young girls of the kingdom.

Esther is chosen and will be silent about her Jewish birth until the right time. Meanwhile Haman is elevated by the king and seeing Mordechai’s refusal to bow before him, he will attempt to annihilate the Jewish population, thus enacting the first Jewish genocide.

Esther, having fasted, will go and intercede to the king for the salvation of her people; the situation will be reversed giving advantage to the Jews and Haman will be hung, together with his sons. Mordechai will be elevated before the king and instead of a day of great mourning, as planned by the descendant of Amalek, it will be a day of official rejoicing for the descendants of Avraham.

Purim depicts the evil fight against the Jewish people, a fight that is willing to eradicate the Name of G-d on earth.

Haman was an Amalekite, descendant from Agag, himself a descendant of Amalek.

After coming out of Egypt, all nations were afraid of the Jewish people because of the miracles of G-d, except for one nation, Amalek, who boldly attacked the weakened Jews in the desert .

Thus G-d ordered the destruction of Amalek:

Therefore, when HaShem your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies in the land HaShem your God is giving you as your inheritance to possess, you are to blot out all memory of ‘Amalek’ from under heaven. Don’t forget! Deuteronomy 25:19

Years later, king Sha’ul won’t obey G-d and will spare the life of the Amalekite king, Agag, who had time to give a descendant during the night (as told by the Midrash) before Shmuel (Samuel) kills him:

However, Sha’ul and the people spared Agag, along with the best of the sheep and cattle, and even the second best, also the lambs, and everything that was good–they weren’t inclined to destroy these things. But everything that was worthless or weak they completely destroyed. 1 Samuel 15:9

Amalek, עמלק symbolizes doubt, hesitation, as is revealed to us in the numerical value of his name and is similar to the Hebrew word safek, ספק which means doubt: 240

Let’s also check the word used in verse18 from the 25th Chapter of Deuteronomy for “how he met you, korecha, קרך” which means to get cold, from the root kor, קר and also the one for ” by chance, mikreh, מקרא “:

“Remember what ‘Amalek’ did to you on the road as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you, korecha, קרך by the road, attacked those in the rear, those who were exhausted and straggling behind when you were tired and weary. He did not fear God. Deuteronomy 25:17

Amalek is the image of doubt and unbelief in G-d’s existence, the coldness towards the miracles and to the goodness of G-d and also the denial of G-d’s authority in men’s affairs. Haman would rather cast lots and trust in the occult power of chance rather than admit to the sovereignty of G-d.

In the same way that Amalek didn’t fear the divine wrath by attacking the Jewish nation, Haman, will also attempt to destroy once more, this people.

The spirit of Amalek still infects the thoughts and minds of modern day Hamans, such as Hitler and others who will again try to annihilate the Jewish people….

Mordechai, who is the antidote for Haman, will not bow before his threat and will keep his faith in the same way that his ancestor BenYamin, from whose tribe he is issued, while still in his mother’s womb, wouldn’t bow before Esav.

The Temple will be built on BenYamin’s territory and he will never leave the royal tribe of Yehuda, even in exile.

In the Meguillat Esther, the Name of G-d is never mentioned.

The word meguilla, scroll in Hebrew, comes from the word “to reveal” and the name Esther, אסתר who’s real name was Hadasa, comes from the root “to hide, to veil”. The book of Esther reveals to us the hidden face of G-d and his quiet but sure intervention for His people.

From this comes the custom to “get costumed,” or to hide, at Purim; this interpretation goes all the way back to the desert where G-d announced to His people that He would hide Himself from them because of their sins. The word “hiding” has the same root as the name Esther:

But I will be hiding, astir, אסתיר my face from them because of all the evil they will have done in turning to other gods. Deuteronomy 31:18

The feast of Purim reminds us that “chance” doesn’t exist, that G-d is faithful and that He will never forsake His people. His enemies will be destroyed and He will unveil Himself at the end time to the whole world and they will recognize Him and will bow in front of the King of kings ! Amen!

And I will no longer hide, astir אסתיר my face from them, for I have poured out my Spirit on the house of Isra’el, ‘says HaShem ELOHIM” Ezekiel 39:29

Orah Sofer

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Ezuz in the Negev

Why should we go to this desert place Ezuz?

In this aera, just north of us, the biggest sand dune area in Israel begins. And just below the village of Ezuz there is a shady oasis, with tamarisk and palm trees surrounding the two ancient wells of Aaron and Moses, indicating a high water aquifer underneath.

Wells like these most probably served the people of Israel while they sojourned here (Kadesh Barnea) for 19 years of the Exodus: These are also ancient wells on the path of Shur, the famous highway out of Egypt ( Genesis 16, 7: “And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.).

There are numerous Biblical verses naming a well.  Here is one associated with Moses and the Israelites, which was named simply “the well”  (Beer in Hebrew):

Numbers 21 16-17: “And from thence they went to Beer: that is the well whereof the LORD spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water. Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it:”

Jaakan may also have been the Biblical name of the two wells, a site where the Israelites passed during the 40 year of wandering. Deuteronomy 10:6: ” And the children of Israel took their journey from Beeroth of the children of Jaakan to Mosera: there Aaron died, and there he was buried”.

In Kadesh, Moses sent forth the 12 spies to prepare the return to Canaan Numbers 13: 17: “And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan”. The spies probably passed through Be’erotayim!

Following the path of the spies, the Israelites attempted to conquer Canaan from Kadesh, but this first attempt failed after the Canaanites blocked their way Numbers 21: 1: “And when king Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south, heard tell that Israel came by the way of the spies; then he fought against Israel, and took some of them prisoners”. As a result of this Canaanite resistance, the conquest plan changed, and the next attempt was conducted years later through Edom on the east.

After the Israelite conquest of Canaan, the area around Kadesh and Be’erotayim was within the inheritance of the tribe of Judah. A fortress was located on the western hill. It is dated to the  Iron Age IIa period (1000-925BC). This is a rectangular structure with a tower and residential rooms. This period is about the time of King David, who enlarged the Kingdom beyond Kadesh. The southern border reached “the brook of Egypt” – 25km to the west of Be’erotayim.

In general, there was an unprecedented growth in the Negev area during the Iron age. The Bible writes about King Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26 10): “Also he built towers in the desert, and digged many wells: for he had much cattle, both in the low country, and in the plains”. The ancient desert farming techniques were probably invented during those times, and later perfected by the Nabateans.

  We find in the area of Be’erotayim stream traces of the ancient Nabatean desert farming. During the Roman and Byzantine periods the Nabateans mastered the knowledge of collecting scarce desert water and using it for farming.  A large pool and aqueduct remain, dated to the Byzantine period, are located on the northern side of Be’erotayim (Ezuz) stream.

And, to conclude, let’s mention that nearby are a number of rock engravings with Christian names.

So visiting Ezuz can turn out to be a very rich historical and biblical day! Follow the guide, we’ll visit many other biblical places in the Negev. 054-2075313




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Avdat, Nabatean City

This week, we would like to tell you about the Nabateans. Originally coming from Arabia, these nomadic people came to Israel during the Persian period, around the 4th century B.C. Their main occupation was trade, consisting mainly of spices such as cinnamon and myrtle, spices that were very valuable back in the day.

The Spice Way, a 2400km long route, linked their capital Petra to Gaza and went through many cities in the Negev. Among these cities was Avdat, Mamshit, Shivta, Nizzana, Chaluza, and Rechovot. Pagans since the birth of their people, they converted to Christianity during the Byzantine period, and eventually were dispersed during the Arabian invasion in 638 A.C.

The Nabateans flourished during the Byzantine period and built beautiful cities whose remains still exist: churches, baptisteries, big buildings and agricultural  settlements. They were innovative water specialists, inventing a unique irrigation system that could store and conserve nearly 100% of their water supply. The city of Avdat has kept many olive and grape presses. We can also see some of the remains of the irrigation ponds, the water tanks and terraces that were used to cultivate fruit trees.

We don’t have many written sources of the Nabateans except for Josephus Flavius (1st century A.C.) and Diodurus (1st century B.C). However, the Bible refers to this people, associated with Edom and its capital Petra (whose name in Greek means “Rock”): Judges 1:36 And the border of the Amorites was from the ascent of Akrabbim, from the rock, and upwards.

The reason for their conversion to Christianity is unknown. Some think it would have been for economical reasons: they sold their wine and oil to the many pilgrims who were visiting the Holy Land.

Visiting the Nabatean cities, which are listed as heritage cities by the UNESCO, is really fascinating. The beauty of the desert and the richness of the archaeological remains make it a must-see attraction. Also, during the Feasts of Pesach and Sukkot, an artisan market takes place in the city of Mamshit. A real delight for the eyes!

Don’t miss it, follow the guide!

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Monumental synagogue building discovered in excavations in Galilee

A monumental synagogue building dating to the Late Roman period (ca. 4th-5th centuries C.E.) has been discovered in archaeological excavations at Huqoq in Israel’s Galilee.
Photographic Credit: Jim Haberman

The excavations are being conducted by Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and David Amit and Shua Kisilevitz of the Israel Antiquities Authority, under the sponsorship of UNC, Brigham Young University in Utah, Trinity University in Texas, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Toronto in Canada. Students and staff from UNC and the consortium schools are participating in the dig

Huqoq is an ancient Jewish village located approximately two to three miles west of Capernaum and Migdal (Magdala). Thissecond season of excavations has revealed portions of a stunning mosaic floor decorating the interior of the synagogue building. The mosaic, which is made of tiny colored stone cubes of the highest quality, includes a scene depicting Samson placing torches between the tails of foxes (as related in the book of Judges 15). In another part of the mosaic, two human (apparently female) faces flank a circular medallion with a Hebrew inscription that refersto rewards for those who performgood deeds.

“This discovery is significant because only a small number of ancient (Late Roman) synagogue buildings are decorated with mosaics showing biblical scenes, and only two others have scenes with Samson (one is at another site just a couple of miles from Huqoq),” said Magness, the Kenan Distinguished Professor in the department of religious studies in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. “Our mosaics are also important because of their high artistic quality and the tiny size of the mosaic cubes. This, together with the monumental size of the stones used to construct the synagogue’s walls, suggest a high level of prosperity in this village, as the building clearly was very costly.”

Excavations are scheduled to continue in summer 2013.

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Biblical Bethlehem Archeological Evidence

 Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Press Release

The First Archaeological Evidence of the Existence of the City of Bethlehem already in the First Temple Period

While sifting soil from archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting in the City of David, in the “Walls around Jerusalem National Park”, a bulla was discovered bearing the name of the city, written in ancient Hebrew script.

The first ancient artifact constituting tangible evidence of the existence of the city of Bethlehem, which is mentioned in the Bible, was recently discovered in Jerusalem.

A bulla measuring c. 1.5 cm was found while sifting soil from archaeological excavations being performed in the spring house in the City of David, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and underwritten by the Ir David Foundation. A bulla is a piece of clay that was used for sealing a document or object. The bulla was impressed with the seal of the person who sent the document or object, and its integrity was evidence the document or object was not opened by anyone unauthorized to do so.

Three lines of ancient Hebrew script appear on the bulla:

            בשבעת              Bishvʽat

            בת לים              Bat Lechem

            [למל]ך              [Lemel]ekh

According to Eli Shukron, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “it seems that in the seventh year of the reign of a king (it is unclear if the king referred to here is Hezekiah, Manasseh or Josiah), a shipment was dispatched from Bethlehem to the king in Jerusalem. The bulla we found belongs to the group of “fiscal” bullae – administrative bullae used to seal tax shipments remitted to the taxation system of the Kingdom of Judah in the late eighth and seventh centuries BCE. The tax could have been paid in the form of silver or agricultural produce such as wine or wheat”. Shukron emphasizes,” this is the first time the name Bethlehem appears outside the Bible, in an inscription from the First Temple period, which proves that Bethlehem was indeed a city in the Kingdom of Judah, and possibly also in earlier periods”.

In the Bible Bethlehem is first mentioned in the verse “in Ephrath, which is Bethlehem”, and it was on the way there that Rachel died and it is where she was buried (Genesis 35:19; 48:7). The descendants of Judah settled there, among them the family of Boaz (Book of Ruth).

Bethlehem’s greatness begins with the anointing of David, son of Jesse, as king (1 Samuel 16).

 Israel Antiquities Authority. Photographic credit: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

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Tel Goren

This past week, we visited Ein Gedi. We wanted to do an active hike and so we went through Nachal David and up to the top of the hill where the two archaeological sites are: Tel Goren and a pagan chalcolitic temple. The view is splendid and the place seems to be an ideal strategic point: the choice of location for the Israelite fortress and the temple which was built before it. High places were thought to give inspiration and were also important for their vantage point.

This part of the Land of Israel belongs to the Tribe of Judah. David traversed these steep hills while escaping from king Sha’ul. It is said that he might have found refuge in one of the neighboring caves. 1Sa 23:29 (24-10) And David went up from thence, and dwelt in the strongholds of En-gedi.

The first settlement, Tel Goren, was built at the end of the 7th century BCE. Royal seals as well as a treasure of silver coins found in the ruins of the site, shows evidence of the Israelite presence during that period. The houses of that small village had two rooms and a courtyard in which large vessels were found. These vessels would have been used to make and store  perfumes from aromatic plants, which were found in abundance in the area.   After the return of the exiled of Zion, during the Persian period (5th-4th BCE), the village flourished and even grew to be an important town under the Hasmonean monarchy. A fortress was built in order to protect the precious perfumes from the nomads.

Tel Goren was put to ruins during the Great rebellion of the Jews against Rome (66-70 ACE).

Today, only the ruins and a tiny oasis remain, where you can bathe your feet after the long climb. But there is also a captivating impression in this beautiful and peaceful place. The memory in the rocks that surround us, the beauty of the Dead Sea beneath us and the cry of the birds above tell the story of David, the future king of Israel, in meditation, offering up praises, seeking solace and refuge from G-d:

Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me; For my soul taketh refuge in thee: Yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I take refuge, Until these calamities be overpast. I will cry unto God Most High, Unto God that performeth all things for me. He will send from heaven, and save me, When he that would swallow me up reproacheth; Selah God will send forth his lovingkindness and his truth. My soul is among lions; I lie among them that are set on fire, Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows,  And their tongue a sharp sword. Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let thy glory be above all the earth. They have prepared a net for my steps; My soul is bowed down: They have digged a pit before me; They are fallen into the midst thereof themselves. Selah. My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing, yea, I will sing praises. Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake right early. I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the peoples: I will sing praises unto thee among the nations. For thy lovingkindness is great unto the heavens, And thy truth unto the skies. Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let thy glory be above all the earth.

Interested in going for a hike in the mountain? Follow the guide!

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