Qeiyafa Ostracon


Brian E. Colless

Note that this is "work in progress" and is continually being modified.

The Qeiyafa Ostracon is a potsherd, bearing five lines of fairly legible writing; it was found on the floor of a room in a building at Khirbet Qeiyafa, which is a fortress situated SW of Jerusalem; it looks out over the the Elah Valley ("Vale of the Terebinth"), where David slew Goliath (according to 1 Samuel 17). The ostracon  is now housed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The site has been identified by Yosef Garfinkel as Sha`arayim ("Two Gates", an unusual feature which is present at Qeiyafa);  Sha`arayim is a place mentioned in the account of the confrontation between David and Goliath, as being on the way to Gath and Ekron (1 Samuel 17:52). But this identification is not certain.

The history of the discovery of the document (by the expedition led by Yosef Garfinkel and Saar Ganor) is recorded at the Qeiyafa Ostracon Chronicle Part 1; and Part 2 gives an account of the attempts by various scholars to decipher the five lines of faded writing, with two excellent and essential photographs, by Clara Amit (Israel Antiquities Authority) and by Megavision Laboratory;  and drawings by Haggai Misgav (the official epigraphist of the expedition), Ada Yardeni, Gershon Galil, and Émile Puech. George Grena also provided a copy of his own drawing to me personally.

                       Infrared photo of the ostracon (by Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority).

This drawing by BEC is tentative.

After examining all the available pictures and drawings, and trying numerous possibilities for each of the five lines, and literally joining up the dots to reconstruct the faint letters, I have produced this preliminary sketch of what I see on the sherd. There may have been a sixth line: there are many dots, and a white 9-shaped B can be seen at the start of the phantom line 6. Note that in line 1, for example, dots (middle and end of the line) are the remains of letters, and are not to be regarded as punctuation marks.

Tentative translation:

[1] You have cursed ('lt), Anakite (`nq), against (b) the servant of God (`bd 'lhm);
[2] the servant of God (`bd 'lhm) has judged you (sha-pa-t.a-ka), with (b) judgements of Yahu (shi-pi-t.i ya-hu);
[3] Goliath (glyt) is dead (mt), David (dwd) is master (b`l) for ever (lns.h.m);
[4] I arise ('qm) and we raise up (nrm) the foundation (ysd) of my kingdom (mlky);
[5] I raise up ('rm) the people (`m) of my servant (`bdy) for his virtuous acts (ls.dqtw).

The basic source for this research is Yosef Garfinkel and Saar Ganor (eds.) Khirbet Qeiyafa Vol. 1: Excavation Report 2007 – 2008 (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 2009), particularly the introductory Chapter 1 (by the editors, pp. 3-18); Chapter 4 (by David L. Adams, pp. 47-66) on the identification of Khirbet Qeiyafa as Sha‘arayim; Chapter 14 (by the epigraphist Haggai Misgav and the editors, pp. 243-257) on the ostracon, with a photograph, a drawing by Misgav, and his observations on the script and the text, with a comparative chart of letters from various inscriptions dating from the eleventh to the ninth centuries BCE; Chapter 14A (by Ada Yardeni, pp. 259-260) offering another drawing and comments on the text; Chapter 15 (by Greg Bearman and William A. Christens-Barry, pp. 261-270) providing enhanced photographs of the inscription, notably Fig. 15.12, “in full flattened contrast, enhanced 3% (produced at Megavision laboratory)”, and that is the reproduction on which my drawing is based (http://qeiyafa.huji.ac.il/ostracon/Fig6.jpg). Several other pictures and drawings of the inscription appear on the Qeiyafa website: http://qeiyafa.huji.ac.il, specifically http://qeiyafa.huji.ac.il/ostracon12_2.asp

    Other scholars, besides Haggai Misgav and Ada Yardeni, have published interpretations:

Gershon Galil, “The Hebrew Inscription from Khirbet Qeiyafa/Neta'im: Script, Language, Literature and History,” Ugarit-Forschungen 41 (2009), 193-242.

William Shea, “The Qeiyafa Ostracon. Separation of powers in ancient Israel,” Ugarit-Forschungen 41 (2009), 601-610.

Emile Puech, “L’Ostracon de Khirbet Qeyafa et les débuts de la royauté en Israel,” Revue Biblique 117 (2010), 162-184.

Alan Millard, “The Ostracon from the Days of David Found at Khirbet Qeiyafa,” Tyndale Bulletin 62.1 (2011), 1-13. Millard (6-7) conveniently summarizes the observations made by specialists who preceded him in this endeavour: Haggai Misgav accepts it as a Hebrew text, a message with continuity of meaning, not a set of unconnected words; Aaron Demsky supposes it is a scribal exercise, a list of words; Shmuel Ahituv also thinks it is a practice text; Ada Yardeni considers that it is possibly Hebrew and perhaps a list; Gershon Galil finds in it a social statement, instructions relating to slaves, widows, orphans, and aliens; Émile Puech recognizes a similar situation, and highlights the institution of kingship, as does William Shea; Millard thin it is a list of personal names, and invokes Judges 8:14 (a list of the names of 77 men).

Christopher Rollston, “The Khirbet Qeiyafa Ostracon: Methodological Musings and Caveats”, Tel Aviv 38 (2011), 67-82, simply urges caution, and does not offer a reading of the text.

Aaron Demsky, "An Iron Age IIA Alphabetic Writing Exercise from Khirbet Qeiyafa", Israel Exploration Journal 62 (2012) (p 186 etc)

Matthieu Richelle,  "Quelques nouvelles lectures sur l'ostracon de Khirbet Qeiyafa", Semitica 57 (2015), 147-162. The first two lines arguably contain a list of personal names.

    For a record of my own struggles with the inscription (earlier “work in progress”), with details of the various readings I have tried for the letters in the text,  refer to these sites:

http://cryptcracker.blogspot.com/ (Two Goliath Ostraca, and Qeiyafa Ostracon),


Identification of signs
'A ('alp "ox", 'Aleph, Alpha) shows three variants (all are among the examples from other sources on my table of signs, below and here): at the end of line 1 and in the middle of line 2 we can see the ox-head with its horns; the first letter in the top line has the head reclining; at the beginning of line 4 (and 5, apparently) the head is completely inverted like the Greek Alpha and Roman A; the total number is 5.

B (bayt "house", Beth, Beta) was originally square, representing a house with a doorway; here it is almost triangular with a projection curling round and downwards at the top on the right; there is one such B under the protruding part of the sherd, in line 1; then there is the sixth character in line 2; beneath that one, in line 3, is yet another B; a fairly clear B is located towards the middle of the bottom line;
in the middle of the top line the dots on the left side of the dotted circle may be joined to reconstruct another form of B  (shaped like a square 9); and a collection of dots in line 2 (under the second B in line 1) may constitute another B; in the apparently empty space below line 5, at the beginning of a possible 6th line, a clear but ghostly white B is visible; total at least 7.

G (gaml, Gimel, Gamma) was a boomerang, or throw-stick; one example, uncharacteristically inverted, appears at the start of line 3;  total 1.

D (dalt "door", Daleth, Delta) was a door with a post, and sometimes with panels; like B it became more triangular; there is an example in the top line, standing between B and 'Aleph; another one can be reconstructed
in line 2, from dots between B and 'Aleph (in the same sequence of  signs as in line 1, `bd); two instances in line 3, on either side of W, with the first being like a reversed D, presumably the same as the ones in lines 1 and 2, and the other is a triangle, like the example in the middle of line 5; the one in line 4 is  like an oblique Roman D (D); in line 5  the second D is also oblique,  like the one above it in line 4. D is not a frequent letter in Hebrew, and yet it has a very high total here; but three of the instances are in a word that occurs three times (`bd); total 7.

(He, Epsilon) was first represented by a person jubilating (hll), generally with both arms raised (sometimes the image was inverted), and this figure was turned on its side leaving only E, and becoming Greek Epsilon; there is a reversed E in the top-right corner; and possibly  another as E to the left of this, as also in in line 2, in the same word 'lhm; total 3.

W (Waw) was a hook or peg or nail (waw) in the proto-alphabet, basically a circle on a stem
(--o), but it opened out into a form resembling Y; one example (with D on either side of it) is in line 3; another in line 4 (in fourth position); apparently there is one at the very end of line 5; total 3.

Z (Zayin, Zeta) was originally two joined triangles (|><|), apparently representing a shackle (ziqq); it is a very infrequent letter; total 0.

(Het, Eta) was a mansion with two rooms and a courtyard (h.as.ir), often with a rounded wall; but it was reduced to a bisected rectangle; the inner line is usually horizontal; the proposed Het at the end of line 3 is based on the weak ink marks, and it apparently has a horizontal line inside the square;
a possible example in line 4 seems to have the original semicircular courtyard and a vertical line, but it could be a fish, and thus S, and the semicircle of dots above it is the tail of the fish; total at least 1.

T. (Tet, Theta) began as the Egyptian nefer sign (t.ab "fine", nfr as in Nefertiti); it was a circle with a cross (o-+), and, apparently, the cross moved into the circle; it became Theta in the Greek alphabet, but it was not taken over by the Romans; line 2 has two cases of it (both in the sequence sh-p-t.); it is very rare; total 2.

Y  (yad "hand", Yod, Iota) is an arm with a hand; there are three different stances; (1) the clearest is in the middle of line 4, with the arm upright and the hand pointing leftwards; (2) the example below it, in line 5, and  another instance at the end of line 2, are similar in that the hand is on the right of the arm and pointing downwards; at the very end of line 4 there is a small right angle which can be reconstructed as a third example of this form of Yod (3) another type (although small and faint) is observable near the beginning of line 3 (between L and D,
and beneath a cross-sign, Taw); it has a short arm, and the hand on the left is  pointing downwards; total 5.

K (kap "palm of hand", Kap, Kappa) is a hand, sometimes with a wrist (as in Greco-Roman K), and here it is just a simple stick-figure, with merely three fingers, at the end of line 4; in an extended text there would normally be relatively more occurrences of this letter, and there may be a K with a stem (now reduced to a few dots and 2 faint lines) in fourth place in line 2; total 2.

L (Lamed, Lambda) was a shepherd's crook (perhaps also a rope for tethering animals); there are three kinds of L in this document; (1) an inverted crook (an attested stance for this letter) follows the inverted G at the beginning of line 3; (2) the coiled type, shaped like a 6, is found in line 3 (centre); (3) its opposite appears above it in line 2,  like a reversed 6; another L of type 2, looking like 6 or G, stands near the end of line 4;  the second sign in line 1 may be a  another G-shaped L, truncated by damage to the top of the shard, or else an inverted crook with its stem broken off (as with the damaged Taw and `ayin which follow it); the residue of a smaller version of uncertain shape appears at the other end of the line, next to the ox-head; in the bottom line there is a gap after Y, with ink marks showing, possibly L; total 7.

M (maym, mu, running water or falling water, Mem, Mu) has a vertical stance in all cases, not the horizontal set of waves which will become Greco-Roman M; the obvious examples are in line 2 (1x), line 4 (3x), line 5, third letter, and another below the M in the middle of line 4 and above the D in line 5, which has taken a depressed position to make room for the M; it is possible that the three dots at the end of the top line of writing are the remains of a Mem, rather than punctuation marks; there are dots and traces of M at the beginning and end of line 3; total  8.

N (nah.ash "snake", Nun, Nu) was clearly a snake, sometimes a cobra, sometimes a viper, but the erect cobra was the victor; a clear case is lurking in line 4; an unclear example is possible towards the end of line 3, beneath the triangular D; and in line 1, the fifth letter is N (it might be an instance of Shin, like the one at the start of line 2, but the top curve is missing here); total 3.

S (samk "fish" or "support", Samek, Xi) is a controversial subject, as the fish is commonly identified as D (since W.F. Albright publicized the idea) because dag is the common West Semitic word for "fish" (Emile Puech and I,
swimming against the current, both recognize the fish sign as S); but samk is another Semitic "fish" word (in Arabic but not Hebrew); samk also means "support", and an alternative sign was used for S (Samek), namely the Egyptian djed pillar (spinal column as the "support" for standing upright), and this eventually became the standard letter in West Semitic scripts; the fish and the spine were both used for s-sounds in the cuneiform alphabet, and the fish survived as S in Arabia; here it is tempting to see a fish in the middle of line 3, but it is one of the many forms of D (Dalet, door) on the ostracon; but Samek is a very infrequent letter; nevertheless there is a possible example in line 2 between Mem and Shin; and  in line 4 between Y and D (with a fan-tail at the top, dorsal fin on the right side, and head at the bottom); there is no trace of the "telegraph pole" (--|-|-|), but a startling vision of it may be seen in the putative line 6, under the D of line 5; total 1 or 2 or 3. (The emergence of the backbone Samek, replacing the fish, marks the adoption of the Phoenician alphabet in Iron Age Israel; the fish also appears on the Izbet Sartah ostracon and the Beth-Shemesh ostracon; here in line 2 possibly as SMK, rebogram?)

`O (`ayn "eye", `Ayin, Omikron) was originally an eye (with or without the pupil), and it was reduced to a circle (with or without a dot); here all cases are circles with a dot; two examples in the top line; a faint one in the next line; a clearer one in line 3; and I find two together in the last line (the second one above the Beth); total 6.

P (pu "mouth", Pe, Pi) is a mouth, as shown by every example on the table (including the Arabian), but allowing that one of the lips has been removed along the way; there is an example of Pe at each end of line 2, facing in opposite directions though looking towards each other; total 2.

S. (s.irar "tied bag", Sadey, San) was a bag tied at the top (the same word as for the money-bags of Joseph's brothers in Genesis 42:35); the bag became deflated in some cases, and torn open in others; there is one in line 5 (like the type found on the Gezer Calendar inscription); and perhaps another near the end of line 3; total 2.

Q (qaw "line", Qop, Qoppa) was a cord wound on a stick, and in the Iron Age its upper one or two projections were omitted, making it look like Waw, which consequently had to open up its top; a clear example stands near the end of the bottom line; there is a possible instance in the middle of the top line (its stem is obvious enough, and the circle is discernible); the character between 'A and the M at the start of line 4 is extremely obscure, but I propose Q for it; immediately below it in line 5 is a much clearer circle on a stem, likewise between 'A and M, but this may be R (or even Z), as also the example in the middle of line 4; R is a frequently occurring letter, and Q is not, and if we accept all these as Q there will be no cases of R (note that we have the same difficulty distinguishing Q and R on the earlier Izbet Sartah ostracon); total 3.

R (ra'sh "head", Resh, Rho) is a human head, usually with a neck; see the notes on Q, for the possibility that the two cases of R are in lines 4 and 5; the normal difference is that R has a somewhat triangular head on its stem, while Q has a circle or oval on its stick; total  2.

Sh (thad/shad "breast", Shin and Sin, Sigma) was a human breast (thad), standing for Th, while Sh had various representations of the sun (shimsh),  a circle as the sun-disc, or a circle with a serpent, or a serpent (or two) with no disc; but the breast-sign prevailed. At the beginning of line 2 is a vertical example (like Sigma), and towards the end of the line a horizontal form (W-shaped) which became the standard Shin ("tooth"!) and Sin; total 2.

T (taw "mark, signature", Taw, Tau) has always been a cross (+ or x); one example stands near the end of the inscription; another is in the third position at the top; there is another possible case of T between L and B in line 3 (above Y); there is a faint possibility at the start of  line 3; total 4.

Relative Frequency Test
To test whether the occurrences of each letter in this text are commensurate with their relative frequency in a typical Classical Hebrew document, a comparison has been made with Psalm 18 (17 of the 51 verses), which is attributed to "the servant of YHWH, David".

The two most frequent letters to emerge from this exercise on Psalm 18 are Yod (in first position) and Waw (in second place), and this is very surprising, because in documents in other ancient West Semitic languages (Ugaritic and Phoenician), W is among the infrequent letters, and Y is in or around tenth place. One part of the explanation for the anomaly is that Y and W are also used as vowel-letters (matres lectionis) in Biblical Hebrew (and modern Hebrew); another factor is the ubiquity of the Divine Name, which includes Y and W, and also H (twice).  H occurs in the Qeiyafa inscription (in the combination YH, and also in 'LHM); thus the Sacred Name is not present in its full form (YHWH), nor is the definite article ha (which was not used in early West Semitic languages).

The most infrequent letters in Hebrew are: Zayin (here 0), Sin (0), Samek (1), Tet (2 but in a recurring root ShPT.), Gimel (1); so this is an acceptable result.

Also rare are: Sadey (here 2), Pe (2 but in a recurring root ShPT.), Het (1), Qop (3, an unusual outcome, appearing in three different words).

Less rare (at the halfway mark) is  Dalet, and yet it holds a top place (2nd) in this text (7x, but in the same word `BD three times, and in a name which begins and ends with D); this word also raises the frequency of Bet.

Resh, with only 2 instances, is irregular, sitting in the middle of the scale, not on the upper rungs; it shares the 13th position with five other letters which make two appearances.

The full results are (with positions from Psalm 18 in brackets, and apparent anomalies marked with an asterisk*):

'A 6 (5) *B 2 (9) G 19 (17) *D 2 (11) H 9 (13) *W 9 (2) Z 22 (21) H. 19 (14) *T. 13 (22)

6 (1) K 13 (15) L 2 (3) M 1 (4) N 9 (10) S 19 (20) `O 5 (7) P 13 (16) S. 13 (19) *Q 9 (18)

13 (6) Sh 13 (12) Sin 23 (23) T 8 (8)

The correspondences are mostly unobjectionable, and the deviant cases  have been explained above. The figure 13 appears frequently because many letters have two occurrences. If the ostracon had more lines (and it appears that a sixth line has been lost at the bottom) we would have had a larger sample and the relative positions of the letters would have been clearer.

A syllabic alphabet
A curious feature of the Qeiyafa inscription is that the scribe does not write his characters consistently. This might be a personal whim on his part, an attempt to add variety to his text.

However, the  possibility arises that the variations in the signs are not arbitrary but significant. Consequently, this would be a syllabic alphabet, with not 22 letters (as in the later Phoenician and Hebrew consonantal alphabet) but 66 characters.

Is it a three-vowel system (as is the West Semitic syllabary and the cuneiform alphabet) or are five vowels shown (Mesopotamian cuneiform, Aegean syllabary)? Three seems right (though the forms for D and L seem to show more than three?). Each letter would have three variants ('a, 'i, 'u; ba, bi, bu), and so this alphabet functions as a syllabary. We could call it the Neo-syllabary, a new West Semitic syllabary, as distinct from the original West Semitic syllabary of the Bronze Age, and the international Phoenician alphabet, which had only consonant signs.(The inscription on the Qeiyafa jar shard has similarities with the ostracon text, but it runs in the opposite direction, leftwards, and its signs are used consistently, not syllabically, but not using the forms of the Phoenician alphabet; thus `ayin has a dot, B is a reversed BA, Shin is SHA, D is DA, 'allep is 'U...)

An example is the two forms of Sh P T. ('judge') in line 2, which might be sha-pa-t.a and shi-pi-t.i.
In the latter case, the three characters have counterparts in the Phoenician inscriptions, and this leads to the supposition that the letters of the Phoenician international consonantal alphabet corresponded to the -i syllabograms of the Neo-syllabary, while the letters in the copy of the alphabet on the Izbet Sartah ostracon (line 5) would be the -a syllabograms (as with the set sha-pa-t.a on the Qeiyafa ostracon) . This hypothesis will be explored here and elsewhere.

Izbet Sartah Ostracon (BEC)


We need to remember the problems that confront us in approaching such ancient texts:
    (1) the aging and fading of the writing over 3000 years;
    (2) the idiosyncratic handwriting styles of the scribes;
    (3) the lack of spaces or points to separate the words;
    (4) the absence of signs for vowels (usually only consonants are shown, but syllabograms here);
    (5) the intended meaning of the text is known only to its author.

The direction of the writing is dextrograde (from left to right, sinistrodextral); this is shown by the underlining (the first of the four line separators runs upwards at the right-hand end, leaving space for the last two letters of the second line.

The proposed reading of each whole line can be seen by looking down the columns of bracketed letters, below.

The source of our knowledge for identifying the letters is shown on the table of signs (appended below);
   the first column has transcriptions in Roman letters;
   the second has Egyptian hieroglyphs which were borrowed for the protoalphabet;
   examples of the original forms of the letters from the Bronze Age appear in the Sinai and Egypt column, and in the left-hand side of the Canaan column;
   the BS [Byblos syllabary] column shows the forms of the corresponding letters in the West Semitic syllabary, which preceded and influenced the protoalphabet;
   a selection of  letters from the Iron Age is found in the Canaan and Phoenicia columns, and these can be compared with the forms on the Qeiyafa ostracon.

Note that there were more than 22 letters in the proto-alphabet (Dh, H, Z., Gh, Th) and two forms of Samek (fish and spinal column).

The ostracon inscription includes Samek (in line 4); it appears that the fish is Samek in early Israelian writing (Beth-Shemesh, Izbet Sartah) while the spinal column/backbone (Egyptian djed) becomes the standard form when the Phoenician alphabet was adopted internationally (10th century BCE in Israel). Was it si in the syllabary?

The initial letters in round brackets indicate others who have supported the proposed reading for each consonant (though not the syllables):

G: Gershon Galil   M: Haggai Misgav  P: Emile Puech  R: Matthieu Richelle  S: William Shea  Y: Ada Yardeni

IS: Izbet Sartah Ostracon (its abagadary in line 5 shows the consonant + a forms)

TZ: Tel Zayit Stone (has the Phoenician-style international consonantal alphabet)

1.1   [] ’a (G M P R S Y) (same as IS ’a)

1.2  [L] li (G M P R S Y) (has lost its top part;  same as 3.4 [li] or 3.9 [la]?)

1.3  [T] ta (G M P R S Y) (same as IS ta, with crossbar pointing NE)

1.4  []  ‘a (G M P R S Y) (same as IS ‘a, with centre dot)

1.5  [N] na? (all others restore it as Sh)  (not quite the same as IS na)

1.6  [Q] qi? qa? qu? (M P) (stem penetrating circle for qi? mark at top for qa?)

1.7  [B]  bi?  (same as Phoenician and TZ B, and the white instance at line 6)

1.8  []  ‘a (G M P R S Y) (smaller than 1.4; significant?)

1.9  [B] ba (G M P S Y) (but not the same as IS ba)

1.10 [D] da (G M P S Y) (same as IS da, but damaged at top)

1.11 []  ’u? (G M P S Y) (equivalent to 2.8)

1.12 [L] lu (P) (a small version of 2.9)

1.13 [H]  hi? (faintly discernible, and should be equivalent to 2.10)

1.14 [M] mi (faint, but should be the same as 2.11, in same sequence 'lhm)


2.1  [Sh] sha (G M P R S Y) (same as IS sha)

2.2  [P] pa (G M P R S Y) (same as IS pa; reversed form of Phoenician P and 2.14 )

2.3  [T.] t.a (G M P R S Y) (same as IS t.a)

2.4  [K]  ka (fairly discernible K;  same as IS ka )

2.5  [] ‘a (G)  (small, like 1.8)

2.6  [B] ba (G M P R S Y) (same as 1.9, in same sequence,bd)

2.7  [D] da (G) (same as 1.10, but with protruding marks at top)

2.8  []  ’u? (G M P R S Y) (same as 1.11)

2.9  [L] lu? (G M P S Y) (form neither 9 or 6 shape, but reverse of 3.4)

2.10 [H] hi? (faint lines underneath 2.9; same as 1.13)

2.11 [M] mi (G M P R Y) (1.14)

2.12 [B]  bi (same as 1.7?)

2.13 [Sh] shi (G P R S Y) (VV shape, as on TZ and international consonantary)

2.14 [P] pi (G R S Y) (has a shape like [ ) ], as in Phoenician alphabet)

2.15 [T.] t.i (G M P R S Y) (the cross in the circle has the same stance as TI)

2.16 [Y] ya (G R Y) (similar to 4.14 and 5.9)

2.17 [H] hu or hi (reversed E shape with middle stroke protruding rightwards)


3.1 [M] mi  (dots show the shape; same as 2.11; TZ m=mi) or ma?

3.2 [T] tu? ti? ta? (small and faint)

3.3  [G] gu (G M P Y) (inverted g, not IS ga, nor IS gi, which is reverse of ga)

3.4  [L] li (M, others read r) (close to TZ Lamed, therefore li)

3.5  [Y] yu (reverse of 2.16 ya, and different stance from 4.8 yi)

3.6  [T] tu (above 3.5; stance differs from 1.3 ta and 5.14 ti)

3.7  [B] ba (G M P Y) (matches 1.9 and 2.6)

3.8  []  ‘a (G M P Y) (has centre dot, like 1.4)

3.9  [L] la (G M P Y) (same as IS la)

3.10 [D] da (like 2.7, with one protrusion at top, and curved side on left)

3.11  [W] wi (vertical stem with branch pointing NW)

3.12 [D] di, triangular, like 5.8)

3.13 (L) la? (faint, above 3.14, same as 3.9?)

3.14 [N] ni? nu? (written below 3.12 di)

3.15 [S.] s.- (a Sadey is possible, reconstructed by joining dots)

3.16 [H.] h.a? h.i? (a box with a horizontal dividing line, wider than IS h.a; like one particular Het on the Gezer Calendar)

3.17 [M] (ma) (dots can be joined to show a curving line)

4.0 [ ] Enough space for a letter, W?

4.1  [] ’i? (G M P S Y) (apparently 1 p. sg. verb imperfect; Ugaritic has 'a/'i/'u)

4.2  [Q] qu? (dots form a circle with a stem, possibly like 5.13)

4.3  [M] mu (G M P Y) (like 5.3)

4.4  [W] wa? (M P S) (not the same shape as 3.11; its branch points NE)

4.5  [N] na (G M Y) (like 1.5

4.6  [R]  ri (P)

4.7  [M] ma (G M P Y) (same as IS ma)

4.8  [Y] yi? (G M P Y) (same as TZ y, hence yi?)

4.9  [S] s (P M) (fish with tail at bottom and dorsal fin on right)

4.10 [D] du (G M P Y) (same as 5.12)

4.11 [M] mu (G M P Y) (like IS mu?)

4.12 [L] la (G M P Y)  (6 shape, like 3.9)

4.13 [K] ki (G M P S Y) (without stem)

4.14 [Y] ya (partly faded, but discernible; same as 5.9)


5.1  [] ’i? (G M)  (like 4.1, but not exactly the same shape)

5,2  [R] ri (M P Y)

5.3  [M] mu (M P Y) (like 4.3)

5.4   [] ‘a (superscript, above 5.6 `a; it includes a dot in its circle)

5.5  [M] ma (M) (superscript, above 5.8)

5.6   [] ‘a (G M P S)

5.7  [B] ba (G M P S)

5.8  [D] di (G M P S) (like 3.12)

5.9  [Y] ya (like 2.16)

5.10 [L] li (small version of 3.4)

5.11 [S.] s.i? (M)

5.12 [D] du (M P) (others see g, overlooking the curved side on the right, like 4.10)

5.13 [Q] qu?

5.14 [T] ti (G M P Y) (not ta 1.3, not tu 3.6, but ti, having same stance as Taw on Gezer Calendar)

5.15 [W] w- wu?

6.1 [B] bi


1] 'a li ta `a na qi/a bi `a ba da 'u lu hi mi

2] sha pa t.a ka `a ba da 'u lu hi mi bi shi pi t.i ya hu

3] m- t- gu li yu tu ba `a la da wi di la ni s.a h.a ma

4] ( ) 'i qu mu wa na ri ma yi su du mu la ki ya

5] 'i ri mu `a ma `a ba di ya li s.i du qu ti wu

Tentative translation:

[1] You have cursed ('lt), Anakite (`nq), against (b) the servant of God (`bd 'lhm);
[2] the servant of God (`bd 'lhm) has judged you (sha-pa-t.a-ka),with (b) judgements of Yahu (shi-pi-t.i ya-hu);
[3] Goliath (glyt) is dead (mt), David (dwd) is master (b`l) for ever (lns.h.m);
[4] I arise ('qm) and  raised up (nrm) is the foundation (ysd) of my kingdom (mlky);
[5] I raise up ('rm) the people (`m) of my servant (`bdy) for his virtuous acts (ls.dqtw).
[4] I arise ('qm) and together (yh.d) we raise up (nrm) my kingdom (mlky);
[5] I plan ('zm) with(`m) my servant (`bdy) for his virtuous acts (ls.dqtw).

[In transcribing the characters I often use 'A for 'aleph (ox) and `O for `ayin (eye) for ease of distinguishing the two guttural sounds, rather than their simple transcription with ' and ` (remembering that they are the original sources of the letters A and O);] emphatic consonants have the dot next to them not under them (H. T. S.); Shin is shown as Sh.

N.B. This is an older attempt to interpret the text, now being updated:


[1] '  L  T  `  N  Q  B  `  B  D  '  L  H  M
[1] 'LT `NQ B `BD 'LHM  
[1] 'alita `anaqa bi `abada 'uluhimi
Anak, you have cursed against the servant of God.

The first sentence could start with 'L as "El/God" (or 'LT as "Goddess"); or 'L as "not" ('L T`N. "Do not answer", or "Do not worry"); 'L as the preposition 'el "unto". But the syllabic writing seems to restrict the choices to 'alita
"curse" or "cursing" or "curses" (Hebrew 'alah, plural 'alot); but `alita would be second person singular verb from the same root, "you have cursed", or "you have uttered a curse" (against the servant).

Note that the Philistine Goliath is said to have "cursed (qll, not 'lh as here) David by his gods" (1 Samuel 17:43).
`NQ "Anak" or "the Anak" or "Anaki" (gentilic form);`Anaqim were a "tribe" of giants who were located in Ashdod, Gaza, and Gath,  all Philistine towns, as noted in Joshua 11:21-22, and it has often been assumed that Goliath of Gath was one of them; this seems to confirm that supposition, as GLYT is named in line 3.
B "in" (here "on" or "against"; note the Hebrew expression ns' 'lh b ("lay a curse on"), in 1 Kings 8:31).
`BD (Hebrew `ebed) "servant" or "slave".
'LHM "Elohim, God". In Biblical Hebrew this would be `bd ha-'lhm (Dn 9.11,  Neh 10.30, 1 Chr 6.34, 2 Chr 24.9, referring to Moses in each case), and the absence of the definite article here and in line 2 suggests that it was not in current usage.

[2] Sh  P  T. K `  B  D  '  L  H M [ ] Sh  P  T. Y H
[2] ShP T. K `BD  'LHM  [ ] ShPT. YH 
2] shapat.a ka `abada 'uluhimi [bi] shipit.i yahu
[2] The servant of God has judged you with judgements of Yahu

ShPT. K "he has judged you" (3rd person singular masculine, perfect tense); the suspicion here is that it means "has passed judgement on", and the implication is that the death penalty has been executed; the next line apparently begins with MT GLYT ("Glyt is dead").
`BD 'LHM "the servant of God" (as in line 1); "my servant" in line 5.
[ ] The letter in the space might be B.
ShPT. YH "judgements of Yahu"; the word shepet.("judgement", Akkadian shipt.u) is here in its plural construct form, shipit.i, apparently; compare the use of the plural in Exodus 6:6, "I YHWH ... will redeem you ... with (b) great judgements".

[3] M  T  G  L  Y  T  B  `  L  D  W  D  L  N  S.  H.  M
[3] MT   GLYT  B`L  DWD  LNS.H.M
[3] mi t- guliyutu ba`ala dawidi la nisah.ama
[3]  GLYT  B`L  DWD  NS.H.
(guliyutu) "Golyat" (Goliath from Gath, or the Gittite), the champion of the Philistines in the battle against Israel in the Elah Valley (1 Samuel 17); elsewhere it is reported that another Goliath the Gittite was slain by Elhanan the Bethlehemite (2 Samuel 21:19) though the Chronicler has Elhanan killing Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite (1 Chronicles 20:5). There is a space before G and some ink marks;
B`L "Ba`al" a title, meaning "Lord" (applied to the weather-god Hadad); as a verb it means "be master" or "possess"; as an epithet it could refer to Goliath here; as a verb it could have the following name DWD as its subject, "he has become the master".
DWD "Dawid" (David), a unique name in the Hebrew Bible, belonging to Dawid of Bethlehem, who became the second king of Israel; he is called "the servant of the LORD" (Psalm 18:1), and the word of the Lord to David was, "By the hand of my servant David I  will save my people Israel  from the Philistines and all their enemies" (2 Samuel 3:18).
NS.H. is not a clear reading, but if it is right then as a verb it would say "he has prevailed", or as an adverb "ever" or "enduringly".

[2-3] The servant of God has judged you with the judgements of Yah.
Goliath is dead; David is the master for ever
(or: David is the victor, he has prevailed).

[4] 'A  Q  M  W  N  R  M  Y  H.  D  M  L  K

'AQM "I arise" (1st person singular, imperfect tense, root qwm, "stand up").
W "and" (conjunction).
NRM "we raise" (1st p. pl., imperfect tense, hiph`il, root rwm, "be high"); or perhaps NQM (root nqm "avenge") "we avenge, we vindicate".
YH.D  "together", or "the community"; or YSD "foundation".
MLKY "my king" (root mlk, "reign")
; the king who is being raised up might be Saul, though he had been rejected by the LORD (1 Sam 16:1), and David had been anointed as the next king (1 Sam 16:2-14); so the king mentioned here might be David, to be "elevated" to kingship, and the internal war is imminent (2 Sam 3:1) between the "house of Saul" and "the house of David" (a term found in the Tel Dan Inscription). If the text was written down at the time of the battle of the Valley of Elah, then the reigning king was indeed Saul. However, if mulakiya is the correct reading, then it says "the foundation of my kingdom", and the implication is that the current king, Saul, would be replaced by David, "my servant", "the servant of God". The same word mulakiya is attested in Tablet D of the Byblos/Gubla documents, line 4: "they will guard for me the boundary of my empire" (Colless 1993:8-9); cp. Arb. mulk, Ugr. mlk.

[4] "I rise up and we raise up the foundation my kingdom"
(or: " I rise up and we raise up the community of the king").

[5] 'A  R  M [`O  M ] `O B  D  Y  L S. D Q  T W

[5] 'ARM  `OM  `OBDY  LS.DQTW 

'ARM  "I raise up" (1st p. sg., imperfect tense, hip`il, root rwm, "be high"); if there is a second M in the space, it could be polel, with the same meaning of "uplift".
`M "people" (`am) or "with" (`im); this is written between the lines and is not easy to detect, but if there is nothing there why do the letters of line 5 dive down?
`BDY "my servant"; the same person as "the servant of God" in lines 1 and 2, identified as David.
LS.DQTW "to righteousness (or: justice)", "justly" or "rightly", if the W is not there; the L (preposition "to" or "for") is not certain; , if the final Waw is really there, it would say "for his righteousnesses (acts of righteousness)".

[5] "I raise up the people of my servant for his acts of righteousness."


Is shwa represented? by -u? ('u-lu-hi-mi) ('elohim)

Same vowel for prepositions b- and l-? Always the same (-a? -i?)  or -i before –a, and -a before -i (in Byblos syllabic inscriptions)? Examples bi`abada (1), la-nis.ah.ama (3), li?-s.iduqutiwu (5)

 Are case endings still used? Possibly, but apparently they are obsolete in this text. In line 2, `abada 'ulihimi ("the servant of God") is the subject (nominative case) of a verb ("judged"), and so we might have expected the ending -du (nominative) rather than -da (-a is the singular accusative vowel). In line 1,
`abada 'ulihimi is preceded by a preposition (b) and -di (genitive) would be called for; but `bd is in the construct state, and no vowel at all might be the pattern, as in Massoretic Hebrew; in this syllabic setting, the -a in `abada could be a "dead vowel", not pronounced, but the syllabogram bears the same vowel as the preceding syllable (ba) according to the rule of "vowel harmony" that applies in syllabic writing . 

The name dawidi is the subject of the verb ba`ala, so the -i must be a "dead vowel", and likewise the -u  in guliyutu.

Izbet Sartah abgadary (line 5 of the ostracon) presumably has -i forms of letters. The others are to be found in the text (lines 1 -4)

 If we assume that is the case, we can establish the forms ba, ga, da, and so on, and seek the -i and -u forms in both inscriptions (and in the shorter texts also). This does not work as an absolute rule, unfortunarly. Examples: his B is more like Qeiyafa bi, his own bi in bin in line 4, and Phoenician B; his Tet has the stance of Qeiyafa t.i and as in his own word t.it.i ("clay", end of line 2); his Y......

This search has led me to the hypothesis that when they decided to not show the vowels, and reduce the number of signs from 66 to 22, by dropping two of the three columns (A, I, U) it was the 'i, Bi. Gi, Di (etc) column that survived. The Q ostracon with its five lines of writing showed me that the letters were used syllabically by having 3 different stances for each of them (representing ba, bi, bu, for example).

On the other hand, the -i column may have been the original set of signs and two other sets were devised for the -a and -u syllables. The Mesopotamian Sealand signature-graffiti are supposed to be Late Bronze Age, and the have the letter-forms of the Phoenician alphabet of the Iron Age.

So the Zayit abgadary shows the -i characters, as used on the Gezer calendar and the Ahirom sarcophagus

The prophet who delivers this oracle is not named (but his name might have appeared in the lost text at the bottom). Three prophets (each accorded the title nabi') reportedly had a connection with David: Shemu'el (Samuel, 1 Samuel 3:20; 16:1-13) secretly anointed David to be the next king; Gad gave David counsel and direction (1 Samuel 22:5); Natan (Nathan) was the official prophet of King David (2 Samuel 7:2, for example); all three are named as recorders of David's doings (1 Chronicle 29:29, where Samuel is a seer, Nathan a prophet, and Gad a visionary); and there were others, notably the band of prophets which Saul met (1 Samuel 1o:1o). David also consulted priests in Nob (1 Samuel 22:9-23), namely Ahimelek, who "gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine" (22:10), and his son Abiathar, who fled with David when Saul had all the priests in Nob slaughtered. Incidentally, Nob is near Jerusalem, and this might partly explain the statement that appears immediately after David had cut off the head of Goliath with the giant's own sword: "David picked up the Philistine's head and took it to Jerusalem" (more precisely to Nob?), though "he placed his weapons in his tent" (1 Sam 17:51, 54).

Another possibility for the prophet-scribe is Eshbaal, the son of Saul. This name appears on the other Qeiyafa inscription, where he is dscribed as BN BD`; the sequence BD` is not a known personal name, but B D` could be "house of knowledge" (B as logogram for bayt, "house", or "temple"); so Eshbaal might also have been "among the prophets".

It is a pleasant surprise to see in this inscription two characters who are known in the Bible doing what they did in the Bible story, at the very place where it is said they did it, and at the very time in history when it happened, during the reign of King Saul, near the end of the 11th Century BCE.

It must have been Saul who built the fortress at Sha`arayim (Khirbet Qeiyafa). The headlines we have been seeing about this inscription are wrong. This is not about the kingdoms of David and Solomon, and the tribe of Judah, but about the reign of King Saul of the tribe of Benjamin.

{cp. Israel Finkelstein, Émile Puech)

Saul was the king of Israel who mustered the army against the Philistines (1 Sam 13:2-3; 14:52), and he eventually appointed David as an officer (18:5). Possibly Saul was in this fortress when he summoned David into his presence, as there is no mention of a tent (17:31-40), though the account says (17:2) that “Saul and the men of Israel were gathered and encamped in the Valley of the Terebinth (Elah)”.

The length of Saul’s reign is not recorded (it is given as “ ___ and 2 years” in 1 Samuel 13:1), but he must have had at least twenty (or “[twenty] and two”) years on the throne of Israel, before 1000 BCE. In Saul’s time Jerusalem was not the capital of Israel; but when David became the ruler, he chose Jerusalem as his city.

Saul had his centre in the citadel of his hometown, namely Gibeah of Benjamin, or Gibeah of Saul (1 Samuel 10:26; 14:2; 14:16; 22:6; 26:1). This was possibly on the prominent mound now known as Tell el-Fûl, situated three miles north of Jerusalem (so Albright, but denied by Finkelstein).  So the main entrance of Sha`arayim (Qeiyafa), the east gate, looked to Gibeah rather than Jerusalem. Both Gibeah and Sha`arayim were bastions against Philistine attacks (especially from Gath and Ekron). When the Philistines saw David had slain their champion, they fled in panic, and “the men of Israel and Judah” pursued them along the way to Gath and Ekron (17:52); Sha`arayim is mentioned, apparently as the starting point of the pursuit. Both of these Israelite strongholds, Gibeah and Sha`arayim, were eventually destroyed, and presumably they fell when Saul and his son Jonathan were killed in battle by the Philistines, who then occupied the land (1 Samuel 31:1-7).

 The Qeiyafa ostracon is certainly a document about David, but not King David. Rather it is a record from the time of King Saul, and it is Israelite, not specifically Judahite.

It is indeed a Hebrew inscription, with regard to its language, though its handwriting is not the official Old Hebrew script. However, it is not the oldest Hebrew inscription we possess, as is often asserted, nor the earliest known Israelite inscription. For the present, that distinction belongs to the Izbet Sartah ostracon, which was found at the site of an earlier battle between Israel and Philistia, namely Eben-ezer (1 Samuel 4).

 Please remember, this is "work in progress" and not my last word on the subject. There is a possibility that the shard is broken at the top, and that there was more writing preceding the present line 1 . Also, the space at the bottom has many dots that could be the remains of letters.

However that may be, this text seems to merit the title "the David and Goliath inscription from Sha`arayim".

Khirbet Qeiyafa as Sha`arayim and Gob

Khirbet Qeiyafa has tentatively but plausibly been identified as the Sha`arayim of Joshua 15.36 and 1 Samuel 17.52.
Arguments for and against this equation are conveniently presented by Yigal Levin, in "The Identification of  Khirbet Qeiyafa: A New Suggestion", BASOR 367 (2012)  73-86. He raises the possibility that it was designated "the round place" [HM`GL], as in 1 Sam 17.20. David was told by his father, in Bethlehem, to take provisions to his brothers at "the camp" (HMH.NH, 1 Sam 17.17); David went to "the round encampment" (HM`GL "circular place", 17.20), and Yigal Levin (p. 82) suggests that this is a reference to Qeiyafa and the circular fortification. (Were the tents inside the enclosure, or below it?)  However, this would not be the name of the place. If we are allowed to use this narrative as a source, the name that pops up is Sha`arayim
(in 17.52).

Sha`arayim in Hebrew undoubtedly means "two gates" (the noun has the dual ending, -ayim, not plural -im), and this feature certainly applies to Khirbet Qeiyafa, with its west and south gates. Other Hebrew names in -ayim, such as Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), do not seem to have a "dual" reference, but Sha`arayim could be an exception (like Misrayim, "the two lands of Egypt").

The Sha`arayim of Joshua 15.36 is the only instance of the name that could
definitely be connected with the Sha`arayim of 1 Sam 17.52; it would have been situated in the vicinity of Socoh and Azekah, according to Jos15.35; and the Philistine camp in the Valley of Elah lay between Socoh and Azekah (1 Sam 17.1); Kh. Qeiyafa is likewise between these towns; it is on the northern side of the Elah stream, whereas (from east to west) Socoh, Azekah, and Gath are on the southern side.

This particular Sha`arayim is not mentioned in any other place in the Bible, and this might be explained by the fact that Qeiyafa had only a brief existence of about two decades in the Iron Age, around 1000 BCE; this would be the period of King Saul (who had a reign of [2?]2 years, 1 Sam 13.1). However, a Sha`arayim appears at the end of a list in 1 Chronicles 4.31, in a section on sons of Simeon; and it adds that 'these were their towns until the reign of David'; this could mean that Sha`arayim was destroyed before David came to the throne (so Puech, 183)[but others have taken this to mean that it was extant in David's reign (Garfinkel)].

Khirbet Qeiyafa fits neatly into Saul's reign; it was presumably built (or rebuilt?) by him to guard against Philistine incursion, particularly from Gath, seven miles away.

And it could have been destroyed during the Philistine conquest of Israel, when King Saul died in battle (1 Sam 31).

One problem for the identification of Qeiyafa and Sha`arayim is that the list of towns which includes Sha`arayim (Joshua 15.33-36) ends thus: "fourteen cities with their villages" (and this applies to all the groups of places in that chapter; they all have "with their villages"). Qeiyafa does not look like a city that would have associated villages or suburbs, but if we assume that "where applicable" (or "if any") is understood after "with their villages" the difficulty vanishes.

Then there is the question whether such an ephemeral place would have its name recorded in the Bible; but if it was the site of a momentous event, as described in 1 Sam 17, then it might well rate a mention, and Sha`arayim is the name we see there (17.52).

No matter how small its population and area, this place (now uninhabited but known as Khirbet Qeiyafa) would have had a name; its appellation in the Bronze Age may have been Sha`arayim, and this name could still have been applied to it at the time of the Israelite settlement in the land, as stated in Jos 15.36). If it had a different name around 1000 BCE, its new name Sha`arayim could have been substituted for the older name (somewhat anachronistically) in that record (Jos 15.36).       

As for the problem of the date of these lists of towns (Finkelstein), we might bear in mind  that perhaps the only time that a combined census of Israel's peoples and places could be taken was during the United Kingdom, specifically in the census of David that is documented (2 Sam 24, 1 Chron 21) (Albright ).

The problematic verse describing the rout and the route of the Philistines (1 Sam 17.52) is corrupt (gy' for Gath in the first half, and Gath in the second half); and suspect ("up to  gates [sha`arey] of Eqron" and "two gates [sha`arayim, LXX " way of the gates"] ... up to Eqron"; so there could be not one but two instances of Sha`arayim, or none at all, only "gates", both with reference to Eqron);  and ambiguous ("the Sha`arayim road" or "the road to Sha`arayim", as viewed from Socoh in the east or Gath in the west?). But the recorder obviously wants to say that "the men of Israel and Judah" pursued their Philistine foes all the way home to their cities, namely Gath and Eqron, and as a result there were Philistine bodies lying all along the route (or routes} to Gath and Eqron. Sha`arayim, a place in Judah (Joshua 15.36) was not another Philistine destination (as perhaps implied in the New English Bible: "The road that runs to Shaaraim, Gath, and Ekron"); Sha`arayim is more likely to be the starting point of the flight and of the pursuit (Revised Standard Version: "the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron").

It may be that an emendation is necessary to achieve this solution, by adding M- ("from") to the word Sha`arayim. As a matter of interest, or even of significance, Mi and Sha in the (syllabic) script on the Qeiyafa ostracon are very similar, and both have vertical stance; so Mi could have been lost through a kind of haplography. (In the standard international script, in Iron Age II, Shin is horizontal, while Mem is vertical).

Note that the Philistine army had come out of their camp and were lined up for battle facing the Israelites (17.21) and therefore facing Khirbet Qeiyafa (that is, Sha`arayim, the place with two gates). The Philistine stampede began there, whether along a road or over open country.

Through scepticism (as displayed in discussions I have seen) we can systematically reduce the number of gates on the Qeiyafa site from two to one and even to none. Also, there are possibly two references (not merely one) to a Sha`arayim in the text (as it has been "received", imperfectly), which can be understood, by judicious emendation, as both referring to the gates of Eqron.

Nevertheless, whatever the etymology of the name Sha`arayim (and its possible connection with gates), and whatever number of gates were in the circular wall of Qeiyafa, it is still reasonable to accept that the writer was using the name Sha`arayim to refer to what we now know as Khirbet Qeiyafa; certainly it is not Gath or Eqron, and not Azekah or Socoh, nor the mysterious Ephes-dammim ("end of bloodshed"? or "before there was any bloodshed"?) which was the place where the Philistines camped  (17:1); and although it may have been described as "the circular place" (HM`GL, 17.20) its name would have been Sha`arayim, which is elsewhere placed in the "lowland" of Judah, with Azekah and Socoh (Joshua 16.33-36). 


Nadav Na'aman,  2008, In Search of the ancient name of Khirbet Qeiyafa, Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 8, Article 21

Gob is mentioned twice (2 Samuel 21:18, 19) as a place where giants of Gath were slain, including Goliath the Gittite. Gob does not appear anywhere else in the Scriptures, and is thus another possible name for the briefly occupied Khirbet Qeiyafa.

David and Goliath, and El-Hanan of Bethlehem

It would appear that we now have four accounts of the slaying of Goliath:

(1) I Samuel 17 (MT: Massoretic Hebrew text)

(2) 1 Samuel 17 (LXX: Septuagint Greek text, with many variants from MT)

(3) 2 Samuel 21:18-22 (Elhanan [= David?] at Gob [Khirbet Qeiyafa?] [= Gbtn? near Eqron])
(21:22: "These four were born to the giant (raphah) in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants." This could mean that Elhanan of Bethlehem, the slayer of Goliath, was David, under an honorific name (bespeaking the grace of God).

(4) The Qeiyafa ostracon (apparently an eyewitness account by a prophet)

On the differences between the MT and LXX versions of the story:
Emanuel Tov, “The David and Goliath Saga: How a Biblical editor combined two versions”, first published in Bible Review 2:04, Winter 1986.


Note that the name Rapha, not `Anaq, is applied to the four giants of Gath in 2 Samuel 21:22.

Note also `t (eth) before the name Glyt there; excludes possibility of "a Goliath of Gath"?ß

Distinguishing Characteristics of Hebrew inscriptions in the Early Iron Age

Brian Colless

(2) PHOENICIAN SCRIPT AND HEBREW LANGUAGE (International consonantary)

(1) Various forms for each letter ('abugida syllabary)
(2) Same form for each letter ('bgd consonantary) ('ibigidi)

(1) Dextrograde, sinistrodextral (L -> R) (QW IS Q)
(2) Sinistrograde, dextrosinistral (L <- R) (G Z)

(1) Fish for Samek (IS BS Q)
(2) Spinal column (djed) for Samek (G Z)

(1) Dot or no dot in circle of `ayin
(2) No dot in circle of `ayin

(1) Vertical and horizontal forms of Sh-sign (Q)
(2) Horizontal Sh only (\/\/)

(1) Logography and Rebography
(2) Consonantal writing only

(Period of the Judges and King Saul)
Izbet Sartah ostracon  <https://sites.google.com/site/collesseum/abgadary>
Beth-Shemesh ostracon <https://sites.google.com/site/collesseum/winewhine>
Qeiyafa ostracon <http://bonzoz.blogspot.co.nz/2012/02/goliath.html>
Arrow of Ship`i  <http://cryptcracker.blogspot.co.nz/2013/05/inscribed-arrowheads.html> NEW
Ophel jar (? 2 forms of N or of M)
Qubur el-Walaydah bowl

(Era of King David and his descendants)
Gezer calendar  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gezer_Calendar>
Zayit stone <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zayit_Stone>
Tell el-Far'ah (South) L'DNN

Each text has its own peculiarities: personal or regional idiosyncrasies.

Q2.1 Sha = IS Sh  Q2.2 Pa = IS P  Q2.3 T.a = IS Tet (+) with stem and crossbar NE direction

Q2.15 T.i = IS2 T.i in `a-la t.i-t.i “on clay” (X)

Q5.14 Ti = IS2.2-3 ti-ti-n "gives" X  IS2.9 '-ti "of the sign" (Ti

Q1.3 Ta = IS 5 T  IS1 '-ta-(ti?) "signs"

Q3.1 G inverted : not Ga with angle on right (IS), not Gi with angle on left (IS4.7) so Gu?

IS1.1-4 'a-la-mu-du "I learn"

Hypothesis: This change came about when the Davidic dynasty established cultural and commercial ties with Phoenicia, and adopted the international consonantal alphabet, as used in Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos.

See further: http://cryptcracker.blogspot.co.nz/2014/04/early-hebrew-syllabary.html


(This does not include the neo-syllabary)

  • first column shows the likely Egyptian hieroglyphs on which most of the letters were modeled;
  • the Sinai-Egypt column offers Bronze-Age examples from that region;  
  • the Canaan column has examples from Syria-Palestine in the Bronze Age and the Iron Age;
  • the Canaan column also has the cuneiform alphabet (Ugarit and elsewhere), which was modeled on the picture-signs;
  •  the Phoenicia column shows the Iron-Age consonantal alphabet of the Phoenicians;
  •  the Greece and Rome lines show the alphabet (with vowels), derived from the Phoenician script;
  • the Arabia column shows the forms of the script as used in ancient Arabia;
  • the narrow column labeled BS (Byblos script) provides examples from the Canaanian syllabary as represented at Byblos (Gubla), and each picture represents a syllable (thus the house sign stands not just for B but also for BA, from bayt 'house').