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Curse Inscription Mount Ebal

1 April 2022

At https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/.premium-early-israelite-curse-inscription-found-on-mt-ebal-1.10696926 … inscribed on a tablet of Aegean lead, mined it would seem during the Mycenaean period. The curse is in proto-Canaanite script and therefore should date to the time when this script was in development. It is defined as a legal document, which is another problem as it can hardly date to a time when the tribes were not settled down. The date is therefore critical. It was found on a piece of lead just 2 cm by 2 cm, that had been folded over several times. It contained quite a long inscription. Decyphering was not easy and involved very high tech scanners. Because of the nature of the script, the curse text has been dated to the murky period between the LB and Iron Age, when it is assumed Joshua lived and was in the process of conquering Cisjordan. This view has been challenged, but officially, for the time being, it is worth bearing this date in mind as it might indicate the Israelites were already ensconced in the hill country during the final stages of the LB age. It is assumed, also, that the proto Canaanite script was an early form of Hebrew. What that means is unclear but incoming Habiru [Hebrews] would naturally use the script of the Canaanites with whom they were living side by side. Secondly, it is assumed to be Israelite as the inscription invokes the god YHW on two occasions, and the word curse on ten occasions. The link invokes Joshua 8:30 and a reference to Joshua commanding a shrine was built on Mt Ebal, of unhewn stones. It was excavated a few years ago. Two altars were found. These appear to predate the Iron Age.

The story of Joshua’s conquest is interesting as it claims large numbers of the Canaanite population died in the process, and cities across the southern Levant were flattened, totally destroyed. This sounds very much like the kind of catastrophic event that turned mud brick cities and towns into ruin hills, as occurred at the end of the EB period and to a lesser extent, the end of MB period, or even the end of LB period. Claude Schaeffer associated these events with earthquake storms [but see later post on this subject]. In fact, Joshua crossing the Jordan is specifically associated with an earthquake. The inference is that the Israelites inherited the land as a result of the decimation of the former occupants. In reality, Canaanite culture survived right down into the Iron Age, and this supports the idea the Hebrews were one element of the population, otherwise known to historians as Habiru, and some of these introduced the cult of YHW. This view opens up the date of the curse inscription, one might say, although the date produced by the archaeologists would not be amiss.

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