Gershon Galil on the Qeiyafa ostracon
- Gershon Galil has issued a new reading especially for our ANE2 group,
through Victor Hurowitz (and if possible, I would like Gershon to read
my response, in which I express empathetic understanding but
reluctance to accept his whole package).
So, instead of working further on my essay "The Canaanites in
America", based on a new inscription, I have obediently followed his
"Just open the link and download the PDF file. The colored picture
presented by Bearman in p. 12 is excellent!!! Please enlarge it to
400% and you will see clearly all the letters and the ink traces of my
following new reading...."
I spent another abundant surplus of hours looking once again at all
the pictures, including the blue ones on p. 17-18 (I admit I had
never examined any of them enlarged before now, but I have always used
a magnifying glass); it was a profitable exercise, as I gained a bit
of confidence in some of my own readings, and thought of a plethora of
new possibilities, and retained sympathy for some of his (but
certainty may never be achieved by any of us).
I want to say that Gershon Galil's reading of the text is coherent and
attractive, indeed it is highly seductive (and some might say solidly
Bible-based, as I try to make mine, too); but in a previous posting to
ANE2, I raised some problems, and I will give them further
This is his earlier attempt:
1′ ‘l t‘ś w‘bd ‘[t .......]
2′ špt. [‘]b[d] w’lm[n] špt. yt[m]
3′ [w]gr [r]b ‘ll rb [d]l w
4′ ‘[l]mn šqm ybd mlk
5′ ‘[b]yn [w]‘bd šk gr t[mk]
1′ you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].
2′ Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an]
3′ [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or
4′ the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king.
5′ Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.
This is the revised version, garbled because of his use of diacritical
marks, though the first one came through successfully (see above), but
`ayin and 'alep were hard to distinguish, and they have disappeared
1' l tś wbd [t .]
2' šptb[d] wlm[n] šptyt[m] 3' [w]gr
[r]b ll [r]b dl w 4' [l]mn nqm ybd mlk 5' [b]yn [w]bd šk gr
1' do not do (it), but worship [the Lord/ or him/ or me].
2' Judge the [s]la[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an]
3' [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the poor and
4' the wid[ow]. Avenge (the pauper's vengeance) at the king's hands.
5' Protect the p[o]or [and] the slave / su[pport] the stranger.
I will point out the changes and make responses along the way:
We might have expected a preceding "Thus saith ..." introducing the
persons involved in the text.
Line 1] 'L T`Sh W`BD '[T....]
GG: "Do not do it (it), but worship [the Lord/ or him/ or me]."
The imperative mood has been softened;
'(it)' is presumably referring to an action mentioned in a previous
line, now lost.
Some of us have thought that ` S(h) might have been ` Sh Q 'oppress',
which fits nicely in the context, and looking at the 'big picture' I
can now see a Q in the gap. (Is this an occasion for shouting Eureka
or Halleluyah, or should I remind myself to get checked for cataracts
or spots on the retina?)
More options for the object of the verb ('oto, otiy).
It occurs to me that 'otiy ('me') could have been created by adding
the small (alleged) TY at the end of the line, and this could also be
' T Y (short for Yh or Yhwh). But he has used that for YT[M]
'orphan' (in the next line). I had thought (following Misgav's
drawing) that they were Z and H, and was pleased that these two
letters were included in the text. However, TY/YT seems a better
*BC: "Do not oppress, but serve G[od] ('[L])
Can I make that say: "Do not be an oppressor, but a servant of God"?
Line 2-1c-3a] ShPTt [`]B[D] W'LM[N] ShPTt || YT[M] || [W]GR
"Judge the [s]la[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an] [and] the
So, 'judge' means 'give justice to', not 'bring to justice' (a
reminder here that I see another 'justice' word [SsDQT] at the very
end of the last line).
The re-occurrence of ShPTt at the end of the line is surely right.
Notice a case of ShPTt twice in one verse:
"Thou hast done my judgement ... judging with justice" (SsDQ) (Psalm
There is space for [`] and [D] in the proposed [`]B[D] 'slave', and as
it is present on line 1, and apparently also in line 5, it is
plausible here. But I have been uniting them as referring to a
particular "servant of God", possibly a prophet or ruler.
Accordingly: "The servant has judged, he has come (BW') for (L)
But with Galil, we have a sequence W'LM[N]ShPTt , possibly meaning
"gods ('LM) have been judged (Nip`al)", as Yhwh does, of course: if I
refer to Psalm 82:1-8 for this concept, it has God ('LHYM) judging in
the midst of the gods ('LHYM); and he orders them to judge 'weak' (DL)
and 'fatherless' (YTWM), and 'poor' ('BYWN, all three without H,
definte article), all words that Galil seks to find here.
Compare: "Arise, LORD, ... let the nations be judged by you'" (Psalm
But the widow he includes here is problematic to my mind: 'LMN should
be 'widower'; 'widow' would be 'LMNT; but if the feminine -t ending
has fallen away by this time, and no compensating -h has replaced it
yet, then 'widow' may be possible. A solution would be to find a T in
the space between M and Sh, and read 'lmt, as in Phoenician (cp.
Akkadian almattu); but I cannot see this working at the start of line 4.
For YTM 'fatherless' there is no M to go with YT (assumed to have been
broken off at the top of the shard).
The W for 'and' , at the start and end of line 3, are by no means
obvious; still, they may not be necessary if this is poetry.
Regarding GR ('sojourner, stranger'), we have to accept an absolutely
abnormal R: an inverted head with neck, indeed, two of them, facing
each other, the first a roundhead, and the second a cavalier (I am
listening to Rosenkavalier Act 2.1 as I write this) according to
Galil's drawing. And there is another one further down the line,
each making RB (not 'great' or 'plenty', but 'plead for', 'get justice
for' DL, 'the poor'). I would think the third one could be R.
4] ‘[l]mn nqm ybd mlk
the wid[ow]. Avenge (the pauper's vengeance) at the king's hands.
Galil has now changed Sh to N, giving not ShQM'rehabilitate' but NQM
'avenge', which is the likeliest choice, though not certain; but the
previous N, for '[L]M[N?] is quite unlike this, and so the 'widow'
must bow out. YBD MLK (read BYD?) is supposed to say 'at the king's
hands'. Looking at all the photographs, the B seems to be Hhet (as
suggested on Misgav's table of signs); its body is rectangular, while
all the others are triangular; and the curved projection seems to go
right round and join up, thus making the original picture of the sign:
a Canaanite house with a courtyard (HhSsR), and not many people
Accordingly, my choices are '[Q]M 'I will arise'; 'and avenge' (W NQM,
'infinitive"?) or 'and we will avenge' (n(n)qm, but this suggests it
might be from the same root qwm as `qm at the beginning of 4 and 5);
YHhD MLK 'the community of the king'; yakhad 'unity' as 'community' is
well represented in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Essene writings), and is
there an echo of Deuteronomy 33:5, 'And there was a king (mlk) in
Yeshurun (Israel), with the gathering together of the heads of the
people, the community (yakhad) of the tribes of Israel'. Is the ruler
(MLK) Yhwh or his earthly viceregent, there and on our ostracon?
Once again, with all its improbabilities, and in spite of my even
earlier suggestion ["my vengeance will be in (b) blood (dm) for thee
5] ‘[b]yn [w]‘bd šk gr t[mk]
Protect the p[o]or [and] the slave / su[pport] the stranger.
To put it briefly, 'ebyon is impossible ('QM is possible); `BD is
safe, but ShK is problematic (Sh is actually a good Y, though it is
inverted in comparison with the Y above it in line 4; the K at the end
of line 4 does not have a long tail; I strongly support my reading
SsDQT ('justice' or 'righteousness') against GR T[MK]; the additional
letters are not really there, though a Y might fit ('my justice').
5] "I will establish/avenge my servant (with) justice" (noun in
objective case, as adverb,'justly').
You see what glorious untenable magic can be derived from a text that
is unpointed , "unmothered" (with no matres lectionis), undiviided (no
separation of words), and untidy, with only the slightest sleight of
Ideas that continue to occur to me will be added to my article on the
Sincerely and as seriously as I am ever able to be,
Massey University, Aotearoa/ New Zealand
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- It's a woman or a girl:
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