Recently, Professor Gershon Galil announced that he made “the most important archaeological discovery in Israel of all time.” He has discovered and deciphered “five new monumental royal inscriptions of King Hezekiah of Judah.” According to Professor Galil, this discovery is “a very important breakthrough in the study of Israel’s history during the biblical period.”
Professor Galil is Professor of Biblical Studies and Ancient History at the University of Haifa in Israel. His work, The Chronology of the Kings of Israel and Judah proposes a new chronology for the kings of Judah and Israel that differs from the chronologies developed by William F. Albright and Edwin R. Thieve.
This information about the five monumental royal inscriptions of King Hezekiah is published with the permission of Professor Galil. The report will be published in two parts.
I would like to thank Professor Galil for allowing the publication of this report.
The Monumental Royal Inscriptions of Hezekiah – Part 1
I am happy and proud to announce the most important archaeological discovery in Israel of all time; a very important breakthrough in the study of Israel’s history during the biblical period: I managed to decipher five new monumental royal inscriptions of King Hezekiah of Judah, which together include dozens of lines and hundreds of letters.
The inscriptions mention the name of Hezekiah, king of Judah, and summarize his main actions in the first seventeen years of his reign, including the water project (the cutting of the Siloam Tunnel and the pool), the ritual reform, the conquest of Philistia, and the accumulation of property. The inscriptions also indicate the exact date on which the water project was completed: 2 Tammuz, year 17 of Hezekiah = 709 BCE. Now it is clear that the higher chronology that precedes the reign of Hezekiah in 726 BCE is to be preferred (as I emphasize in my book on chronology published in 1996).
These are the most complete royal inscriptions we have, and they are further evidence that the kings of Israel and Judah wrote royal inscriptions that indicated their name and deeds. One of the inscriptions was carved into the rock to the right of the entrance to tunnel no. 4 in the round room of the Canaanite pool, next to the Gihon Spring (summary inscription no. 3 below). 48 cm wide and 38 cm long, it is located 140 cm above the floor.
The frame of the inscription was discovered in 1909 by Louis-Hugues Vincent. However, he believed that there was no inscription there, but only a frame and a leveled surface prepared for writing an unwritten text. This is what all the other researchers have claimed for the past 113 years. But recently it turned out that there is an extremely impressive inscription there. Though eroded by time, the vast majority of the letters are legible. Below is a verbatim quote of the inscription that includes 11 lines, 64 words, and 243 letters:
1. Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, king of Judah,
2. made the pool and the conduit.
3. In the seventeenth year, in the second (day), in the fourth (month),
4. of king Hezekiah, the king brought
5. the water into the city by a tunnel, the king led
6. the water into the pool. He smote the Philistines
7. from Ekron to Gaza and placed there the OREB unit of
8. the army of Judah. He braked the images and braked in ?pieces? the Nehu?sh?tan
9. and he removed the high ?places and? cut down the Asherah. Hezek?ia?h, the king,
10. accumulated in all his treasure houses and in the house of YHWH
11. a lot of silver and gold, perfumes and good ointment.
This ‘summary inscription’ is arranged in literary order, not chronologically, and is divided into five components: title, the water project, the wars against Philistia, the reform and the accumulation of property. It includes scriptures that appear verbatim or with slight changes in the Bible, such as: “Hezekiah son of Ahaz, king of Judah”, “Make the pool and the conduit”, “brought … the water into the city”, “smote the Philistines … as far as Gaza”, “braked the images and braked in pieces the … Nehushtan and he removed the high places and cut down the Asherah”, “… in all his treasure houses and in the house of YHWH, silver … and gold, perfumes and good ointment” (see 2 Kings 18: 1, 4, 8; 20: 13, 20).
These are actually the earliest manuscripts of the Bible. They predate the Ketef Hinnom silver amulets by about a hundred years, and the Dead Sea Scrolls by hundreds of years. They also support the claim that scriptures in the book of Kings are based on texts originating from chronicles and royal inscriptions, and that the Bible reflects historical reality and not imagination.
The inscription does not mention the relations with Assyria, the Chaldeans, Egypt, the kingdoms of Transjordan, the activity in Samaria, Hezekiah’s war with the nomads, nor the fact that the conquests in Philistia were lost in 712 BCE — because in royal inscriptions only successes are mentioned. These are summary inscriptions, not full descriptions of the king’s deeds.
In these new inscriptions, there are answers to many issues that scholars have debated for years. The inscriptions are evidence that Hezekiah carried out a comprehensive reform (before 709 BCE), and even that he conquered Philistia, especially Ekron, and stationed soldiers there (in 712 BCE), as I argued before, and as pointed out in the “Azekah inscription.” Moreover, Hezekiah is indeed the king who built the pool and the Siloam Tunnel, and not others. Also, the term “OREB” is mentioned here for the first time, which until now was known only in its Akkadian form: urbi.
Now it is clear that it is derived, as Tadmor claims, from the Hebrew term oreb. Eli Shukron claimed that the frames of some of these inscriptions were known. As mentioned, everyone thought they were empty and were only a preliminary preparation for engraving inscriptions that were never enacted there. But Shukron believed there were texts there, inside the frames. That’s why he contacted me recently and asked me to re-examine the matter. We both conducted tours of the city of David, and even walked together inside the Siloam Tunnel, in the water, and rechecked everything. Sure enough, we discovered additional inscriptions. We took high-quality photos of these “frames;” it soon became clear that there were indeed exciting and surprising texts there. In parallel, we re-examined high-quality photographs of the original Siloam inscription, situated in the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul. There, as well as in the Siloam tunnel, we found other important discoveries.
NOTE: For other articles on archaeology, archaeological discoveries, and how they relate to the Bible, read my post Can Archaeology Prove the Bible?.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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