Gershon Galil on the Monumental Royal Inscriptions of Hezekiah – Part 2

A Replica of the Siloam Inscription
Wikimedia Commons

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.

Read Part 1: Gershon Galil on the Monumental Royal Inscriptions of Hezekiah – Part 1

The Monumental Royal Inscriptions of Hezekiah – Part 2
Gershon Galil

I checked the Siloam inscription and found that it had additional scriptures, twice as long as what was known until now. It mentions Hezekiah’s name and his main deeds, similar to summary inscription no. 3. It turns out that two more lines are written on the stone found in Istanbul. Moreover, inside the Siloam Tunnel, another five lines survived, below the place where the inscription was carved by robbers and later transported to Istanbul in a clear frame; the bottom line is 70 cm above the tunnel floor, that is, very close to the water.

It now becomes clear that the Siloam inscription (summary inscription no. 1 below) included 13 lines and 428 letters, and not (as previously thought) only six lines and about 200 letters. Also, the robbers did not carve the last three letters in line 1, which remained in Jerusalem (“m.’t”), as well as the last letter in line 2 (waw—it should be read “??/??” and not “?/??”). This is the translation of lines 7-8, found in Istanbul:

7. Hezekiah son of Ahaz, king of Judah, made the pool and the conduct.
8. In the seventeenth year, in the second day of the fourth month.

Below we will quote the text of the lines that remained in Jerusalem, in the Siloam tunnel, below the piece that was cut and looted—a continuation of the text found in Istanbul:

9. of king Hezekiah, he brought ?the? water into the city, ?the ki?ng ?l?e?d?

10. the water into the pool. Hezekiah smote ?the? Philistines
11. from Ekron to Gaza and placed ?the O?RE[B] unit [o]f the army of ?Ju?dah
12. there. He braked the images and removed the high places, braked in pieces the Nehushtan, and cut down
13. the Asherah.

He accumulated in his treasure houses and in the house of YHWH silver and gold, perfumes and good ointment. The meaning of the discovery is dramatic: parts of the Siloam inscription are found today in the city of David in Jerusalem, inside the Siloam Tunnel; they have simply remained there since the inscription was composed—2,731 years ago.

Another surprise awaited Eli and me in the Siloam Tunnel, to the left of the place from where the Siloam inscription was removed, and below the replica of the inscription that was installed there, in a clear frame in the rock. Around the replica were distinct, large letters, approximately 5 cm by 5 cm, some even larger. We found another royal inscription. Unfortunately, at the moment it was not possible to remove the replica, which was strengthened with four hooks. These hooks defaced the important inscription below it. At the same time, we took dozens of photographs that allowed an excellent reading of all the letters around the replica: the first and last two lines in full, as well as letters at the beginning and end of the other lines. I hope that the replica will be removed soon, and moved to another place, so that I can complete the research, and include it in our scientific book that will be published in the coming year.

Summary inscription no. 2, next to the Siloam inscription (see my comments above) includes 9 lines and probably 180 letters, as follows:
1. Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, king of Judah
2. made [the pool and] the conduit.
3. brought [the water by the tunnel] into ?the? city
4. In [the seventeenth] year, [in the second (day),] in the fourth (month)
5. He brak[ed the images and braked in pieces the Ne]hushtan,
6. remov[ed the high places and cut down the] Asherah
7. He accumu[lated in all his treasure houses and in the house of Y]HWH
8. silver and a ?lot? of gold, and light blue (clothes) ?per?fumes ?and? good oi?nt?ment.
9. He smote the Philistines from Ekron to Gaza.

This inscription also mentions the term “light blue” (????), that is, luxurious clothes dyed light blue, a term that does not appear in the other inscriptions, but is mentioned in the inscriptions of Sennacherib in the tax list that Hezekiah paid him (in the form: “light blue wool” = sigta-kil-tu).

In a previous press release we mentioned another inscription found in the Ophel (perhaps also from Hezekiah’s time), as well as two additional inscriptions of Hezekiah found in the city of David. These inscriptions, probably attached to buildings and not engraved on a rock (unlike the others), were found deliberately smashed into pieces, most likely by Hezekiah’s opponents after his death.

One of them (no. 4 below) was found near the Canaanite pool, not far from inscription no. 3: it includes the words “[Hezekiah],” “[to the] pool,” “in the tu[nnel],” and perhaps also “the massebot.” In the second, no. 5 (found about 130 m southwest of inscription no. 4), the surviving words are: “accumulated,” “sil[ver],” “seventee[nth],” “the fourth and he br[ought],” and perhaps also “[led the]m to the po[ol].” All the words in inscriptions 4-5 also appear in the other inscriptions mentioned above, so all Hezekiah’s inscriptions were designed using similar formulas.

In contrast to inscriptions 4 and 5, which were deliberately smashed, the other inscriptions (1, 2, 6, and 7) were not damaged because they were inside the tunnel or in the Canaanite pool (3), which was probably filled with earth at the end of Hezekiah’s days, and buildings were built on them later, as the archaeological find shows, as well as the biblical text in 2 Chronicles 32:30: “… Hezekiah also stopped the upper spring of the waters of Gihon, and brought them straight down on the west side of the city of David.”

Inscriptions 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7 were damaged and eroded due to the water and corrosion, and the lower they were, the more damaged they were. Thus the Siloam inscription, ll. 1-6, were better preserved because they were relatively far from the water. On our last tour of the Siloam tunnel, we looked for more inscriptions, and sure enough, as soon as Eli and I entered the Siloam tunnel near the spring, after the first left turn on the left, we noticed two more frames side by side, which turned out to be inscriptions (hereinafter nos. 6 and 7).

Inscription 6, the large one, includes 11 lines, and inscription 7, the small one, includes 9 lines. These inscriptions are similar in content to the previous ones: about half the text of no. 6 is dedicated to the water project (lines 2-6). On the other hand, in no. 7, the description of the water project is short (lines 2-3) and constitutes only about 23% of the inscription (because it had already been mentioned in detail in inscription no. 6). This is also approximately the extent of the other components in this inscription: the reform (ll. 4-5), the Philistines (ll. 6-7), and the property (ll. 8-9), in which the order of the words is slightly different, and indicates “silver and gold” immediately after the verb “accumulated.”

In sum: 7 inscriptions of King Hezekiah are found in the city of David: two at the end of the Siloam tunnel (no. 1-2), four near the spring, of which two are at the beginning of the Siloam tunnel (nos. 6-7), and two at the Canaanite pool (3) or near it (4). Another inscription (5) was found by Y. Shiloh, halfway between the spring and the pool. These inscriptions probably included over 1600 letters. All these inscriptions will soon be published in Hebrew and English, accompanied by high-quality photographs (RTI) as well as detailed linguistic, historical, and paleographical discussions, in our forthcoming book: Gershon Galil and Eli Shukron, The Inscriptions of Hezekiah King of Judah, which was accepted for publication, and will be published in the coming year. We thank the readers, the publishing house, and all our friends.

NOTE: For other articles on archaeology, archaeological discoveries, and how they relate to the Bible, read my post Can Archaeology Prove the Bible?.

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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