Today, archaeologists from one of the sites where I have worked in Israel made an announcement.
The inscription has been examined and the most likely translation is Jerubbaal. You may not recognize this name, but it is another name for Gideon.
The inscription is written with ink on a small pot, and dates from 1100 BC. Gideon was a Judge from about 1191 – 1144 according to a Steve Rudd’s timeline.
What is the significance of this find? First, we find evidence of the name being used from that time period. Second, it is an inscription from a time period where not many inscriptions have been found, so we can learn more about the development of writing and language.
The inscription is in Early Alphabetic/Canaanite script.
What I find interesting is some speculation that this could have been a small pot belonging to Jerubbaal/Gideon. Why would it be at Khirbet al-Ra’i which is in Judah near Lachish? Gideon was up in the Jezreel Valley which is quite a ways north.
This area of the site was also where a large number of parts for sickles were found.
One thing that I have always thought was that this was one of the places among the Philistines that the Israelites went down to to have blacksmith work done. In this time period the site was occupied by the Philistines.
I Samuel 13:19-21 ESV
Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Lest the Hebrews make themselves sword or spears.” But every one of the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, or his sickle, and the charge was two-thirds of a shekel for the plowshares and for the mattocks, and a third of a shekel for sharpening the axes and for setting the goads.
Perhaps an Israelite with the same or similar name came down to Khirbet al-Ra’i to have some work done and broke a pot he had with him. Or perhaps someone who was in battle with Gideon against the Midianites borrowed a pot from him after they broke theirs in battle and carried it home and later used it to take something to Khirbet al-Ra’i. There are many ways that the broken pot could have ended up where it was found.
Lots to think about, but it really doesn’t matter much how it got there, but rather that the inscription was made and we have more information from that time period.
Perhaps more thoughts later.