By Prof. Victor Avigdor Hurowitz
Dept. of Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva
Ever since the “Jehoash Inscription”, or “Bedeq Habbayit Inscription”, became known to the general public, much has been written about it in scientific journals, the newspapers, and even internet discussion groups including ANE, managed by Chuck Jones of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Interviewed and participating in these discussions have been many scholars from various disciplines including Joseph Naveh and Ada Yardeni (paleographers), Nadav Naaman and Israel Ephal (historians), Ed Greenstein, Avi Hurvitz and Chaim Cohen (scholars of the Bible, biblical languages, and Semitic languages), and Yuval Goren (archaeologist). Similarly, the inscription has been discussed in many public lectures, including a lecture by Dr. David Talshir (linguist) of Ben-Gurion University, and has become a much-discussed topic among scholars and lay people.
I am personally familiar with part of this abundant material, I have already participated in discussions of the inscription on the internet group mentioned above, and I was asked to express my opinion on the inscription for use in a summary article which appeared in the popular journal Biblical Archaeology Review. In what follows I have mentioned explicitly only a few of the matters which I read and heard in these frameworks, and no attempt was made to summarize or encompass even a small part of what has already been said. Nor did I try in what follows to examine the inscription from every possible perspective, and sufficed with matters in which I am assumed to be competent, which I can raise independently, and which may contribute to determining the authenticity of the inscription. Accordingly, my comments will be connected mainly with the language of the inscription, its literary aspects, connections with the Bible and their implications for composition of the inscription, and connections with extra-biblical writings including Akkadian inscriptions. My comments are presented here as a continuous commentary on the text.
The top of the inscription has been partially lost, but several reasonable restorations for the first three lines may be suggested. One may claim, of course, that nothing should be learned about the authenticity of an inscription from restorations that, in any case, do not exist in the preserved portion of the text. However, it appears that the feasible restorations are few in number, and one of them is probably correct, and since every possibility raises a problem of its own, the claim of uncertainty is negated or considerably diminished and need not be brought into consideration.
In order to properly restore the inscription, one must consider the number of letters in each line of the inscription
Number of Letters per Line
1. 1 + (11)
2. 6 + (8)/(6)
3. 11 + (2)/(4)
The first letter in the inscription is alep, and the foot of the alep is actually preserved and visible in the photograph (although it was not mentioned in the paleographic report of Dr. Ada Yardeni). On the basis of other inscriptions, and especially the Mesha Stele, and considering the length of the lines in the rest of the inscription, it is possible to restore:
1 א[נכי. יהואש. בנ. א]
2 חזיהו. מ[לכתי. בכל. י] (או מ[לכ. ארצ.י])
3 הדה. ואעש. את. הב[ית. הז] (או הב[ני] הש' יחז' מ"א, יג)
4 ה. כאשר. נמלאה. נד
5 בת. לבאש. בארצ. ובמד
6 בר. ובכל. ערי. יהדה. ל
7 תת. כסף. הקדשמ. לרב.
8 לקנת. אבנ. מחצב. ובר
9 שמ. ונחשת. אדמ. לעשת.
10 במלאכה. באמנה. ואעש
11 את. בדק. הבית. והקרתס
12 בב. ואת. היצע. והשבכ
13 מ. והלולמ. והגרעת. וה
14 דלתת. והיה.הימ.הזה
16 יצו. י-ה-ו-ה. את עמו. בברכה
Line 1- The only conceivable restoration is א[נכי.יהואש.בנ.א]חזיהו. This restoration yields a first line of 12 letters, and this number is consistent with an inscription having short lines relative to the continuation of the inscription.
Line 2 - Ahituv has suggested orally מל[כתי.בכל.י]הדה and refers to similar language in Arad ostracon 88 (אני.מלכתי בכ[ל]). This restoration creates a verbal sequence of the pattern קטלתי...ואקטל as is customary in other inscriptions. However, this restoration is problematic. It requires 14 letters, and even though such a restoration is possible and desirable for reasons of syntax, it creates an overly long line at the beginning of the text where the lines otherwise happen to be short. Also, it may be asked why the king would boast of being king “in all the land”. In addition, texts should be restored ideally according to other texts of the same genre (royal inscription) and not a different genre (letter), and, in fact, royal inscriptions that allude to monarchy in their beginnings, refer to it in a title, i.e. in a nominal expression, and not in a verbal locution as we shall see below.
Another restoration מל[כ.ארצ.י]הדה (cf. II Kings 13, 1 יואש בן אחזיהו מלך יהודה; Jeremiah 37, 1 וימלך מלך צדקיהו...תחת כניהו...אשר המליך נבוכדראצר... בארץ יהודה) yields a line of only 12 letters, and is preferable from the standpoint of line length. The resultant text will be parallel to extra-biblical inscriptions which begin with the formula אנכי א' בן ב' מלך ג' such as:
KAI 181:1 "אנכ משע בנ כמשית מלכ מאב הדיבני";
KAI 214:1 אנכ פנמו בר קרל מלך יאדי
KAI 216:1 אנה בררכב בר פנמו מלכ שמאל;
and the like:
KAI 10:1 "אנכ יחומלכ מלכ גבל בן יחרבעל בנ בנ ארמלכ מלכ גבל";
KAI 13:1-2 "אנכ תבנת כהן עשתרת מלכ צדנמ בן עשמנעזר כהן עשתרת מלכ צדנם";
KAI 261:1 אנה ושונש בר אפושי בר ברה זי ושונש
But, even this preferable restoration presents a problem. The named advantages notwithstanding, it creates a royal title unknown in the Bible (מלך ארץ יהודה; but see above). More important, however, it removes from the text a verb in the perfect tense (מלכתי) that should precede the verb in the ויקטל form (ואעש) demanded for the purposes of proper syntax.
It turns out that both possible restorations raise difficulties, paleographic on the one hand and stylistic on the other, so that the line remains problematic in any possible case, something weighing against the inscription’s authenticity.
Lines 3-9 -
ואעש. את. הב[ני]ה. כאשר. נמלאה. נדבת. לבאש. בארצ. ובמדבר. ובכל. ערי. יהדה. לתת. כסף. הקדשמ. לרב.לקנת. אבנ. מחצב. וברשמ. ונחשת. אדמ. לעשת. במלאכה. באמנה.
This is a long, convoluted sentence that might be condensed to its essence:
ואעש. את. הב[ני]ה. כאשר. נמלאה. נדבת. לבאש...לתת. כסף....לקנת. אבנ. מחצב.... לעשת. במלאכה. באמנה.
The nuance of כאשר, “when” (circumstantial or temporal subordination?), and the connection between the main sentence (ואעש את הב[ני]ה) and the subordinated clause (כאשר...באמנה) remain unclear. If the sentence means “I made the structure as a result of the freewill offering which people offered freely in order to acquire building materials” (circumstantial subordination) the implication would be that the people of Judah initiated the restoration of the Temple, which would be surprising given the fact that the kings were responsible for initiating such projects, and on very rare occasions (and certainly never in a royal inscription) do we hear that the people initiate such an undertaking. If the sentence means “I made the structure after the acquisition of building materials” (temporal subordination placing the event described in the subordinate clause chronologically before that described in the main sentence) then there is no mention made of taking the initiative.
Line 3- The foot of a bet has been preserved at the broken end of the line, and room remains for two letters. One of the reports suggests restoring ואעש.את הב[דק.הז]ה, but this is to be rejected out of hand, and one may only comment that this proposal, besides being too long, testifies to the ignorance of its author and casts suspicion on hirs (positive) opinion about the inscription’s authenticity. The restoration ואעש את הב[ית הז]ה results in a line of 15 letters. A shorter restoration ואעש את הב[ית ז]ה will create a text identical with the Mesha inscription’s ואעש את הבמת זאת, but Hebrew requires the definite article before the demonstrative pronoun. In any case, both suggested restorations create a crowded text, too long for the initial lines of the inscription.
From among the Hebrew words which come into consideration here (both from the standpoint of line length and meaning), it is preferable to restore הב[ני]ה (habbinyh) on the basis of the hapax legomenon found in Ezekiel 41, 13 (an alternative form of בנין according to Otzar Leshon Ha-Miqra). This restoration suits the context and the subject and accords with even the existence of another rare word in our inscription (גרעת), but it is very surprising.
Lines 4-5 - כאשר.נמלאה.נדבת.לבאש- cf II Kings 12,5 כל כסף אשר יעלה על לב איש.
The syntax of this sentence was discussed by D. Talshir who indicated the exceptional and late use of the Niphal, perfect.
The expression נדבת לב does not occur in the Bible, although it can be connected with other expressions: נדב לב (Exodus 25,2 מאת כל איש אשר ידבנו לבו; 35, 29 אשר נדב לבם אתם להביא); נדיב לב (Exodus 35,5 כל נדיב לב יביאו; 35,22 כל נדיב לב הביאו; II Chronicles 29,31 ויבאו...וכל נדיב לב עלות); התנדב בלב א' (I Chronicles 29,17 בישר לבבי התנדבתי כל אלה; 29, 9 כי בלב שלם התנדבו לה'). These expressions appear mostly in connection with the fundraising campaigns for constructing the Tabernacle and Temple.
The expression נמלאה נדבה, “the freewill offering was fulfilled”, does not exist in the Bible. The decision or impetus to give a freewill offering is expressed in the Bible with various verbal forms of the root נד"ב, with the subject of the verb being either the person, the heart, or the spirit. We also find נדבות פי (Psalms 119, 108), קרא נדבה (Amos 4, 5), and apparently the locution נמלאה נדבת לב איש was created mistakenly or out of misunderstanding imitating the pattern of a frequent biblical idiom שלם נדר, without considering the fact the a freewill offering is essentially different from a vow, because there is no prior commitment or obligation to make a freewill offering so it is not subject to “fulfilling” or “paying”.
Lines 5-6 - בארצ.ובמדבר.וכל.ערי.יהדה – Cf. II Chronicles 24,5 צאו לערי יהודה. The word במדבר occurs in II Chronicles 24, 9 משאת משה עבד האלהים במדבר, and this is perhaps the source of the word in the inscription.
Line 7- לתת.כספ.קדשמ.לרב – Cf. II Chronicles 24, 11 וכראתם כי רב הכסף... ויאסף כסף לרב. For כסף קדשים cf. II Kings 12, 5 כל כסף הקדשים.
Lines 8-9 - לקנת.אבנ.מחצב.וברשמ.ונחשת.אדמ – Cf. II Kings 12, 13; 22,6 ולקנת עצים ואבני מחצב. Closer yet is the description of Josiah’s activity in II Chronicles 34,11: לבנות אבני מחצב ועצים.
ונחשת.אדמ- A unique expression which should be read noet-edm, Copper from the Land of Edom, similar to כתם אופיר (Is. 13,12; Ps. 45, 10; Job 28,16); זהב אופיר (I Chronicles 29,4 in connection with building the Temple; Tell Kesillah Ostracon, Ahituv, Asuppah 101); זהב פרוים (II Chronicles 3,6 in connection with building the Temple). There is no biblical reference to copper or any other metal such as silver, iron, or lead in construct state with a toponym or geographical designation. That is to say, classification of metals according to their lands of origin is done only with gold, but not with other metals. The expression here may be intended to reflect I Kings 7,45-46 נחשת ממרט...במעבה האדמה.... Akkadian texts specify that gold (uru) or copper (siparru) come from a specific land, but there are no construct-state locutions such as siparri GN or ur GN.
The Land of Edom is not known in the Bible as particularly prominent in copper, but the inscription may rely on Numbers 21, 4-9, the incident of the Brazen Serpent that transpired in the area of the Land of Edom. Perhaps the author ‘erred” (intentionally in order to mislead) and meant to write נחשת ארם, on the basis of II Samuel 8, 8, 10; I Chronicles 18, 8, 10.
וברשמ – Not mentioned in the Bible in connection with Jehoash, but cf. I Kings 5, 22,24; 6, 15, 34; 9, 11; II Chronicles 2, 7; 3,5, all in connection with building the Temple.
Lines 9-10 - לעשת.במלאכה.באמנה ‘To do the work faithfully”– Cf. II Kings 12, 16 לתת לעשי המלאכה כי באמונה הם עושים; 22, 7 כי באמנה הם עשים; II Chronicles 34, 12 והאנשים עשים באמונה במלאכה (In connection with repairing the Temple at the time of Josiah). Take note, the work done here faithfully is the work of building, and this differs from the three biblical passages in which the ones doing work faithfully are the collectors of the silver who transfer the silver to the artisans, and they are not the artisans themselves. Again, misunderstanding of the biblical verse is indicated.
Lines 10-12 - ואעש.את.בדק.הבית.והקרתסבב = either “I made the bedeq of the Temple and (I made the) walls round about”, or “I made the bedeq of the Temple and (the bedeq) of the walls round about”.
This sentence is the most suspect in the entire inscription, and is sufficient to falsify the entire text.
Since the text is a royal building inscription telling about the deeds of the king building or repairing the Temple, we must assume that acts of building and repairs are being mentioned here. To be sure, the text would receive such an interpretation were it using the idiom עשה בדק בית as in contemporary spoken Hebrew. But, בדק in II Kings 12 and other places means “breach”, “crack”, “damage’ or the like, and is synonymous and etymologically related to Akkadian batqu. In II Kings 12, 8 כי לבדק הבית תתנהו, its meaning is “You shall give the silver in order to (repair) the breaches in the Temple”. The proper expression for repairing damage is חזק בדק or החזיק בדק, and so we find in II Kings 12, 6 (והם יחזקו את בדק הבית); 7 (לא חזקו הכהנים את בדק הבית); 8 (מדוע אינכם מחזקים את בדק הבית); 9 (לבלתי חזק את בדק הבית); 13 (לחזק את בדק בית ה' ולכל אשר יצא על הבית לחזקה); II Kings 22,5 (לחזק בדק הבית). Also in Ezekiel 27, 9 we find מחזיקי בדקך. The expression found in II Kings 12 is חזק בדק, and likewise is החזיק בדק in Ezekiel, and both expressions are synonymous with the Akkadian expressions batqa abtu or batqa karu. The literal meaning of the Akkadian expressions is “hold/grasp the breach” or “tie together the breach”, and this shows that חזק בדק (pil) means החזיק בדק (hipl) as found in Ezekiel, and the connotation is apparently “to hold together the cracks and breaches in the building or the ship”. That is to say, חזק in our context does not mean “strengthen” but “grasp and hold onto” (on the identity of the biblical and Akkadian expressions I already stood in my article V. Hurowitz, “Another Fiscal Practice in the Ancient Near East: 2 Kings 12:5-17 and a Letter to Esarhaddon (LAS 277)”, JNES 45 (1986) 284-289, with references to previous literature and other parallels between II Kings 12 and other Mesopotamian practices”.)
Given that בדק means “damages”, it turns out that the expression עשה בדק would mean in biblical Hebrew “do/make damages”, and it is obvious that such a meaning is totally unsuitable and even contradicts the context, and we can only assume that we are faced with an anachronism revealing the linguistic background of the author (modern Hebrew), proving ipso facto that the text is a forgery.
In the three biblical pericopes dealing with repairing the damages in the Temple we encounter additional uses of the verb חז"ק and the root בד"ק: 1) There are places in which the object of the verb חז"ק is the Temple (בית) and not the damage (בדק), and in these cases we are dealing with a word play and use of the root in its usual meaning (strengthen) rather than the meaning “tie together” (II Kings 1 2, 13 אשר יצא על הבית לחזקה; 15 וחזקו בו את בית ה'; 22, 6 לחזק את הבית; II Chronicles 24, 5 לחזק את בית אלהיכם; 12 לחזק את בית ה'; 34, 8 לחזק את בית ה' אלהיו; 2) In one instance the root בד"ק occurs with the meaning of “examination”, and here too we are dealing with a word play (II Chronicles 34, 10 לבדוק ולחזק הבית). But these uses indicate nothing about the meaning of חזק בדק, and only indicate linguistic playfulness and repetition of Leitwrter and nothing more.
We find the expression קדשי בדק בית in Rabbinic Hebrew, a term to be rendered as “sacred funds for repairs and maintenance of the Temple”, and this is the source of the modern expression. But, the connotation of that expression is money earmarked for repair of damages, and in any case we find no example of בדק being the object of the verb עשה. This is the case as well of batqu in Akkadian.
Similarly we find in Akkadian passages which the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary translates “repairs”, but, examination of the texts shows that in all cases the true meaning is “damage”, and the reference is to funding designated for the damage with the intent of repair. This use of the Akkadian word parallels the use of קדשי בדק בית in Rabbinic Hebrew, and both of them can be compared with the English “pay damages” or Hebrew שלם נזקים. In any case, there is no justification for adding to the meanings of בדק and batqu an additional meaning “repair”.
In oral and internet discussions with Professor Chaim Cohen, he claimed that עשה בדק or a (conjectured) Akkadian parallel *batqa pu can be interpreted in the modern sense (repair) by explaining עשה or epu not as “make” but as “repair”. His explanation is based on his claim that עשה and epu interchange with the verbs בנה and ban. If so, ואעש את בדק הבית would mean “I repaired the damage in the Temple”. I agree with Professor Cohen that the verb epu is sometimes interpreted as “restore”, and theoretically, it may perhaps be possible to explain ואעש את בדק הבית with the meaning “I repaired the damages in the Temple”, and this will be similar to the expression בנה חרבות with the meaning “restore ruins”. But, if the truth be told, we do not find in the Bible a single example of עשה applying to damage or ruin or breakage or anything else with the meaning of “repair”. In Akkadian too, when epu means “repairs” or “restore”, the grammatical object is always the building or the object and is never the word designating the damage. In addition to this, in should be remembered that the proposed expression with the proposed meaning is never actually attested, and this is despite many examples of the expressions חזק בדק and batqa ibat. It cannot be assumed a priori that any expression will have a particular meaning, and only if the expression under discussion is found in a text of unquestionable authenticity will we be able to explain this expression ex post facto according to Cohen’s suggestion. In other words, unless we find an authentic Hebrew or Akkadian text with עשה בדק or batqa pu meaning “repaired the damage” we cannot claim that such an expression actually would have such a meaning. For these reasons, Cohen’s suggestion can be rejected and the text in front of us can be pronounced anachronistic.
והקרת.סבב = “the walls round about”. Cf. I Kings 6, 5 “ויבן על קיר הבית יציע סביב את קירות הבית סביב להיכל ולדביר ויעש צלעות סביב; and perhaps II Chronicles 34, 11 ולקרות את הבתים.
Lines 12-14 – ואת.היצע.והשבכמ.והלולמ.והגרעת.והדלתת – The text continues with a list of the parts of the Temple that were repaired. This list recalls items found in the description the Temple in I Kings 6-7. The יציע is part of a large wooden structure that encased the Temple, or a stone structure that surrounded the main building. In contrast, the שבכים are at the top of the copper pillars Yakhin and Boaz (I Kings 7, 17 שבכים מעשה שבכה), and it is surprising that they would be listed here for repair separately. Similarly, it is surprising that they are mentioned between the יציע and the לולים, for their expected place would be at the end of the list.
והגרעות – This would seem to be an alternative form of מגרעות mentioned in I Kings 6, 6 ומגרעות יתן לבית סביב חוצה לבלתי אחוז בקירות הבית. Interestingly, the verb appearing in the biblical account is not עשה (as in the inscription) or בנה but נתן, and it seems that we are not dealing with an architecturally distinct item, but the stepped form of the building.
The term והלולמ is problematic. If the internal waw is a vowel letter it has no place here because in the entire inscription, as well as in other inscriptions from when this text is purported to derive, such letters do not appear within words, and they occur only at the ends of words. It has been suggested (Chaim Cohen) that the waw is to be read consonantally and the word pronounced lewlm, but there is no indication that this was the plural form of לול.
There is no doubt that this word is related to I Kings 6, 8 ובלולים יעלו על התיכונה ומן התיכונה אל השלישים, “and by means of spiral staircases/trap doors one would ascend to the middle story and from the middle story to the third story”. But this is problematic. It has already been suggested by Elisha Qimron (Leshonenu 35  225-227) on the basis of בלולים in reliable manuscripts of the Mishna that the bet in בלולים is of the root of the word and is not a prepositional prefix that can be dropped. If so, it appears that the author of the inscription did not understand or even know the original word, but was familiar only with the understanding the word in later generations when the original form had been forgotten.
Lines 14-15 – והיה.הימ.הזה.לעדת.כי.תצלח.המלאכה. – For the beginning of the sentence cf. Exodus 12, 14 והיה היום הזה לכם לזכרון וחגתם אתו חג לה'.
It is unclear what this line is speaking about, but the statement is not suited at all to building inscriptions that are not usually concerned with establishing days of remembrance. Does it mean that the day when the work was completed will be in the future a holiday or a memorial day? If so, we have not found in the ancient near east a custom that the building or restoration of a temple is celebrated periodically. Perhaps the author wants to allude to the restoration of the Covenant (עדות) mentioned in the story of repairing the Temple by Josiah as described in II Chronicles 34, 29-33, and especially vs. 31 ויכרת את הברית... לעשות את דברי הברית הכתובים על הספר הזה.
לעדת – According to the orthographical conventions customary at the time of Jehoash, this word should be read לעדות, and this is not suitable because עדות in biblical Hebrew means “covenant” and not “testimony”.
If עדת is supposed to be “testimony”, it should be spelled עדה as in Genesis 21,30 בעבור תהיה לי לעדה כי חפרתי את הבר הזאת. More to the point would be Joshua 24,26 הנה האבן הזאת תהיה בנו לעדה כי היא שמעה את כל אשר אמר ה' אשר דבר עמנו והיתה בכם לעדה פן תכחשון באלהיכם.
כי.תצלח.המלאכה – For a combination of צלח and מלאכה cf. Ezekiel 16, 4 היצלח למלאכה, but this does not resemble the locution in the inscription because מלאכה is not the grammatical subject of יצלח. For הצלחה, “success”, in connection with building cf. I Chronicles 22, 11-13 והצלחת ובנית בית ה' אלהיך...אז תצליח; II Chronicles 7, 11 ויכל שלמה את בית ה' ואת בית המלך ואת כל הבא על לב שלמה לעשות בבית ה' ובביתו הצליח...; II Chronicles 14, 6 ויבנו ויצליחו; Nehemiah 2, 20 אלהי השמים הוא יצליח לנו ואנחנו ועבידו נקום ובנינו. However, there is no case in which מלאכה is the subject of a verbal form of צל"ח.
To be sure, we find הצליח (את) הדרך (Genesis 24, 21, 40, 42, 56; Isaiah 45,15; Psalms 37, 7 ) or הצליח את המעשה (Genesis 39,23), and if a path or a deed can be subject of צל"ח it should be possible for מלאכה to be a subject as well. In other words, the combination found in the inscription seems not to be an impossible one. However, according to Ed Greenstein (oral communication) that Hayim Tawil has already shown that צל"ח , when used with דרך, path, means “to go straight”, so that הצליח דרך means “straightened the path” and צלחה דרך means “the way was straight”. It would seem, therefore, the צלח and הצליח are used in a limited fashion and not suitable for every subject. If it is impossible to say “the work went straight” so one cannot say תצלח מלאכה.
Nonetheless, we find in Akkadian the expression ipra utir (literally “made the work go straight”), and most notably in a building inscription of Sennacherib we find au ipri a ekallya turi u lipit qtya ullume, “in order to make to work on my palace go straight and complete the acts of my hands”. E. Frahm, AfOB 26, 74,73, 81:73 translated idiomatically “Um die Arbeit an meiner Palast aus Ziel kommen zu lassen und das Werk meiner Hnde zu vollenden”, and if we accept Tawil’s suggestion about the meaning of צל"ח, we will be able to translate this sentence to Hebrew כדי להצליח את מלאכת ארמוני ולהשלים את נגיעת ידי, and if so the expression in the Jehoash inscription would seem to have a semantic parallel in Akkadian which is not otherwise attested in Hebrew. Such a thing, were it a sole factor in evaluating an inscription free from any other problems, would contribute greatly to authenticating the inscription. Nonetheless, this is not a necessary conclusion. In fact, we have seen other places in the inscription where the author fabricates artificial expressions on the basis of biblical passages, and it is likely that in this case as well he/she has created an expression using the words צל"ח and מלאכה which happen to be quite frequent words in biblical building accounts (see above). Only in this case the author “got lucky” and succeeding in inventing an expression with an Akkadian parallel.
Line 16 - יצו.י-ה-ו-ה.את.עמו.בברכה – The inscription concludes with a blessing, as is the custom of many royal inscriptions. Nonetheless, we never find in any ancient near eastern inscription a blessing identical with this one. Not only this, but we never find a concluding blessing for the good of the people. The blessings are always for the benefit of the king who built the building and wrote the inscription. The closest blessing to this one is found in the inscription of Achish from Eqron: תברכה ותשמרה ותארכ ימה ותברכ ארצה, “May she (the goddess) bless him and guard him and make his days long and bless his land”, but even here the king is the main object and the land is mentioned only briefly and as an afterthought. It is possible that the author of our inscription wants to remind us of Solomon’s temple dedication prayer according to I Kings 8,55-61.
KAI 4:3-7 – יארך בעל שממ ובעל<ת> גבל ומפחרת אל גבל קדשמ ימת יחמלך ושנתו על גבל כ מלכ צדק ומלק ישר לפנ אל גבל קדשם [הא]
KAI 5:2 – תארכ בעלת גבל ימת אבבעל ושנתו על גבל
KAI 6:2-3 – כנ"ל
KAI 7:4-5 – תארכ בעלת גבל ימת שפטבעל ושנתו על גבל
KAI 10:8-10 – תברכ בעלת גבל אית יחומלכ מלכ גבל ותחוו ותארכ ימו ושנתו על גבל כ מלכ צדק הא ותתנ [לו הרבת ב]עלת גבל חנ לען אלנם ולענ עמ ארצ זו וחנ עמ ארצ זו [וחנ לענ] כל ממלכת וכל אדמ
KAI 18:8 – לכני לי לסכר ושם נעמ תחת פעם אדני בעל לעלם יברכנ
KAI 19: 10-11 – לכנ למ ל[סכר] [ושמ נעם ל]עלם
In Mesopotamian inscriptions too, such as an inscription of Shalmanesar I, King of Assyria (RIMA I p. 185 ll. 148-155 “When Aur the lord, enters that temple and joyfully takes his place on the lofty dais, may he see the brilliant work of that temple and rejoice. May he receive my prayers, may he hear my supplications. For eternity may he greatly decree with his mighty voice a destiny of well-being for my vice-regency and for the vice-regency of my progeny (and) abundance during my reign”.
For the formulation of the blessing cf. Deuteronomy 28,8 יצו ה' אתך את הברכה באסמך ובכל משלח ידך, and there the blessing concerns observing the covenant and not building.
עמו – “His people”. According to orthographic conventions customary at the time of Jehoash, this word should have been written עמה. Despite the existence of the word עמיו which would be spelled in this way, it is impossible to read עמיו here (as suggested by Chaim Cohen in a response to a lecture by David Talshir), because עמיו is found exclusively in reference to family, as is the case of עמיה and עמיך, and it is never found in reference to God’s relationship with His people.
בברכה – ברכה prefixed with the preposition bet is a very rare form. In one case the bet is an instrumental bet (Proverbs 11,11 בברכת ישרים תרום קרת) and in another case it is a sign of an indirect object (Ps. 19,17 ולא חפץ בברכה ותרחק ממנו). It is never used as a direct object as required here.
General – This inscription tells of repairing the Temple (?) in the time of Jehoash as described also in II Kings 12 and the parallel in II Chronicles 24. Accordingly and as expected, there is factual and even linguistic resemblance between the inscription and these two chapters. The analysis above and the table below show that entire lines of the inscription are composed of a mixture of words and expressions taken from these two biblical chapters. But, the inscription avails itself also of language drawn from other biblical contexts which deal with temple building and in particular: the story of building the Tabernacle (Exodus 25-40); the stories of building the Temple (I Kings 5-9; I Chronicles 22- II Chronicles 7); the accounts of the Temple repairs at the time of Josiah (II Kings 22, 3-9; II Chronicles 34, 8-17); and even the Temple vision in the Book of Ezekiel 40-48. In this way, this inscription gives the impression that it knows the entire Bible and implies that all these pericopes are not independent in their language and composition.
In this table the words and expressions taken from the Bible are marked as follows:
Underline and Bold = chapters about temple repair
Underline = chapters about Tabernacle and Temple building
Italics = other biblical
1 א[נכי. יהואש. בנ. א]
2 חזיהו. מלכ. ארצ.י])
3 הדה. ואעש. את. הב[ני]
4 ה. כאשר. נמלאה. נד
5 בת. לבאש. בארצ. ובמד
6 בר. ובכל. ערי. יהדה. ל
7 תת. כסף. הקדשמ. לרב.
8 לקנת. אבנ. מחצב. ובר
9 שמ. ונחשת. אדמ. לעשת.
10 במלאכה. באמנה. ואעש
11 את. בדק. הבית. והקרתס
12 בב. ואת. היצע. והשבכ
13 מ. והלולמ. והגרעת. וה
14 דלתת. והיה.הימ.הזה
16 יצו. י-ה-ו-ה. את עמו. בברכה
Is the Inscription Authentic or Forged? If the Jehoash inscription is authentic it can call into question many of the solid consensuses of Biblical scholarship of the last century and beyond concerning the composite nature of biblical literature, as well as the time of composition of the literary strata incorporated in the Bible. It will be possible to think that even late sources such as the Book of Chronicles reflect independent, reliable sources telling about events from the time of Jehoash related in the Book of Kings.
It has been suggested already by James Montgomery that certain chapters in the Book of Kings are based on authentic “archival” material (meaning, more precisely, monumental material). But, Montgomery’s approach was examined and called into question recently by Simon Parker who showed that texts in which the Bible and Northwest Semitic inscriptions relate similar types of events, biblical literature deviates from the ways of writing found in the inscriptions (see S. B. Parker, Storied in Scripture and Inscription: Comparative Studies on Narrative in Northwest Semitic Inscriptions and the Hebrew Bible [New York: Oxford University Press], 1997). The extremely close parallels between the Jehoash Inscription and II Kings 12 diverge radically from Parker’s conclusions and the data he examined, and accords completely with Montgomery’s approach which is not based on careful examination of the ancient sources.
Are these scholarly views to be overthrown because of this inscription?
In fact, the Jehoash Inscription’s reliance on expressions connected with various biblical chapters, and essentially all the biblical chapters connected with temple building, is precisely one of the proofs for questioning the authenticity of the inscription. It is not a source for the words of the Bible (as Montgomery’s approach) but a text sewn together from scraps of Bible. It is easier to assume that the author of the inscription knew all the mentioned biblical chapters, drew from them and combined them without distinction than assume that two to four biblical authors reflect independently linguistic elements from the inscription and created independent creations, this with one biblical idiom, and that with another. The Jehoash Inscription is manifestly a mosaic of elements cut from different sources, sewn together and cast into the framework of a royal inscription such as the Mesha Stele, and is not a source for a number of biblical chapters, each of which has borrowed a different element.
Alongside the expressions identical to the biblical expressions constituting the mosaic, we find expressions without parallel in the Bible. They resemble biblical language, but are not identical with it. It seems to me that the author (forger) is teasing or trying to avoid detection by scholars by inventing supposedly original turns of speech with a biblical similitude and therefore making it difficult to reveal the forgery.
This determination is strengthened to the extent of becoming a proof on the basis of linguistic considerations including: an anachronistic expression ואעש את בדק הבית; syntactic irregularities in the opening lines; the incorrect use of לולם; manifestations of misunderstanding certain biblical usages; orthographic mistakes in the words לולם and עמו. These linguistic irregularities may be supplemented by factual curiosities: fixing הים הזה (which day?) as עדת which has no precedent in royal building inscriptions; the concluding blessing which deviates in content and language from all known ancient inscriptions.
Each one of these considerations, and their accumulation how much more so, prove beyond doubt that the text is a forgery, and we can say about it “from the sole of the foot to the head it has no perfection”. If other types of examination would seem to prove that the inscription is authentic, the reliability of those examinations should be called into question, or we must conclude that the forger has found a way to deceive them and circumvent them (Heaven forbid!), and the intention is especially to the geological investigation which is the only one which has authenticated the inscription.
The only way to call our conclusions into question (but not to refute them conclusively) will be to find an inscription in a controlled archaeological excavation which is undoubtedly authentic that will include some of the expressions we discuss, and especially עשה בדק or batqa pu meaning fix, repair or the like, or ציוה א' בברכה. In other words, this inscription can claim no a priori supposition of authenticity, it displays a plethora of explicit signs of forgery, and anyone who claims its authenticity must bear the burden of proof.