A group of archaeologists has uncovered and translated an ancient Hebrew tablet that’s older than the Dead Sea Scrolls. The team believes that the folded lead tablet dates back to roughly 1500 B.C., and it reads, “Cursed, cursed, cursed – cursed by the God Yahweh. You will die cursed. Cursed you will surely die. Cursed by Yahweh – cursed, cursed, cursed.”
An international team of archaeologists led by Dr. Scott Stripling of Archaeological Studies Institute at The Bible Seminary in Katy, Texas announced its findings on Thursday.
“This is a text you find only every 1,000 years,” Haifa University Prof. Gershon Galil said.
So what’s so exciting about this find? If the date of the tablet is verified, it would be the oldest Hebrew writing ever uncovered.
The Times of Israel reports that “this tiny, 2-centimeter x 2-centimeter folded-lead “curse tablet” may be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries ever. It would be the first attested use of the name of God in the Land of Israel and would set the clock back on proven Israelite literacy by several centuries — showing that the Israelites were literate when they entered the Holy Land, and therefore could have written the Bible as some of the events it documents took place.”
“We now have the name ‘Yahweh’, the biblical God of Israel, in an inscription dating from (Late Bronze Era II), which is earlier than many skeptics would argue that the Bible existed or that there was even the ability to write down a sacred text,” Stripling told the Houston Chronicle.
The tablet is what’s called a “curse tablet.” Tablets like these were common in the Greco-Roman world, and the tablet’s user would write curses toward a person or toward himself or herself — then bury the tablet or throw it into a pool. The archaeologists found this particular tablet near Mount Ebal, which multiple references in the Old Testament associate with curses.
The scholars believe that the author of the tablet was highly educated and used an iron stylus to inscribe the curses on the tablet. They also believe that the curses were meant to be a reminder of God’s wrath if the user sinned against Him.
“It is clear that the person who wrote this was a genius,” Galil noted. “He was not only a scribe, he was a theologian. He was a leader.”
If the archaeologists’ estimates prove right, the tablet is “at least 200 years older than any other Hebrew text in existence – and 1,350 years older than the Dead Sea Scrolls,” reports the Houston Chronicle.
Many scholars hold that the Bible was written between the Persian period, around 600 B.C., and the Hellenistic period, around 300 B.C., but this tablet could date the physical writing of the Bible earlier than those eras.
“One can no longer argue with a straight face that the biblical text was not written until the Persian period or the Hellenistic period as many higher critics have done, when here we do clearly have the ability to write the entire text at a much, much earlier date,” Stripling stated.
A proven date of 1500 B.C. for the tablet would demonstrate that Hebrews were writing in the same style as the Old Testament was written in, which would make this find especially fascinating.