Here I look at the argument that the inscription (bytdwd) apparently referring to David (dwd) or the “house of David” in the Tel Dan Inscription is best explained as a reference to an epithet (meaning “beloved”) for the god Yahweh.
This post is related to another about a week ago, The Tel Dan inscription: the meaning of ביתדוד, “House of David”, which is a look at George Athas’s published thesis. I ran into a problem, however, when I came to discuss Athas’s assessment of the evidence for what it tells us about the historicity of King David. I could not quite understand the arguments well enough to present in my own words, probably because they were largely a response to an article by Thomas L. Thompson. So I delayed further posting till I read Thompson’s article. Then I found I had to re-read an earlier article to fully get the hang of that! Real life keeps getting in the way and making me forget things I had read more than 2 weeks ago.
Did Biran Kill David?
So here I finally am. The notes are from a section of Did Biran Kill David? by Lemche and Thompson.
Lemche & Thompson begin this discussion by stating what they see as the first problem for deciding the correct meaning of the key word in the stele: Continue reading “Does the Tel Dan Inscription ‘Prove’ David to Be a Historical Person?”
This post outlines the arguments of George Athas on the famous “House of David” lexeme that appears in the published version of his 1999 doctoral dissertation, The Tel Dan Inscription: A Reappraisal and a New Interpretation (2003).
Athas believes that the critical word often translated as House of David is in fact a geographical place-name and probably a reference to Jerusalem. I will cover Athas’s historical commentary in which he discusses the relevance of the expression as evidence for a historical Davidic dynasty in a future post. I have not covered every detail of Athas’ comments, omitting some subordinate arguments such as a proposed translation that introduces a cookhouse into the inscription, or where an argument against a particular amended text in Amos 8:14 is rejected because it breaks the parallelism in the verse. On the other hand, I have expanded some details, such as journal names and biblical quotations. Do let me know if you notice any errors in the Hebrew/Aramaic letters. The Tel Dan is an Aramaic inscription.
To begin with, here is a translation by George Athas of fragment A in which the apparent “House of David” appears, along with line numbering:
||[. . . .]you will rule ov[er
||[and because of the p]iou[s acts] of my father, may [?] go up [
||and my father will repose. May he go to [
||ancient [h]earth on the ground of El-Bay[tel
||I, so Hadad would go before me [
||-s of my reign, and I would slay a kin[g] and [
||thousands of cha-]
||-riots and thousands of horsemen [
||the king of Israel, and [I] killed [him
||-g of Bayt-Dawid. And [the] name [of
||their land to [
||another and to [
||-eigned over Is[rael
||siege to [Samaria
There are two fragments, A and B. Athas discusses the evidence for placing the B fragment below fragment A (e.g. the evidence that the scribe did not have to stretch when engraving B as he did with the letters in A, and the breakdown of the text’s alignment if B is placed alongside A). This changes how scholars interpret the possible overall message on the monument, but does not affect the meaning of the apparent “House of David” reference.
ביתדוד – the controversy
Biran and Naveh first proposed the theory that this should be interpreted as “House of David” – that is, referring to the “dynastic name of the kingdom of Judah”. (‘An Aramaic Stele Fragment from Tel Dan’, Israel Exploration Journal 43 (1993), pp. 81-98. Continue reading “The Tel Dan inscription: the meaning of ביתדוד, “House of David””