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:
|A1||[. . . .]you will rule ov[er||]|
|A2||[and because of the p]iou[s acts] of my father, may [?] go up [||]|
|A3||and my father will repose. May he go to [||at every]|
|A4||ancient [h]earth on the ground of El-Bay[tel||am]|
|A5||I, so Hadad would go before me [||the day-]|
|A6||-s of my reign, and I would slay a kin[g] and [||thousands of cha-]|
|A7||-riots and thousands of horsemen [||]|
|A8||the king of Israel, and [I] killed [him||kin-]|
|A9||-g of Bayt-Dawid. And [the] name [of||]|
|A10||their land to [||]|
|A11||another and to [||Jehoash r-]|
|A12||-eigned over Is[rael||I laid]|
|A13||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””