‘yyn ḫlq’ The Oldest Hebrew Inscription from Jerusalem

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This article offers a new reading of the inscription unearthed in 2012 at the Ophel in Jerusalem. It reexamines its script, language, and vocabulary, as well as its historical and cultural context. In my opinion this text was written in the late Canaanite script, in Hebrew, and it indicates that there were scribes in Jerusalem who were able to write texts as early as the second half of the 10th century BCE. Here is my new transliteration and translation of this inscription: […]┌m┐ ┌yy┐n ḫlq m[…]: ‘[in the … year], wine of inferior quality, (sent) from GN’. The inscription is divided into three categories: (a) a date formula; (b) classification of wine; and (c) provenance. The form yyn indicates that the language of this inscription is Hebrew, written in the southern dialect. In Ugaritic, Old Canaanite, Phoenician, Ammonite, and even in Israelite Hebrew as attested in the Samaria Ostraca, wine was typically written with only one yod (yn; ye-nu; indicating the reduction of the diphthong). Yet, in (southern) epigraphic Hebrew at Lachish, Arad and other sites the form is always yyn. Similarly, this form appears in Biblical Hebrew without exception, Ben Sira, Qumran, and even in the Rabbinic sources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-26
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2013

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • History


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