Izbet Sartah ostracon (1 Samuel 4)

Bilderesultat for Izbet Sartah ostracon

In 1 Samuel 4 Israel is encamped at Ebenezer in order to face the Philistines at Aphek, approximately 3,2 km to the west. Although Ebenezer’s size  is debated, the site has been tentatively identified by some archaeologists as a moderate hill called Izbet Sartah.

In 1977 the lead archaeologist at Izbet Sartah, Moshe Kochavi, published an ostracon, an inscribed pottery sherd, that sheds new light upon the development of the Poto-Canaanite script used by the ancient Israelites. The ostracon was unearthed in a storage pit in stratun II, a short-lived (approximately 20 years) level at Izbet Sartah, probably destroyed due to Philistine encroachment. The inscription appears to have been a practice text used someone learning the alphabet. Not all the letters are present, and those that are do not appear in a standard order. When compared with other inscriptions from roughly the same period, the shape and form of the letters place the ostracon in the early twelfth century B.C., approximately the time Israel was fighting the Philistines in this area. If indeed Izbet Sartah is the modern site for the Biblical Ebenezer, the ostracon may have been inscribed by an Israelite. If this is so, this pottery fragment provides a small but intriguing archaeological glimpse into the life of twelfth century Israel. Additional finds like the Izbet Sartah ostracon may one day indicate the literary rate among Israelites of the Late Bronze Age.


 

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