The Samaria Ostraca (2 Kings 14)

Bilderesultat for Samaria Ostraca

A collection of inscriptions written with ink on pottery fragments or ostraca (singular ostracon) was discovered during excavations at Samaria in 1910. They recorded shipments of wine and oil received in Samaria from locations in its vicinity, apparently during the ninth, tent and fifteenth years of Jeroboam II (ca. 786-746 B.C.), although the dating of the ostraca is disputed. The texts include some or all of the following elements: date (year of a king), place, clan name, sender, recipient and commodity (wine or oil).

The ostraca provide samples of Israelite script, showing us how Hebrew was written at this time. They also illustrate the recordkeeping of the time and provide valuable geographic information on towns in the area.

The most interesting aspect of the ostraca is the clan names. Samaria is located in the tribal area of Manasseh. Ten clans of Manasseh settled in Canaan and received tracts of land (Joshua 17:1-13). Those clans were Abiezer, Asriel, Helek, Shechem and Shemida, sons of Gilead (Joshua 17:1-2); and Hoglah, Mahlah, Milcah, Noah and Tirzah, the daughters of Zelophehad, son of Hepher (Joshua 17:3-4). All of the clans named after Gilead’s sons are represented in the ostraca, along with two of the five clans named after Zelophehad’s daughters (those og Hoglah and Noah). The clan names preserved on the Samaria Ostraca provide an extra-biblical link between the clans of Manasseh and the territory in which the Bible claims they settled.


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