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  • Format contains "Inscription on stone; Height: 34cm; Width: 40cm."
1972-169-Burial Inscription, Khirbet el-Qom, mid-8th cent. BCE#1.tif

Burial Inscription from Khirbet el-Qom

This inscription was removed from the pillar of a tomb at Khirbet el-Qom. It displays a carved handprint with some lines of text above it and two more lines of text on the lower left corner. The stone was smoothed over in preparation for the inscription with a tool that left scratches in its surface, and this, combined with natural faults in the stone and the presence of ghost-letters* has led to considerable debate over the translation of the text. Attempts to date the inscription paleographically (on the basis of the letter shapes) suggest a date between 750 and 700 BCE. If meant to be read top to bottom, the text perhaps reads: Uriyahu the rich wrote it Blessed be Uriyahu by Yhwh For from his enemies by his [Yhwh’s] Asherah he saved him [carving of hand]… by Abiyahu… by his Asherah… his A[she]eraAlmost all commentators agree that the inscription involves Yhwh’s blessing of Uriyahu, but it is not entirely clear if the inscription praises Yhwh for past blessings or expresses a plea for future blessing. The significance of the hand carving is also unclear, although a few places in the Bible associate hands with monuments. Both Saul and Absalom, for example, set up monuments that are referred to in the Hebrew as a 'hand' (1 Samuel 15:12; 2 Samuel 18:18). One of the most interesting features of the inscription is the mention of Asherah. This goddess was well known in biblical times; the biblical texts that use the term Asherah refer varoiously to a goddess or to an object (or, perhaps, sometimes to both, in an elision between the deity and the cultic object meant to represent the deity). When the texts refer to an object, it often appears in close proximity to Yhwh’s own altar. Biblical Hebrew does not usually affix pronominal suffixes to personal names. This has led to suggestions that 'his Asherah' in this inscription might mean the cultic object, rather than the goddess. A few other inscriptions associate Yhwh and Asherah; two inscriptions from Kuntillet ‘Arjud provide an especially useful comparison, as they also refer to 'Yhwh and his Asherah'.*Ghost-letters are traces of letters that can be seen on an inscription but are not properly incised into it. They are often detected by modern cameras that pick up details the human eyes cannot see. Some of the ghost letters on this inscription were probably caused by a person in antiquity tracing the letters with a fingernail, or perhaps a stick.