Eli Shukron and Gershon Galil have announced the identification of several stone inscriptions from Hezekiah in and around Jerusalem’s ancient water system. Remarkably, one of their newly identified inscriptions is at the end of Hezekiah’s tunnel, just below the spot where the original Siloam inscription was cut away more than a century ago. No one has noticed the additional text before due, according to Galil, to heavy erosion.
The first lines of the inscription are in Istanbul but here is Galil’s translation of the Siloam inscription’s other lines still on the wall of Hezekiah’s tunnel.
9. of king Hezekiah, he brought ˹the˺ water into the city, ˹the ki˺ng ˹l˺e˹d˺
10. the water into the pool. Hezekiah smote ˹the˺ Philistines
11. from Ekron to Gaza and placed ˹the O˺RE[B] unit [o]f the army of ˹Ju˺dah
12. there. He braked the images and removed the high places, braked in pieces the Nehushtan, and cut down
13. the Asherah. He accumulated in his treasure houses and in the house of YHWH
silver and gold, perfumes and good ointment.
Galil has also identified additional words in the original cut-away portion of the Siloam inscription, including the names Hezekiah, Ahaz, and Judah.
One of the other inscriptions is located near the Canaanite Pool. Galil translates it as follows.
1. Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, king of Judah,
2. made the pool and the conduit.
3. In the seventeenth year, in the second (day), in the fourth (month),
4. of king Hezekiah, the king brought
5. the water into the city by a tunnel, the king led
6. the water into the pool. He smote the Philistines
7. from Ekron to Gaza and placed there the OREB unit of
8. the army of Judah. He braked the images and braked in ˹pieces˺ the Nehu˹sh˺tan
9. and he removed the high ˹places and˺ cut down the Asherah. Hezek˹ia˺h, the king,
10. accumulated in all his treasure houses and in the house of YHWH
11. a lot of silver and gold, perfumes and good ointment.
Galil notes these translations read very much like biblical texts in 1 Kings 18 and 20, and goes on to suggest these 8th century BC inscriptions could be called “the earliest manuscripts of the Bible.” That’s quite a way to describe them, and sure to excite some passions.
The big issue I and some others have is that this announcement is huge, if correct, yet was not made known through peer review in an established journal. It’s certainly possible these scholars don’t have everything right, yet no one’s had opportunity to verify the claims. What if Shukron and Galil end up being wrong about something? Perhaps something significant? Too late! The cat’s out of the bag. Good luck getting any corrected information into circulation. Unpublished announcements that claim to confirm the Bible risk a backlash if there are mistakes or errors – even unintentional ones.
If all of this is correct, then wonderful. As a biblical Believer, I’ll be as happy as anyone. For those who have put on patience and self-control, let’s give this some time for evaluation and verification before starting to use it in our teaching – especially anything involving evidence for the Bible.
Addendum: This information comes directly from posts Gershon has made on his Facebook page. He also has a video with himself and Shukron in the tunnels discussing these inscriptions. You may watch it here, though be advised it’s in Hebrew. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTY75OCWHa0. This announcement is also showing up in Israeli media. Give it another day to start appearing in Western news sources.
Luke, you are absolutely right to urge caution in approaching this story! May I ask what your source(s) are for what you’ve written so far? All I’ve seen thus far on-line is The Jewish Press, a U.S.-based publication, and something called the Armstrong Institute of Biblical Archaeology, founded less that a year ago by the editor of a U.S. magazine, “The Trumpet”. It all sounds pretty squishy to me.
Shukron and Galil need to tell the whole story, and fast: What was the nature of their renewed work around the Siloam Inscription site, and when was it done? Who were they working for? Do they have photographic evidence to present? 3-D scans maybe? The idea of additional lines of text continuing below the original Siloam Inscription is simply counter-intuitive, since anyone who’s been there knows the original carving was placed exactly where one would expect, at arm-height above the tunnel floor. So, did the ancient engravers squat/ kneel/ sit down in order to engrave the rest? Again, squishy.
By the way, I recognize the photo you have posted. It was indeed identified as a text frame — about a dozen years ago! — by Reich and Shukron, but described then as “empty”. Now, all of a sudden it has letters! It is located where the so-called “Tunnel IV” of the Gihon system connects with the bottom of the “Rock-Cut Pool” (aka “Canaanite Pool”, apparently). This is all quite arcane, I know, but it goes back to their attempted re-dating of Hezekiah’s Tunnel, and thus the Siloam Inscription, to almost a century earlier, which would in fact break the traditional association of both with Hezekiah. Now Shukron wants Hezekiah back, I guess. Anyway, that R&S article is: “The Date of the Siloam Tunnel Reconsidered”, Tel Aviv: Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University, Vol. 38, No. 2, Nov. 2011 , pp. 147-157. (I just discovered I have a PDF copy of it; anyone interested can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
I will stop there for now and wait for some of the dust to settle…
TOM POWERS / Waynesville, NC
Hi Tom, I’ve read the information so far on Gershon Galil’s Facebook page. From his posts, he did an Israeli TV interview on this the evening of Dec 13, a Hebrew post on his page yesterday (Wednesday, Dec 14) and an English post on his page today (Dec 15). He also has this YouTube link to a video with himself and Eli Shukron in the tunnels. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTY75OCWHa0
The story is now in today’s Jerusalem Post.
Brother Chandler, thanks for this post. You are correct. It is rational to advise cauti