Old Aramaic inscription from the 9th century BCE.
Tel Dan

Tel Dan inscription

General consensusEdit

Upright stone slab in three fragments, written in in Old Aramaic. It was found in Dan in 1993-1994, broken and re-used in a wall. From around 840 BCE when various kingdoms were rebelling against Israel to regain lost territory. Celebrates the victory of an Aramean king, probably Hazael, king of Damascus (842-805 BCE) over Yahweh and J(eh)oram, son of Ahab (Israel) and Ahaziah, son of J(eh)oram (Judea). Ahaziah is of bytdwd “house of David”. See: 2 Kgs 8:25-29 and 2 Chron 22:5-9.

Victory is credited to Aramean god Hadad. Corresponds to Biblical accounts of the prophet Elisha.

According to Stager, the identification of David is significant because it counters the “radical revisionists” who say that the story of the united kingdom is a novel from the Maccabean era. These radical revisionists were unsuccessful in convincing others that the stele does not really signify this, and some of them have even claimed it is a forgery. Stager claims it isn’t because it was found in a carefully supervised excavation. It indicates that Hazael took Dan, but that the Israelites recovered that city. (Stager, “Patrimonial Kingdom, 63-64, Campbell, “A Land Divided” OHBW 279-280)

The identification of David would lend extra-biblical weight to his existence and the 10th century Israelite monarchy. It does, however, contradict the Biblical text in that it assigns the death of Joram to Hazael instead of Jehu’s partisans (compare 2 Ki 9:1-10-10:28).

Linguistic featuresEdit

  •  Lack of emphatic state in nouns.
  • Several instances of waw consecutive.
  • Lack of zy in all its uses.

Dissenting viewEdit

George Athas claims that

  • the inscription is from closer to 800 BCE.
  • the identification of Ahaziah is dependent on a particular and erroneous arrangement of the fragments.
  • byt dwd refers to the city state of Jerusalem.
  • the Aramean king is Hazael’s son Bar-Hada.
  • Ahaziyah is a patronym for king Joash.


Stager, Lawrence E. “Patrimonial Kingdom” In Symbiosis, Symbolism, and the Power of the Past: Canaan, Ancient Israel, and Their Neighbors from the Late Bronze Age through Roman Palaestina: Proceedings of the Centennial Symposium, W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research and the American Schools of Oriental Research, Jerusalem, May 29-May 31, 2000, edited by W.G Dever & S. Gitin, 63-74. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2003. 

Athas, George. The Tel Dan Inscription: A Reappraisal and a New Interpretation. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2003.

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