Thursday, July 7, 2011

Archaeological Evidence For Bilam

Reconstruction of The Deir Alla Plasters regarding Bilam
Bilam  (Balaam) happens to be one of the few characters that has archaeological evidence of his existence, outside the Torah. According to Wikipedia:

The Deir 'Alla Inscription (or Bala'am Son of Be'or Inscription) was the product of a 1967 excavation in Deir 'AllaJordan. The excavation revealed a many-chambered structure that had also been destroyed by earthquake, during the Persian period at the site, on the wall of which was written a previously unknown prophecy by the seer and prophet Bala'am, son of Be'or, who may be the same Bala'am mentioned in Numbers 22-24 and in other passages of the Bible.[1]The inscription was written in an unattested peripheral local dialect, with Aramaic and South Canaanite characteristics, which employed an idiosyncratic script.[2] The inscription is datable to ca. 840-760 BCE; it was painted in inks[3] on fragments of a plastered wall: 119 pieces of inked plaster were recovered. The wall, near the summit of the tell, was felled by yet another tremor.[4

Actual picture of the Plasters On which The Writing Was Found
What is actually written is actually in some dispute, due to the fact that the plaster it was written on has crumbled over the centuries, and the reconstruction can lead to many differnt readings. What seems clear though is that we are told of some apocolypse that has been diverted. This is not the story told in the Torah, but rather a differnt story of Bilam.

Here is the text as brought in wikipedia:

(1) [VACAT] The sa]ying[s of Bala]am, [son of Be]or, the man who was a seer of the gods. Lo! Gods came to him in the night [and spoke to] him (2) according to these w[ord]s. Then they said to [Bala]am, son of Beor, thus: Let someone make a [ ] hearafter, so that [what] you have hea[rd may be se]en!" (3) And Balaam rose in the morning [ ] right hand [ ] and could not [eat] and wept (4) aloud. Then his people came in to him [and said] to Balaam, son of Beor, "Do you fast? [ ] Do you weep?" And he (5) said to them, "Si[t] do]wn! I shall inform you what the Shad[daying have done]. Now come, see the deeds of the g[o]ds!. The g[o]ds have gathered (6) and the Shaddayin have taken their places in the assembly and said to Sh[ , thus:] 'Sew the skies shut with your thick cloud! There let there be darkness and no (7) perpetual shining and n[o] radiance! For you will put a sea[l upon the thick] cloud of darkness and you will not remove it forever! For the swift has (8) reproached the eagle, the voice of vultures resounds. The st[ork has ] the young of the NHS-bird and ripped up the chicks of the heron. The swallow has belittled (9) the dove, and the sparrow [ ] and [ ] the staff. Instead of ewes the stick is driven along. Hares have eaten (10) [ ]. Freemen [] have drunk wine, and hyenas have listened to instruction. The whelps of the (11) f[ox] laughs at wise men, and the poor woman has mixed myrhh, and the priestess (12) [ ] to the one who wears a girdle of threads. The esteemed esteems and the esteemer is es[teemed. ] and everyone has seen those things that decree offspring and young. (15) [ ] to the leopard. The piglet has chased the young (16) [of] those who are girded and the eye ....'"
I've never quite figured out why this writing is not mentioned more often among the religious community, as finding evidence of a charecter from the Torah would seem to be a big deal. 
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