Biblical Archaeology Review 38:6, November/December 2012

Strata: How Many

How many Old Hebrew inscriptions from the Iron Age mention YHWH (sometimes spelled “Yahweh”), the personal name of the Israelite God?

Answer: More than 40

The divine name YHWH, or “Yahweh,” occurs about 40 times in the corpus of provenanced Iron Age Old Hebrew inscriptions (almost 20 of those occurrences are at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud; see article in this issue).

Two of the most exciting examples are the late-seventh-century B.C.E. amulets excavated in the tombs of Ketef Hinnom.a These tiny inscribed plaques—with letters only a few millimeters high—contain some of the earliest extra-Biblical references to the Israelite God Yahweh and some of the oldest known references to Biblical passages. The texts of both amulets echo the priestly blessing of Numbers 6:24–26 (“The Lord [YHWH] bless you and keep you …”), and one amulet also contains a variation of Deuteronomy 7:9 (“Know therefore that the Lord [YHWH] your God is God …”).

There are additional occurrences of the divine name Yahweh from the Iron Age in the corpus of unprovenanced Old Hebrew inscriptions, and there are scores of personal names with Yahwistic theophoric endings (again, see Kuntillet ‘Ajrud article).

Our thanks to Professor Christopher A. Rollston of Emmanuel Christian Seminary for his assistance compiling this answer.—Ed.

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