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Biblical Archaeology Review 49:2, Summer 2023

Shifting Borders? The Benyaw Inscription from Abel Beth Maacah

By Robert A. Mullins

Five faded letters inscribed on a storage jar is all the textual evidence we have from ninth-century BCE Abel Beth Maacah in the far north of Israel. However, this short and unassuming text may shed new light on ancient Israel’s borders as we know them.1

The biblical site of Abel Beth Maacah (2 Samuel 20:14-22; 1 Kings 15:20; 2 Kings 15:29) is a prominent 25-acre mound in the northern part of the Hula Valley not far from the Israel-Lebanon border. Located at the crossroads of ancient Israel, Aram-Damascus, and Phoenicia, this region likely shifted its political allegiance many times, especially during the tenth and ninth centuries as these kingdoms were expanding and competing with one another.

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