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Biblical Archaeology Review 49:3, Fall 2023

Controversial Curse: Mt. Ebal Tablet Published

In early 2022, a research team led by scholars from the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR) announced the discovery of a small lead tablet from Mt. Ebal that they claim contains the oldest extant Hebrew inscription.a Now, more than a year later, a peer-reviewed article presenting one part of the inscription has been published.1 Yet, even with this long-awaited publication, serious questions remain. Many scholars are dubious about whether the tablet features an inscription at all, while others continue to highlight the problematic circumstances surrounding its recovery.

The research team dates the tablet inscription to the Late Bronze Age II period (c. 1400–1200 BCE) and identifies it as a legal text and curse invoking the Israelite deity Yahweh. They connect it directly to the covenant renewal ceremony on Mt. Ebal, described in Deuteronomy 27 and Joshua 8. Moreover, they believe the inscription predates the earliest known Hebrew inscription by several hundred years and proves that certain books of the Hebrew Bible could have been written hundreds of years earlier than previously thought.

Although the tablet’s publication has made headlines around the world, the inscription continues to be met with skepticism from many scholars.

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