Juergen Liepe

“Israel is laid waste and his seed is not” reads the hieroglyphic text in the second line from the bottom of the Merneptah stela, also known as the Israel stela. Discovered at the funery temple of Pharaoh Merneptah (ruled c. 1213–1203 B.C.) in Thebes, this 7.5-foot-high granite monolith recounts Merneptah’s campaigns in Canaan, where he defeated a people called Israel in Canaan’s central highlands.

Dating to about 1209 B.C., the monolith contains the earliest reference to Israel, and is indispensable for dating Biblical events for which there is scant, or even nonexistent, extra-Biblical evidence. From 1209 B.C., using the Biblical text and other information, we can count backward to the time of the patriarchs and forward to the Exodus and the later emergence of the Israelite monarchy.