Jurgen Liepe

“Israel is laid waste, his seed is not” declares the Merneptah Stele—somewhat prematurely. The reference to Israel, the earliest known mention of the people outside the Bible, appears on the stele’s second-to-last line (shown in detail on the insert). The 7.5-foot-high monument was erected in the funerary temple in Thebes of Pharaoh Merneptah, who ruled from 1213 to 1203 B.C. William Dever states in the accompanying interview that this reference provides persuasive evidence against those minimalists who argue that there was no distinct people called the Israelites until after the Babylonian Exile (sixth century B.C.) or even later. If the pharaoh of Egypt knew them by the name Israelites and felt that a victory against them was worth boasting about, the people must have had a national identity at least by the end of the 13th century B.C.