Maryl Levine

THE OLD STANDARD. The well-known Merneptah Stele is a monumental inscribed stone that was set up to commemorate the military conquests of Pharaoh Merneptah. The hieroglyphic inscription, which dates to 1210–1205 B.C.E., mentions that the king wiped out a people called “Israel.” It is widely considered the oldest extrabiblical reference to Israel. The pedestal inscription that may now claim that honor finds support in the Merneptah Stele itself. The two name-rings that accompany the purported “Israel” prisoner are identified as Ashkelon and Canaan (or possibly Gaza). Not only does the geographical proximity of these places strengthen the “Israel” reading, but Ashkelon and Canaan are also mentioned adjacent to the Israel verse on the Merneptah Stele. The parallel use of these three names together in another hieroglyphic inscription makes the identification on the Berlin slab even more likely.