ISRAEL’S DEBUT. Dated to c. 1219 B.C.E., the Merneptah Stele is the earliest extrabiblical record of a people group called Israel. Set up by Pharaoh Merneptah to commemorate his military victories, the stele proclaims, “Ashkelon is carried off, and Gezer is captured. Yeno’am is made into nonexistence; Israel is wasted, its seed is not.” Ashkelon, Gezer and Yeno’am are followed by an Egyptian hieroglyph that designates a town. Israel is followed by a hieroglyph that means a people (detail shown here).