Avraham Hay

Enigmatic Hebrew inscriptions, dated to about 800 B.C.E., appear on plaster walls and storage jars excavated at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud, in northeastern Sinai. The inscription painted in two lines across the upper left of this broken storage jar from the site (shown here; compare with drawing of storage jar inscription) reads: “I bless you by Yahweh of Samaria and by his asherah.” The interpretation of this inscription that is now generally accepted understands “asherah” to mean a sacred tree or grove. This interpretation regards both standing figures as the Egyptian demigod Bes and the seated Iyre player as just an ordinary musician. The inscription exhibits the pagan beliefs of the popular eighth-century religion, which was a target for the prophets’ condemnation and for King Hezekiah’s religious reforms (2 Kings 18:4).