A new publication by Egyptologists and biblical scholars Manfred Görg, Peter van der Veen, and Christoffer Theis suggests that there may be an even earlier reference to Israel in the Egyptian record than that found on the Merneptah Stela. Manfred Görg discovered a broken statue pedestal (c. 18 inches high by 15.5 inches wide) containing three hieroglyphic name-rings in the Egyptian Museum of Berlin (i.e. Ashkelon, Canaan, and Israel). After studying it with colleagues Peter van der Veen, and Christoffer Theis, they suggest that the last name-ring, partially destroyed, should be read as “Israel.”5 Not all scholars agree with their reading because of slight differences in spelling,6 but Görg, van der Veen, and Theis offer strong arguments, including supportive parallels in the Merneptah Stele itself. This newly rediscovered inscription is dated to the 18th Egyptian dynasty (c. 1400 BC)—about 200 years earlier than the Merneptah Stele. If Görg, van der Veen, and Theis are right, their discovery will shed important light on the beginnings of ancient Israel. It would also allow for an early date of the exodus.7 Debate concerning the best way to understand this pedestal is still ongoing.
The princes are prostrate saying: “Shalom!”
Not one of the Nine Bows lifts his head:
Tjehenu is vanquished, Khatti at peace,
Canaan is captive with all woe.
Ashkelon is conquered, Gezer seized,
Yanoam made nonexistent;
Israel is wasted, bare of seed,
Khor is become a widow for Egypt.
All who roamed have been subdued
By the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Banere-meramun,
Son of Re, Merneptah, Content with Maat,
Given life like Re every day.
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