Fresh Evidence Comes to Light of the Earliest Known Mention of King David

Dating to the 9th-century BCE and written in a language and alphabet very similar to biblical Hebrew, the inscription on the Mesha Stele describes King Mesha of Moab’s victory over the king of Israel—paralleling a story told in 2Kings 3. The text makes repeated reference to King Omri, who according to the Hebrew Bible was the sixth ruler of the northern kingdom of Israel, which broke away from the southern kingdom of Judah after the death of Solomon. The Jerusalem Post reports on new evidence in a scholarly debate about whether the stele also mentions an earlier biblical monarch:

The text contains allusions to the Israelite god [and perhaps to] the “house of David” and the “altar of David.” However, until today, scholars could not be entirely sure that these references to King David were being correctly deciphered.

The stele was discovered in fragments in 1868 roughly fifteen miles east of the Dead Sea and currently resides in the Louvre Museum in Paris. While it was damaged in 1869, a papier-mâché impression, [known as a “squeeze”], of the inscription was captured before the damage occurred.

The Moabite phrase “House of David” consists of five letters: bt dwd. Bt is similar to today’s Hebrew word for house—bayit—which is beit in its construct form, [meaning “house of”]. And dwd can be thought of like modern Hebrew’s daled vav (the letter, in this case, is actually waw) daled which spells the name “David.”

[In] 2018, the Louvre took new, high-resolution pictures [of the original] and projected light onto them coming directly through the 150-year-old squeeze paper. Thus, researchers were able to glean a much clearer picture of the ancient records. This . . . is how they were able to see evidence of the other three letters, taw (like modern Hebrew tav), dalet, and dalet.

A new translation of the entire stele by one of these scholars can be found here.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, King David

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security