The Khirbet el-Qom Inscription.

There has been considerable scholarly debate in the last few years over the Khirbet el-Qom inscription. The text was chiselled out from a pillar in a burial cave near the site of Kh. el-Qom, which has been identified with biblical Makkedah (Dorsey, p. 192). Palaeographically, the inscription dates to ca. 750 B.C. (Lemaire 1977, p. 603, and Dever 1970, p. 165; however Dever states in n. 53 that F. M. Cross prefers a date closer to 700 B.C.). Much of the debate is due to the fact that the inscription is difficult to read, for several reasons. First, besides being naturally cracked and faulted, the stone surface appears to have been poorly smoothed and prepared. The tools used to smooth the writing surface left further ridges and striations in the rock. Secondly, when the inscription was incised, the writer formed some letters with a high degree of pressure, thereby making a strong impression in the rock, but other letters were poorly formed and hardly incised at all. This leaves some letters difficult to read, as the strokes of the letters are barely distinguishable from the natural cracks and striations in the rock. Lastly, it appears that someone has retraced many of the letters, thereby leaving "ghost images". Whether this was done by the writer or some later visitor to the cave is uncertain. Many of these ghost images are faint and not deeply incised; nevertheless such a surplus of unnecessary lines makes the inscription difficult to read. All the above factors contribute to the extreme difficulty in reading and interpreting this inscription. Therefore, suitable lines could be found to support almost any interpretation, within reason. The inscription consists of four main lines, with two fragmentary lines at the bottom, which may have been added by the original writer as an afterthought, or by a later hand, as the four main lines could be considered complete in themselves. The line that most interests us here is line 3; however, the other lines will be discussed briefly as well.

Main Author: Hadley, Judith.
Language: English
Published: 1987
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