Tel Dan stele
Photo © Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Tel Dan stele
Tel Dan
9th century BCE
Israel Antiquities Authority Collection, exhibited at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem

In 1993, archaeologists working at Tel Dan in the upper Galilee discovered a stele telling of the stunning victory of Hazael, King of the Arameans, over "70 kings," including the king of the House of David. This was a major find: the oldest mention outside the Bible of the Davidic dynasty. It is all the more valuable in that it dates from barely 150 years after David took the throne.

These characters say: "House of David".

The Bible confirms these events, although its accounts differ from the stele on certain points.

Here is the translation of the stele's text:

1.   […        …] and cut […        ]
2.  And my father went up [against him when] he fought at […]
3.   […] my father lay down, he went to his [ancestors] (viz. became sick and died). And the king of I[s-]
4.   rael entered previously in my father's land. [And] Hadad made me king.
5.   And Hadad went in front of me, [and] I departed from [the] seven […-]
6.   s of my kingdom, and I slew [seve]nty kin[gs], who harnessed
thou[sands of cha-]
7.   riots and thousands of horsemen (or: horses). [I killed Jeho]ram son of [Ahab]
8.   king of Israel, and [I] killed [Ahaz]iahu son of [Jehoram kin-]
9.   g of the House of David. And I set [their towns into ruins and turned]
their land into [desolation…            ]
11. other […            and Jehu ru-]
12. led over Is[rael...        and I laid]
13. siege upon […                ]

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