The Yavneh-Yam Ostracon


DESCRIPTION
Language: Hebrew
Medium: ostracon (pottery)
Size: 20 centimeters high
16.5 centimeters wide
Length: 14 lines of writing
Genre: Letter of
Official Petition
Approximate Date: 639–609 BCE
Place of Discovery:
Mesad Hashavyahu
(near Yavneh-Yam, on the
Mediterranean coast)
Date of Discovery: 1960
Excavator: Joseph Naveh
Current Location: Israel Museum
(Jerusalem)




TRANSLITERATION

(Adapted from Gibson 1973:28)
TRANSLATION
by K. C. Hanson
(Adapted from Albright 1969:320)
1. YMc 'DNY HSR

2. 'T DBR cBDH cBDK

3. QSR HYH cBDK BH

4. SR 'SM WYQSR cBDK

5. WYKL W'SM KYMM LPNY B

6. T K'R KL cBDK 'T QSR W'

7. SM KYMM WYB' HBYHW BN B

8. Y WYQH'T BGD cBDK K'R KLT

9. 'T QSRY ZH YMM LQH 'T BGD cBDK

10. WKL 'HY YcNW LY HQSRM 'TY BHM

11. HM 'HY YcNW LY 'MN NQTY M'

12. MH HB N' 'T BGDY W'ML' LSR LH

13. B 'T BGD cBDH WLM 'LW RHMM

14. 'M McT 'T DBR cBDK WL' TDHM N

15. [broken off]



    Transliteration of special characters
      ' = 'Aleph
      H = Heth
      T = Teth
      c = cAyin
      S = Sad

      = in
Let my lord, the governor, listen to the word of his servant. Your servant is a harvester. Your servant was in Hasar- 'Asam, and your servant harvested, and finished, and stored (the grain) during these days before the sabbath. When your servant had completed the harvest, and stored (the grain) during these days, Hoshabyahu ben-Shobi arrived, and he confiscated the garment of your servant when I had completed the harvest. It is already days since he took the garment of your servant. And all my companions can testify for me, those who are harvesting with me . . . all my companions will testify for me. If I am innocent of any wrong, [give back] my garment; and if not, it is the governor's right to [consider my case] and send word to him so that he restores the garment of your servant. And do not let [the plea of your servant] be displeasing to him . . .





DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. Discuss how this harvester's petition relates to the situations in each of the following passages: Exodus 22:25-26; Leviticus 6:1-7; Deuteronomy 24:12-17; 2 Kings 4:1-7; Amos 2:8; Proverbs 20:16.
2. Why might this have been a persistent problem in the ancient world?
3. What risks might the harvester be taking by appealing to the governor?
4. Read Ahiqar saying #77 (col. xi:171). How does the theology of the Ahiqar saying compare to the theology of Exodus 22:25-26 on pledges?
5. How does this harvester's situation resonate with the complaint of Job in 24:1-12? What sort of society do these documents presuppose?
6. Compare the sayings of Jesus on confiscation of clothing: Matt 5:40; Luke 6:29-31. What is Jesus' point? Do you think he is being literal, or is he using hyperbole (exaggeration) to make his point? How can you tell?





SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
Albright, W. F. "Palestinian Inscriptions." In Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 568-69. 3rd ed. Ed. J. B. Pritchard. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1969.
Borowski, Oded. Agriculture in Iron Age Israel. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1987.
Cross, Frank M., Jr. "Epigraphic Notes on Hebrew Documents of the Eighth—Sixth Centuries B.C.: II. The Murabba'at Papyrus and the Letter Found Near Yabneh-Yam." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 165 (1962) 34-36.
Gibson, John C. L. Textbook of Syrian Semitic Inscriptions. Volume 1: Hebrew and Moabite Inscriptions. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1973.
Hopkins, David C. The Highlands of Canaan: Agricultural Life in the Early Iron Age. Social World of Biblical Antiquity 3. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1985.
Naveh, Joseph. "A Hebrew Letter from the Seventh Century B.C." Israel Exploration Journal 10 (1960) 129-39.
Naveh, Joseph. "More Hebrew Inscriptions from Mesad Hashavyahu." Israel Exploration Journal 12 (1962) 27-32.
Pardee, Dennis. "The Juridical Plea from Mesad Hashavyahu (Yavneh-Yam): A New Philological Study." Maarav 1 (1978) 33-66.
Suzuki, Yoshihide. "A Hebrew Ostracon from Mesad Hashavyahu: A Form-Critical Reinvestigation." Annual of the Japanese Biblical Institute, Tokyo 3 (1982) 3-49.
Talmon, Shemaryahu. "The New Hebrew Letter from the Seventh Century B.C. in Historical Perspective." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 176 (1964) 29-38.




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Last Modified: 25 April 2002