LMLK Ostraca

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Personal Seals



So far, only 2 LMLK ostraca (i.e., inscribed pottery fragments) have been found, one incised/scratched found at Tell Qasile, & another written in ink recovered from Lachish.

Ostracon with a 3-line incised inscription found on the surface at Tell Qasile (near the Sea of Joppa northeast of Tel Aviv) in October, 1945, by Mr. J. Kaplan (a member of the Sheikh Abreiq archeological expedition):
LMLK 1000
oil 100
  למלך אל
שמן ומאה

Photo appears in the following publications:
  • "Biblical Archaeology" by Shalom M. Paul & William G. Dever
  • "Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land vol. 4 (O-Z)" by Michael Avi-Yonah, Ephraim Stern, Trude Dothan, & I. Dunayevsky
  • JNES vol. 10 #4 published by The University of Chicago Press
  • "L'Epigrafia Ebraica Antica" by Sabatino Moscati
  • "The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land vol. 4 (Pet-Z)" by Ephraim Stern, Trude Dothan, & Imanuel Dunayevsky
Note:  In the 1997 book, "Corpus of West Semitic Seals", editor Benjamin Sass questioned the authenticity of this & another inscribed ostracon found on the surface by Dr. R. Hoff the following year (May, 1946) because of an obviously forged seal found with it, & a similar seal bought in Jerusalem that is now at the Israel Museum (#68.35.193).  It may be that this LMLK ostracon was genuine, & prompted someone to forge the other artifacts the following year; or the LMLK ostracon may have been forged in 1945 to draw attention to the site.  Benjamin Maisler excavated the site from 1948-1950 & did not recover any epigraphic material.

"Lachish Letter" #5, excavated from Lachish in February of 1935 by the Wellcome-Marston team led by James Leslie Starkey (Field No. 4026; British Museum No. 125703), has been translated slightly differently by 3 experts:

Harry Torczyner, 1938, "Lachish I (Tell ed-Duweir), The Lachish Letters"
David Diringer, 1953, "Lachish III (Tell ed-Duweir), The Iron Age, Text"
Andre Lemaire, 2004, "The Renewed Archaeological Excavations at Lachish Volume IV"
May Yhwh let hear my [lord] 1 ישמע יהוה [א]ת [אד]ני
May YHWH [let hear] my [lord] 1 [ישמע יהוה [את.אד]נ[י
May YHWH let my lord hear 1 ישמע יהוה [א]ת אדני
[tid]ings of [peace] & good, [even 2 [שמ]עת . [שלם וטב . עת]
[tidings of peace & good, this very 2 . שמעת . שלם וטב [עת
tidings of good & tidi[ngs of pe]a- 2 שמעת|טב|ושמ[עת|ש]ל
now, even now.]  Who is thy slave 3 כים . עת כים .] מי עבדך]
day, this very day!]  Who is thy servant 3 כים . עת . כים] מי . עבדך
ce this very da[y]!  Who is your servant 3 |מ|]עת|כי[מ|]מי|עבדכ]
a dog, that thou [hast s]ent to thy sla- 4 כלב כי [של]חת אל עבד
(but) a dog, that thou [hast sent to thy ser- 4 כלב --- [שלחת .] אל . עבד
(but) a dog, that you have sent to your servant 4 כלב|כי|[ש]לחת[|]אל|עבד
ve the le[tters of ... yahu]? 5 ך] את ס[פרי] ס -- יהו]
vant the letters........? 5 -------- את - ה --
the letters thus? 5 כ את|הספרמ|כזא
[Now] has thy slave returned the let- 6 עת] השב . עבדך הספר]
[Now] thy servant hath returned the let- 6 השב . עבדך . הספר --
Your servant (herewith) return the letters 6 ת|השב|עבדכ|הספר
ters to my lord.  May Yh- 7 ם אל אדני . ידע[נ]ך
ters to my lord.  May YH- 7 ם . אל . אדני . י(ראך) י
to my lord.  May YHWH let you enjoy 7 מ|אל אדני|יראכ|י
wh let thee know [what happen- 8 הוה ------ מ
WH let [see]............ 8 -------- . - הו
a prosperous harvest 8 הוה|הקצר|בטב
ed] what it is.  What has thy slave that he should 9 ה . מה לעבדך . יא
H.  What hath thy servant that he [could] 9 - ה . מה . לעבדך . י
today!  Will Tobiah bring 9 הימ|האל|עבדכ|י[ב]א
curse in (the name of) Yhw seed to the king? 10 ר . ביהו . זרע למלך
[benefit/injure] the king 10 טב ? [הו/ח/א] . ירע . למלך
royal grain to your servant? 10 טביהו|זרע|למלך
Photo of a replica based on a speculative interpretation of the faded original (note that some letters as they appear on this replica may not accurately represent the original contents):

"Now therefore, the wheat, the barley, the oil, & the wine which my lord has spoken of, let him send to his servants."--2Chronicles 2:15
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This page was created on June 11, 2002, & last updated on June 4, 2005