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A inscription of the times of king David it has been found at Khirbet Qeiyafain, in the Valley of Elah. A 3,000-year-old ceramic vase that was broken into several fragments was found in 2012 in excavations led by Professor Yosef Garfinkel of the Institute of Archeology at the Hebrew University and Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Letters written in the ancient language of Canaan could be observed in the different fragments, thus arousing curiosity among researchers.
The investigative work was carried out in the Object Treatment Department, in the laboratories of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Hundreds of ceramic pieces were glued together to form a vase and once the reconstruction was finished, the description could be read: Eshba’al Ben Bada ’.
According to Professor Yosef Garfinkel, it is the first time that the name of Eshaba’al appears in an ancient inscription in the country. Eshba’al Ben Shaul, who ruled Israel for the same time as David, is known from biblical accounts. Eshba'al was assassinated and beheaded, and his head was taken to David in Hebron. It is interesting to note that Eshba’al's name appears in the Bible and that it now also appears in the archaeological record.
Beda's name is unique and it has not been found in ancient inscriptions or in biblical tradition.
According to the researchers, the fact that Eshba’al's name was engraved on a vase suggests that he was a person of great importance. It seems that he had been the owner of a fairly large farm and that the product he obtained was collected, packaged and transported in vases on which his name was carved. This is the proof of social stratification during the formation of the kingdom of Judea.
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Garfinkel and Ganor add: «In the second book of Samuel there is a reluctance to use the name Eshba'al, which is reminiscent of the name of the God Ba'al, and the original name changed to Ish-Bashat, but the original name of Eshba'al was preserved in the Book of Chronicles. Warlord Gideon Ben Joash's name was changed from Jerrubaal to Jerubesheth«.
Khirbet Qeiyafais identifies with the biblical city of Sha’arayim. During different seasons of excavations led by Yosef Garfinkel and Saar Ganor, they discovered a fortress city, two gates, a palace and a warehouse. In 2008 the oldest Hebrew inscription was unearthed there.
In recent years four inscriptions have been found; two from Khibet Qeiyafa, one from Jerusalem and one from Bet Shemesh. The researchers claim that these discoveries change the understanding of the distribution of writing during the kingdom of Judea and now it is clear that the writing spread in a broader way than had been thought.