Archaeology news: 2,700-year-old ‘magic hand’ carving dated to biblical Kingdom of Judah

A «MAGIC HAND» carved into an ancient stone slab found by archaeologists in the West Bank has been dated to the biblical Kingdom of Judah.

The unusual artefact was unearthed in a tomb at Khirbet el-Qom, an archaeological site in what is the modern-day West Bank. But about 3,000 years ago, this would have been the biblical Kingdom of Judah — an Iron Age nation that occupied the southern Levant, south of the Kingdom of Israel. Archaeologists removed the slab from a pillar after recognising six lines of text chiselled into the stone in a form of bygone Hebrew.

Even more intriguingly, a large human hand was carved into the pillar, just below the inscriptions.

Experts speculate the «magic hand» held religious or spiritual significance, with possible links to ancient pagan beliefs.

The slab has been dated to about 750 BC, before the Assyrian conquest of the northern Kingdom of Israel.

At the time, the Kingdom of Judah was under the reign of the «cursed» King Uzziah, who held power between 783 and 742 BC or 790 and 739 BC.

Dr Titus Kennedy, a professor of biblical archaeology at Shepherds Theological Seminary, described the discovery in his book Unearthing the Bible: 101 Archaeological Discoveries That Bring the Bible to Life.

He wrote: «The inscription mentions that the author, Uriyahu (a name meaning ‘my light is Yahweh’), was blessed ‘by Yahweh and by His asherah,’ and ‘from his enemies He saved him.’

«The hand symbol may have had a spiritual significance, perhaps as the ‘magic hand’ connected to divinity worship according to parallels from religious iconography found in the Middle East and Carthage, or it may have been connected to the metaphorical phrase ‘Hand of Yahweh’ which was used in ancient Israel and is found in several books of the Bible.»

The inscriptions also mention the ancient goddess Asherah, who according to some Semitic traditions, was the wife of Yahweh.

This interpretation, however, is disputed and there is no clear answer in sight.

According to researchers at the University of Nottingham, the term Asherah refers to either a goddess or an object — maybe even both at times.

It has, therefore, been suggested Asherah is some form of religious object, rather than a deity.

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Dr Kennedy argued in his book that ancient passages in the Old Testament point towards Asherah being a wooden object, like a pole or a tree.

This object may have at times been used to represent Yahweh Himself — but not his consort.

The expert wrote: «At Kuntillet Ajrud in the northeastern Sinai peninsula, a similar ninth century BCE inscription was discovered on a piece of pottery, also referring to ‘Yahweh and his Asherah’.

«The use of a wooden pole or tree as an idol associated with Yahweh has been documented in the books of Kings and Chronicles from the ninth through the seventh centuries BCE as an object which kings such as Asa, Hezekiah, and Josiah cut down and burned.»

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