The Merneptah Stele

Merneptah was a Pharaoh who ruled over Egypt in the late 13th century B.C. In 1896, renowned British archaeologist Flinders Petrie discovered a stone slab engraved with a description of Merneptah’s military victories in Africa and the Near East at Thebes. The inscription on the “Merneptah Stele” is significant because it likely contains the earliest known reference to the Israelites outside the Bible. The mention is short, simply saying, “Israel is laid waste, its seed is not.” Despite its brevity, the reference affirms a group identified as Israel was significant enough to be included among Pharaoh Merneptah’s conquests. The mention of Israel identifies them as a people, rather than as a city-state. Many scholars point to the period of the Judges as reflecting this set of tribal groups without a central city. Brought to you by Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.

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