Is This The Father Of the Prophet?

Inscribed pot rim from Jerusalem

Photo: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority

Uziel and Zanton read this . . . r(?)yhw bn bnh and suggest that it might be understood as “[Zecha]riah the son of Benaiah (ריהו בן בניה),” a name mentioned in 2 Chronicles 20:14. The Israel Antiquities Authority announcement is at least a little equivocal on this, “The first letter of the ceramic bowl’s partially preserved inscription in ancient Hebrew script is broken and is therefore difficult to read, but appears to be the letter ר;” “The most similar name to our inscription is Zechariah the son of Benaiah, the father of the Prophet Jahaziel [Emphases added].” And Uziel and Zanton say, “If we consider the possibility that we are dealing with an unvowelized or ‘defective’ spelling of the name בניה (Benaiah), then what we have before us is the name ‘…ריהו בן בניה’ [[Emphases added].”
The article itself points to the two largest problems with the identification. The spelling of בניה is defective and the first readable letter may not be an r. In fact, what can be read of it looks very similar to the two unquestionable bs in the inscription. Notice that the tail extends across the lower part of the y like the other two bs extent across the lower part of the following ns. If I am correct and I may not be, the tail of an r generally extends straight down. So I read the inscription as . . . b(?)yhw bn bnh and understand it as meaning . . . well, I’m not sure what it means.

3 thoughts on “Is This The Father Of the Prophet?”

  1. BNH is not, strictly speaking, a “defective” spelling of Benaiah, because the yod is not a mater lectionis in this context: it represents a glide, not a vowel.

  2. Concerning the disparate sizes of the bs mentioned several posts above: the two hs are also different in size, with the h on the right side being smaller and more cramped than the other. So it would make sense that the possible b is also more cramped.
    At first glance, I wondered what might make one think that the line we see is meant to be fully read from right to left (besides the obvious matter of the language, and possibly the content) – but the mention of the cramped letters leading up to bn is curious. Is it more natural to begin cramped and then enlarge as one writes, or is it more natural that perhaps the scribe ran out of space and began cramping letters near the end? Could the word that begins on the right be the end of the inscription?
    Are there normally marks denoting an end in such inscriptions, or does context dictate how one should begin to read such a bowl? It could be dependent on the length of the inscription.
    Anyways – the entire thing is a fun puzzle to work out, probably with no definite answer to be reached. 🙁

  3. Matthew, the stance of letters makes it certain that this inscription should be read from right to left. This judgment is independent of language. No, there is general nothing other than blank space or the unbroken edge of the media that denotes the end of such an inscription. In this case, I doubt it is possible to be completely certain that the h to the left is the last letter of the inscription but the relative amount of space after it may well mark the end.

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