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A new paper published in the Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University analyzes Line 31 on the Mesha Stele (aka the Moabite Stone) which previous scholars have suggested refers to Beit David¸ the "House of David." In it, Israel Finkelstein, Nadav Na'aman, and Thomas Römer dismiss that reading and propose that it instead refers to Balak, the Moabite king from Numbers 22 and that "the Balaam story was written down later than the time of the Moabite king referred to in the Mesha Stele." The authors of the study believe there is a vertical stroke that indicates a transition between two sentences and that the letter bet should be read as the start of a name (Balak), rather than Beit (House). Not all scholars are in agreement, however. Epigrapher Andre Lemaire, who first suggested the "House of David" reading in 1992, stands by his initial interpretation. Ronald Hendel, professor of the Hebrew Bible and Jewish studies at the University of California, Berkeley, says, "We can read one letter, b, which they're guessing may be filled out as Balak, even though the following letters are missing… It's just a guess. It could be Bilbo or Barack, for all we know." He claims there is no such vertical stroke in the image, but that the line break comes later. Langlois has spent years using high resolution images and computer algorithms to perform Polynomial Texture Mapping (PTM) of the stele to create a 3-D image. Recently he used Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) – taking photos of the stele itself and the original squeeze from various angles and in different lighting to create a high-resolution backlit image of the inscription. In his upcoming article, Langlois argues that the new technology shows a previously overlooked dot, the customary way scribes at that time indicated a break between words, which comes exactly after the area interpreted "House of David," supporting Lemaire's initial reading.

Off-site Links:
- https://www.timesofisrael.com/high-tech-study-of-ancient-stone-keeps-davidic-dynasty-in-disputed-inscription/
- https://www.livescience.com/65381-mesha-stele-biblical-king.html
- https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03344355.2019.1586378

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ABRT 28 | 8/1/2019