First mention of Israel in extrabiblical sources

Merneptah Stele

Merneptah Stele

I’m currently reading Exploring Exodus by Nahum Sarna. The book is extremely interesting and I recommend reading it. I came across an interesting passage recently that I thought would be worth sharing:

The fascination that the “Stele of Merneptah” holds is due to the fact that it features the first mention of the people of Israel to be found in any extrabiblical source, and the only one, so far, to occur in any Egyptian text. It is ironic and instructive that this should be an obituary notice: “Israel is laid waste, his seed is not!” Curiously, the second mention of Israel in any extrabiblical source – that in the triumphal inscription of Mesha, king of Moab – is of a similar character. It pronounces the verdict, in the ninth century B.C.E., that “Israel has perished forever!”

Ironic indeed.

(In recent news, there are scholars claiming that an even earlier mention of Israel can be found in an Egyptian inscription dating back to around 1400BC. See here to read more.)

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