The Merneptah Stele and Ancient Israel

Look at that, they have a stele — whatever that is. I had to look up that word. A stele is an ancient monument that was put up for to commemorate various important occasions. They were sometimes made of wood. A stone stele was a big slab engraved with writing, so it was obviously too much trouble to make for casual reasons.

The Merneptah Stele was established by Egyptians to celebrate several military victories, and it also mentions military victories over Judah. So who what was Merneptah the pharaoh?

A stele was an ancient monument, engraved to commemorate various events. The stele of pharaoh Merneptah describes military activity and mentions Judah
Merneptah Stele, Wikimedia Commons / Onceinawhile (CC BY-SA 4.0), enhanced
It is interesting and useful when artefacts corroborate biblical history, but our faith is not established by evidence. Nor is it destroyed by the apparent lack of evidence. On a related subject, see "Lack of Evidence, Lack of Faith."

Ancient Egypt did not follow modern practices of laying out history. Some of it was...truly bizarre, a fact acknowledged by secularists as well as Bible believers. Some archaeologists use faulty Egyptian chronologies to disparage the Bible, but newer methods are able to make greater sense of the dates the Egyptians recorded.

It is probable that the Merneptah Stele describes the military activity in Judah. Several parts of the content fit together to support this idea. There are a few candidates for Merneptah's identity in the Bible, including Shishak and Ramesses II, with the weakest claim for Ramesses III. Also, this monument helps provide insight into geopolitics back then.

The Merneptah Stele . . .  is most famous for its inscription that lists conquests of Israel and several Canaanite or Philistine city-states by the 19th Dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah. It is conventionally dated at 1213 to 1203 BC but with a Revised Egyptian Chronology (REC) date of sometime between 940 and 890 BC. Many archaeologists consider this the only mention of Israel in Egyptian texts, but a much more recent find has called that into question. The pertinent part of the stele, which deals with Israel/Canaan, states, “Canaan is captive with all woe. Ashkelon is conquered, Gezer seized, Yanoam [likely the area of Bashan in present day Syria and the Golan Heights area of northern Israel] made nonexistent; Israel is laid waste, bare of seed.” The inscribed name of Israel . . .  is usually transliterated as “Ysyriar” or “Isrir.”

To read the entire article, dig into "The Merneptah Stele."