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The Old Aramaic

inscriptions from Sefire


(KAI 222-224)
And their relevance for
Biblical studies

Jaroslav Mudro
Photo-reproduction of the Stele Sefire I.

Discovery:
1930 in Sefire (a village about 22
km southeast of Aleppo in Syria),
several fragments found by M.
Dumbakly and M. Assal;
published by S. Ronzevalle, S.J.

Photo reproduction of Stele Sefire I

102 cm

72 cm

131 cm
Photo reproduction of
Sefire III
Fragments of Sefire I and
Sefire II are deposited in
Damascus Museum.
Fragments of Sefire III are in
Beirut Museum.

66 cm

34 cm

Photo reproduction of
Stele Sefire II

DUPONT-SOMMER, A. STARCKY, J., "Les inscriptions aramennes de


Sfir (stles I et II)," Memoires presentes a l'Academie des
Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres 15/1 (1960 [appeared in 1958]);
Sefire I: 1-95 (+ pls. I-XX); Sefire II: 97-125 (+ pls. XXI-XXVIII).

B C
A C

B
C

C A
FITZMYER, J.A., The Aramaic Incriptions of Sefire (Rome: Editrice PIB, 21995).

Sefire I, Face A 1:
1. DY BR GYH MLK KTK M MTL BR TRSMK MLK [RPD ]
1aday
1The

Bir-Gay malk KTK im Mat-il bar Attarsumki malk [Arpad ]

treaty of Bir-Gayh, king of KTK, with Mat-il, the son of Attarsumki, the king [of Arpad ]
754-3 BC Matiilu made
a treaty with the
Assyrian Aurnirai V.

740 BC Tiglathpileser III


conquered Aprad and
made it part of Assyrian
Empire.

Adayya Treaty
Sefire I (KAI 222)
I. The title, introducing the contracting parties

(A 1-6a)

II. The gods who are witnesses to this treaty

(A 6b-14a)

III. Curses against Mat-il, if he violates the treaty (A 14b-34)


IV. Curses with accompanying rites

(A 35-42)

V. The sacred character of the treaty

(B 1-13)

VI. The stipulations of the treaty

(B 21-29)

VII. Conclusion (confirmation by Mat-il)

(C 1-8)

VIII. Blessings

(C 15-16)

IX. Curses (general)

(C 17-24)

DY WBT
adayya wa-bta
treaty and amity (Sefire II, B 2)
Sefire II (KAI 223)

III. Curses

(A 1-9)

VI. Stipulations
(B 2-9)
(to prevent one of the sons from usurping the throne)
IX. General curse safekeeping of the inscribed treaty
1...

(C 1-17):

... [and whoever will] give 2orders to efface [th]ese inscriptions


from the 3bethels (bt-ilhay), where they are [wr]itten... 6should that (man) be
frightened from effacing the inscript[ion]s 7from the bethels... 10may [he] and his son
die in oppressive torment. 12 [... ] 13and all the gods of the [trea]ty which is in [this]
inscription will [... ] 14Mat-il and his son and his grandson 15and his offspring and
all the kings of Arpad and all its nobles 16and their people from their homes
and from 17their days. (Sefire II, C 1-17)

HN LHN QRTM LKL LHY DY ZY BSPR [ZNH]

hin lahin, aqqirta-mi la-kull ilhay adayya


bi-sipra [in]
If not so, you shall have been unfaithful to all the gods
of the treaty which is in [this] inscription (Sefire III, 4)
Inscription Sefire III (KAI 224)
VI. Stipulations
concerning the surrender of plotters
concerning the surrender of fugitives
concerning freedom of passage
concerning vengeance in the case of assassination
concerning plots against the suzerain
concerning duty in a strife for succession to the throne
concerning the reciprocal return of fugitives
concerning plots against the Suzeiran s houshold
concerning the territory of Talayim
concerning gifts (bribery)

(1-4a)
(4b-7a)
(7b-9a)
(9b-14a)
(14b-17a)
(17b-19a)
(19b-20)
(21-23a)
(23b-27)
(28-30)

Points to ponder:

Epigraphy (orthography)
Language (Old Aramaic, morphology, syntax)
History (geography, politics)
Biblical studies (biblical expresions, the conception of treaty) the peril of
simplifying, e.g.:

KITCHEN, K.A., On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids 2003) 288.

Similarities with Abraham-Jacob cycle:


Aram (
Gen 24:10;
25:20; 28:2.5-7)
II Ilyn ( Gen 14:18)
cut the treaty/covenant ( Gen 15:18)
ritual of cutting animals (Gen 15:9-10)
Bethel and a stele ( Gen 28:18; v.19) // naba (Sefire I, C 17)
Jacob and Laban made a covenant: (Laban said)... let us make a covenant (
) , you and I, and let it be a witness ( ) between you and me. (Gen 31:44)
Aramaic-Hebrew names of the heap of stones (where the treaty was made):



And Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed. (Gen 31:47)
The Aramaic term HD /hid/ (witness), that corresponds to Hebrew , appears also in the
Sefire I (A 12): All the god[s of KTK and the gods of Ar]pad (are) witnesses (HDN /hidn/)
(to it).

Theology of the Treaty:


made in the presence of the gods (Sefire I)
invocation to the gods (Sefire I)
curses as part of the Treaty (Sefire I)
rituals (Sefire I, II)
blessings from the gods (Sefire I)
unfaithfullness against the gods of the Treaty (Sefire III)

DUPONT-SOMMER, A. STARCKY, J., "Les inscriptions aramennes de Sfir


(stles I et II)," Memoires presentes a l'Academie des Inscriptions et BellesLettres 15/1 (1960 [appeared in 1958]); Sefire I: 1-95 (+ pls. I-XX); Sefire II:
97-125 (+ pls. XXI-XXVIII).
DUSSAUD, R. "Nouvelles inscriptions aramennes de Sfir, prs d'Alep."
Comptes rendus des sances de l'Acadmie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres 4
(1931) 312-321.
FITZMYER, J.A., The Aramaic Incriptions of Sefire (Rome: Editrice PIB, 21995).
KITCHEN, K.A., On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids 2003).