The Siloam Inscription (ca. 700 BCE)

The Siloam Inscription (ca. 700 BCE)

BiblicalHebrew.com, 2022

The Siloam Tunnel inscription is one of the most famous ancient Hebrew inscriptions extant today. It was originally discovered (by accident) in 1880 near the end of the Siloam Tunnel in what has come to be known today as the “City of David,” which is on the southeastern edge of the Old City of Jerusalem. The inscription commemorates the final moments of the excavation of Hezekiah’s tunnel. The reason this tunnel has been so named is because it seems to correlate with the biblical account of Hezekiah diverting the waters of the Gihon spring so that the pool would be accessible within the walls of the city ahead of the Assyrian invasion (see 2 Kgs. 20:20; Isa. 22:9–11; 2 Chr. 32:3–5, 30). It is also possible, however, that this tunnel was excavated well in advance of such an impending threat. The language of the inscription is in a literary register and records (with great suspense and excitement) the meeting of the two teams of diggers when the tunnel was finally completed. As such, the inscription titles itself דבר] הנקבה ‘the matter of the breakthrough’ (Aḥituv 2008, 19–22). The inscription reads as follows:

Original Text

𐤃𐤁𐤓] 𐤄𐤍𐤒𐤁𐤄. 𐤅𐤆𐤄. 𐤄𐤉𐤄. 𐤃𐤁𐤓. 𐤄𐤍𐤒𐤁𐤄. 𐤁𐤏𐤅𐤃 [𐤄𐤇𐤑𐤁𐤌 𐤌𐤍𐤐𐤌 𐤀𐤕

𐤄𐤂𐤓𐤆𐤍. 𐤀𐤔. 𐤀𐤋. 𐤓𐤏𐤅. 𐤅𐤁𐤏𐤅𐤃. 𐤔𐤋𐤔. 𐤀𐤌𐤕. 𐤋𐤄𐤍[𐤒𐤁 𐤍𐤔𐤌]𐤏. 𐤒𐤋. 𐤀𐤔. 𐤒

𐤓]𐤀 𐤀𐤋. 𐤓𐤏𐤅. 𐤊𐤉. 𐤄𐤉𐤕. 𐤆𐤃𐤄. 𐤁𐤑𐤓. 𐤌𐤉𐤌𐤍[] 𐤅𐤌[𐤔𐤌]𐤀𐤋. 𐤅𐤁𐤉𐤌. 𐤄

𐤍𐤒𐤁𐤄. 𐤄𐤊𐤅. 𐤄𐤇𐤑𐤁𐤌. 𐤀𐤔. 𐤋𐤒𐤓𐤕. 𐤓𐤏𐤅. 𐤂𐤓𐤆𐤍. 𐤏𐤋 [𐤂]𐤓𐤆𐤍. 𐤅𐤉𐤋𐤊𐤅

𐤄𐤌𐤉𐤌. 𐤌𐤍. 𐤄𐤌𐤅𐤑𐤀. 𐤀𐤋. 𐤄𐤁𐤓𐤊𐤄. 𐤁𐤌𐤀𐤕𐤉[𐤌] 𐤀𐤋𐤐. 𐤀𐤌𐤄. 𐤅𐤌[

𐤀 𐤕. 𐤀𐤌𐤄. 𐤄𐤉𐤄. 𐤂𐤁𐤄. 𐤄𐤑𐤓. 𐤏𐤋. 𐤓𐤀𐤔. 𐤄𐤇𐤑𐤁[𐤌

Transcription with Audio (Ancient Script)

Ancient ScriptHistorical PronunciationTranslation

𐤃𐤁𐤓] 𐤄𐤍𐤒𐤁𐤄

daˈbar han-naqibˈbaː

‘The matter of the
boring through’

𐤅𐤆𐤄. 𐤄𐤉𐤄. 𐤃𐤁𐤓. 𐤄𐤍𐤒𐤁𐤄

wa-ˈzeː haˈjaː
daˈbar han-naqibˈbaː

‘And this is the matter
of the boring through’

𐤁𐤏𐤅𐤃 [𐤄𐤇𐤑𐤁𐤌 𐤌𐤍𐤐𐤌 𐤀𐤕] 𐤄𐤂𐤓𐤆𐤍

ba-ˈʕawd haħ-ħoːṣiˈbiːm
miniːˈpiːm ˈʔit hag-garˈzinn

‘While the diggers were
swinging the axe’

𐤀𐤔. 𐤀𐤋. 𐤓𐤏𐤅

ˈʔiːʃ ˈʔil riˈʕeːw

‘a man toward
his companion’

𐤅𐤁𐤏𐤅𐤃. 𐤔𐤋𐤔. 𐤀𐤌𐤕. 𐤋𐤄𐤍[𐤒𐤁]

wa-ba-ˈʕawd ʃaˈloːʃ
ʔamˈmoːt la-hinnaˈqib

‘and with three cubits
left to be bored through’

𐤍𐤔𐤌]𐤏. 𐤒𐤋. 𐤀𐤔

niʃˈmaʕ ˈqoːl ˈʔiːʃ

‘the voice of a man
was heard’

𐤒[𐤓]𐤀. 𐤀𐤋. 𐤓𐤏𐤅

qoːˈriʔ ˈʔil riˈʕeːw

‘calling out to
his companion’

𐤊𐤉. 𐤄𐤉𐤕. 𐤆𐤃𐤄. 𐤁𐤑𐤓

ˈkiː haˈjaːt ziːˈdaː baṣ-ˈṣuːr

‘for there was a
misalignment in the rock’

𐤌𐤉𐤌𐤍[] 𐤅𐤌[𐤔𐤌]𐤀𐤋

mij-jaˈmiːn wa-miɬ-ɬiˈmoːl

‘on the right
and the left’

𐤅𐤁𐤉𐤌. 𐤄𐤍𐤒𐤁𐤄

wa-ba-ˈjoːm hinnaqiˈbah

‘and on the day of its
being bored through’

𐤄𐤊𐤅. 𐤄𐤇𐤑𐤁𐤌.

hikˈkuː haħ-ħoːṣiˈbiːm

‘the diggers struck’

𐤀𐤔. 𐤋𐤒𐤓𐤕. 𐤓𐤏𐤅.

ˈʔiːʃ la-qˈrat riˈʕeːw

‘a man to meet
his companion’

𐤂𐤓𐤆𐤍. 𐤏𐤋 [𐤂]𐤓𐤆𐤍

garˈzinn ˈʕal ˈgarzinn

‘axe upon axe’

𐤅𐤉𐤋𐤊𐤅 𐤄𐤌𐤉𐤌

wa-jiˈlikuː ham-ˈmajm

‘and the water flowed’

𐤌𐤍. 𐤄𐤌𐤅𐤑𐤀. 𐤀𐤋. 𐤄𐤁𐤓𐤊𐤄

min ham-mawˈṣaʔ
ˈʔil hab-bariˈkaː

‘from the outlet
to the pool’

𐤁𐤌𐤀𐤕𐤉[𐤌 𐤅]𐤀𐤋𐤐. 𐤀𐤌𐤄

ba-miʔaˈtajm
wa-ˈʔalp ʔamˈmaː

‘at two hundred
and one thousand cubits’

𐤅𐤌[𐤀]𐤕. 𐤀𐤌𐤄. 𐤄𐤉𐤄. 𐤂𐤁𐤄. 𐤄𐤑𐤓

wa-miˈʔat ʔamˈmaː
haˈjaː ˈgubh haṣ-ˈṣuːr

‘and one hundred cubits
was the height of the rock’

𐤏𐤋. 𐤓𐤀𐤔. 𐤄𐤇𐤑𐤁[𐤌

ˈʕal ˈroːʃ haħ-ħoːṣiˈbiːm

‘above the heads
of the diggers.’

Transcription with Audio (Modern Script)

Modern ScriptModern PointedTranslation

דבר] הנקבה

דְּבַר] הַנְּקִבָּה

‘The matter of the
boring through’

וזה. היה. דבר. הנקבה

וְזֶה. הָיָה. דְּבַר. הַנְּקִבָּה

‘And this is the matter
of the boring through’

בעוד [החצבם מנפם את] הגרזן

בְּעוֹד [הַחֹצְבִם מְנִפִם אֶת] הַגַּרְזֶן

‘While the diggers were
swinging the axe’

אש. אל. רעו

אִשׁ. אֶל. רֵעוֹ

‘a man toward
his companion’

ובעוד. שלש. אמת. להנ[קב

וּבְעוֹד. שָׁלֹשׁ. אַמֹּת. לְהִנָּ[קֵב

‘and with three cubits
left to be bored through’

נשמ]ע. קל. אש

נִשְׁמַ]ע. קֹל. אִשׁ.

‘the voice of a man
was heard’

קר]א. אל. רעו

. קֹרֵ]א. אֶל. רֵעוֹ

‘calling out to
his companion’

כי. הית. זדה. בצר

כִּי. הָיָת. זִדָה. בַּצֻּר

‘for there was a
misalignment in the rock’

מימן[] ומ[שמ]אל

מִיָּמִן[] וּמִ[שְּׂמֹ]אל

‘on the right
and the left’

ובים. הנקבה

וּבְיֹם. הִנָּקְבָהּ

‘and on the day of its
being bored through’

הכו. החצבם

הִכּוּ. הַחֹצְבִם

‘the diggers struck’

אש. לקרת. רעו

אִשׁ. לִקְרַת. רֵעוֹ

‘a man to meet
his companion’

גרזן. על [ג]רזן

גַּרְזֶן. עַל [גַּ]רְזֶן

‘axe upon axe’

וילכו המים

וַיֵּלְכוּ הַמַּיִם

‘and the water flowed’

מן. המוצא. אל. הברכה

מִן. הַמּוֹצָא. אֶל. הַבְּרֵכָה.

‘from the outlet
to the pool’

במאתי[ם ו]אלף. אמה

בְּמָאתַיִ[ם וְ]אֶלֶף. אַמָּה

‘at two hundred
and one thousand cubits’

ומ[א]ת. אמה. היה. גבה. הצר

וּמְ[אַ]ת. אַמָּה. הָיָה. גֹּבַהּ. הַצֻּר

‘and one hundred cubits
was the height of the rock’

על. ראש. החצב[ם

עַל. רֹאשׁ. הַחֹצְבִ[ם

‘above the heads
of the diggers.’

Commentary

הנקבה

There are several possible nominal patterns that may fit this word: */naqibbaː/ (≈ נְקִבָּה) in the qaṭillaː pattern, */naqiːbaː/ (≈ נְקִיבָה) in the qaṭiːlaː pattern, or */naqabaː/ (≈ נְקָבָה) in the *qaṭalaː pattern. Aḥituv appears to favor */naqibbaː/, the same pattern found in nouns like שְׁמִטָּה ‘release’ and כְּלִמָּה ‘humiliation’ (Aḥituv 2008, 22–23).

There can be some confusion in the rendering of the root נק״ב throughout this inscription. While Aḥituv translates it as ‘breakthrough’, a rendering like ‘breakthrough’ or ‘breach’ can be a bit problematic depending on how one understands it. In the Hebrew Bible, a ‘breakthrough’ or ‘breach’ of a wall or something like that is typically indicated by the root פר״ץ: e.g., ‏ויבאו (כתיב) וַיָּבֹא֙ (קרי) יְר֣וּשָׁלִַ֔ם וַיִּפְרֹץ֩ בְּחוֹמַ֨ת יְרוּשָׁלִַ֜ם בְּשַׁ֤עַר אֶפְרַ֙יִם֙ עַד־שַׁ֣עַר הַפִּנָּ֔ה אַרְבַּ֥ע מֵא֖וֹת אַמָּֽה׃ ‘and he came to Jerusalem and breached the wall of Jerusalem from the Gate of Ephraim to the Gate of the Corner, four hundred cubits’ (2 Kgs. 14.13). So with the root פר״ץ, one should have in mind something more like a wall that gets breached through so an army could enter in.

The root נק״ב, on the other hand, is much more like the action of a needle when sewing. It indicates a sort of ‘piercing’ or a ‘boring through’ rather than a ‘breach’: e.g., ‏ וַיִּקַּ֞ח יְהוֹיָדָ֤ע הַכֹּהֵן֙ אֲר֣וֹן אֶחָ֔ד וַיִּקֹּ֥ב חֹ֖ר בְּדַלְתּ֑וֹ ‘and Yehoyada the priest took a chest and bore a hole in its lid’ (2 Kgs. 12.10); ‏עַתָּ֡ה הִנֵּ֣ה בָטַ֣חְתָּ לְּךָ֡ עַל־מִשְׁעֶנֶת֩ הַקָּנֶ֨ה הָרָצ֤וּץ הַזֶּה֙ עַל־מִצְרַ֔יִם אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִסָּמֵ֥ךְ אִישׁ֙ עָלָ֔יו וּבָ֥א בְכַפּ֖וֹ וּנְקָבָ֑הּ ‘and now, look, you have trusted for yourself on this broken reed staff, Egypt, which if a man were to lean on it, it would come into his hand and pierce it’ (2 Kgs. 18.21); וְהַ֨מִּשְׂתַּכֵּ֔ר מִשְׂתַּכֵּ֖ר אֶל־צְר֥וֹר נָקֽוּב׃ ‘and the one who earns wages [will be] as one who earns wages into a money bag with a hole in it’ (Hag. 1.6); ‏הֲתָשִׂ֣ים אַגְמ֣וֹן בְּאַפּ֑וֹ וּ֝בְח֗וֹחַ תִּקּ֥וֹב לֶֽחֱיוֹ׃ ‘can you put a rope in his nose, or with a hook pierce his jaw?’ (Job 40.26).

This is important because it speaks to the nature of the tunnel that was dug. It was not the breaching through of a wall of sorts but rather a more precise narrow tunnel in a much larger object (i.e., the rock). The use of the root נק״ב would seem to envision the digging work more like that of a needle being pulled through a lump of clay than a heavy force knocking down a wall.

בעוד

Note that the presence of vav in this word likely indicates a preserved diphthong */ba-ʕawd/. It should be contrasted with ובים below, which reflects a contracted diphthong: i.e., */wa-ba-joːm/.

[החצבם מנפם את]

Various emendations have been suggested for this missing passage. Presumably, the verb has to have גרזן ‘axe’ as its object. There are several verbs that could apply here. The verb הֵנִיף-יָנִיף ‘wield (an axe); wave (an axe)’ is found in similar contexts in the Hebrew Bible: ‏הֲיִתְפָּאֵר֙ הַגַּרְזֶ֔ן עַ֖ל הַחֹצֵ֣ב בּ֑וֹ אִם־יִתְגַּדֵּ֤ל הַמַּשּׂוֹר֙ עַל־מְנִיפ֔וֹ ‘will the axe boast over the one who hews with it, or the saw over the one who wields it?’ (Isa. 10.15); ‏לֹא־תָנִ֥יף עֲלֵיהֶ֖ם בַּרְזֶֽל׃ ‘you shall wield no iron tool on them’ (Deut. 27.5). Aḥituv’s suggestion of the verb הֵנִיף-יָנִיף ‘wield (an axe); wave (an axe)’ does seem plausible (2008, 23).

Alternatively, the verb נִדַּח or נָדַח ‘to swing (an axe)’, which appears once in the nifʿal and once in the qal in the Tiberian tradition, might work. In one of two instances in the Hebrew Bible, the object is indicated with a preposition bet: ‏וְנִדְּחָ֨ה יָד֤וֹ בַגַּרְזֶן֙ לִכְרֹ֣ת הָעֵ֔ץ ‘and his hand swings an axe to cut down the tree’ (Deut. 19.5). In the other example, the direct object of the axe has no preposition: ‏לֹֽא־תַשְׁחִ֤ית אֶת־עֵצָהּ֙ לִנְדֹּ֤חַ עָלָיו֙ גַּרְזֶ֔ן ‘you shall not destroy its trees by swinging an axe on them’ (Deut. 20.19). Note also that the Tiberian nifʿal form could equally be vocalised as a qal: i.e., וְנִדְּחָה (nifʿal) vs. וְנָדְחָה (qal). This is, in fact, what we find in the Samaritan tradition: ונדח [wˈnɑːdɑ]. Therefore, we could also restore in the empty space [החצבם נדחם את] = [haħ-ħoːṣiˈbiːm noːdiˈħiːm ʔit] with a similar meaning.

From a syntactic perspective, the prepositional phrase בעוד ‘in; while (still)’ can be followed by a simple noun phrase expressing a duration of time (e.g., בְּע֣וֹד ׀ שְׁלֹ֣שֶׁת יָמִ֗ים יִשָּׂ֤א פַרְעֹה֙ אֶת־רֹאשֶׁ֔ךָ ‘in three days, Pharaoh will lift up your head’ (Gen. 40.13)), by a verbal clause made up of a noun followed by a participle modifier (e.g., בְּעוֹד֙ הַיֶּ֣לֶד חַ֔י צַ֖מְתִּי וָֽאֶבְכֶּ֑ה ‘while the child was still alive, I fasted and wept’ (2 Sam. 12.22)), or by a verbless clause (e.g., ‏ בְּע֣וֹד שַׁ֭דַּי עִמָּדִ֑י ‘when Shaddai is with me…’ (Job 29.5)). Therefore, in the present context, given the fact that the noun after the fragmentary bit is almost certainly an object, the most likely reconstruction would involve a noun subject + participle verbal modifier + direct object marker את. Aḥituv compares phrases with just עוֹד in the Hebrew Bible (2008, 23): e.g., ע֥וֹד הָעָ֛ם מְזַבְּחִ֥ים ‘the people were still sacrificing’ (1 Kgs. 22.44); וְע֨וֹד אֲנִ֤י מְדַבֵּר֙ וּמִתְפַּלֵּ֔ל ‘and while I was still speaking and praying’ (Dan. 9.20). Overall, however, the syntactic construction here is much more similar to that found in 2 Sam. 12.22 cited above.

הגרזן

Note that this word has a final seghol in the Tiberian tradition (i.e., גַּרְזֶן ‘axe’), even though nouns with ultimate stress tend much more to terminate with ṣere. This is probably because the noun pattern ended with gemination at an earlier stage of development: i.e., */garˈzinn/

רעו

As Aḥituv suggests (2008, 23), the Masoretic form רֵעוֹ is likely due to analogy. At an earlier stage, the vav was probably consonantal after the contraction of the diphthong: i.e., */riʕayhu(ː)/ → */riʕeːhu(ː)/ → */riʕeː(h)u(ː)/ → */riʕeːw/.

בעוד שלש אמת להנ[קב

Syntactically, this phrase may be compared with biblical phrases like בְּע֥וֹד כִּבְרַת־אֶ֖רֶץ לָבֹ֣א אֶפְרָ֑תָה וָאֶקְבְּרֶ֤הָ שָּׁם֙ בְּדֶ֣רֶךְ אֶפְרָ֔ת ‘when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath, I buried [her] there on the road to Ephrath’ (Gen. 48.7) and בְּע֨וֹד שְׁלֹשָׁ֤ה חֳדָשִׁים֙ לַקָּצִ֔יר וְהִמְטַרְתִּי֙ עַל־עִ֣יר אֶחָ֔ת ‘while there were still three months to go for the harvest, I would rain on one city’ (Amos 4.7).

להנ[קב

The nifʿal infinitive form */lahinnaqib/ is probably intended here to indicate passive action of the rock or the hole being bore through.

הית

Note that the Tiberian form הָיְתָה exhibits affix pleonasm, namely the doubling up of a feminine suffix. Both ת- and ה- are feminine suffixes in Hebrew. At an early stage of the language, all 3FS verbs in the qaṭal form terminated with */-at/: e.g., */kataba/ ‘he wrote’, but cf. */katabat/ ‘she wrote’. Over time, this final */-t/ elided and left behind a long vowel: i.e., */katabat/ → */kataba(t)/ → */katabaː/ ‘she wrote’. In III-y roots, however, this final */-t/ was preserved, likely to maintain a distinction between 3MS and 3FS: e.g., */bakaja/ ‘he wept’ vs. */bakajat/ ‘she wept’ → */bakaː/ ‘he wept’ vs. X = ? ‘she wept’. If the final */-t/ had elided in the 3FS form of a verb like */bakajat/, it would have become identical to the 3MS form after the contraction of the triphthong. For this reason, the */-t/ was preserved to keep the 3FS form distinct from the 3MS form. What ended up happening, however, is that the final */-t/ was maintained but the syllable structure reconfigured to be consistent across the paradigm with the addition of a superfluous (or pleonastic) feminine ending */-aː/: i.e., (i) */bakajat/ → (ii) */bakaːt/ → → (iii) */bakataː/ → בָּכְתָה (in analogy to forms like */katabaː/ → כָּתְבָה). There are some forms in the Bible, however, that did not add this pleonastic */-aː/, essentially stopping at stage (ii) above: e.g., וְעָשָׂת֙ ‘so that it will produce’ (Lev. 25.21); ‏והית (כתיב) וְֽהָיְתָ֞ה (קרי) ‘and shall be’ (2 Kgs. 9.37). The form הית in this inscription also likely represents just stage (ii) in the development: i.e., */hajaːt/.

זדה

The word זדה does not occur in the Bible. It has been called “the crux of the Shiloaḥ (Siloam) inscription.” Historically, it has been interpreted as ‘fissure’, ‘crack’, ‘void’, ‘cavity’, etc. From the perspective of etymology, various roots were suggested. The root זי״ד/זו״ד, which is associated with ‘boiling’ was regarded as possibly something that could relate to ‘bursting’ and then ‘something broken’. Another view takes the root as זד״י, which has the meaning of ‘empty’. Others took the view that the root is זנ״ד, which is not found elsewhere in Hebrew but is attested in Arabic and Syriac with a possible original meaning of ‘being narrow’. Finally, some have connected Ugaritic ḏd, used for ‘abode’ or ‘dwelling place’, interpreted thus to mean ‘cavity’ or ‘grotto’. Alternative interpretations of the noun זדה in the Siloam inscription also exist, however, such as ‘duct’, ‘excess’, ‘obstacle’, ‘overlap’, ‘error’, ‘deviation’, ‘aiming’, ‘echo’, ‘attack’, ‘widening’, ‘dripping’, etc. (for a full review, see Eichler 2020, 45).

The most recent scholar to deal with this issue is Eichler, who revives an older interpretation of ‘error’ or ‘deviation’ and proposes the rendering ‘misalignment’. He bases his argument on the archaeological facts of the tunnel, namely that there was a misalignment before the diggers finally met and completed the work. It also explains why the teams had to yell to one another before they met. The phrase ‘on the right and on the left’ also coheres with this meaning, since the author wanted to indicate that the misalignment was horizontal rather than vertical. Etymologically, Eichler sees the word as deriving from the root זי״ד/זו״ד, which conventionally is interpreted as meaning ‘boiling’. He does suggest, however, that this root can also mean ‘to do wrong, to sin’: e.g., וַתָּ֨עַד בָּהֶ֜ם לַהֲשִׁיבָ֣ם אֶל־תּוֹרָתֶ֗ךָ וְהֵ֨מָּה הֵזִ֜ידוּ וְלֹא־שָׁמְע֤וּ לְמִצְוֹתֶ֙יךָ֙ וּבְמִשְׁפָּטֶ֣יךָ חָֽטְאוּ־בָ֔ם ‘and you warned them, to return them to your teaching, but they hezidu and did not listen to your commandments, and against your judgments, they did sin’ (Neh. 9.29). As such, the connection between spatial wrong and moral wrong is not so wide a gap to traverse. This may even be suggested by certain parallel bicola in the Hebrew Bible (see, e.g., Deut. 17.11–13; Ps. 119.21). Therefore, it is plausible that זדה means ‘misalignment’ and is from the root זו״ד or זי״ד (Eichler 2020).

As far as the pronunciation goes, it could be something like (i) */zaddaː/, (ii) */ziddaː/, (iii) */zaːdaː/, (iv) */ziːdaː/, or (v) */zuːdaː/. Nouns with middle gemination like patterns (i) and (ii) in the Hebrew Bible usually come from geminate or II-n roots: e.g., חִטָּה ‘wheat’ (from חנ״ט); מִלָּה ‘word’ (from מל״ל); כַּלָּה ‘bride’ (from כל״ל). On the other hand, pattern (iii) is not a common noun pattern for middle weak roots. It could, however, be a substantivized FS qal participle זָדָה. Patterns (iv) and (v) are what one would expect for a II-w/y root. Therefore, though something like */zaːdaː/ as a substantivized participle is possible, we prefer to go with */ziːdaː/ as a more common noun pattern for II-y roots.

ובים

Note the lack of a diphthong by the absence of vav: i.e., ובים = */wa-ba-ˈjoːm/ (*/jawm/ → */joːm/). It is difficult to determine why the diphthong was maintained in בעוד = */ba-ʕawd/ above but not here. One suggestion is that the labial nasal consonant /m/ would me more likely to pull the the diphthong into a long /oː/ vowel, whereas the dental stop /d/ would have been more distinct and thus serve to preserve the preceding diphthong.

הנקבה

The spelling הנקבה be vocalised either as the definite article before the same noun as above (i.e., */han-naqiˈbaː/ ‘the boring through’) or as an infinitive of the nifʿal binyan with a 3FS suffix (i.e., */hinnaqiˈbah/ ‘its being bored through’). In the Hebrew Bible, it is much more common for the phrase בְּיוֹם ‘on the day of; when’ to be followed by an infinitive construct than by a noun with the definite article denoting the nature of the day. Note many examples of the former: e.g., בְּי֛וֹם אֲכָלְךָ֥ ‘in the day that you eat’ (Gen. 2.17); בְּי֛וֹם רְאֹתְךָ֥ ‘on the day you see’ (Exod. 10.28); בְּי֗וֹם הַכֹּתִ֤י ‘on the day that I struck down’ (Num. 8.17); בְּי֥וֹם שָׁמְע֖וֹ ‘on the day that he hears’ (Num. 30.8); בְּיוֹם֙ הַנְחִיל֣וֹ ‘on the day when he assigns’ (Deut. 21.16); בְּי֖וֹם הִלָּקְחֽוֹ׃ ‘on the day of its being taken away’ (1 Sam. 21.7); בְּי֖וֹם הֵעָֽשׂוֹת֑וֹ ‘on the day of its being made’ (Ezek. 43.18). There are, however, some examples of the latter: e.g., בְיוֹם־הַמַּגֵּפָ֖ה ‘on the day of the plague’ (Num. 25.18); בְּי֥וֹם הַקָּהָֽל׃ ‘on the day of the assembly’ (Deut. 9.10); בְּי֥וֹם הַשָּֽׁלֶג׃ ‘on a day in which snow had fallen’ (2 Sam. 23.20). While both are possible, given the greater frequency of the infinitive in such constructions, the infinitive construct of the nifʿal form with a 3FS suffix is thus more likely for the phrase ובים הנקבה in the inscription.

לקרת

In the Hebrew Bible, this would be written as לִקְרַאת ‘to meet’ with a quiescent ʾalef, as from the root קר״א. It has been suggested that the form of the Siloam inscription reflects an infinitive like */lV-qroːt/ (≈ לִקְרֹת), as from the root קר״י. More recently, Hornkohl has suggested that the original form of the Tiberian infinitive לִקְרַאת ‘to meet’ was actually something like */lV-qirʔat/ (≈ לְקִרְאַת), similar to other infinitives of a similar pattern: e.g., ‏לְיִרְאָ֣ה אֹתִ֗י ‘to fear me’ (Deut 4:10); ‏לְרִבְעָ֣ה אֹתָ֔הּ ‘to lie with it’ (Lev 20:16). At a relatively early stage of the language, the ʾalef became quiescent in such an environment and syncope occurred: i.e., */lV-qirʔat/ → */lV-qirat/ → */lV-qrat/ (see Hornkohl 2023, §5). As such, the Siloam inscription form לקרת may simply reflect the quiescence of the ʾalef and should be vocalised as */lV-qrat/—or more specifically */la-qrat/ given our acceptance that the preposition לְ was originally vocalised with a short /a/ vowel in Biblical Hebrew.

וילכו

Before the Second Temple period, it is unlikely that gemination of the prefix consonant was a feature of vav + yiqṭol for narrative past (see Kantor 2020). As far as stress goes, given the penultimate stress of pausal forms like וַיֵּלֵ֑כוּ [vaɟ-ɟeːˈleːχuː] ‘and went their way’ (Gen. 14.12), we have stressed this word on the penultimate: i.e., *wa-jiˈlikuː. This is based on the assumption that pausal forms in Tiberian can preserve the stress of an earlier stage of the language.

המוצא

The orthography may suggest that the vav should be taken as consonantal or as a historical spelling of a collapsed diphthong. The final ʾalef may also be consonantal or a historical spelling. As such, four pronunciations of this word are possible: i.e., */ham-mawṣaʔ/; */ham-moːṣaʔ/; */ham-mawṣaː/; */ham-moːṣaː/.

במאתי[ם] … ומ[א]ת

Note that the historical form of the word מֵאָה is probably to be reconstructed as */miʔaː/. Even in the dual and construct, then, */miʔaː/ was probably the base: i.e., מאתים = */miʔaˈtajm/ ‘two hundred’ and מאת = */miʔat/ ‘hundred (cstr.)’. In the Tiberian tradition, however, the ʾalef has quiesced, possibly reflecting a different original pattern: e.g., מָאתַ֣יִם ‘two hundred’ (Gen. 11.23). The form מָאתַיִם might thus reflect an earlier pattern */maʔˈtajm/.

גבה

Note the final consonantal heh in what is probably to be vocalised as */gubh/ or maybe *[gubVh] with an epenthetic vowel before the final /h/.

ראש

It is highly unlikely that the ʾalef in this word is consonantal, since the pronunciation of this word is רֹאשׁ = [ʀ̟oːoʃ] in the Tiberian tradition. For a long /oː/ vowel to develop here, it assumes quiescence of the ʾalef before the Canaanite shift (*/aː/ → */oː/), which likely occurred in the second millennium BCE: i.e., */raʔʃ/ → */ra(ʔ)ʃ/ → */raːʃ/ → */roːʃ/.

Bibliography:

Aḥituv, Shmuel. 2008. Echoes From the Past: Hebrew and Cognate Inscriptions From the Biblical Period. Jerusalem: Carta. Pages 19–25.

Altman, Rochelle I. 2007. “Some Notes on Inscriptional Genres and the Siloam Tunnel Inscription.” Antiguo Oriente 5: 35–88.

Ben-Ḥayyim, Ze’ev. 1977. עבריתוארמיתנוסחשומרון: עלפיתעודותשבכתב ועדות שבעל פה: כרך רביעי. Jerusalem: הוצאת האקדמיה ללשון העברית.

Eichler, Raanan. 2020. “Boring philology: The meaning of zdh in the Siloam inscription.” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 152: 44–52.

Hornkohl, Aaron. (forthcoming 2023?). The Historical Depth of the Tiberian Reading Tradition. Cambridge: Open Book Publishers and University of Cambridge.

Huehnergard, John. 2015. “Biblical Hebrew Nominal Patterns.” In Epigraphy, Philology, and the Hebrew Bible: Methodological Perspectives on Philological and Comparative Study of the Hebrew Bible in Honor of Jo Ann Hackett, edited by Jeremy M. Hutton, and Aaron D. Rubin, 25–64. Atlanta: SBL Press.

Kantor, Benjamin. 2020. “The Development of the Hebrew wayyiqṭol (‘waw Consecutive’) Verbal Form in Light of Greek and Latin Transcriptions of Hebrew.” In Studies in Semitic Vocalisation and Reading Traditions, edited by Geoffrey Khan, and Aaron Hornkohl, 55–132. Cambridge: Open Book Publishers.

Lambdin, Thomas O., and John Huehnergard. 2000. The Historical Grammar of Classical Hebrew. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University.

Smelik, Klaas A. D. 2011. “A Literary Analysis of the Shiloah (Siloam) Tunnel Inscription.” In On Stone and Scroll: Essays in Honour of Graham Ivor Davies, edited by James K. Aitken, Katharine J. Dell, and Brian A. Mastin, 101–110. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Suchard, Benjamin D. 2020. The Development of the Biblical Hebrew vowels: Including a Concise Historical Morphology. Leiden: Brill.

Ussishkin, David. 1969. “On the Shorter Inscription from the ‘Tomb of the Royal Steward’.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 196: 16–22.

Rendsburg, Gary A. and William M. Schniedewind. 2010. “The Siloam Tunnel Inscription: Historical and Linguistic Perspectives.” Israel Exploration Journal 60: 188–203.

I must also thank Jo Ann Hackett, who trained me in Northwest Semitic Epigraphy. Of course, any errors in the above are my own.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: