Merneptah, son of Rameses II, ruled Egypt 1213-1203 B.C., in the 19th Dynasty. The Merneptah Stele, made of granit, is an inscription of great archaeological and biblical importance. It contains the first mention of Israel in a source besides the Bible. On our recent tour of Egypt, this is one of the main artifacts I wanted our group to see and photograph while visiting the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
The stele was discovered in 1896 at Thebes by F. Petrie in 1896. It is 7.5 feet high, and made of black granite. It is displayed now in the Egyptian Museum at Cairo. The inscription includes the lines:
The princes, prostrated, say "Shalom"; None raises his head among the Nine Bows, Now that Tenhenu has come to ruin, Hatti is pacified. Canaan has been plundered into every sort of woe. Ashkelon has been overcome. Gezer has been captured. Yano'am was made non-existent. Israel is laid waste (and) his seed is not. Hurru has become a widow because of Egypt. All lands have united themselves in peace. Anyone who was restless, he has been subdued by the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ba-en-Re-mery-Amun, son of Re, Mer-ne Ptah Hotep-her-Ma'at, granted life like Re, daily. (Frank Yurco, BAR, 16:05, Sept/Oct 1990)
The date of this inscription would be about 1207 B.C. By that point in time, Israel was established in the land of Canaan to such an extent that it would be included in a listing of nations defeated by the world’s most powerful monarch.
Many “scholars” deny that Israel even existed as a nation by this point in time, but the inscription proves them to be wrong.
For further reading I recommend Todd Bolen’s article in The Bible and Interpretation. Go to:
At the top of the stele there are two engraved scenes in which Pharaoh Merneptah is wearing ceremonial dress and offers Amun-Ra the reaping hook that symbolized victory and scepters of royalty. In the first scene Merneptah is followed by the goddess ut and in the second by the god Khonsu. Both were members of the Theban triads of gods with Amun-Ra.
Click image for larger view.