Date- 750–700 BCE

Current Location- Archaeological Museum, Amman, Jordan

Language and Script- Aramaic; alphabetic

Biblical Verses- Numbers 22–24


Deir Allah Inscription. Photo courtesy of the Armenian Convent, Jerusalem.

General Information-

Tel Deir ‘Alla, located on the east banks of Jordan River, was the site of a flourishing city in the eighth and seventh centuries BCE, possibly Biblical Succoth or Peniel. In 1967 excavators at the site came upon a fragmentary group of texts written in red and black ink on white plaster. Although they were found on the floor, the texts had originally been written on the walls of the room by a professional scribe. The extant fragments have been grouped into two separate “combinations,” known as Combination I, which is better preserved, and Combination II. The texts tell of Balaam, son of Be’or, a “seer of the gods,” and his visions.

Relevance to Ancient Israel- The Balaam of these texts is certainly identified with Bil`am of the Bible, who was hired to curse the Israelites by King Balak, went to do so atop the mountains at the edge of Moab, but was compelled by God to bless them instead. In the Deir ‘Alla fragments, the gods come to Balaam in the night and warn him of an imminent cataclysm involving punishment by fire and a terrifying darkening of the sun. Balaam arises in the morning to weep and fast. The Deir ‘Alla texts and the Balaam story in Numbers have more in common than the name of the hero and his profession as seer. The motifs of Balaam’s nocturnal vision and morning awakening appear in both, and the texts were found in Transjordan, the setting of the Biblical episode. There can be no doubt that the Bible and the Deir ‘Alla fragments attest to a Balaam tradition shared by Israel and people in Transjordan (periodically Israelite territory). This tradition is another piece of evidence attesting to the similarity of culture and religion between ancient Israel and Moab that is also seen from the Mesha Stele.

Circumstances of Discovery and Acquisition- See above.