Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Tel Dan and Garbini (iii)

This is the third in a series of posts on Giovanni Garbini's essay on the Tel Dan inscription. Garbini writes:
Another oddity that marks our text relates to the conceptual and ideological sphere. In line 5 one finds b'rq 'by "in the territory of my father" and in line 10 ' "their land". The author of the inscription appears to be a ruler who has succeeded his dead father, but had to act as a king of an inferior level (if not of a pretender), given line 6 which mentions a mlky, "my king".
That which rings even stranger is the expression "land" ('rq) belonging to the king, his father. Ownership of land, when obviously not dealing with small portions of land as object of private transactions, comes into a generally rather more complex concept. When a king talks of his own land, ie his own possession, one doesn't use 'rq "land", but rather gbl "territory" (cf. the Zakur inscription B 8-9). That which is the land (in its totality) belongs not to him but to god.
A true king would never have said "my land".
(The omitted material in the quotation consists of supporting examples from Moabite and from Phoenician.)

If I properly understand Garbini, he is setting up a contrast in Old Aramaic between ארק "land (which belongs to a god)" and גבל "territory (which belongs to a human king)." The Tel Dan stele, by using ארק of the land possessed by human kings, is misusing the language. This solecism suggests that the author of the Tel Dan stele is a forger.

Unfortunately for Garbini's proposal, the putative restriction on the use of ארק does not exist. Several counter examples can be found in the Sefire inscription. In Sef. iii 6, the suzerain who speaks in the first person in the treaty stipulates that the vassal must return to the suzerain any fugitives who seek asylum. He says "they must not remain in your land (ארקך)." According to Garbini, he ought to have said "your territory (גבלך)." In Sef. i B 27, the suzerain stipulates that the son of the vassal must not attempt to take "any of my land" (מן ארקי)." Finally, in Sef. ii A 8, although the context is damaged, the suzerain, to judge by the context, refers to "his land (ארקה)," that of the vassal.

In support of his suggestion about ארק, Garbini actually cites uses of גבל and ארץ (the cognate of ארק) from Phoenician and Moabite, which are of questionable relevance. He does not illustrate the opposition between גבל and ארק from Old Aramaic, because there is none.

The actual distinction between גבל and ארק seems to be between a political entity (ארק) and a geographical designation (גבל). Thus we have in Samalian-Yaudic (which Garbini counts as Old Aramaic) ארק יאדי, "the land of Yaudi" (Panamuwa 5, 7), over which reigns the king of Yaudi (Yaudi is not the name of a god). We also read there that Tiglath-pileser added to "his territory" (גבלה) "the cities of the territory of Gurgum" (גבל גרגם)." Similarly, in Sefire iii 8 the suzerain states that a region called Talayim, according to the treaty being drawn up, now belongs to him: "its villages and its citizens and its territory (גבלה)." In no case is a king referred to as the ruler of a "territory" (גבל), as Garbini would have it.

In fact, the use of ארק in the Tel Dan inscription is congruent with its use elsewhere in Old Aramaic. There is no solecism here.

(Even in Phoenician, which Garbini allows himself to mine for comparisons despite its not being Aramaic, the two words seem to be synonyms. In the Karatepe inscription (KAI 26), the expression ארץ עמק אדן, "land of the Adana valley" (I 4) is found alongside the synonymous גבל עמק אדן, "territory of the Adana valley" (II 2). There is no suggestion of a difference.)

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