An analysis of the bilingual Sinaitic-Greek inscriptions.

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An analysis of the bilingual Sinaitic-Greek inscriptions.

Sinaitic-Greek Bilingual No. I

Lepsius’ Transcription (127 and 127 bis):

Eutings’s Transcription (No. 596):



[Hebrew Equivalents:]

[מדכיר אושו בר חרשו טבי ו בטב]


mdkyr ’wšw br ḥrsw ṭby w bṭb

Translation of the Sinaitic:

For your attention!: Ushu son of Har’su goes readily into service: Present and Correct!





Greek Translation:

May it be noted: A U S O S son of E R S O S
is summoned willingly:
in good.

Note the two objects between the legs of the figure with his hands raised in prayer. They are the sandals taken off in prayer (as Moses’ sandals were in Exodus 3. 5, cp. Joshua 5. 15), since the praying figure is drawn with bare feet and toes clearly visible. The simple representation of perspective in the inscription places the sandals between, and higher than, the feet, because the figure has stepped off his sandals and proceeded forward a little in order to pray, and from the viewpoint of a person watching the event unfold in front of him (as the viewer views the inscription) they would appear to be located precisely in that position.

This inscription is unusual in that the Sinaitic and Greek are complete, at least in Lepsius’ transcription. There are three formulaic phrases the initial mdkyr, standing in place of the usual dkyr, the medial br, and the final bb — which mean respectively “Noted/Remembered”, “son of” and “in good”. The substance of the Sinaitic comprises four words, and the first two are of frequent occurrence in other Sinaitic inscriptions. The script in which they are written is like the later Nabataean (see infra), and the Greek transcriptions confirm that. As regards these four words: 1) the first is a word of four Sinaitic characters, transcribed according to the significance of the characters in the later Nabataean script, thus: ’wšw; this would be vocalized something like ushu and is transcribed in Greek as ausos. 2) The second is also a word of four characters, rsw, vocalized something like har’su, and transcribed into Greek as ersou; these two words are common in the Sinaitic inscriptions. 3) The third is not a common word: it comprises three characters, by; it would be vocalized something like t’bey, and is translated, not transcribed, kalitai in the Greek, meaning “is summoned”. The spelling kalitai for kaleitai is typical of the Boeotian dialect of the Alexandrian period. 4) The fourth word comprises a single letter w, which in later Hebrew would be regularly written with two letters, thus, w, and would be pronounced aw (see further infra on its Hebrew meaning): the hardly pronounced first letter, a glottal stop, is, as frequently in the Sinaitic inscriptions, omitted, and the word written “defectively”, to use the technical terminology. It is translated in Greek as thumarou, “willingly”. If the last Greek word, thumarou, is not part of the translation but, as some have speculated, a transcription, it is difficult to make any sense of it at all, as there is no trace of an “m” in the Sinaitic. As it happens the Sinatic t’bey aw (by w) can be interpreted in such a way as to correspond in meaning precisely to the Greek kalitai thumarou (see infra). The second letter in the Sinaitic word by is here read b, in accord with Lepsius’ transcription (where it is almost identical to the last Sinaitic sign in the inscription, viz. the b at the end of the final word bb). Euting’s version of the sign looks somewhat more like an r or d (these two letters being virtually indistinguishable in the Sinaitic, as in other ancient Semitic scripts). Both Lepsius and Euting were accurate transcribers. However, the palm goes to Lepsius in this instance: compare the rather meagerly outlined characters in Euting with Lepsius’ detailed reproduction supra. The Sinaitic script is often freely written and there may be some doubt about an individual sign if the word containing it is not of frequent occurrence. Chabot, in Journal Asiatique 9me série, tome XVIII, Nov.-Déc. 1901, pp. 442-450, rejected the d or r reading and took the sign to be a b. This is the reading preferred here.

The Greek of the inscription can be read as follows: AUSOS ERSOU KALITAI THUMAROU: i.e. “Ausos son of Ersos is summoned willingly”. The last two words in the Greek are treated infra. The first two words, Ausos Ersou, mean literally “Ausos of Ersos” which is a Greek way of saying “Ausos son of Ersos”: therefore, the medial formulaic word which appears in the Sinaitic between the word corresponding to the Greek Ausos and the word corresponding to the Greek Ersou must mean “son of”. There is another inscription (Bilingual No. IV infra) in which appears a similar set of words read as AUDOS ALMOBAKKEROU, and understood to mean “Audos son of Al-mobakkeros”, representing a series of Sinatic words similarly separated by the medial formulaic word. The two characters which comprise the medial formula in the Sinaitic could indeed be read as b+r = bar, “son”, therefore there appears to be a perfect accord between the Sinaitic and the Greek.

Of the four Greek words, Ausos Ersou kalitai thumarou, the first two are transcriptions, the last two a translation, of the Sinaitic words Ushu bar Har’su t’bey aw. The first two Greek words are straightforward transcriptions. The last two words in Greek mean literally “is summoned (kalitai, for kaleitai) for being willing/compliant/suited (joined, suited [-arês] in spirit [thum-]” > thumarês)”. (The neuter adjective stands for the noun, lit. “the willing thing” for “willingness, being willing”, as commonly in Greek, including Boeotian dialect inscriptions, genitive of cause.) This phrase translates the Sinaitic t’bey aw (by w) meaning “goes forth readily to service/battle”. The first word in the Sinaitic is the Peal active participle, or 3 pers. masc. sing. perfect, of the word by ( interchanges dialectically with therefore by = Aramaic by, צבי = Hebrew צבא) “to go forth to service, or, battle”. The connotation here is probably of divine service, or a mixture of divine service and battle, as the picture above it is of a man praying. The second word aw is a noun, occurring, though rarely, in the Hebrew Scriptures (Proverbs 31. 4, K’tiv, Gesenius-Tregelles, s.v.), meaning “will, purpose, desire”, used adverbially here: “with willingness, with desire”.

Another bilingual inscription (Lepsius No. 76) does not fit into the standard category (viz. Greeting: personal-name son of personal-name: terminal phrase). It reads as follows:

Sinaitic-Greek Bilingual No. II




Μ mm[twrv]mlv

The inscription can be analyzed as follows:

ΑΛΛСΟ = “Jump to it!” It is a translation, from Gk. allomai, “spring, leap, jump”, 2 sing. aor. imp. mid., of the initial formulaic word mlv šlm = sh’lam, “Hail!”, “Peace!”, “Attention!”, “Here you are!” The Greek word usually has a single lamda in the aorist (as in another Sinaitic inscription, infra).

СΡΥ = (transcription of) wrv] ’srw (pronounced) As’ru (אשרו).

ΟΤ = (transcription of) t t (pronounced) ot (את) written defectively, dropping the aleph, as commonly in the inscriptions, “with, alongside, in addition to” or “sign, mark”.

ΕΜΟΥΜ = (transcription of) mm[ mm (pronounced) amum (עמם).

It is possible to read the Greek here either as two names “As’ru with Amum” or as a name followed by a comment (translated infra), in which the second word is the adverb “with” or the noun “sign” spelled identically. The form of the first alternative would be unique, therefore the second is more probable. The meaning might then be: “Attention! As’ru and men” (lit. “with people”), the last word being Aram. ‘amām, “people, family, relatives, companions, servants”. (Greek a was often transcribed “ou” [waw] in Aramaic and Hebrew, according to Jastrow, Talmudic Dictionary, s.v. letter waw, and here the phenomenon is in the reverse direction.) Those who would reject the translation offered supra, are left with a string of meaningless Greek characters, and a Sinaitic inscription which has to be emended to produce a set of names. Levy had to turn the very clear sign t into two characters br = “bar”, “son of”, and misread the final Sinaitic sign m as two characters y and w, in order to produce the reading “Ashru son of Amyu”. Emendations like these have constantly to be resorted to by those who refuse to read anything but personal names and standard formulae in the Sinaitic. The Greek transcription supports the true readings, t and m. The initial formulaic sh-l-m corresponds to the first word in the Greek, ALLSO, meaning “Jump to it!”. This translates the Sinaitic sh’lam, “Hail! Attention! Here you are!” etc. Probably also in the case of inscription Euting No. 328, in which the Sinaitic is missing or has not been identified, but which reads in Greek ALSOREOW = ALSO REOW, the first word, here more correctly with a single lamda, translates the common initial formula sh’lam, and the second probably transcribes the Sinaitic word rww (for the latter word in Sinaitic script see Euting No. 347).

A third bilingual (Lepsius No. 93 [Sinaitic] with Lepsius No. 96 [Greek]) reads as follows:

Sinaitic-Greek Bilingual No. III




Transliteration of the Sinaitic into equivalent Hebrew characters:

דכיר חרשו
בר עמיו בטב

Transliteration of the Sinaitic into English (Roman) characters:

dkyr ḥrsw br ‘myw bṭb

Translation of the Sinaitic:

For your attention!: Harisu son of Ameyu: Present and Correct!

Transcription of the Greek:



which should be split as follows:



The Greek transliterated into English (Roman) characters:



Translation of the Greek:

May it be / Arisos
noted / of the Ammai tribe

Here there are two names Arisos and Ammaios. These correspond to the two words rsw (pronounced harisu or har’su, the Greek reads the former) and ‘myw (pronounced ameyu) in the Sinaitic. Since the two Sinaitic words are separated by the common medial formulaic word “bar”, we would expect the second word to read Ammaiou, “son of Ammaios”, not Ammaios, and the substance of the Greek would then read Arisos Ammaiou, viz. “Arisos son of Ammaios”. Ammaios, standing, as it does, in place of the expected Ammaiou, is probably a patronymic adjective meaning “of the people/family/tribe of Ameyu”, and translates the Sinaitic “bar Ameyu” as “he of the family/tribe [lit. son] of Ameyu”.

A fourth bilingual (Lepsius No. 85 [Sinaitic] with Lepsius No. 86 [Greek]) translates the initial formula sh-l-m as MNESTHE, “may he/it be remembered, noted”, reflecting the memorial nature of the inscription. This fourth inscription reads as follows:

Sinaitic-Greek Bilingual No. IV




A Transliteration of the Sinaitic into equivalent Hebrew characters:

שלם עודו בר אלמב

(קרו עקרא בט(ב

A Transliteration of the Sinaitic into English (Roman) characters:

šlm ‘wdw br ’lmbqrw ‘qr’ bṭ(b)

Hypothetical vocalization:

Š’lām: ‘ûdû bar ’ēl-mubaqq’rû ‘aq’rā’: b’tūb

Pronounced something like:

Sh’lam: Udu bar El-mubakk’ru ak’ra: b’tuv.

Translation of the Sinaitic:

Attention!: Udu son of El-mubakk’ru the eunuch: Present and Correct!

The Greek transcription:




A Transliteration of the Greek into English (Roman) characters:




Here too the initial formula sh-l-m is translated MNESTHE and the rest of the Sinaitic is transcribed (though incompletely at the end). The surviving portion reads “Audos son of Al-mobakkeros”. Note the similarity between the form of this inscription and Bilingual II: the initial formula, followed by so-and-so son of so-and-so, followed by a descriptive or other phrase.

One of the most interesting and informative of the inscriptions is one which would be a bilingual if the Sinaitic of it had survived. However, the Greek transcription shows which Sinaitic words it was intended to reproduce, all common ones in other inscriptions. The Sinaitic words presumed to be transcribed into Greek here actually occur, without additional names or phrases, and in the same order, in the slightly damaged Sinaitic inscription Stone No. 3851 (= Corpus Inscriptionum Semiticarum No. 2585) from Wadi Feiran. In this case the transcription is followed by what appears to be a Greek translation of the Semitic words which form the component parts of the names. The translation casts light on the precise nature and purpose of the majority of the Sinaitic inscriptions.

The following is Lepsius’ copy:

Lepsius No. 134 lines 5-10

Transcription of the Greek:







Translation of the Greek:

May it be noted:



(As for) the Kakon (“Wicked”) clan, I, Loupus,

the Fighting Man, enrolled the

whole (of it) at my side.

Here the first word MNESTHE corresponds to the common Sinaitic initial formulaic word sh-l-m. This is translated in the usual way. The next five words are, also in the usual way, transcribed from the (missing) Sinaitic: they represent common Sinaitic words: grm (Gk.: GARM) l (Gk.: AL) bly (Gk.: BALOS) br w’lw (Gk.: IOULIOU).

Levy’s translation of this inscription reads as follows: “May he be remembered, Garm-al-balos the son of Ioulios. Evil race! I, a soldier Lupus, carved out the whole (inscription) with my hand”. There are problems with this interpretation. Though grammatically possible, it leaves the first phrase (“Evil race [or, type, family, clan]!”) an isolated, and nonsensical, adjunct to the author’s graffiti. It imposes an additional non-sequitur, in the result that the writer “Lupus” is a different person from the one celebrated in the main body of the inscription (“Garm-al-balos”): but the inscriptions are supposed, according to the common theory, to be personal greetings of the type: “Hello! I am so-and-so” (sh-l-m = MNESTHE), or “Remembered is so-and-so” (d-k-y-r = MNESTHE). Following the logic of this interpretation, the inscriber can only have been a client of “Garm-al-balos”, and have had a strange antipathy (“Evil race!”) for the people he took so much trouble to commemorate in his inscriptions. His patrons were either ignorant of Greek and deceived by their engraver, or easily satisfied and unconcerned about their reputation inscribed on the rocks for perpetuity. Also, those who translate the inscription this way have to account for “soldier-pastoralists” like “Lupus” with Latin names, writing Greek, and understanding Nabataean Aramaic, who were whiling away the hours in the inhospitable and hardly visited wadis of Sinai, making barbarian graffiti accessible to a wider Greek public!

When the Greek is translated as given supra, it is found to be, not a separate inscription of the “Soldier Lupus”, but a translation of the (lost) Sinaitic which was already transcribed into Greek immediately above it. The Sinaitic words have been identified as grm’lb‘ly br w’lw, as in Stone No. 3851. If the different elements of the Aramaic personal names are translated individually, they read as follows: “the gnawing of El, or great gnawing (grm ’l) of Baali, or the Master (b‘ly) son/descendant/member of the tribe of (br) perverse one (w’lw)”. This was translated into Greek as follows.

The Sinaitic name w’lw, means “twisted, curled up”, and hence, by analogy, “perverse, wicked”. The Greek transcription IOULIOU implies the name w’lw was read W’ulu, with medial “u” (though it is usually transcribed Wailu nowadays), and this would mean “the twisted/perverted one”. The initial w was interchangeable dialectically with i, hence I-OULIOU in the transcription, with initial “i”, though the “i” might equally represent the sound of w+shewa. The second “i” in IOUL-I-OU, if it is not a free rendition, indicates the translator understood the (lost) Sinaitic phrase “bar W’ulu” as “son of the founder, or, of a member of, the W’ulu clan”, lit. “son of the W’ulian”, which is a legitimate translation, rather than simply “son of W’ulu”. Cf. the name Ammaios supra = Sinaitic “bar Ameyu” = “member of the clan Ameyu”. Cosmas’ informants told him the inscriptions recorded the names of individuals “from such-and-such a clan, tribe or family (Greek phulê)”. All the names following the word bar in the Sinaitic inscriptions may actually be tribal, rather than individual, patronymics. Thus the writer of the inscription belonged to a clan whose name could be understood to mean “the perverse, wicked, one”. The Greek translates this “Kakon genos”, the “Wicked Clan”.

The Sinaitic personal name grm’lb‘ly, was pronounced something like Garm-El-Baali. Depending on the precise interpretation of the element grm, it could mean, or could be understood to mean, “Gnawing (grm) of El (’l) Baali (b‘ly), or, Great (’l) Gnawing (grm) of Baali (b‘ly)”. The Greek translates the first part of the name “Garm-El”, “Gnawing of El, or Great Gnawing” by the name loupos, a nominal formation, from loup- = lup-, “grief, affliction”, with the usual nominative masculine termination -os. This would mean literally “One characterized by grief”. The substitution of ou for u is characteristic of the Boeotian dialect of the Alexandrian period, as is the substitution of i for ei in the word kalitai in Bilingual Inscription No. I. The last component of the name, Baali, is probably a divine name, denoting the Canaanite god Baal, but it could also be a noun, meaning simply “powerful one, etc.”, and that is how the Greek translates it, perhaps in an effort to erase the name of the idol: stratiôtês, “fighting man, etc.”. Thus Garm-Al-Balos (Garm-El-Baali, the “Great Gnawing of the Powerful One”) became in translation “Loupos (“He who is characterized by grief”) the Fighting Man”, and his clan Ioulios (W’ulu, “the Perverse”), “Kakon genos” (the “Wicked Clan”).

According to the Greek translator, this memorial inscription was the record of a roll-call of the “Fighting man Loupos” (Garm-El-Baali) of his own “Kakon” (W’ulu) clan, for which, evidently, he was personally responsible. There would seem to be no other motive for such a translation of the Sinaitic than that the translator believed the inscriptions of this type (the common type) marked the locations where the muster of clans was carried out, under the supervision of the individuals named in the inscriptions. And according to Cosmas, these were the clans of ancient Israel at the time of the wilderness wanderings. If true, it would explain the repeated appearance of a particular set of names in the Sinaitic inscriptions: viz. the officers appointed over the mustering of the clans belonged to a limited number of ruling families, amongst whom certain personal names featured more commonly than others. It would also explain the location and quantity of the inscriptions. The area around Serbal, the original Mount Sinai, was where over 2,000,000 people encamped for one whole year following the Exodus. The majority of the inscriptions are found in that part of the Sinai peninsula, viz. a region roughly 30-40 miles in all directions around Mount Serbal and Wadi Feiran. Approximately 7000 inscriptions have been catalogued to date. The number of adult males in the camp of Israel was just over 600,000. The Israelites were arranged by Moses during the year they were at Sinai into units of 1000, 100, 50 and 10 (Ex. 18. 25). A clan would probably number, on average, 50 men or more. If the officers of each company of fifty left inscriptions at the sites where they mustered their men, we would expect there to be around 12,000 inscriptions in this class alone. The number of catalogued inscriptions is of that order of magnitude. The total number of inscriptions is much higher, and that is as expected if households or other groupings, corresponding to the units of 10 in Moses’ roll-call, were assembled similarly at inscribed positions.

Inscriptions as markers of roll-call stations appear to be mentioned in the Bible in the Book of Numbers, Chapter 2. 1f. There it is said: “[1] The LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying [2] “Let the Israelites set up camp each individual by his standard [Heb. al diglô] at the written marks [Heb. beôthôth] of the household of their fathers, at a distance away from and all around the Tent of Meeting.” This was precisely in order to take a roll-call of the tribes. The “heads of the household of their fathers” are referred to elsewhere (Num. 7. 2) as those who “stand at the head of those who are mustered”. The center around which the households, and therefore also the markers, radiated was the Tent of Meeting, and this was located in the “Desert of Sinai” (Numbers 1. 1), viz. Wadi Aleyat at the foot of Mount Serbal (see infra on the geographical location). The Sinaitic inscriptions center accordingly on Serbal and the adjoining wadis, Aleyat and Feiran. The single Hebrew word translated here “written marks” conveys in Hebrew both senses: (1) written letters and (2) markers or signs. If it is translated simply “letters”, a perfectly legitimate interpretation, then the whole phrase means “at the letters designating the house of their fathers” which all but clinches their identification with the Sinaitic inscriptions. Each patriarchal household had a written marker, hence the genealogical reference in the majority of the inscriptions. The word “to be enrolled” (Heb. yithyāle) in this section of the Book of Numbers (1. 18) is literally “to show oneself descended from (so-and-so)”. This is what the common type of Sinaitic inscriptions do, as the individuals named in the inscriptions almost always describe themselves as “son/descendant of so-and-so”. The command to enroll the people in this way was from God Himself, therefore it will have been carried out exactly according to the instruction, and regardless of the difficulty.

The real meaning of Bilingual No. II is now clear: “Asru with men” indicates Asru was the officer in charge and the “men” were his assembled company. Similarly in the second of two sample inscriptions cited infra (Euting No. 474), the statement is made: “Shalim [a personal name] stationed here maintains discipline over the company.” This describes the suggested purpose of the vast majority of the inscriptions. In the case of a number of inscriptions in Stone’s compilation (e.g. Stone No. 4111 = CIS II No. 2845, from Jebel Musa) a set of typical Sinaitic names is followed by a phrase (byty) meaning “at the written marks”, viz. the precise Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew phrase in the Book of Numbers (b = “at, with, beside, alongside”, yty= defective spelling for ’ yty’, “written marks”, plural emphatic of Aram. t = Heb. wt, “sign, letter, mark” etc., see Jastrow, Talmudic Dictionary, s.v. ’ t, for plural with medial yod, cp. Akkadian ittu, “sign”, the phrase being equivalent to Heb. beôthôth, Num. 2. 2). Stone No. 4111 reads: dkyr bd lbly br myw br šmrḥ byty bṭb: “For Your Attention! Abd-el-baali son of Ameyu son of Shumrah at the written marks: Present and Correct!”

The inscriptions, then, are as the Jews described them to Cosmas Indicopleustes in the sixth century AD: they are “a stringing together (Gk. apersis, from eirô, whence ersis, cp. diersis, etc.) of such-and-such an one (Gk. toude) with (Gk. ek) such-and-such a group, class, or clan, of people (Greek phulê)”, i.e. of so-and-so “son of” so-and-so, according to the standard interpretation, “(and) in this year (and) this month”. The meaning of apersis, here translated “stringing together”, is not certain, as it is an hapax legomenon, and it is possible it means in this context a loose banding together or gathering, viz. of clan members, by the named individuals. In which case, Cosmas’ phrase should be translated: “a banding together of such-and-such an one with such-and-such a clan, in this year and in this month”. As regards the chronological type of inscription, a limited number of the approximately 7000 inscriptions published to date add at the end a chronological reference point. These are translated infra. There are likely to be more amongst the unpublished inscriptions.

Cosmas’ Jewish companions compared the names in the Sinaitic inscriptions to those which travelers might leave at inns along the road. An example of the type is provided by Heliodorus (c. AD 400) in his romance Theagenes and Chariclea, otherwise known as Ethiopica, which was written by a Greek-speaking Christian bishop, was set in Roman Egypt (5. 4-5, ed. Bekker, p. 127 lines16-26), and was probably familiar to Cosmas and his contemporaries: the two lovers Theagenes and Chariclea agree to make future rendezvous by leaving messages on monuments by the wayside: “Let us agree upon some token by which we may secretly hold communication when present; and, if at any time separated, may trace out each other in absence; for a token between friends is an excellent companion in a wanderer’s journey, and may often be the means of again bringing them together. Chariclea was pleased with the proposal; and they agreed, if they were divided, to write upon any temple, noted statue, bust of Mercury [herm] or boundary-stone, Theagenes the word Pythicus [Gk. puthikos, Diviner], and Chariclea Pythias [Gk. puthias, Divining woman]; whether they were gone to the right or the left; to what citv, town, or people; and the day and hour of their writing.” Note the use here of graffiti, and even of dated graffiti, to mark points of rendezvous, as proposed, for official roll-calls, in the case of the Sinaitic inscriptions.

It is possible that the limited number of leaders whose names appear in the inscriptions are mentioned in the Book of Numbers. This passage relates to the time immediately following the year-long stay at Mount Sinai, when the Israelites conducted the roll-call (Numbers 1. 1ff.), then set off on their journey to the Desert of Paran and Kadesh. This is “Year 2” of the era of the Exodus (that is, the second year after the Departure from Egypt) and “Year 2” features repeatedly in the “dated inscriptions” which are reproduced infra.

Num. 11. 11ff.:

“[11] And Moses said unto the LORD, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me?

[12] Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers?

[13] Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat.

[14] I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.

[15] And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.

[16] And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee.

[17] And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone ….

[24] And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the LORD, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle.

[25] And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.

[26] But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp.

[27] And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.

[28] And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.

[29] And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD’S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!

[30] And Moses gat him into the camp, he and the elders of Israel.”

It is noted that Eldad and Medad were “of them that were written”. The word “write” can equally mean “inscribe”, so Eldad and Medad could be described as “amongst those who were inscribed”. The passage specifically says the complete number of seventy elders were already present at the Tabernacle, so “those who were inscribed” did not include the seventy. This was another group of people. The implication of Moses’ statement in response to the event that he wished the whole of the nation were prophets, is that “those who were inscribed” represented a wider or at least a different group than the seventy. It is probable that they are the people whose names are found in the Sinaitic inscriptions, the leaders of fifty, and other company commanders.

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