The Bal'am Text from Deir Alla

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Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin
published on 18 February 2019

This is a detail of the so-called "Bal'am Text" (also Balaam Inscription) which was discovered in 1967 CE at Tell Deir Alla, in modern-day Balqa Governorate, Jordan. It was written in around 800 BCE. It was written in black and red ink on wall plaster. The text displays linguistic features that can be assigned to Aramaic, Canaanite, Ammonite, and other sub-groups in the North-West Semitic family. The dominant character, however, is in Aramaic, and this text is the longest known Aramaic evidence in the Southern Levant.
Although the text does not mention any specific historical personalities or events, it is still historically and religiously important. "The main figure, Bal'am Bin Ba'our, conveys a prophecy of misery on his people, as a punishment for disobeying the gods". Balam (or Balaam) is also mentioned in the Old Testament by the same name, but the historical context of the biblical narrative is centuries earlier. The text also mentions a number of deities, such as "El" (the supreme god), "Shagar" (a fertility god), the council of the gods, and "Shaddayyin". Additionally, this text is the earliest reference to the role of "seer" in the North-West Semitic literature, although earlier Mesopotamian documents and the Old Testament mention them.
The discovery of this text at a place close to where the conflict between the Israelites and the Moabites supposedly happened indicates that the story of this seer was part of a local tradition. (The Jordan Museum, Amman, Jordan).

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About the Author

Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin
Associate Professor of Neurology and lover of the Cradle of Civilization, Mesopotamia. I'm very interested in Mesopotamian history and always try to take photos of archaeological sites and artifacts in museums, both in Iraq and around the world.

Cite This Work

APA Style

Amin, O. S. M. (2019, February 18). The Bal'am Text from Deir Alla. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Chicago Style

Amin, Osama Shukir Muhammed. "The Bal'am Text from Deir Alla." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified February 18, 2019.

MLA Style

Amin, Osama Shukir Muhammed. "The Bal'am Text from Deir Alla." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 18 Feb 2019. Web. 26 Mar 2023.