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Ancient Records Confirm the Location of an Israelite Tribe

The Bible says that when the Israelites conquered the Promised Land and divided it among their tribes, ten clans of the tribe of Manasseh received tracts of land west of the Jordan, separate from the rest of the tribe. (Joshua 17:1-6) Is there archaeological evidence that this happened?

In 1910 a collection of pottery fragments inscribed with writing was unearthed in Samaria. These fragments, or ostraca, contained records written in Hebrew, which documented the delivery of luxury goods—including wine and cosmetic oil—to the royal palace of the capital city. Altogether, 102 ostraca were found, dated to the eighth century B.C.E., but only 63 are fully legible. Collectively, however, these 63 fragments reveal dates and the names of clans, as well as the identities of the senders and the recipients of the merchandise.

Significantly, all clans identified in the Samaria Ostraca belong to the tribe of Manasseh. According to the NIV Archaeological Study Bible, this provides “an extrabiblical link between the clans of Manasseh and the territory in which the Bible claims they settled.”

This inscription identifies a woman named Noah who was a descendant of Manasseh

The Samaria Ostraca also verify the accuracy of the Bible writer Amos, who said regarding the rich people of that era: “They drink wine by the bowlful and anoint themselves with the choicest oils.” (Amos 6:1, 6) The Samaria Ostraca confirm that such items were indeed imported to the section of land that was inhabited by the ten clans of Manasseh.