The earliest written use of the word “Hebrews” may have been found upon an inscribed Moabite altar discovered during ongoing excavations at the biblical site of Atarot (Khirbat Ataruz) in Jordan. The two newly deciphered late 9th century or very early 8th century BCE Moabite inscriptions incised into the cylindrical stone altar serve as tangible historical anchors for a battle of epic proportions.
According to researcher Adam Bean’s Levant article on the find, “An inscribed altar from the Khirbat Ataruz Moabite sanctuary,” the inscriptions offer new insight into the bloody aftermath of the conquest of Atarot that is described in the famed Mesha Stele and in the Bible. In 2 Kings 3:4-5, after the death of King Ahab of Israel (reigned ca. 869-850 BCE), King Mesha of Moab rebelled against Israelite hegemony but was defeated.