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What archaeological findings tell about the pronunciation

In the Amun-temple in Soleb (Sudan) there are found sculptures from the time of Amenhotep III. These sculptures are from the 14. century BCE.

On one sculpture there is an Egyptian hieroglyph with the Divine Name. This is the oldest archaeological occurrence of the Divine Name as we know.

Below is an illustration from a reconstruction of the sculpture.


The pronunciation of the hieroglyphs can be interpreted in more than one way. However, Gerard Gertoux, scholar at Association Biblique de Recherche d'Anciens Manuscrits in France gives the following vocalization:

Transcription of the hieroglyph:
t3 ¡3-sw-w y-h-w3-w (Shneider's transcription)
ta sha-su-w y-eh-ua-w (conventional vocalization)

The text is easy to decipher - it sounds "ta' sha'suw yehua'w", which means in English "land of the bedouins those of Yehua". It was common to name lands after the name of the gods - for example in Genesis 47:11 we read about "the land of Rameses".

We know little about the vowels of ancient Egyptian words. But for foreign words (like Yhw3), Egyptians used a form of matres lectionis. In this system the vowel letters was like this: 3 = a,  w = u,  ÿ=i. Mr. Gertoux points to the Merneptah's stele, dated 13-th century BCE, where the name Israel is transcribed in hieroglyphs Yÿsri3l, read "Yisrial". Gertoux draws the conclusion that Yhw3 technically can be read as Yehua'.

Professor Jean Leclant wrote: "It is evident that the name on the name-ring in Soleb that we discuss corresponds to the 'tetragram' of the god of the Bible YHWH."  He adds: "The name of God appears here in the first place as the name of a place." In a footnote he explains that place-names often are derived of the names of gods.
(Jean Leclant, Le "Tétragramme" à l’époque d’Aménophis III, in "Near Eastern Studies dedicated to H.I.H. Prince Takahito Mikasa on the Occasion of His Seventy-Fifth Birthday," pages 215-219, 1991, Wiesbaden)

Summary:
The oldest archaeological testimony where you can see the Divine Name is from about the 14. century BCE. Professor Gertoux claims that the Egyptian text shows us that the name was pronounced Yehua.


Aerial view of the Amun-temple:


The arrow points to where the name-shield was found


Plan of the Amun-temple:


The arrow points to where the name-shield was found


Drawing of the excavation site:



Sources:

Gérard Gertoux: The Name of God ... its story, 2002, Paris. (primary source)
B.D. Redford: Egypt, Israel, Sinai, Archeological and Historical Relationship in the Biblical Period, Ed. A.F. Rainey, p. 151, 1987, Tel Aviv.
Jean Leclant: Le 'Tétragramme' à l’époque d’Aménophis III, in 'Near Eastern Studies dedicated to H.I.H. Prince Takahito Mikasa on the Occasion of His Seventy-Fifth Birthday', pages 215-219, 1991, Wiesbaden.
Michele Schiff Giorgini: Soleb I, 1813-1963, Firenze.
M. Weippert: The Settlement of the Israelite Tribes in Palestine, 1971, London.
P.J.B.: La naissance de Dieu.  Du Xe au IIIe siècle av. J.C. La révélation de Yahvé, in 'Sciences et Avenir', 01/1999, N° 623.
Shmuel Ahituv: Canaanite Toponyms in Ancient Egyptian Documents, 1984, Leiden.