A First/Second Century Arabic Inscription Of ʿEn ʿAvdat

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First Composed: 6th April 2005

Last Modified: 31st May 2005

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Assalamu ʿalaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:

The ‘En ‘Avdat Inscription: The first four lines are in Aramaic and the last two in Arabic. It is written in the Nabataean alphabet.


Negev dates it between 88/9 and 125/6 CE and not later than 150 CE.


It is the one of the two Arabic inscriptions written in the Nabataean alphabet. The other one is the Namarah inscription of 328 CE.


The inscription contains six lines; first four of which are in Aramaic and the last two are in Arabic. It is the earliest piece of Arabic written in the Nabataean script so far discovered, antedating the famous Namarah inscription of 328 CE by about two centuries. This inscription is written in the Old Arabic. The Arabic article ʾl- occurs as ʾl-mwtw (line 5).

According to Bellamy, the Arabic portion is composed of verses of poetry. He asserts that this inscription shows us that not only was Arabic poetry being composed around the turn of first/second centuries, but also that it was much like the poetry that was familiar to us from four centuries later. The Arabic part of the inscription consists of three hemistichs in al-tawil, the most commonly used of the classical meters.


The Arabic part of the inscription reads (after Bellamy):

  1. For (Obodas) works without reward or favour, and he, when death tried to claim us, did not
  2. let it claim (us), for when a wound (of ours) festered, he did not let us perish


ʿEn ʿAvadat, Israel/Palestine.

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[1] A. Negev, "Obodas The God", Israel Exploration Journal, 1986, Volume 36, No. 1-2, pp. 56-60.

[2] J. A. Bellamy, "Arabic Verses From The First/Second Century: The Inscription Of ʿEn ʿAvdat", Journal Of Semitic Studies, 1990, Volume 35, pp. 73-79.

[3] M. O'Connor, "The Arabic Loanwords In Nabatean Aramaic", Journal Of The Near Eastern Studies, 1986, Volume 45, No. 3, p. 229, footnote 98.

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