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Index To Archaeology And The Bible

 

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The Rocks Cry Out
The Historical Evidence For the Bible

From Grant R. Jeffrey's The Handwriting of God

The last one hundred and fifty years of archeological exploration in the Middle East has provided students of the Bible with an unparalleled abundance of evidence confirming thousands of detailed historical statements found in both the Old and New Testaments. In this chapter, we will explore a small fraction of the powerful historical and archeological evidence that has been discovered in Israel and throughout the Middle East that throws new light on the pivotal events that have shaped our modern Western culture. It is important that we place this evidence in its proper context. Archeology and historical documents can never prove that the Bible is inspired. Rather, the confirmation of the statements of the Bible through archeological and historical investigations provides us with powerful evidence of the historical truthfulness of the Word of God and indicates that its statements were accurately transmitted over thousands of years.

One of the greatest of these pioneer archeologists is the Jewish scholar Dr. Nelson Glueck, considered by many to be the greatest Jewish archeologist in history. Professor Glueck has written, "It is worth emphasizing that in all this work no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a single, properly understood biblical statement."1 Professor Glueck's statement is a powerful antidote to the pervasive skepticism and unbelief of so many of the liberal theologians who inhabit the seminaries and universities of the West. Despite the cynicism and skepticism of many liberal theologians to the accuracy of the biblical account the scientific evidence of archeology continues to confirm the accuracy of the Bible's statements. Meanwhile, liberal theologians continue to ignore this overwhelming evidence in favor of their presuppositions and strongly held prejudice against the authority, inspiration, and accuracy of the Word of God.

Dr. Glueck wrote about the wonder of exploring the ancient ruins of the Promised Land and finding confirmation after confirmation of the truthfulness of this incomparable book, the Holy Scriptures.

Acquaint yourself with the needs and fears, the moods and manners, of the broken array of peoples and civilizations that appeared at intervals along the horizon of time and, in a general way, you will know in advance where to look for the clues they left behind in the course of their passage. . . . And above all, read the Bible, morning, noon and night, with a positive attitude, reading to accept its historical references. . . . And then go forth into the wilderness of the Negev and discover, trite as it may sound, that everything you touch turns into the gold of history, and that it is almost impossible not to stumble across the treasures of a robust past, whose existence becomes as real and as full of content and color and sound and fury and the thrill of progress and the pity of failure as the transient present, which is always ticking away so furiously to join the throng of those that need no longer hurry.2


Jerusalem, The City of David
Modern liberal scholars who reject the biblical evidence about the monarchies of King David and his son Solomon in the tenth century before Christ also dismiss the Bible's claims about Jerusalem being the capital city of a united Israel. Many of these biblically minimalist scholars, including Professor Thomas Thompson of the University of Copenhagen, totally reject the Bible's description of Jerusalem as Israel's capital city during the reigns of King David and Solomon in the period 1000 b.c. to 930 b.c. In an article in Biblical Archeological Review, Thompson stated, "We don't have a tenth-century Jerusalem . . . The last point is that Jerusalem becomes a really major town only after the destruction of Lachish in 701 b.c. . . . Its very difficult to talk about a united monarchy [under David and Solomon] in the tenth century b.c.e."3 [Note: academic scholars use b.c.e. (before common era) rather than the normal designation b.c. (before Christ) for fairly obvious reasons].

In other words, Professor Thompson and his many liberal colleagues totally deny the detailed biblical record of the reigns of Israel's greatest kings and Solomon's Temple. From their skeptical standpoint, they automatically reject every biblical statement unless it is verified by multiple pagan historical or archeological sources. However, a logical question arises. How could such a detailed historical tradition and national memory of King David's and King Solomon's deeds, their conquests, and their Temple have arisen in Israel if these events never occurred?

Modern anthropologists admit that nearly always there is some historical event behind every tradition. The biblical minimalist scholars reject the historical and archeological evidence, as well as the biblical evidence, that attests to Jerusalem's existence as a significant city in Palestine during the time of Israel's conquest of Canaan, which occurred several centuries before the rise of King Saul and then King David to rule Jerusalem as Israel's capital. A fascinating article entitled "Cow Town or Royal Capital" by Nadav Na'aman appeared in the July/August 1997 issue of the respected Biblical Archeological Review magazine. This article contained interesting archeological evidence about ancient Jerusalem including a reference to the Tell el Amarna Letters. Although I had read a summary of these letters years ago, I was delighted to acquire an excellent copy and translation of these vital ancient documents from a rare-book dealer several weeks ago. It was fascinating to read these letters by the pagan king of Jerusalem during the tim
e of the conquest of the Promised Land.

Evidence about Jerusalem From the Tell el-Amarna TabletsThe famous Amarna letters were discovered at Tell el-Amarna in Egypt more than a century ago. These thirty-five hundred-year-old clay tablets included diplomatic letters that were written in the 14th century b.c. in Akkadian cuneiform characters, the common official language at the time. This valuable library of government documents includes more than three hundred diplomatic letters written by the governors or kings of Canaan to the Egyptian pharaoh who ruled Canaan as a province of the Egyptian-controlled territory in Palestine and Syria. This extensive correspondence includes hundreds of letters written by two well-known Egyptian pharaohs (Amenophis III [1391­1353 b.c.] and Amenophis IV, popularly known as Akhenaten [1353­1337 b.c.]). The dates when these Egyptian pharaohs ruled are widely accepted.

The most important portion of the letters for biblical scholars include six diplomatic messages sent from the King of Jerusalem, who ruled Canaan (present-day Israel and the West Bank). These letters are incredibly valuable for the detailed historical evidence they provide about the situation in Canaan at the approximate time of the conquest of the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua and Gideon, according to the biblical record found in Joshua and Judges. The Tell el-Amarna Tablets provide invaluable independent information about historical conditions in Canaan. Written by several kings who ruled their provinces and cities under the rule of Egypt, these letters are of vital importance to scholars because they describe conditions in Canaan only one or two generations after the Exodus at the very time the Bible tells us the conquest of the Promised Land occurred.

All serious scholars who have examined the Tell el-Amarna letters agree that the name "Urusalim" found in the letters clearly refer to the city of Jerusalem, according to the detailed geographical descriptions about its location. The Amarna letters mention the city of "Urusalim" (Jerusalem) which appears repeatedly in this fascinating correspondence. At the time of this correspondence, Jerusalem and other cities of Canaan were ruled by local kings under ultimate Egyptian control. Jerusalem itself was ruled by a local dynasty which passed the crown from father to son. Other sources refer to these local rulers of city-states as kings. In most of these letters, the king of Jerusalem appeals desperately, and without success, for troops and archers from his overlord, the pharaoh of Egypt. Apparently at this time, the pharaoh ruling Egypt was distracted from defending his province of Canaan against the invaders who were attacking the cities under the control of the king of Jerusalem. This invasion of the foreign "Habiru" occurred during the reign of Pharaoh Amenophis IV, often called Akhenaten (1353­1337 b.c.). Apparently Akhenaten ignored military defense because he was focussed solely on creating a new religion in Egypt to worship the sun god.

Consider the powerful historical evidence provided in these six letters from the king of Jerusalem to his overlord, the king of Egypt, that prove Jerusalem existed as a capital city during this critical historical period. In addition, these letters provide evidence that the Promised Land was being invaded at this time by a victorious army of foreign people called "Habiru." Many scholars admit that the "Habiru" were most likely the conquering Israelites, who called themselves "Hebrews." For example, Abdi-Hiba, the king of Jerusalem, wrote to the pharaoh in desperation requesting Egyptian troops to defend his territory.

Letters From The Tell el-Amarna Tablets

    There is no garrison here.
    So let the king care for his land.
    Let the king care for his land.
    The lands of the king, the lord,
    have all deserted.
    Ilimilku has devastated the whole land of the king.
    (Letter of Abdi-Hiba, King of Jerusalem to
    the Pharaoh -Tell el Amarna Letter - Number 2)

    No lands of the king remain.
    The Habiru plunder all lands of the king.
    If archers are here this year, then the lands of the king,
    the lord, will remain; but if archers are not here,
    then the lands of the king, my lord, are lost.
    (Letter of Abdi-Hiba, King of Jerusalem to
    the Pharaoh - Tell el Amarna Letter - Number 3)

    Verily, the king has set his name
    upon the land of Urusalim for ever.
    Therefore he cannot abandon
    the lands of Urusalim.
    (Letter of Abdi-Hiba, King of Jerusalem
    to the Pharaoh - Tell el Amarna Letter - Number 3)

In his letters the king protested that the pharaoh's indifference to his desperate military request for additional troops indicated that he didn't want to fight the "Habiru."

    As long as the king, my lord, lives
    I will say to the deputy of the king, my lord:
    "Why do you love the Habiru, and hate the regents ?"
    (Letter of Abdi-Hiba, King of Jerusalem to
    the Pharaoh - Tell el Amarna Letter - Number 2)

    But if there are no archers
    the land of the king will desert to the Hiabiru.
    This will be the fate of the land.
    (Letter of Abdi-Hiba, King of Jerusalem
    to the Pharaoh - Tell el Amarna Letter - Number 6)

Could the reluctance to fight this group of invaders stem from the historical memory of the Egyptians' of God's supernatural deliverance of the Israelites and the destruction of Egypt's army at the Red Sea during the Exodus?

Abdi-Hiba, the king of Jerusalem, indicated the significance of his kingdom and capital in his description of his gift of over five thousand slaves to his Egyptian overlord. If Jerusalem was a small, insignificant town, its king would not have had a military victory that afforded him the opportunity to send a gift of five thousand prisoners captured from his enemies. The biblical minimalist scholars assert that during this period (three centuries before King David and Solomon), Jerusalem was only a tiny, insignificant town, but their assertions have been proven to be false by the Amarna Letters of the Egyptian government.

    __ __ I have sent to the king, [my] lor[d]
    __ __ prisoners, five thousand _ __ _ _ ,
    [three hundr]ed and eigh[teen] bearers for
    the caravans of the king;
    they were taken in the fields (iati) near [Ialuna.
    (Letter of Abdi-Hiba, King of Jerusalem to
    the Pharaoh - Tell el Amarna Letter - Number 3)

Finally, Abdi-Hiba reveals his personal fear of imminent defeat by these conquering "Habiru" (Hebrews), who are taking city after city throughout his weakly defended territory. The king of Jerusalem warns the pharaoh that his fellow regents (local kings under Egypt's rule) are succumbing to the Habiru attack. Lastly, he admits that because Egypt is indifferent ("yet the king holds himself back") that the soldiers of another Canaanite king, "Zimrida of Lakisi," have deserted to join the victorious Habiru army.

    But now the Habiru are taking
    the cities of the king.
    No regent is (left)
    to the king, my lord; all are lost.

    Behold, Turbazu has been killed
    in the gate of Zilu, yet the king holds himself back.
    Behold, Zimrida of Lakisi - servants,
    who have joined with the Habiru, have smitten him.
    (Letter of Abdi-Hiba, King of Jerusalem to
    the Pharaoh - Tell el Amarna Letter - Number 4)

Other correspondence in the series of Tell el Amarna Letters indicates that the territory ruled by the king of Jerusalem at that time (during the days of Joshua and Gideon) included land extending from Hebron in the south to the town of Bethel in the north. In addition, these letters indicate that the territory of the king of Jerusalem extended from the midpoint of present-day West Bank to the Jordan River.

In conclusion, an analysis of the Tell el Amarna Letters clearly confirms that, in the 14th century b.c., the city of Jerusalem was a capital city ruling over a considerable amount of territory in Canaan under the oversight of the Egyptian pharaohs. The area encompassed a significant portion of the current West Bank as well as the areas to the west of Jerusalem. The letters confirm that the king of Jerusalem lived in a palace with a pagan temple and a full court of officials. Most importantly, these records confirm that Jerusalem was sophisticated enough to possess court scribes who carried on a continuing diplomatic correspondence with neighboring states, including its overlord, Egypt. In addition, the letters confirm that couriers from Egypt carried on regular correspondence with the court of Jerusalem.

In conclusion, the powerful historical evidence from these ancient Egyptian Tell el Amarna documents provides one more strong link in the chain of evidence from sources outside the Bible that tends to confirm the historical accuracy of these biblical accounts.


King Hezekiah's Tunnel Inscriptionhezekiah
The ancient king of Judea, King Hezekiah ordered his workmen to carve a long tunnel through 1,749 feet of hard bedrock to bring in a safe supply of water from a spring that was located outside the walls of the City of David, ancient Jerusalem. This undertaking was a truly phenomenal engineering task, especially when we consider the limited mining and surveying knowledge as well as the primitive tools, available to Jewish engineers in the 8th century b.c. An inscription describing this undertaking reveals that the leader of the project ordered two groups of miners to begin digging toward each other from opposite ends of the tunnel. The reason for attempting the very difficult task of trying to bore through so much solid rock in the hope of meeting in the center rather than simply working from one end only, must have been the fear of an impending invasion of Jerusalem. Tourists visiting Jerusalem can now safely wade through the shallow waters of Hezekiah's Tunnel that lead to the Gihon Spring. Kaye and I have walked underground in this engineering marvel, and have witnessed proof of the incredible accuracy of the historical accounts recorded in the Holy Scriptures.

The tunnel inscription was written in ancient classical Hebrew on a plaque located near the pool. The inscription described the construction of this unusual tunnel: "Behold the tunnel. This is the story of its cutting. While the miners swung their picks, one towards the other, and when there remained only 3 cubits to cut, the voice of one calling his fellow was heard - for there was a resonance in the rock coming from both north and south . . . and the water flowed from the spring towards the pool, 1200 cubits. The height of the rock above the head of the miners was 100 cubits." This engraved inscription is enormously important to archeologists because it clearly confirms a very specific and unusual biblical account. The engraving was carved out of the base rock that formed the side of the ancient excavated tunnel. After its discovery, it was removed by the Turkish authorities to their capital of Istanbul in 1880. It was forgotten and laid aside as an unknown inscription until an Israeli archeologist visited the museum and recognized that the engraved stone was incredibly valuable, the long-forgotten Hezekiah Tunnel inscription. He alerted the museum curator to the fact. This priceless inscription from the past can now be seen in an exhibit in an archeological museum in Istanbul, Turkey. [See Hezekiah’s Tunnel]

It is interesting to look back in Church history to view the attitudes toward the authority of the Bible expressed by the great men of faith in past generations. In the fourth-century book The City of God, Saint Augustine declared, "Scripture, which proves the truth of its historical statements by the accomplishment of its prophecies, gives no false information.

Can We Trust the Historical Statements of the Bible?


The Testimony of Archaeologists and Classical Scholars
Professor Millar Burrows of Yale University discussed the findings of recent archeological digs and their impact on the views of the critics of biblical historical accuracy: "Archaeology has in many cases refuted the views of modern critics. It has shown in a number of instances that these views rest on false assumptions and unreal, artificial schemes of historical development"5 Dr. Burrows explained the underlying assumptions that creates this climate of rejection of the Scriptures: "The excessive skepticism of many liberal theologians stems not from a careful evaluation of the available data, but from an enormous predisposition against the supernatural." His comments underline the fundamental role of presuppositions in the minds of all intellectuals as they approach any area of study. If you approach the Bible determined to reject any of the statements that reveal the prophetic and supernatural nature of God's revelation to man, then you have determined your negative conclusions before commencing your study.

As a leading archaeologist in the field of biblical Middle Eastern studies Burrows revealed that the results of modern archeological research have provided powerful new evidence in favor of the historical accuracy of the statements found in the Scriptures: "On the whole, however, archaeological work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the scriptural record. More than one archaeologist has found his respect for the Bible increased by the experience of excavation in Palestine"6 In conclusion Burrows affirmed that the net result of the recent discoveries has actually increased our ability to categorize the Bible's statements as solid evidence by eyewitnesses to these ancient events: "Such evidence as archaeology has afforded thus far, especially by providing additional and older manuscripts of the books of the Bible, strengthens our confidence in the accuracy with which the text has been transmitted through the centuries."7

Sir Frederic Kenyon, a well-known archeologist in the earlier part of this century, has written that the results of modern research has profoundly increased our knowledge and understanding of the biblical world. Professor Kenyon wrote that Christians can welcome the results of continued archeological research because the continuing evidence produced from the digs in the Middle East has strengthened our confidence in the total accuracy of the Word of God.

    It is therefore legitimate to say that, in respect of that part of the Old Testament against which the disintegrating criticism of the last half of the nineteenth century was chiefly directed, the evidence of archaeology has been to re-establish its authority, and likewise to augment its value by rendering it more intelligible through a fuller knowledge of its background and setting. Archaeology has not yet said its last word; but the results already achieved confirm what faith would suggest, that the Bible can do nothing but gain from an increase of knowledge.8

F. F. Bruce is a leading researcher in the area of biblical studies. He has stated that, far from disproving the Bible, recent archeological finds have proven the truthfulness of the scriptural account: "Where Luke has been suspected of inaccuracy, and accuracy has been vindicated by some inscriptional evidence, it may be legitimate to say that archaeology has confirmed the New Testament record."9 Professor Merrill Unger, the editor of the well respected Unger Bible Dictionary has pointed out the incomparable value from the results of modern archeology in enabling us to understand the ancient world of the kings and prophets of Israel: "Old Testament archaeology has rediscovered whole nations, resurrected important peoples, and in a most astonishing manner filled in historical gaps, adding immeasurably to the knowledge of biblical backgrounds."

In the last century, the writer H. L. Hastings wrote about the astonishing survival and success of the Bible, despite centuries of attacks on its authority and accuracy. The Scriptures have withstood the blistering attacks of skepticism. Hastings wrote, "Infidels of eighteen hundred years have been refuting and overthrowing this book, and yet it stands today as solid rock. Its circulation increases, and it is more loved and cherished and read today than ever before. Infidels, with all their assaults, make about as much impression on this book as a man with a tack hammer would on the Pyramids of Egypt."

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