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Archaeology – the physical evidence

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What is archaeology?

The Bible over the past few hundred years has been probably one of the most assaulted books in existence. It used to be practice of the higher critics to attack almost everything in the Bible as being unhistorical. They would say that the writers of the Bible wrote long after the supposed events took place or sometimes they would say that the writers of the Bible simply made things up so as to make a good story. Since the multitude of archaeological discoveries made within the past century, however, the pendulum is swinging the other way and the Bible is regarded even by those who do not believe in it's inspiration as an exceedingly trustworthy book from the historical viewpoint.

So what is archaeology? And how has it proved the Bible to be correct?

Archaeologists at a site in Israel

Archaeology is usually defined as the science of the treatment of the material remains of the human past. As one Archaeologist put it, Archaeology is not the science of digging up things rather it is the science of digging up people. And that is a good description of Archaeology: it involves digging up past objects so that we can learn more about the people who lived in those times.

In the past 150 years some archaeologists have specialised in what is known as Biblical archaeology where events set out in the Bible are attempted to be verified by digging up Archaeological information. By doing this, Archaeology is being used as an extremely useful tool to verify the authenticity of the Bible.

So let's look at some of the Archaeological findings that proved what the Bible had been saying for a long time through history was correct.

Hezekiah’s aquaduct

The first example revolves around an aqueduct or in other words a tunnel which allows water through it.

King Hezekiah lived from 715 BC to 687 BC and he is from an archaeological viewpoint one of the most famous Judean kings. He got involved in a plot against the Assyrian nation. This began by removing parts of Assyrian worship from the country, especially from Solomon's temple. He did this as a rebellion against the Assyrian warlord who ruled in that region. The Assyrians naturally didn’t like it and they decided to attack Jerusalem (where King Hezekiah was residing). In preparing for the counterattack from the Assyrians, Hezekiah had a tunnel dug on the outskirts of Jerusalem from the Gihon spring through the ridge called Mount Ophel to the pool of Siloam. As it came from a spring it had water flowing through it.

Mention of this water tunnel or aquaduct is found in 2 Kings chapter twenty and verse twenty:

"Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah – all his might, and how he made a pool and a tunnel and brought water into the city – are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?"

In 1838 an explorer traveling through this area found the tunnel. This same tunnel is still in existence today and for the equivalent of a few dollars, tourists with no claustrophobia can still walk along the length of it which is 1750 feet long. I did it a number of years ago.

Here is a case of archaeology verifying what had already been stated in the Bible.

The clay prism of Sennacherib

During the years of 705 BC to 681 BC the country of Assyria was ruled by King Sennacherib. The king recorded many of his exploits including his invasion of Israel. These records are inscribed upon what archaeologists call the Taylor Prism. It is a six-sided hexagonal prism of baked clay.

The actual prism was discovered in the ruins of Nineveh which was the ancient capital of the Assyrian Empire. The prism can still be seen in the British museum. On the prism Sennacherib records how his invincible army assaulted and captured forty-six of King Hezekiah’s walled cities. This confirms what was recorded in the Bible at 2 Chronicles chapter 32 and verse one:

After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself.

Then he turned his attention to Hezekiah and his capital. In relation to this Sennacherib wrote:

"Himself, like a bird in a cage in the midst of Jerusalem, his royal city, I shut up".

2 Chronicles chapter 32 and verses 9 and 10 verify what Sennacherib wrote:

Later when Sennacherib King of Assyria and all his forces were laying siege to Lachish, he sent his officers to Jerusalem with this message for Hezekiah king of Judah and for all the people of Judah who were there:

This is what Sennacherib king of Assyria says: On what are you basing your confidence that you remain in Jerusalem under siege?

So what was recorded in the Bible was confirmed by what Sennacherib had written on the Taylor Prism.

To finish this story let’s look at what happened next. After Sennacherib boasted that King Hezekiah was trapped like a bird, the record of his triumphant progress ceases. Why did the mighty army of Assyria fail to take the relatively small city of Jerusalem? Sennacherib doesn’t tell us. But the prophet Isaiah does fill in the detail about the siege of Jerusalem when he says:

Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria…."I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant"….Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning – there were all the dead bodies. 1

The Taylor Prism is one of three accounts which have been found through archaeology which record the Assyrian king Sennacherib’s campaign against Israel and Judah.

The end of Sennacherib and the Nabonidus Stele

In the previous section I told of the invasion of Judah by the Assyrian King Sennacherib and how he eventually suffered a great loss which caused him to withdraw back to his capital city, Nineveh. It was whilst he was here that he was assassinated by his two sons in 681 B.C. The Bible says:

So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went away, returned home, and remained at Nineveh.

Now it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the temple of Nisroch his god that his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. Then Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place...2

Once again archaeology supports this. On a slab of rock called the Nabonidus Stele there is recorded the murder of Sennacherib at the hand of his two sons. However, this record says that the two sons killed there father because of the Assyrian god Marduk’s anger over the destruction of Babylon by Sennacherib.

Shalmaneser’s Black Obelisk

Assyria was reigned over by king Shalmaneser III between 859 and 824 BC. It was during his reign that Assyria’s influence over Israel and Judah began to be felt. Shalmaneser records how first he fought a coalition, including Hadadezer of Damascus and Ahab of Israel, at Qarqar in 853 B.C. In the Bible, Hadadezer is referred to as Ben-hadad. This battle probably happened after Ahab had defeated Ben-hadad in battle and made a treaty with him. 3

The Bible tells how later on Hazael (a powerful king of Syria) murdered Ben-hadad and took assumption of the throne of Syria. 4 During his reign as the king of Syria he continually attacked Israel during the reigns of Jehoram, Jehu and Jehoahaz. But the supremacy of Hazael was short lived and the Black Obelisk records how Shalmaneser subdued him.

The Black Obelisk was discovered by the archaeologist Austen Henry Layard in 1845 at the site of the ancient city of Nimrud. It is about two metres tall and records the conquests of Shalmaneser. As we saw above, the existence of Hazael King of Syria, mentioned in the Bible, is confirmed by Shalmaneser recording on the Black Obelisk how he subdued him.

But this is not the only place on the Black Obelisk that confirms the Bible! Jehu king of Israel is mentioned a number of times in the Bible in 2 Kings chapters nine and ten. He reigned between 843 to 816 B.C. (circa). The Black Obelisk records that Jehu king of Israel found it necessary to pay tribute to the Assyrians. The obelisk shows a picture of Jehu, king of Israel, kneeling down and bringing tribute to the Assyrian king, Shalmaneser and the inscription under the picture reads:

"The tribute of Jehu son of Omri. Silver and gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase, golden cups, golden buckets, tin, a staff for the king, and puruhtifruits".

Jehu was not literally the son of Omri – the text simply reflects the Assyrian habit of calling Israel the house or land of "Omri".

Although it is not recorded in the Bible that King Jehu paid tribute, the Black Obelisk confirms the existence of Jehu who was recorded in the Bible.

Abraham

The next archaeological find we will look at is in relation to a person who was talked about many times in the Bible. The name of this man is Abraham.

Abraham lived with his father Terah in Mesopotamia in the city of the Ur of the Chaldees, near the estuary of the River Euphrates. Ur was an important city with a high form of culture, government and literature, but despite all of this, idolatry was carried out there by its inhabitants. The call of God went out to Abraham as is recorded in the Bible:

Now the Lord had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your kindred and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you".

Abraham obeyed God and left the idolatrous city life to be a wanderer. He went traveling in a north-westerly direction along the course of the Euphrates. As part of God's call, Abraham was given certain promises which had a far-reaching affect. For the promises talked of the future Kingdom of God. From all of this we know that Abraham is one of the central characters of the Bible, so if archaeology can prove his existence then this is another example of archaeology proving the Bible correct.

There is quite a bit of evidence which supports the Bible stories of Abraham and indeed other central Bible characters like Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses.

For example, Abraham's boyhood home as I just mentioned is Ur of the Chaldees, the location and the very existence of this place was at one time uncertain, but in recent years it has been discovered and fully explored. Many of the cities that Abraham visited when he went out into the countryside leaving Ur have also now been verified by the discovery of them by Archaeologists.

Moses

It is widely accepted that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. Critics at one time claimed the first five books of the Bible could not have been written by Moses because the art of writing was unknown when he was living. Discoveries in Ur and other places, however, have proved beyond all doubt that writing was well developed for at least many hundreds of years before even Abraham's time.

Rephaim – pigs and mice

There are hundreds of archaeological sites that prove the Bible to be correct, but this one borders on the weird or bizarre!!

It takes place in the Valley of Rephaim which is about four kilometres southwest of Jerusalem. Some archaeologists were poking around in this valley when they discovered some animal bones which really puzzled them. It puzzled them because the bones were those of pigs and mice. The head archaeologist scratched his head trying to see the connection between pigs and mice. He eventually decided to go to the Bible to see if he could find an explanation. After a bit of searching around he found the answer. It was in Isaiah chapter 66 and verse 17:

Those who consecrate and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following the one in the midst of those who eat the flesh of pigs and rats and other abominable things – they will meet their end together" declares the Lord.

In this verse, we see Isaiah condemning a pagan practice carried out by some people of Jerusalem. It was quite obvious that the people were eating the flesh of pigs and mice as part of a pagan ritual, practices which had been strictly forbidden by God.

When the archaeologists dug further they found an area that had been terraced, and there was evidence that orchards had been on the site. This convinced them that this was the location of the gardens and the tree that verse seventeen talks about. So it seems this was the very site that this verse was talking about. There was further proof later on because they found the foundations of a pagan temple only about forty metres from the bones of the pigs and mice.

A bizarre ritual especially eating mice, but interesting from the point of view that it verifies one of the more obscure passages in the Bible.

Conclusion

Needless to say, what we have seen in this article is only a small segment of the overall work that has been carried out on Biblical archaeology. The key point that has to be remembered in all of this is that all archaeological findings so far have verified the facts laid out in the Bible.

In part two of this article we look at more examples of archaeological findings that have proved the Bible correct. We will also look in detail at a particular archaeological dig at the ancient site of Nineveh.

Top of page          Go to part 2

Articles in the series:     12 reasons to believe in the Bible

The Harmony of the Bible
Accuracy in historical events
Historians and the Bible agree
Bible prophecy
Jews: scattered & regathered
World focus: modern Israel
Law of Moses:ahead of its time
Physical evidence:Archaeology
Nature & Universe - designed
Jesus Christ - univentable
Jesus Christ - resurrection proof
The Bible and science agree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside Hekeziah's aquaduct - spring water flows through the bottom of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Taylor Prism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Black Obelisk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

1

Isaiah chapter 37 and verses 33 to 36.

2

2 Kings chapter 19 and verses 36 to 37

3

1 Kings chapter 20 and verse 34.

4

2 Kings chapter 8 and verses 7 to 15

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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 April 2013