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Archaeology – the physical evidence

part 2            Return to part one

What is archaeology?

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 more of the Archaeological findings that proved what the Bible had been saying for a long time through history was correct.

Sodom and Gomorrah

The Bible tells the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. These two towns were destroyed because of the depravity of the people who were living in them. This is what the Bible says:

Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah – from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities and also the vegetation in the land. 1

This story like so many other stories in the Bible had been questioned by scholars. They firstly questioned the existence of Sodom and Gomorrah and secondly asked how the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah could possibly have been destroyed by fire and brimstone.

In recent times the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah have been found which answers the scholar’s first question. As for the second question, nothing is impossible for God to carryout. If he so chose to destroy the cities with fire and brimstone, then it would happen. However there is an explanation as to what natural resource God may have used to achieve his aim. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by the raining of fire and brimstone (sulfur) from the sky sounds like a volcanic eruption, an idea which is supported by an examination of the region formerly occupied by these cities, on the shores of the Dead Sea. The large quantities of sulphur and bitumen, as well as the volcanic rocks and the sulphurous gases generated in the soil all point back to some tremendous holocaust of the past.

King David

King David is known as Israel's greatest king and he was known as a man after God’s own heart. David's life was filled with a number of magnificent achievements. On every side he was able to push back Israel's enemies. The Philistines, Moabites, Edomites, Aramaeans, and Ammonites all suffered at the hands of David. At his death, he left a kingdom at peace with her foes. In addition to these military achievements there are also remarkable advances in the area of government, commerce and trade and religion. The whole organisation of government was taken in a workman like fashion. Officers were appointed over the several departments of state. One of David's greatest achievements was the setting up of Jerusalem as the national capital. In order to do this he had to capture it from the Jebusites.

Archaeology has once again proved the existence of King David. It was only recently that it was discovered for the first time a mention of King David's name. Up till recently believe it or not, there had been no inscriptions found with David's name on it. This of course has been regarded as being a huge archaeological find.

There have been also lesser finds that have also indicated the existence of David. One of these is excavations at sites in the general south-eastern areas of Palestine where several towns with a well- known type of fortification have been discovered. The walls around the towns were known as casemate walls, which are really two comparatively thin walls braced across by transverse walls giving the appearance of great solidity. These type of walls date back to the 10th century and can be attributed to either Saul or David. The Biblical picture would suggest David.

Solomon

David's son, Solomon also has been shown indirectly to have lived by the revealing of archaeological evidence. For example, King Solomon's stables have been unearthed, so also has his great copper smelting furnace at his seaport of Ezion-Geber.

As another example of proof of the existence of Solomon the Bible says that the court around one of the houses Solomon built had three courses of hewn stones, and a course of cedar beams. In the great excavation at Megiddo, precisely this arrangement was found in the town that was there in Solomon's day.

The anatomy of an archaeological dig - Nineveh

Let's now consider an archaeological dig in a bit more detail. We'll look at the city of Nineveh which was mentioned in Book of Jonah as being the place to which Jonah was to go to preach repentance. Nineveh was also mentioned again in Nahum where we are told that because the inhabitants of the city didn't listen to Jonah's message that they and the city would be utterly destroyed. Nineveh is also mentioned in Zephaniah. The prophet Zephaniah said:

And [God] will stretch out His hand against the north, destroy Assyria, and make Nineveh a desolation, as dry as the wilderness….This is the rejoicing city that dwelt securely, that said in her heart, "I am it, and there is none besides me". How has she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down! 2

So Zephaniah tells us that Nineveh would be a place of desolation.

So that we can learn more about what happens on an archaeological dig let's now consider how Nineveh was discovered and how this once again verified the authenticity of the Bible:

A long distance from the highways of modern cities and the tracks of ordinary travel lay a city buried in the sandy earth of a half-desert Turkish province. Vague tradition that had been handed down in written documents from men who had lived in the past said that it lay somewhere near the river Tigris. But for a long time the only knowledge of its existence was its name. The name of the city suggested the idea of an ancient capital of unbelievable splendour and magnitude. A city that was so vast that it seemed hardly real to those who read about it in historical records.

As I mentioned above, the prophet Zephaniah described it as the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly; that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me.

Zephaniah also said about that city that it was to become a desolation and dry like a wilderness. For more than two thousand years Nineveh lay buried in its anonymous grave, until men of the eighteenth and the nineteenth century started looking for that mysterious city of old.

A young Englishman by the name of Claudius James Rich was the first to look on the city of Nineveh from an archaeological view point. The East India Company had appointed him to the town of Baghdad. Between official duties in Baghdad he quite often found time to survey the sites of Babylon and Assyria, collecting sculptures and inscriptions. In 1820 and 1821 he and his wife went on a tour of Kurdistan where he found a strange thing. Whilst looking across the plains and valleys in that area he saw numerous mounds rising up above the surrounding land. On close inspection he found each of these mounds to be actually ruins or more accurately piles of ruins.

He went to one particular mound which was known to the locals as the mound of Kuyunjik, which was a Turkish name meaning "little sheep". Upon examination of the mound of dirt he correctly guessed it to be the ancient city of Nineveh. He wrote:

"The Mount of Kuyunjik is, except at its west and part of its eastern face, of rather an irregular form. Its sides are very steep, it’s top nearly flat; its angles are not marked by any lantern or turret. The perpendicular height is forty- three feet; the total circumference 7,691 feet... Some part of the surface of the mound, probably where the buildings were either less solid or perhaps entirely wanting, is ploughed over... Here, some years ago, an immense stone picture (bas-relief), showing men and animals, covering a grey stone of the height of two men, was dug up from a spot little above the surface of the ground. All the men of the (nearby) town of Mosul went out to see it, and in a few days it was cut up or broken to pieces".

And so for the first time in some 2000 years the city of Nineveh had been rediscovered. Claudius Rich a few months later died of a disease he caught and so no further action was taken to look further at the mound of Kuyunjik.

Some twenty years later one Paul-Emile Botta who was the French consul at the same nearby town of Mosul let it be known to the locals they he was in the market for antiquities. He received many items of interest including tiles from the royal palace of Sargon II who was the conqueror of Samaria and destroyer of the kingdom of Israel. After receiving these various antiquities he had an interest to go to the source of these items to dig for himself.

Botta went to the mound of Kuyunjik which we now know as Nineveh and started digging. After he had dug a couple of trenches he lost interest believing there were much more rewarding sites to the north.

In 1845 the Englishman Henry Layard took up the challenge to try to find this mighty city of the past. Austen Henry Layard had started out from England leaving his law career preferring to live a life of adventure exploring the ancient archaeological sites of the Middle East and the near east. Needless to say many times he found his life at risk from roaming groups of robbers. Layard through his work in the following years became known for his good archaeological work.

However, there was one big goal in Layard's life and that was to find Nineveh.

He had heard of the French consul Paul Botta's diggings at the mound of Kuyunjik. So with funding he begged from the English ambassador in Turkey he started to dig. He removed more of the sand and clay than Paul Botta had ever done and revealed a world of temples, palaces and idols. A world where there quite obviously once had been a civilisation of pomp and power. A world which indeed lived up to its image as set out in the historical records written about the city.

So, initially when the city was revealed for the first time in 2000 years to the air and to man it was thought that this wasn't the city of Nineveh. However those doubts were soon dismissed by the Englishman Henry Layard, when the discovery of reliefs from the palaces of Sennacherib and Ashurbanipal along with many other inscriptions put the identity of the city beyond question.

As the excavations continued, more about the city was revealed. The walls of the city were seventy-five feet high. They were double brick being some thirty-two feet thick and they had fifteen gates along the length of the walls. Outside the walls lay a moat seventy-five feet wide. So it was glaring obvious to those who unearthed these walls that this city in the past was determined to keep its greatness by making its defences impenetrable.

Upon further digging by the archaeologists they found that many of the buildings of the city were decorated with glazed polychrome tiles whose colours were still vivid when Henry Layard first gazed upon them. The tiles often featured deep blue, a colour which is still prominent on decorative tiles of the Middle East.

In the palace at Nineveh there was found a library, apparently placed there by Asshurbanapal, Sennacherib's grandson. In the library, the written tablets could be found neatly arranged according to subject matter. The tablets covered a large range of knowledge of that day. The excavations continued, revealing to date some 25,000 inscribed tablets amongst which are such interesting passages as the Babylonian account of the great flood.

The work was never easy, listen to these words from English lieutenant who travelled to the site whilst on leave:

"We were frequently visited during my stay by furious gales from the north-west, hot as fire, of great violence, and heralded by clouds of burning dust, which penetrated every-where".

Of this, Layard had said that dinner was as much earth as it was everything else.

The Lieutenant then went on to describe the passages in the dig itself:

"Descending a few rudely cut steps, a narrow passage leads to one of the regular excavations; these were long galleries, some ten or more- perhaps fifteen feet high, and four or five broad, with the earth cut in an arch overhead, so as to render it less likely to fall in".

"It was impossible to enter these tunnels without a feeling of awe".

The Lieutenant went on to describe beautifully cut pictures cut into the stone which he wrote made him recall passages out of the book of Nahum. He wrote "These passages (from Nahum), as I sat, I saw portrayed on the walls".

He saw many other things like:

"A few colossal heads of winged figures rose calmly above the level of the soil".

The British government for many years worked at the site unearthing further valuable documents of an age gone by. However, this work was taken over in the last few decades by the Iraqi government as the site now lies within their territory.

So we can see that up to its discovery Nineveh was a mythical city mentioned by the Bible but was never able to be proven to be correct. All of a sudden the books of Jonah, Nahum and Zephaniah and indeed the Bible itself were brought to life by its archaeological discovery.

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. There hasn't been a single instance yet of archaeology revealing evidence that is contrary to what is laid out in the Bible.

And those who already believe in the Bible know with 100 % certainty that there will be nothing in the future dug up that will be inconsistent with the writings of the Bible.

How do they know this? They know it because they have faith in the Bible and all that it says. What archaeology reveals to the believer is something that he already knows and that is that the Bible is true. It is God's word. The apostle Paul wrote these words:

All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 3

All scripture is given by the influence of God so it can't possibly be wrong in its accuracy or message. And the message to us is to believe in God and follow his commands.

Top of page

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

1

Genesis chapter 19 and verses 24 to 25

2

Zephaniah chapter 2 and verses 13 to 15

3

2 Timothy chapter 3 and verse16

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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 April 2013