The Bible is a book read by many people. When we read it, our day is brightened. We are amazed that, even though the Bible was written long ago, it still talks about problems and needs that we have even today.
The more we read, the more we see that the Bible is about real events and real people just like us. Maybe this is why the Bible has so much to say to us living so many centuries later.
Many archaeological discoveries have confirmed what we sense as we read the Bible.
That it tells us about real places, real events, real people who lived long ago and yet built their houses, ate their meals, had their business and fought with one another, just like people do today.
As we continue our journey through the Old Testament, let's look at some of these archaeological discoveries and see how they relate to the Bible.
The Old Testament is the story of a great nation, Israel that was chosen by God to be His special people and to be a blessing to all nations. The nation of Israel began with the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
When Jacob was an old man, his son Joseph, who was at the time an Egyptian high official, brought Jacob and his family to Egypt in a time of great famine.
They stayed there for many years and the one family grew into a large tribe. But the Egyptians made them their slaves, like these other Semitic slaves pictured here in a tomb painting at Thebes from the 15th Century B.C.
Around 400 years later a man named Moses came to lead God's people out of their slavery in the great Exodus. Moses was raised by the daughter of Pharaoh, but turned his back on the wealth and power of Egypt to help his own people in their slavery...
...and to lead them out of their bondage and into the deserts of Sinai.
It is not certain the exact date of the Exodus, but some archaeologists believe that the pharaoh during the Exodus whose armies pursued Israel to the Red Sea was Rameses II, shown here in a temple sculpture. And now we will meet this ruler from the 13th century B.C. face to face.
This is the mummy of Rameses II. Even his hair is preserved. This might have been the very king who Moses came to with the message of God, "Let my people go."
And the people did go! After the plagues, they crossed the Red Sea and were free at last. But the hunger and hardships they faced in the wilderness caused them to think about all the food they had back in Egypt and the people grumbled against Moses.
he people then traveled south to Mt. Sinai and there, on top of it,...
Moses received the 10 commandments from God on tablets of stone.
In the 19th century, Old Testament scholars like Julius Wellhausen in Germany were skeptical of the Biblical account of the giving of the law. They believed that the laws in the Pentateuch were too advanced for the time of Moses, and they said these laws must have been from a later time, possibly from the time of the Babylonian exile, nearly 1,000 years after the time of Moses. Later, however, discoveries of other ancient law codes has shown that these doubts are unnecessary.
The best known of these discoveries was the famous code of Hammurabi. Hammurabi, shown here, was king of Babylon around 1750 B.C - - long before the time of Moses.
Hammurabi made a law code for his kingdom and then had his laws engraved on monuments that were placed in the major cities he ruled. This monument was discovered at Susa in 1902.
The picture at the top shows Hammurabi receiving the laws from the god, Shamash. Under the picture there are 4,000 lines of writing. There are many similarities between the code of Hammurabi and the law of Moses, but there are also many differences.
More recently archaeologists have discovered the law code of Ur-Nammu, King of Ur. Ur- Nammu lived about 100 years before Abraham grew up in Ur. The laws of Hammurabi and Ur-Nammu have many similarities with the Law of Moses, and even though they are from earlier than the time of Moses, they are just as complex and advanced as Moses' laws. This has shown that the 19th century doubts about the Law of Moses were ill-founded.
After receiving the law, the people of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and then began the conquest of the Promised land.
Jericho, is where the conquest began. Jericho was the first city that Joshua attacked and conquered. In the Old Testament Jericho is called "the city of palm trees" and it is still called that today.
In 1930, John Garstang excavated Jericho, and he thought he found the very walls that fell down during Joshua's attack.
But later excavations by an Englishwoman, Kathleen Kenyon, have shown that no ruins remain from Joshua's time.
One important discovery made at Jericho is this stone tower. Its foundations go back thousands of years before Joshua and the Israelite conquest.
Even though Palestine is a small land, about twice the size of Negros island, it was the home of many strong peoples when the Israelites began their invasion.
One of these peoples was the Philistines or "sea people" who were from Crete, according to the book of Amos. The name of Palestine comes from the Philistines. This sculpture showing Philistine warriors is from the tomb of Pharaoh Rameses III in Egypt. Notice their feather headdresses.
God promised his people "I have given you this land" But it took them several generations before the Israelite armies took control of the land. The books of Joshua and Judges tell the story of this struggle and conquest. But there is another side of the conquest – the Canaanite side. The Megiddo Ivory gives us a look at a Canaanite victory in the long struggle. This piece of Canaanite art was carved in ivory about 1200 B.C. and was found at Megiddo. It shows a Canaanite king sitting on his throne. The queen brings him a drink while a musician is playing.
The Canaanite people, like the king in the Megiddo ivory, worshiped many gods. Their chief god was El and he had a son named Baal. This image of Baal is covered with gold and was found at Megiddo in Galilee.
The Old Testament warned the people of Israel many times not to worship at the shrines of Baal, but the people of Israel still went against God many times and worshiped the Baals.
Today we have new information about Baal religion because of discoveries at the ancient city of Ugarit in Syria which is about 400 kilometers north of Jerusalem on the Mediterranean coast. 250 tablets were found dating back to the 14th century B.C. and many of them were about religious subjects. These tablets have shown that the Old Testament is accurate in the way it shows Baal worship.
This is a stone carving of an image of El, the father of Baal. It was also discovered in Ugarit.
After the judges ruled Israel for 200 years, the people wanted a king so they could be like the nations around them. The first king was Saul. He was followed by David and Solomon. While Solomon ruled, Israel was one of the strongest nations in the near east. Solomon was a great builder. He built the temple at Jerusalem and new cities, like Megiddo.
Solomon built Megiddo, Hazor, and Gezer to be chariot cities. The ruins of horse stables have been discovered at Megiddo. Archaeologists are not sure if these are the stables built by Solomon or if they were built by Ahab 70 years later.
Solomon died around 931 B.C. and the glory of his reign soon ended. His kingdom was divided into two rival nations: Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Weakened by division and civil war, Israel and Judah were surrounded by powerful neighbors, the Egyptians to the southwest the Assyrians to the northeast and later the Babylonians who were in the east.
According to the book of 1 Kings, it was only five years after the death of Solomon that the Egyptian armies, under Pharaoh Shishak, invaded Judah. They attacked Jerusalem and took the things from the temple. Here, from the great temple of Amon at Karnak, is Shishak's own record of that invasion of Judah. The Pharaoh is pictured with ropes leading to cities that he has captured. Many of them are cities of Judah.
The northern kingdom, Israel, was invaded again and again by the Assyrians. One of their emperors Shalmaneser erected this "black obelisk" about 850 B.C. to commemorate his victories. The obelisk was found at Ninevah in 1846.
A man is prostrate before Shalmaneser, and the inscription says this is "Jehu, son of Omri". Jehu was one of the kings of Israel. This is the same Jehu who murdered the evil Queen Jezebel. Here then is a picture of one of the kings of Israel that was made during the king's lifetime, the only such picture ever discovered.
The Moabite Stone was discovered about a century ago at Dibon, the capital of Moab. It was erected by Mesha, king of Moab, to record his successful rebellion against Israel in the 853 B.C. The Bible tells of this same rebellion in 2 Kings 3:4-5, an account now confirmed by the Moabite Stone.
About 40 years after Solomon's death Omri, King of Israel, built a new capital for the northern kingdom at Samaria. The new city flourished for 250 years but was destroyed by the Assyrians in 721 B.C.
The hill of Samaria is what remains of that ancient capital.
The city of Samaria has been excavated and these are some of the original Israelite walls, built around 880 B.C. Just beyond these walls are...
... the ruins of the palace of Ahab and Jezebel. Many of the Old Testament prophets, such as Amos and Hosea, denounced Samaria for its wickedness and idolatry. The wickedness of Samaria was never worse than during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel
The prophet Amos cried out against "those who were at ease in Zion" and “those who lie upon beds of ivory" (Amos 6:1, 4). Hundreds of pieces of ivory decorations were found amid the ruins of Samaria. Then in 721 B.C. the Assyrians destroyed Samaria and carried the people away into captivity.
The site was deserted, but 400 years later, a Greek Hellenistic city arose from the ruins.
and in the years just before the birth of Jesus, Herod the Great rebuilt the city.
Archaeologists have found many pieces of Assyrian art, like this one, that show what a cruel and war-like people the Assyrians were. The people of Samaria suffered a terrible fate when they fell into the hands of the Assyrians.
Notice the cruel execution of the three prisoners. They are impaled on stakes. This sculpture was found in the palace of the Assyrian king Tiglath-Piliesar III at the city of Nimrud.
The bronze bands on the gates of the palace of Shalmaneser III at Ninevah picture the military power of Assyria. A battering ram is pictured, shaped like a boar, attacking a city wall.
The bronze gates of Shalmaneser also picture the extreme cruelty of the Assyrians. Here they are deliberately dismembering their prisoners.
They would also cut off the heads of their captives and hang them on the city wall. This reminds us of what happened to King Saul and his son Jonathan many years earlier. (1 Samuel 31:1-13)
Soon after Samaria was destroyed, the Assyrian armies began to threaten Judah. We read in 2 Kings that
In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib, King of Assyria, came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the King of Assyria at Lachish saying, 'withdraw from me”.
This remarkable panel is an Assyrian sculpture depicting the siege of Lachish--the very battle described in 2 Kings 18. Lachish was located almost 50 kilometers southwest of Jerusalem. The panel was found in 1847 in the ruins of Sennacherib's palace in Ninevah. Here the Assyrian archers are moving up ramps to attack the city walls of Lachish.
The Assyrian archers fight ferociously as they attack Lachish...
...and, in the end, the defenders of Lachish are defeated and taken prisoner, and some of them are executed on stakes.
The survivors are led away by the Assyrians into captivity--to serve them in a foreign land. Later, the Babylonians attacked Judah and Nebuchadnezzar carried away young King Jehoiachin into Babylonian captivity. Jehoiachin was in prison for many years, but later, according to the Bible,
the king of Babylon graciously freed Jehoiachin from prison... and every day of his life he dined regularly at the king's table" (2 Kings 25:29).
This clay tablet was made at the royal court at Babylon in the year 592 B.C., and it included this amazing statement: "And ten measures of oil for Jehoiachin, King of Judah". What a dramatic confirmation of the Bible's account of what happened to Jehoiachin!
Yes, through many discoveries archaeology has illuminated the world of the Bible, helped us understand it, and confirmed its historical statements. Consider what some world-famous archaeologists have said. The late William F. Albright, the world's foremost Biblical archaeologist, said:
Biblical historical information is more accurate than any critical student thought possible.Nelson Glueck, a great American-Jewish archaeologist and President of the Hebrew Union College, has written:
It may be stated that no archaeological discovery has ever gone against a Biblical reference.and Glueck has also spoken of
the Bible's almost incredibly accurate historical memory.Yes, the work of archaeology has confirmed the historical accuracy of the Bible. It has shown that the Bible tells about real people, real places, and real events in the lives of those people.
And there is so much more. In the next lesson we'll see how two young shepherd boys were looking for a lost goat near the Dead Sea and made one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all--the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Original text and slides from "Proof from the Past: How Archaeology Confirms the Bible", ©1979 Religious Services Company, Inc. Used by permission. Various edits and new audio recordings by the Bible Study Center 2006-2014.
The Bible Study Center
C. C. Regis Building
N. Bacalso Avenue, Corner Eucalyptus
Basak San Nicholas
6000 Cebu City, Philippines
(63) (32) 414-6311
(63) (927) 482-6921
Monday through Friday:
1:00 PM - 7:00 PM