Here we’ll take a little time to look at some of the archaeological finds that are encouraging confirmations of the Bible’s veracity. The main reasons we know the Bible is truly the Word of God is because it works and because we know the Author! Even without archaeological evidence, we know it’s true, but the archaeological finds are faith building. Science and the artifacts of archaeology confirm the Bible; they do not disprove it but are proving it more every day.
Nelson Glueck, the renowned Jewish archaeologist (1900-1971), wrote: “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.”
Dr. W. F. Albright (1891-1971), leading Biblical archeologist and scholar, author of more than 800 publications, wrote: “Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history.”
King David is one of the key figures of the Old Testament. Known as perhaps the greatest king of Israel, a shade of mystery has covered his existence: Outside of the pages of the Bible, no reference had been found to King David or his ruling dynasty.
This changed in the 1990s, when archaeologists made an interesting discovery in Tel Dan, Israel.
They uncovered a rock fragment inscribed with an ancient text referring to “the House of David,” a phrase used for the ruling dynasty founded by King David. The rock appears to be a victory monument erected by a Syrian king nearly 3,000 years ago, after a battle described in the book of First Kings.
Yet again, archeology has confirmed the biblical record!
The finding of Babylon
The remains of Babylon have now been discovered, but for a long time no one could find it! Some higher critics of the Bible said, “Well, it shows you the Bible’s wrong, if it had been such a great city and all that, we should have found the remains by this time, so the Bible must not be so.” Yet they have been found!
BABYLON, the mightiest metropolis of the ancient world, was largely built by the efforts of Hammurabi (1728-1686 B.C.) and Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 B.C.). It declined after the death of Nebuchadnezzar and came to ruin about 130 B.C. at the hands of the Parthians. Archaeologists probed the ruins of the place, which lay on both sides of the river.
The discoveries in Babylon were no less than phenomenal. Among the more important finds were almost 300 cuneiform tablets relating mostly to the distribution of oil and barley to captives and skilled workmen from many nations who lived in and around Babylon between 595 and 570 B.C. Among those mentioned were Yow-keen (Jehoiakim) King of the land of Yehud (Judah) and his five young sons who were in the hands of Keniah, their attendant.
To understand the significance of this: In the third year of Jehoiakim, the eighteenth king of Judah (B.C. 605), Nebuchadnezzar, having overcome the Egyptians at Carchemish, advanced to Jerusalem with a great army. After a brief siege he took that city, and carried away the vessels of the sanctuary to Babylon, and dedicated them in the Temple of Belus. He also took captives, including King Jehoiakim.
2 Kings 24:1-In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. Then he turned and rebelled against him.
2 Chronicles 36:6-7-Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against him [Jehoiakim], and bound him in bronze fetters to carry him off to Babylon. (7) Nebuchadnezzar also carried off some of the articles from the house of the Lord to Babylon, and put them in his temple at Babylon.
An obelisk (stone pillar with pyramidical top) found in Calah, on the banks of the Tigris River, was set up by Shalmaneser II. It mentions by name a king of Syria and king of Israel who are also mentioned in the Bible.
The place of Calah, now called Nimrud, lies about twenty miles south of Nineveh, on the west bank of the Tigris River. According to Gen.10:11, it was first built by Nimrud:
Genesis 10:11-From that land he [Nimrud] went to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah.
Austin Henry Layard, during his excavations between 1847 and 1851, found that the remains of the ancient city walls measured 7,000 by 5,500 feet. Within these walls he found the remains of the palaces of three kings: Ashur-nasir-pal (885-860 B.C.), Shalmaneser III (860-825 B.C.), and Esarhaddon (680-669 B.C.), along with many wall sculptures.
The most interesting of these sculptures was a series that record the victories of Tiglath-pileser III, the Pul of 2 Kings.15:19. These figures show, in graphic style, the evacuation of a city, military operations connected with a siege, and the harsh treatment meted out to prisoners.
The most important of all discoveries was the Black Obelisk which had been set up by Shalmaneser III in the central building. It is a large, imposing monument of black marble, six feet, six inches high; and tapering at the top. It has twenty small bas-reliefs, five on each side, showing the officials from five different countries bringing tribute to the king. Above, below, and between the reliefs are 210 lines of cuneiform inscription which tell the story of the monarch’s achievements in war and peace during the first thirty-one years of his reign.
Among other individuals it mentions “Hazael of Damascus and Jehu of Israel.”
2 Kings 19:15-17-Then the Lord said to him: “Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.”
On the obelisk Shalmaneser says:
In the eighteenth year of my reign I crossed the Euphrates for the sixteenth time. Hazael of Damascus put his trust in his large army, and mustered his troops in great numbers, making Mount Senir (sa-ni-ru), facing the Lebanon, as his fortress. I fought with him and inflicted defeat upon him, killing with the sword 16,000 of his experienced soldiers. I took away from him 1121 chariots, 470 riding horses as well as his camp. He disappeared to save his life, but I followed him in Damascus, his royal residence. There I cut down his gardens outside the city and took my departure. I marched as far as Mount Hauran destroying, tearing down and burning innumerable towns, carrying booty away from them that was beyond counting. I then marched as far as the mountains of Ba’lira’si, by the sea-side, and erected there a stela* with my image as King. At that time I received the tribute of the inhabitants of Tyre, Sideon, and of Jehu, son of Omri. (*stela or stele: an ancient stone slab or pillar, usually engraved, inscribed, or painted, and set upright.)
Then, later, comes the section that is of even greater interest to the Bible student. It reads:
The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri: I received from him silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden goblets, pictures of gold, bars of lead, staffs for the hand of the king, and javelins, I received.
Jehu is shown kneeling, with tribute, in front of Shalmaneser. The Assyrian monarch is accompanied by two attendants (one holding a sunshade above him), and stands proudly, with the symbols of Ashur and Ishtar in the area above. King Jehu of Israel wears a short, rounded beard, a soft leather cap, and a sleeveless jacket, which marks him as a prisoner. Following him come Israelites dressed in long garments and carrying precious metals and other tribute. This is the only sculptured relief we have of any Israelite king.
The Dead Sea Scrolls
“Dead Sea Scrolls” is the name given to a collection of ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts (and fragments of manuscripts), found in a number of caves in the barren foothills of the Judean Wilderness, west of the Dead Sea. More than one-third of these are copies of books of the Old Testament, which are older by at least 1,000 years than the hitherto earliest known Old Testament manuscripts.
The jars that they found around the Dead Sea, with parts of the book of Isaiah in them, sealed with clay, had been preserved for 2,000 years!
God saw to it that they were preserved, because they destroyed the higher critics of Isaiah who claimed that the book of Isaiah had been written by two authors at different times, because the prophecies in the book were so accurate and came to pass so perfectly. They said therefore that the prophetic part of Isaiah must have been written a long time after the first Isaiah, by some other Isaiah. But they have discovered the actual scrolls of the writings of Isaiah, which date back before the prophecies were fulfilled. So now it can’t be denied that Isaiah wrote it, and they were genuine prophecies!
Even though the two copies of Isaiah discovered in Qumran Cave 1 near the Dead Sea were a thousand years earlier than the oldest dated manuscript previously known (980 A.D.), they proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95% of the text. The 5% of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling.
The discovery of the scrolls began in the spring of 1947 when an Arab shepherd boy missed one of his goats. While searching for it in one of the steep valleys, he threw a stone into a hillside cave and heard what sounded to him like the breaking of pottery. Summoning his companion, the two entered the cave and found some pottery jars 25 to 29 inches high and about 10 inches wide. In these, they found objects which looked much like miniature mummies, but were actually leather scrolls wrapped in squares of linen cloth, and covered over with a pitch like substance possibly derived from the Dead Sea.
With a vague idea that they had discovered antiques that might bring them money, they divided the scrolls and set off for Bethlehem where they located an antique dealer and offered him the scrolls for twenty pounds. He refused them. Afterwards they were directed to Jerusalem where, after bargaining for weeks, they sold four of the scrolls to Archbishop Athanasius Samuel of St. Mark’s Syrian Orthodox Monastery, and three to E. L. Sukenik, Professor of Archaeology at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. Archbishop Samuel showed his scrolls to several authorities who were uncertain about their content and value.
Finally they were taken to Dr. John C. Trever, acting director of the American School of Oriental Research (Jerusalem), who photographed and studied some of them, then sent copies to Dr. W. F. Albright of Johns Hopkins University. This well-known authority tentatively dated them about 100 B.C., and declared them an amazing discovery.
The Arab shepherds revealed the cave where the scrolls had been found, but war between the Arabs and Jews made scientific investigation impossible until February of 1949, when Dr. Laukester Harding of the Jordan Department of Antiquities, and Pere R. de Vaux of the Dominican Bible School of Jerusalem carefully excavated its floor level. Within three weeks they found some 800 scroll fragments belonging to about seventy-five different leather scrolls, a few fragments of papyrus scrolls, portions of linen in which scrolls had been wrapped, Roman lamps, and portions of jars and potsherds belonging to about fifty different jars.
Apparently some 200 scrolls had been hidden away in the cave. Origen, an Alexandrian church father who lived during the third century, is said to have used certain manuscripts which he found in a jar near Jericho. Also, Timotheus, Patriarch of Baghdad, wrote a letter to Sergius, Archbishop of Elam, about A.D. 800, saying that a certain person from Jerusalem told him of an Arab hunter’s dog that went into a cave entrance near Jericho. When the animal did not return for some time, his master went in after him, and found himself in a little house in the rock in which were many manuscripts. He reported the find to some Jewish scholars in Jerusalem who came down to the cave and removed many of the scrolls, which they said were books of the Old Testament and other Hebrew works.
Thirty-seven caves in the Qumran were examined during 1952 and found to contain pottery; but eleven of them also contained manuscript material, in large or small quantities. Cave II yielded biblical and apocryphal fragments. In Cave III were 274 portions of manuscripts, and two copper scrolls which originally were made up of three strips of copper, riveted together and measuring nearly eight feet in length. But in Cave IV were found over four hundred manuscripts, and about a hundred thousand fragments, varying in size from a thumbnail to a sheet of legal-size paper.
Altogether, the remains of more than 500 different manuscripts, or large portions of manuscripts, and multiplied thousands of fragments were found in these eleven caves. About one-third of the manuscripts are books of the Old Testament, the remainder are commentaries on some Old Testament books, Apocryphal and wisdom books, hymns and psalms, liturgies, theological works, and works relating to the people who lived at Qumran and wrote the scrolls.
There are manuscripts or fragments of every book of the Old Testament, except Esther. The most popular books, to judge from the number of copies found of each, were Isaiah, the Psalms, Deuteronomy, and Genesis. These were written on rolls of leather which had been carefully ruled to guide the scribes. A few were written on papyrus, and one on copper.
Some of the most important and best preserved of all these manuscripts were:
The scroll of Isaiah, known as St. Mark’s Isaiah Scroll, which was written on seventeen sheets of parchment sewn together end-to-end, making a scroll 24 feet long and 10.2 inches high. It is the largest and best preserved of all the scrolls, and was written in an early form of the square letter, which according to Dr. Albright places it in the second century B.C. This makes it the oldest known complete Hebrew manuscript of any biblical book, and it agrees in almost every respect with our traditional Hebrew texts, as used in the translation to the King James Version of our Bible.
Discoveries at Kirbet Mird: In 1950 members of the Ta’amireh Bedouin tribe found manuscript material of great interest at Kirbet Mird, a ruined Christian monastery on top of a conical peak 2 miles northeast of Mar Saba. A Belgian expedition made further searches there in February and March of 1953. Altogether, these discoveries include papyrus fragments of private letters in Arabic, a fragment of the Andromache of Euripides, and a number of Biblical texts in Greek and Syriac. The Greek texts include fragments from Mark, John, and Acts. Those in Syriac include fragments of Joshua, Luke, John, Acts, and Colossians. They all date from the 7th and 8th centuries of our Christian Era.
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