Evidence Supporting the Bible
Posted by foryourfaith on May 19, 2012
Most archaeologists who dig through the ruins of ancient biblical cities in the Middle East are not on a mission to prove the Bible. In fact, they argue that historical records cannot prove the most important teachings of the Bible – such as the existence of God. What archaeologists are looking for are clues about what life was like in biblical times. But in their quest for insight, they sometimes stumble across evidence that supports Old Testament history as the Bible reports it.
Here are a few of the most famous discoveries listed in the order they appear in biblical history.
Israel’s First Mention Outside the Bible
How odd that history’s first-known reference to Israel is an Egyptian king’s exaggerated boast that he wiped out the nation: “Israel is laid waste.”
The bragging pharaoh is Merneptah. The quotation – chiseled into a black granite slab commissioned by the king to commemorate his alleged victory over several enemies in Canaan, the Israelites included. The monument, now on display in the Cairo Museum, was erected in Thebes, Egypt in about 1210 BC. That is after the exodus, when the Israelites arrived in Canaan – perhaps in the time of the Judges.
This evidence lends support to the biblical story of the exodus, which says the Israelites fled Egypt and settled the region that today includes Israel and parts of neighboring Arab nations.
Another King Brags of Defeating Israel
In 1868, nomadic herders in Jordan found a stone monument that looks a bit like a tombstone more than a meter (three feet) high. Chiseled into the black stone monument now famous as the Moabite Stone, are the exploits of King Mesha who claims to have “utterly destroyed forever” the descendants of “Omri, king of Israel.” Omri was King Ahab’s father, and the first of a three-generation dynasty of Israelite rulers.
The Bible confirms that Mesha led his people the Moabites (In what is now Jordan), in a rebellion against Jehoram, Omri’s grandson and the last ruler of Omri’s dynasty. Jerhoram invaded Moab to quell the rebellion in this neighboring nation that paid taxes to them. But the Israelite army was driven back (2 Kings 3:27). Contrary to Mesha’s boast, Jehoram was not killed in the fighting. Jehoram died later in a coup.
The Moabite Stone, dating from the 800s BC, confirms the Bible’s report of Omri’s dynasty and of Mesha’s victory over Israelite forces led by a descendant of Omri.
An Israelite King Bowing
Found in the ruins of Assyria’s capital city of Nimrud (in northern Iraq) is yet another monument to a king’s domination of Israel. The stone monument has a picture of an Israelite king, Jehu, bowing to an Assyrian king, Shalmaneser III. The picture, accompanied by a caption, is engraved onto a four-sided, black marble pillar that stands about one and half meters (five feet) tall and is on display in the British Museum.
The caption below the picture describes the gifts that the Israelite king brought: “The tribute of Jehu son of Omri: silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden beaker, golden goblets, golden pitchers, tin, staves for the king’s hand, javelins.”
Jehu was not actually a descendant of King Omri, but was the king who succeeded Omri’s grandson, Jehoram. Shalmaneser’s Obelisk, as the monument is called, confirms the existence of two Israelite kings that the bible says lived during the 800s BC, when Assyria dominated the Middle East.
The Bible says that the Assyrian king, Sennacherib invaded the Israelite kingdom of Judah, overran all the fortified cities, and then surrounded Jerusalem – the capital, where King Hezekiah lived. The Bible adds that the Assyrian army suddenly fled on night after the angel of the Lord came to the Assyrian camp and killed thousands of their soldiers (2 Kings 19).
Sennacherib’s own version of this invasion is recorded on one of the best-preserved records of the ancient Middle East: a six-sided clay cylinder covered in cuneiform writing. Sennacherib’s prism tells about eight of his military campaigns, including the one in which he besieged Jerusalem. Here are excerpts from his Judean campaign in 701 BC:
As for Hezekiah the Judahite, who did not submit to my yoke: 46 of his strong, walled cities, as well as the small towns in their area, which were without number, by leveling with battering-rams and by bringing up siege engines, and by attacking and storming on foot. . . I besieged and took them . . . [Hezekiah] himself, like a caged bird I shut up in Jerusalem, his royal city.
Sennacherib confirmed the Bible’s account that he took Judah’s fortified cities and surrounded Jerusalem. But he stopped short of claiming he captured Jerusalem.
Cyrus Frees Political Prisoners
When the Persian conqueror Cyrus overpowered Babylon in 539 BC and started the Persian Empire, he issued a decree that freed all prisoners of the Babylonian empire. 2 Chronicles and Ezra say that among these prisoners were the Jews who survived the annihilation of their country when in 586 Babylon leveled the Judean cities – including Jerusalem – and took the survivors back to Babylon as spoils of war.
A clay cylinder inscribed with cuneiform writing and dating from Cyrus’s reign confirms that he conquered Babylon and that he released all Babylonian prisoners so they could go back to their homelands, rebuild their temples, and worship their gods.
I returned to these sanctuaries on the other side of the Tigris [River] – the sanctuaries which had been ruins for a long time – the images which used to live therein and established for them permanent sanctuaries. I also gathered all their former inhabitants and returned them to their homes.
Furthermore, Cyrus asked these people and their gods to pray for him: “May all the gods whom I have resettled in their sacred cities ask daily [my gods] Bel and Nabu for a long life for me.”
In response to Cyrus’s policy, many Jews returned to their homeland and began rebuilding Jerusalem and its temple, as the Bible said.
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