Archaeology and the Old Testament

Text: Isaiah 41:21-29


I.         Mankind’s memories of the past are poor at best

            A.        In general, we don’t keep extensive records and those records we do keep are often on material that does not last.

            B.        There is a branch of science, called archeology that attempts to bring the past to light.

            C.        Archaeology is of interest to the student of the Bible.

                        1.         It cannot prove whether the Bible is true or false. The records are much too incomplete to make such statements.

                        2.         Yet it can provide support for information found in the Bible

                        3.         Almost all archeological finds are filled with doubts. There are as many people searching to disprove the Bible as those seeking proof. Most retain their bias.

            D.        The amount of confirming information is staggering. I will not be able to cover even small portion of what is available in one lesson.

II.        Jehoash Inscription

            A.        II Kings 12:4-16

            B.        This is a fairly recent find and is filled with controversy. It came to light in 2003 when someone attempted to market the stone. The dealer refuses to reveal the owner (owning archeological artifacts is a crime in Israel). But this means the history of the stone cannot be traced.

            C.        If it is a forgery, it is an incredibly accurate one. It passes every test currently known so far for material.

                        1.         The one that has most people excited is one micron diameter flecks of gold across the surface.

                        2.         This matches something that had gold overlay, but was melted off by extreme heat.

                        3.         Nebuchadnezzar took all the gold in the temple after a siege - II Kings 24:11-13

            D.        Most doubts center not on the stone itself, but the words used on the stone. The problem while many scholars talk as if we know the exact usage of Hebrew throughout the ages, the reality is that we have few samples. The Bible remains our main source. The Hebrew doesn’t precisely match the Hebrew found in II Kings 12.

                        1.         The problem is that too many anomalies and it is declared a fake because it doesn’t match current knowledge of the language

                        2.         Too few anomalies and it is declared a fake because it was copied from the Bible.

            E.        Show translation

III.       Hezekiah’s Tunnel

            A.        Sennacherib enters Judah - II Chronicles 32:1

                        1.         According to secular history, Sennacherib had recently come to power after the death of Sargon II.

                        2.         At Sargon’s death, revolts had broken out in various regions of the Assyrian empire. Sennacherib was determined to firmly hold onto his vassal states.

                        3.         Knowing that Sennacherib would soon take a hand in putting Judah back under his power, Hezekiah began preparations for war - II Chronicles 32:2-5

            B.        In 1880 two boys swimming in a pool in Jerusalem, found an inscription about 20 feet into one end of a tunnel.

                        1.         The inscription read: “[...when] (the tunnel) was driven through. And this was the way in which it was cut through: While [...] (were) still [...] axe(s), each man toward his fellow, and while there were still three cubits to be cut through, [there was heard] the voice of a man calling to his fellows, for there was an overlap in the rock on the right [and on the left]. And when the tunnel was driven through, the quarrymen hewed (the rock), each man toward his fellow, axe against axe; and the water flowed from the spring toward the reservoir for 1200 cubits, and the height of the rock above the head(s) of the quarrymen was 100 cubits.”

                        2.         The tunnel is 1,800 feet long (showing a cubit was 1.5 feet in Hezekiah’s day).

IV.      Taylor’s Prism

            A.        Part of the text on Sennacherib’s prism is an account of his military campaign into Judah. “As to Hezekiah, the Jew, he did not submit to my yoke, I laid siege to 46 of his strong cities, walled forts and to the countless small villages in their vicinity, and conquered them by means of well-stamped earth ramps, and battering rams brought thus near to the walls combined with the attack by foot soldiers, using mines, breeches as well as sapper work. I drove out of them 200,150 people, young and old, male and female, horses, mules, donkeys, camels, big and small cattle beyond counting, and considered them booty. Himself I made a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage. I surrounded him with earth work in order to molest those who were leaving his city gates”

            B.        Compare with II Kings 18:13-17

            C.        Notice that Sennacherib never mentions actually conquering Jerusalem, only the cities in the north. From the Scriptures, we know why - II Kings 19:32-36

V.        The Siege of Lachish

            A.        Recall the mention of a siege being held in Lachish - II Chronicles 32:9

            B.        The tell was identified first as Lachish by Albright in 1929, the tell was excavated by James Leslie Starkey 1932-38 and by Tel Aviv University 1973-87. Lachish is generally regarded as the second most important city in the southern kingdom of Judah. It enters the biblical narrative in the battle accounts of Joshua, Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar.

            C.        William Dever, “The evidence of it is all there: the enormous sloping siege ramp thrown up against the city walls south of the gate; the double line of defense walls, upslope and downslope; the iron-shod Assyrian battering rams that breached the city wall at its highest point; the massive destruction with the fallen city ... Virtually all the details of the Assyrian reliefs have been confirmed by archaeology”

            D.        The only siege ramp excavated in the ancient Near East is this one constructed by the forces of Sennacherib in his 701 B.C. invasion of Judah. More than 1000 iron arrowheads were found in the ramp as well as a chain for catching the battering rams. This ramp is depicted in Sennacherib's siege reliefs with five battering rams ascending it.

VI.      The Death of Sennacherib

            A.        II Kings 19:37

            B.        A translation by Luckenbill from Esarhaddon’s chronicles found in Assyria: “In the month of Nisanu, on a favorable day, complying with their exalted command, I made my joyful entrance into the royal palace, an awesome place, wherein abides the fate of kings. A firm determination fell upon my brothers. They forsook the gods and turned to their deed of violence plotting evil. ... To gain the kinship they slew Sennacherib, their father ...”

            C.        This account is found on the Nabonidus Stele

VII.     Bullae

            A.        When a scroll was written, it would be rolled into a cylinder, wrapped by a cord, and then the cords tied and sealed with a bit of soft clay, wax, or soft metal. A stamp was used to impress the seal giving notice as to who the owner of the scroll was.

            B.        One location in Jerusalem is known as the “House of Bullae” because so many of these seals were found. The building was burnt by the Babylonians. The fire destroyed the scrolls, but it baked the seals, thus preserving them.

            C.        The Seal of Gemariah. A clay button used for sealing letters was found in 1982 in a layer of Jerusalem which corresponds to its destruction in 586 BC. This seal is marked, "Gemariah, son of Shaphan." This can only be the seal of the same Gemariah who is mentioned in Jeremiah 36:10-12, 25-26. He was one of those who advised King Jehoiakim not to burn the scroll which Jeremiah had sent to the king.

            D.        The Seal of Baruch: The three lines on the Baruch bulla read: “(Belonging) to Berekhyahu, the son of Neriyahu, the scribe.” The suffix -yahu was a common epithet attached to names in Judah, meaning, “blessed of Jehovah.” While translations sometimes render it “-iah” (cf. Baruch’s father Ner-iah), some texts drop it altogether. The bulla is now displayed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem - Jeremiah 36:16

                        1.         There are several of these seals. One in a private collection has a fingerprint on the back, which might be the fingerprint of Baruch himself.

            E.        The bullae are significant because these are major political figures.

VIII.    50 People in the Bible found in Archaeology []

            A.        Egyptian:

                        1.         Shishak (= Shoshenq I), pharaoh, r. 945–924, 1 Kings 11:40 and 14:25

                        2.         So (= Osorkon IV), pharaoh, r. 730–715, 2 Kings 17:4

                        3.         Tirhakah (= Taharqa), pharaoh, r. 690–664, 2 Kings 19:9, etc.

                        4.         Necho II (= Neco II), pharaoh, r. 610–595, 2 Chronicles 35:20, etc.,

                        5.         Hophra (= Apries = Wahibre), pharaoh, r. 589–570, Jeremiah 44:30,

            B.        Moab:

                        1.         Mesha, king, r. early to mid-9th century, 2 Kings 3:4–27,

            C.        Aram:

                        1.         Hadadezer, king, r. early 9th century to 844/842, 1 Kings 22:3, etc.,

                        2.         Ben-hadad, son of Hadadezer, r. or served as co-regent 844/842, 2 Kings 6:24, etc.,

                        3.         Hazael, king, r. 844/842–ca. 800, 1 Kings 19:15, 2 Kings 8:8, etc.,

                        4.         Ben-hadad, son of Hazael, king, r. early 8th century, 2 Kings 13:3, etc.,

                        5.         Rezin (= Ra ianu), king, r. mid-8th century to 732, 2 Kings 15:37, etc.

            D.        Israel:

                        1.         Omri, king, r. 884–873, 1 Kings 16:16, etc.,

                        2.         Ahab, king, r. 873–852, 1 Kings 16:28, etc.,

                        3.         Jehu, king, r. 842/841–815/814, 1 Kings 19:16, etc.,

                        4.         Joash (= Jehoash), king, r. 805–790, 2 Kings 13:9, etc.

                        5.         Jeroboam II, king, r. 790–750/749, 2 Kings 13:13, etc.,

                        6.         Menahem, king, r. 749–738, 2 Kings 15:14, etc.,

                        7.         Pekah, king, r. 750(?)–732/731, 2 Kings 15:25, etc.

                        8.         Hoshea, king, r. 732/731–722, 2 Kings 15:30, etc.,

                        9.         Sanballat “I”, governor of Samaria under Persian rule, ca. mid-fifth century, Nehemiah 2:10, etc.

            E.        Judah:

                        1.         David, king, r. ca. 1010–970, 1 Samuel 16:13, etc.

                        2.         Uzziah (= Azariah), king, r. 788/787–736/735, 2 Kings 14:21, etc.

                        3.         Ahaz (= Jehoahaz), king, r. 742/741–726, 2 Kings 15:38, etc.,

                        4.         Hezekiah, king, r. 726–697/696, 2 Kings 16:20, etc.

                        5.         Manasseh, king, r. 697/696–642/641, 2 Kings 20:21, etc.,

                        6.         Hilkiah, high priest during Josiah’s reign, within 640/639–609, 2 Kings 22:4, etc.

                        7.         Shaphan, scribe during Josiah’s reign, within 640/639–609, 2 Kings 22:3, etc.,

                        8.         Azariah, high priest during Josiah’s reign, within 640/639–609, 1 Chronicles 5:39, etc.

                        9.         Gemariah, official during Jehoiakim’s reign, within 609–598, Jeremiah 36:10, etc.

                        10.       Jehoiachin (= Jeconiah = Coniah), king, r. 598–597, 2 Kings 24:5, etc.

                        11.       Shelemiah, father of Jehucal the official, late 7th century, Jeremiah 37:3; 38:1

                        12.       Jehucal (= Jucal), official during Zedekiah’s reign, fl. within 597–586, Jeremiah 37:3; 38:1

                        13.       Pashhur, father of Gedaliah the official, late 7th century, Jeremiah 38:1

                        14.       Gedaliah, official during Zedekiah’s reign, fl. within 597–586, Jeremiah 38:1

            F.        Assyria:

                        1.         Tiglath-pileser III (= Pul), king, r. 744–727, 2 Kings 15:19, etc.

                        2.         Shalmaneser V (= Ululaya), king, r. 726–722, 2 Kings 17:2, etc.,

                        3.         Sargon II, king, r. 721–705, Isaiah 20:1,

                        4.         Sennacherib, king, r. 704–681, 2 Kings 18:13, etc.

                        5.         Adrammelech (= Ardamullissu = Arad-mullissu), son and assassin of Sennacherib, fl. early 7th century, 2 Kings 19:37, etc.

                        6.         Esarhaddon, king, r. 680–669, 2 Kings 19:37, etc.

            G.        Babylonia:

                        1.         Merodach-baladan II (=Marduk-apla-idinna II), king, r. 721–710 and 703, 2 Kings 20:12, etc.,

                        2.         Nebuchadnezzar II, king, r. 604–562, 2 Kings 24:1, etc.,

                        3.         Nebo-sarsekim, chief official of Nebuchadnezzar II, fl. early 6th century, Jeremiah 39:3,

                        4.         Evil-merodach (= Awel Marduk, = Amel Marduk), king, r. 561–560, 2 Kings 25:27, etc.,

                        5.         Belshazzar, son and co-regent of Nabonidus, fl. ca. 543?–540, Daniel 5:1, etc.,

            H.        Persia:

                        1.         Cyrus II (=Cyrus the great), king, r. 559–530, 2 Chronicles 36:22, etc.,

                        2.         Darius I (=Darius the Great), king, r. 520–486, Ezra 4:5, etc.

                        3.         Xerxes I (= Ahasuerus), king, r. 486–465, Esther 1:1, etc.,

                        4.         Artaxerxes I Longimanus, king, r. 465-425/424, Ezra 4:6, 7, etc.,

                        5.         Darius II Nothus, king, r. 425/424-405/404, Nehemiah 12:22

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