Great Discoveries in Biblical Archaeology: Pre-Monarchy

 

Associates for Biblical Research, P.O. Box 144, Akron PA 17501, www.biblearchaeology.org

 

 

1. Gilgamesh Epic, ca. 2000 B.C.

·    Babylonian Flood account.

·    Many similarities to the account in Genesis 6–9.

·    Demonstrates the factuality of the Biblical Flood.

 

2. Sodom and Gomorrah, ca 2067 B.C.

·    Sites found southeast of the Dead Sea: Bab edh-Dhra=Sodom and Numeira=Gomorrah.

·    Both had evidence of being “overthrown” by earthquake activity (Genesis 19:25) and destroyed by fire (Genesis 19:24).

·    The charnel (burial) houses several kilometers from the settlement at Bab edh-Dhra had been burned by fire starting in the roof of the buildings, evidence of “fire from heaven” (Genesis 19:24).

·    Petroleum and sulfur deposits in the area, coupled with the fact that both sites lie on an unstable fault line, suggest a plausible scenario for the destruction.  It is possible that the Jordan rift sunk, putting pressure on the subterranean deposits causing them to be forced up out of the ground and, when ignited, fall back to the earth as burning oil and sulfur (Genesis 19:24; cf. 19:27–28).

 

3. Early Asiatic Settlement at Rameses, ca. 1876 B.C.

·    A settlement from the time of Joseph was found at Rameses which has the necessary qualifications to be identified as Israelite.

·    Pottery analysis indicates the inhabitants emigrated from southern Canaan.

·    They were pastoral and the main house in the village had the unique plan of a “four-room house” used by the Israelites when they latter settled in Canaan.

·    A monumental tomb of an Asiatic dignitary was found in the cemetery.  The fact that the bones had been removed raises the possibility that this was Joseph’s tomb (Genesis 50:26; Exodus 13:19).

 

4. Royal Compound at Rameses, ca 1526–1446 B.C.

·    Critics claimed that Moses could not have been rescued from the Nile by a royal princess, or confronted the Pharaoh at Rameses because the royal capital was at Memphis 75 miles southwest of Rameses.

·    In recent years an enormous royal compound has been found at Rameses containing not one, but three palaces, plus workshops, storage facilities and military campsites.

·    The compound is located on the banks of the Pelusiac branch of the Nile, now dried up, that flowed through Rameses in antiquity, just as portrayed in the Bible.

·    It is likely that this is the site of the dramatic events of Exodus 1–12.

 

5. Yam Suph Crossing, 1446 B.C.

·    In Hebrew, the name of the sea the Israelites crossed is Yam Suph, meaning Sea of Reeds, not Red Sea.  Red Sea is an incorrect interpretation of Yam Suph going back to the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament into Greek in the third century B.C.

·    From a relief of Seti I on the wall of the temple of Amun at Karnak in Luxor, Egypt, we know the names of the fortresses along the Horus Road from Egypt to Canaan.  The third fortress was called Migdol, one of the names preserved in Exodus 14:2 describing the Israelites’ location prior to the sea crossing.

·    Thanks to the discovery of the first fortress, Tjaru, it is possible to determine the location of Migdol in the northeast delta.  This in turn allows the location of the sea crossing—the northern end of Ballah Lake.

·    This very large lake, also named Sea of Reeds in ancient Egyptian texts, does not exist today since it was drained when the Suez Canal was constructed.  The Israelite crossing place can be localized to the area of modern Qantara where a modern bridge crosses the Suez Canal today.

 

6. Jericho, 1406 B.C.

·    British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon, who excavated Jericho in the 1950s, claimed that the city was destroyed ca. 1500 B.C., 150 years before Joshua, and that the site was abandoned at the time of the Israelite Conquest.  This has led scholars to claim that the Biblical account of Joshua 6 is unhistorical.

·    A detailed study of the pottery in the destruction layer shows that Kenyon was wrong in her dating and that the city was destroyed ca. 1400 B.C., the Biblical date for the Conquest.

·    Once the date of the destruction is corrected, the evidence at Jericho lines up perfectly with the Bible, including evidence that the city walls fell as described in Joshua 6:20.

 

7. Ai, 1406 B.C.

·    As a result of a series of scholarly errors, most Bible scholars locate Ai, the second city the Israelites conquered in the Promised Land, Joshua 7–8, at et-Tell, 10 miles north of Jerusalem.

·    Since there is no occupation at et-Tell from the time of the Conquest, scholars have concluded that the Biblical account is simply a legend and never really happened.

·    The Associates for Biblical Research, under the direction of Bryant Wood, excavated a site just 1 kilometer west of et-Tell, Khirbet el-Maqatir, which meets the geographical and archaeological requirements to be identified as Joshua’s Ai, including evidence for burning (Joshua 8:28).

 

8. Hazor, ca 1400 B.C.

·    Hazor was the third city to be destroyed by fire in the Israelite Conquest of Canaan (Joshua 11:11).

·    Evidence was found at Hazor that the pagan temples and cult places had been destroyed at the time of the Conquest, as commanded by God in Deuteronomy 12:2–3, and that the city had been burned.

 

9. Jericho, ca 1320 B.C.

·    Early in the period of Judges Eglon, king of Moab, established a residency at Jericho (City of Palms, Deuteronomy 34:3; 2 Chronicles 28:15) and collected annual tribute from the Israelites (Judges 3:12–30).

·    British archaeologist John Garstang excavated Eglon’s residency in the 1930s.  He found evidence of wealth, administrative activity and occupation for about 18 years, the length of the Moabite oppression (Judges 3:14).

 

10. Hazor, ca. 1225 B.C.

·    During the Judges period the Israelite tribes defeated the army of Jabin king of Hazor at the Kishon River under the leadership of Deborah and Barak (Judges 4–5).  Following the victory, “the Israelites grew stronger and stronger against Jabin, the Canaanite king, until they destroyed him” (Judges 4:24).

·    Evidence of a massive destruction from the time of Deborah and Barak has been found at Hazor, including the intentional destruction of pagan images that can only be attributed to the Israelites.

 

11. Merenptah Stela, ca. 1210 B.C.

·    Record of a campaign into Canaan by the Egyptian Pharaoh Merenptah.

·    Israel is named for the first time outside the Bible.

·    Indicates Israel was a major power in Canaan in 1210 B.C.

·    Supports the early Biblical date of 1406 B.C. for the Conquest rather than the late 1230 B.C. date proposed by some scholars, since it would have taken a considerable length of time for Israel to become a significant power.

 

12. Shechem, ca. 1135 B.C.

·    Abimelech, Gideon’s son, attempted to become king of the Israelite tribes and enlisted the support of the elders of Shechem (Judges 9).

·    The Biblical account mentions a temple of Baal Berith and gate at Shechem, as well as the city being destroyed by fire.

·    The temple of Baal Berith and city gate were found by archaeologists, as well as evidence for a fiery destruction at the time of Abimelech.