Archeology Proves the Bible—Part 3

The Witness of the Promised Land

WHILE dwelling in Mesopotamia the Lord said to Abram, whose name was later changed to Abraham, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee.” (Gen. 12:1) This Promised Land was Canaan, which later became known as Palestine, and today is called Israel, although the Israel of today does not embrace all the Promised Land. While Abraham went to Canaan in obedience to the call of God, and dwelt there, he did not actually take possession of it.—Acts 7:1-5

However, the Lord foretold that the descendants of Abraham, after sojourning for generations in a strange land, where they would serve as slaves, would be delivered from their bondage and brought into the Promised Land. (Gen. 15:13,14) The land in which the Hebrew people dwelt in fulfillment of this prophecy was Egypt. It was under the leadership of Moses that they were delivered from Egypt and, after forty years of wandering in the wilderness, entered the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua.

Moses led the Hebrews during their forty years in the wilderness, but did not lead them over Jordan into the Promised Land. However, shortly before his death Moses reassured the Hebrews that the Lord would fulfill his promise to them. He said, “The Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, that shall not lack anything in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.”—Deut. 8:7-9

Surely the Promised Land was a good land. And our point of chief interest at the moment is that among all the other good things the Hebrews would find in this land would be copper—mistranslated brass in the King James Version. “Out of whose hills thou mayest dig copper”—this statement continued to be a mystery to scientists and many students of the Bible. The general belief was that no copper existed anywhere in this land which God gave to the children of Israel.

Now, however, we know differently. In 1937, Nelson Glueck, a member of the American School of Oriental Research, headed a group of geologists, historians, architects, excavators, and a photographer, who traveled to the mound known as Tell el-Kheleifeh, which is located at the intersection of three countries—Africa, Arabia, and Palestine-Syria. The first stage of the excavation produced encouraging results. They found fishhooks made of copper. There were remnants of walls. Also found nearby was a green material which was identified as copper slag.

This particular expedition did not have time to continue the excavation of Tell el-Kheleifeh. However, the work was resumed and completed in three stages, which ended in 1940. The total discoveries proved that here, in the time of King Solomon of Israel, was a flourishing copper mine, and that King Solomon, in Glueck’s opinion, was probably among the greatest exporters of copper in ancient times.

It was discovered that Tell el-Kheleifeh was actually Eziongeber, mentioned in I Kings 9:26, where we are informed that “King Solomon made a navy of ships in Ezion-geber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red Sea.” It was discovered that this ancient seaport town was highly industrialized and that the mining of copper was one of the chief industries. Here, they discovered, had been an up-to-date blast furnace which was built in accordance with a principle that was brought into modern industry about a century ago and was known as the Bessemer system.

It was from Ezion-geber that Solomon sent his ships to all parts of the then-known world. It was a center of world trade, from which many of the exports of the Promised Land went out. Returning, Solomon’s ships brought gold, ivory, and other imports. The Israelites were not a seafaring people. They knew nothing about shipbuilding. But Solomon, in his wisdom, imported the necessary skills from other countries. The services of Hiram, a Phoenician, were enlisted. The Bible says, “And Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipmen that had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon. And they came to Ophir, and fetched from thence gold, four hundred and twenty talents, and brought it to King Solomon.”—I Kings 9:27,28

A further statement concerning Solomon’s riches and his accomplishments reads: “The king had at sea a navy of Tharshish with the navy of Hiram: once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks. So King Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom.” (I Kings 10:22,23) It is now proven true by the archeologists that none of these accounts of the Old Testament concerning the riches and wisdom of Solomon are exaggerated. Copper did abound in the Land of Promise. So once again our feet are established on solid historical facts, and not on fairy tales, as the critics of the Bible have so insistently claimed.

The Testimony of Prof. Yadin

Prof. Yigael Yadin, Dean of Archeology in the University of Jerusalem, has more recently further confirmed the Bible’s records in other areas of Solomon’s accomplishments. In the spring of 1968 the producers of The Bible Answers television series interviewed Prof. Yadin on behalf of the Dawn Bible Students Association, and were given some very vital and interesting information. In I Kings 9:15 we read, “And this is the reason of the levy which King Solomon raised: for to build the house of the Lord, and his own house, and Millo, and the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, and Megiddo, and Gezer.”

Prof. Yadin was asked if he personally believed that the findings of the archeologists in Palestine are confirming the historical records of the Bible. He affirmed that this was so, and gave as an example the reference in the Bible, quoted before, which tells us that Solomon rebuilt the three cities, Hazor, Gezer, and Megiddo. We quote:

“I would say, generally speaking, that this is very definitely so. I would say that the historical portions of the Bible are thus far being proved true by archeologists. I would go one step further, and say that a biblical diary has actually helped us archeologists find our way and understand the data. The Bible tells us, for example, that King Solomon built three strategic cities. One is Megiddo, and one is Gezer, near Jerusalem. When we excavated Hazor, the third one, and we came to city number ten from the top, we reckoned that this could be the Solomonic city if the Bible story is correct.

“We found here a very strange city gate with six chambers and a casement wall; that is to say, a double wall. And exactly the same type of gate was found in Megiddo by an American archeologist. And then I discovered the third city, Gezer, and there again was an identical gate. Were it not for the passage in the Bible which tells us that Solomon built these three cities we would not have been able to identify them. The actual discovery of these gates proved that this example of a verse in the Bible was correct. Now this is only one example. Wherever we go in this land of the Bible we illuminate our finds with the Bible, and the finds, I would say, are illuminating the Bible.”

Prof. Yadin was then asked to explain further concerning his findings in Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer, the cities which the Bible says were built, or rebuilt, by Solomon. We quote again:

“Hazor is a very interesting biblical site. This is a city which the Bible mentions several times. It is first mentioned in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Joshua. The king of Hazor was the head of the Canaanite league which fought against Joshua. The Bible says that Joshua killed the king of Hazor, and burned the city with fire. Then we hear again about Hazor, in the account which tells us that Solomon rebuilt the city, together with Megiddo and Gezer. So we have here a story. Joshua destroyed Hazor; Solomon rebuilt it.

“However, the history of the first city of Hazor goes much, much further back than Joshua. When we reached the virgin soil we found that we had dug through the ruins of twenty-two cities, one on top of the other. The first city was built about the 28th century B.C. And let’s say that the city which Joshua destroyed was city number thirteen from the top; and the city which Solomon rebuilt was number ten from the top. Later Hazor was destroyed by Tegpalatzer, and this was the fifth from the top. It is a huge site, covering 170 acres. We worked there for four years, and managed as it were to merely scratch the surface, compared with what we would like to have accomplished.

“Now Megiddo, as we have found, was also rebuilt by Solomon. This site was excavated by the American Archeologist Institute of Chicago. They found also about twenty-two cities, one on top of another. But when we found the true city of Solomon at Hazor, and we knew what his cities were like, I had a suspicion that the city which was identified by the previous excavators as Solomon’s was not the real one. They found beautiful and huge stables, which they called Solomon’s Stables. I had a suspicion somehow or other that they were wrong. On the basis of the Bible’s information that Solomon rebuilt Hazor as well as Megiddo, I considered that these two Solomon is cities would have to be the same, because they were built by the same architects.

“I went back to Megiddo in 1960, and twice again last year, and we found the true city of Solomon, which is identical with and looks exactly like the one at Hazor. So, while I do not like to destroy a beautiful tourist attraction at Megiddo, I am happy, with the aid of the Bible, to identify the true city of Solomon at Megiddo, which was under the so-called Solomon’s Stables. The stable city, which is also important, was built by another famous—or infamous—biblical character, King Ahab, the terrorist husband of Jezebel.”

The General Testimony

Prof. Yadin has assured us that the findings of the archeologists thus far confirm the historical aspects of the Bible, and most archeologists will agree with this. A large portion of the history set forth in the Old Testament pertains to the land of Canaan, the Promised Land of the Israelites. As we have seen, it was under the leadership of Joshua that the Israelites as a people first entered this land to possess it. Their point of entry was at Jericho.

The story of the fall of Jericho has long been considered a mere fairy tale. Joshua was instructed by the Lord to have the Israelites, led by the priests, march around Jericho once a day for six days. On the seventh day they “compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city. … So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. … And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein.”—Josh. 6:15,16,20,24

Prof. John Garstang was leader of an expedition which discovered the ancient city of Jericho. From their discoveries they have concluded that Jericho is probably the oldest city in the world. They give its probable age as 7,000 years. The ancient walls of Jericho are of course of special interest to students of the Bible, and the question naturally arises as to whether or not it was a strongly walled city, and also whether the archeologists have found any evidence that these walls had suddenly and precipitately been destroyed to the extent that the Israelites could breach them and enter the city.

The answer to both these questions is yes. As for the walls of Jericho, there was an inner and an outer ring, with space between. From their investigations the archeologists discovered that the stones of the inner ring had fallen inward, and had buried the buildings which were nearby. They found also that the stones of the outer wall had fallen outward. Garstang reached the conclusion that this had been caused by an earthquake. There were also ashes apparent, indicating that the city had been burned, as the Bible states.

Many important cities mentioned in the Book of Joshua, which records Joshua’s exploits in the conquest of Canaan, have been unearthed by the archeologists; among them, Debir: “And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to Debir, and fought against it.”—Josh. 10:38

We read in Joshua: “The Lord delivered Lachish into the hand of Israel.” (Josh. 10:32) Archeologists have found and definitely identified the ruins of Lachish. Joshua was buried “in Timnath-serah which is in Mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill of Gaash.” (Josh. 24:30) This city has also been located and identified.

Following the period of the judges there came the period of the kings, Saul being the first of the kings. Saul’s victories and defeats have been confirmed, and much in the life of King David has been brought to light by the archeologists. The fall of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel and the two-tribe kingdom of Judah have been confirmed, as well as the exile of these people in Assyria and Babylon. And the end is not yet. Prof. Yadin was asked if he considered that the archeological findings in Israel are nearly exhausted. To this he replied:

“I would say far from it. Just to give you an example, in the site where I dug in southern Galilee, we dug for four years with 200 people each season. And when I finished the excavation I reckoned that we have another 300 years to go on this one site only. Here we have an accumulation of culture of thousands of years with three dimensions. On each site we have found from twenty to twenty-two cities one on top of another, so I would say that archeologists could go on working here for at least a few thousand years more.”

Heathen Religions

There is much said in the Old Testament concerning the corrupt heathen religious worship and practices which prevailed in Canaan when the Israelites entered the land, and continued to prevail. Time and again the Israelites fell victim to these false gods. These false religions are described by God as “the abominations of the heathen.” King Manasseh reigned fifty-five years, and during that time Israel was brought almost entirely under the influence of these heathen religions.—II Kings 21:1,2

And it was not merely that these religions presented different views of deity. They were vile, sensual views, which were translated into holy harlotry. The debauchery of the people in their practice of the rites associated with these false religions is almost beyond description, and certainly hard to believe. While these false and sensual rites are mentioned in the Bible, the revolting details are not furnished so clearly as they are in discoveries made by archeologists. The fact that the record of false gods and the sensual rites which accompanied their worship is verified by the findings of archeologists gives further proofs of the authenticity of the Holy Scriptures.

“For they also built them high places, and pillars, and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree.” (I Kings 14:23, R.V.) Through the work of the archeologists we have learned much of what occurred in these high places of worship. These discoveries indicate that the rites of these gods and demigods were stupefying, gross, and sensual. What a temptation this was for the Israelites, and we can now understand better why Baal and other gods gained such a firm foothold among them on so many occasions. Thus, even in this area, the Bible becomes more understandable and more revealing.

The Library at Nineveh

About the middle of the nineteenth century the ancient city of Nineveh was found by the British archeologist Henry Layard. Nineveh (the Calah of Genisis), was founded by Nimrod. Discovering the ruins of this ancient city was in itself significant, but more important was the fact that in the palace of Ashurbanipal which was discovered within the city was the famous library belonging to that monarch. This library was the most famous in the whole of the ancient Orient. From this library 22,000 cuneiform tablets were recovered, and later found their way into the British Museum.

It was about the same time that Sargon’s castle was discovered, and in its ruins also were found many valuable records pertaining to Assyria’s conquest of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. The tablets in the ancient library at Nineveh, together with those found in Sargon’s castle, excavated by M. Botta, have greatly assisted archeologists, and indeed marked the birth of a new science—Assyriology. Nineveh was the ancient capital of Assyria.

These tablets have aided the archeologists to realize more fully than would otherwise have been possible that the narratives of the Bible, as they relate to Mesopotamia, and later to Canaan, the Land of Promise, are indeed true historical records. II Kings 17:24 reads, “And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel, and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof.” These became what are often referred to as “the new Samaritans.”

The Bible’s record of this uprooting of the ten tribes from Samaria, and the substitution of alien people in the land, is abundantly confirmed by tablets found in the ruins of Sargon’s castle, and in the great library of Nineveh. The Israelites of the ten-tribe kingdom became the lost tribes of Israel, being assimilated through generations by the people in the land of their captivity.

So it is that when we read in the Bible of Nimrod building a city, or of Jonah going to Nineveh, or of Assyria’s conquest of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel, we are not reading fairy tales, but accurate historical records—records of which the chosen people of God themselves became a part. How this should strengthen our faith in the Bible, and make us more determined to serve faithfully the God of the Bible—the great Jehovah of Israel, our Heavenly Father!

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