Open your ears to my teachings, my people. Turn your ears to the words from my mouth. I will open my mouth to illustrate points. I will explain what has been hidden long ago, things that we have heard and known about, things that our parents have told us. We will not hide them from our children. We will tell the next generation about the Lord’s power and great deeds and the miraculous things he has done. [Psalm 78:1-4 (GW)]
Yesterday, I wrote about archeological support for the story of Balaam; his is but one of many Old Testament stories with evidence provided by archeology. When reading about King Belshazzar giving a feast for 1,000 in his Babylonian palace, it’s easy to think there must have been exaggeration as to the size of his party. Archaeologists, however, have excavated a large hall in Babylon that was 55 feet wide and 165 feet long, a room sufficient to host a gathering of that size. The Bible mentions writing that appeared on the room’s plaster walls and archeologists found that this ancient room had plaster walls!
In 2 Chronicles 12, we read of Judah’s invasion by Egypt’s Pharaoh Shishak during Rehoboam’s fifth year as king. Archeologists have found evidence of their devastating invasion at settlements in both Israel and Judah. Hieroglyphics on the wall of the temple at Karnak describe Egypt’s 926 BC campaign and list 183 conquered cities, 43 of which are known Bible cities. Notably missing from the list of destroyed towns is Jerusalem, the city that Shemaiah prophesized God would not allow to be destroyed. Instead, Rehoboam surrendered and the Egyptians robbed Solomon’s temple of its treasures. When we wonder where all of that plunder went, a pillar in a temple at Bubastis tells of Osorkon I (Shishak’s son) giving away 383 tons of gold and silver to all the gods of Egypt just five year later.
When King Uzziah (who was struck with leprosy) died in 740 BC, 2 Chronicles 26 tells us he was buried in a field that belonged to the kings. His stone burial plaque was discovered on the Mt. of Olives with these words: “Here, the bones of Uzziah, King of Judah, were brought. Do not open.”
The Old Testament tells us of the Babylonians’ defeat of Judah but so do a collection of clay tablets known as the Babylonian Chronicles. These annals record Babylon’s history from 750 to 280 BC and tell of such things as the battle of Carchemish (recorded in Jeremiah 46), Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem (found in 2 Kings 24), and removing King Jehoiachin and replacing him with Zedekiah (recorded in 2 Kings 24). They even include receipts for goods that were issued to the deposed Jehoiachin when he was in Babylonian captivity (mentioned in 2 Chronicles 36).
The cornerstone of our faith is the Bible and archeology should never be the litmus test for its truth. Archeology can’t prove Scripture’s divine inspiration or the exactness of its every word. Because it’s based on what’s been left behind, discovered and deciphered, many pieces are missing in the puzzle. Moreover, since the Bible tells just a portion of the story, some ancient pieces will be found that don’t fit. Although we will never have undisputed historic proof of its truth, archeology can confirm the historicity of many Biblical events, people, civilizations, and places. For me, it is comforting to find that external evidence points to the trustworthiness of the Bible. Of course, since it is God-breathed, we shouldn’t be surprised that secular history dovetails so well with Biblical truth.