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And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32

Biblical Archaeology

By Louis Rushmore

Biblical archaeology continues to make significant contributions to the body of external evidence that confirms the Bible. Thereby, biblical archaeology reinforces the Bible-believer's confidence in the Divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. Further, biblical archaeology persuades unbelievers to more closely examine the Bible message.

Kenneth A. Kitchen's article in the 1995 March/April issue of Biblical Archaeology Review presents several archaeological pieces of external evidence. First, he establishes a solid date--harmonious with both biblical text and archaeological discoveries--from which patriarchal and Jewish events can be dated confidently.

Kitchen associates the building of the city Ramesses by Israelite slaves in Exodus 1:11 with archaeological discoveries of the same period. The Merneptah stela chronicles military interaction between Egypt and Israel in Canaan, at a time which according to history and the biblical text postdates the exodus. This agreement affords the Bible student and the true biblical archaeologist a glimpse backward into patriarchy and forward into Judaism, for dating purposes.

An interesting piece of external evidence pertains to the price of slaves. Archaeological discoveries covering 2,000 years of history value slaves from a low of 10 shekels of silver to a high of 120 shekels of silver each. Various biblical references to the price of slaves correspond to the historical price of slaves in various periods (confirmed through archaeology). Accordingly, Joseph was sold for 20 shekels of silver (Genesis 37:28). See also references to 30 shekels of silver (Exodus 21:32) and 50 shekels of silver (2 Kings 15:20) for the price of a slave. Had the account of Joseph been written during the Persian period instead of when it purports to have occurred, Joseph would have been sold for 90 or 100 shekels of silver.

Greatly simplified in this article, the complexities of comparing the differences between contracts throughout the centuries also attest to the reliability of the Bible. Contracts (covenants) that are recorded in the Old Testament (e.g., Genesis 14:13; 21:23-33; 26:29-31; 31:44-54; etc.) correspond to contracts of various historical periods identified through archaeology. This is another way that biblical chronology corresponds with biblical archaeology.

Add to the previous considerations that geographical-political alliances recorded in the Bible conform to the geography and governments discernible through archaeology. The specific Bible references detailing certain alliances many not be found through archaeology (e.g., Genesis 14), but the right names correspond to the right places and alliances typical of various historical periods.

Old Testament references to Egypt (e.g., contact with pharaohs by Abraham and later by Jacob) fit with the history of Egypt. Egyptian presence was in the right place at the right time to interact with God's people just as the Bible portrays. Biblical archaeology confirms this. Someone attempting to write patriarchal history out-of-time and pretending a much earlier date would be ill prepared to relate these facts correctly.

Further, the laws of inheritance differed from time to time throughout patriarchy and Judaism. Biblical references to inheritance laws (e.g., Genesis 49, equal distribution to sons; Deuteronomy 21:15-17, double portion for the oldest son) correspond to archaeological discoveries depicting inheritance laws in the respective historical periods.

Additionally, customs ascribed in the Bible to various peoples agree with archaeological evidence respecting the same periods. To the degree that customs differed from nation to nation and from generation to generation, the fabrication of histories by Bible writers and their assignment of their writings to earlier centuries would have been difficult to impossible. There is no reason to discount Bible narratives and not accept them as they represent themselves.

Since some Asian cultures have maintained accurate ancestral and narrative accounts for even a thousand years, similar Bible chronologies of family lines and events are very believable. This type of external evidence stands against the guesswork-scholarship of avowed enemies of the Bible.

Biblical archaeology reveals both events that are also recorded in the Bible and events that are not mentioned in the Bible, though the characters associated with these latter events are named in the biblical text. The Black Obelisk of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III records tribute brought to him by other kings. One of these tribute-paying monarchs was the Israelite Jehu. He brought tin, gold and silver. Though Jehu is a biblical character, this particular event is not chronicled in the Bible.

An earlier mention of Israel during the reign of Shalmaneser appears on another stela, the Kurkh Monolith. Inscribed hereon is that Ahab contributed 2,000 chariots and 10,000 soldiers to an alliance of kings that was attempting to resist the conquering armies of Shalmaneser.

References such as these are not contradicted by the Bible. The Bible just does not mention them. We do not expect the Bible to record every historical event and it does not (see this principle in John 20:30).

Archaeology is an interpretive science. However, if presented honestly and if not colored with a liberal bias, biblical archaeology never contradicts the Bible. Sometimes archaeological discoveries, though depict events that are not specifically mentioned in the Bible. Further, the Bible records characters, places and events that have not been discovered by archaeologists. Yet, whenever the Bible and archaeology address the same things, they always concur.

The external evidence of biblical archaeology is a fitting companion to biblical internal evidence. Together they are unsurpassed faith-builders.

H. A. "Buster" Dobbs, email:
P. O. Box 690192
Houston, Texas 77269-0192
(281) 469-3540

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