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The Old Testament
records God's interaction with the nation of Israel for a span of over
1,200 years. This historical record starts with Abraham's
small family about 4,000 years ago. This stage of Biblical
history is called the Patriarchal Period.
Direct archaeological findings for the
Patriarchal Period are almost impossible, since Abraham and his
family were nomads (no fixed location) who lived in portable tents (no
fixed buildings) and were comprised of only a small group (not a big
nation). However, circumstantial archaeological findings of the same
period affirm the historicity of the
flood account, 2,000 B.C.
story of a great Flood is not only recorded in the Bible. The Babylonian
flood account is recorded on a 4,000 year-old clay tablet. It is
very similar to Noah's story, but
the Babylonian story may be much older, from even before
3,000 B.C. It is often referred to as the Gilgamesh Epic.
Together with other ancient records
of a great flood from other civilizations, the story of this ancient event
may have been passed down orally from generation to generation
in several different civilizations.
The Gilgamesh Epic was found in an ancient
Assyrian library, and is now located in the British Museum.
city of Ur - in Mesopotamia around 3,000B.C.
was the city where Abraham lived. It's excavation in 1922 revealed that it
was a highly civilized city, complete with a complex government, busy
trade and traffic. Receipts and contracts were used in commercial
activity. The city's infrastructure includes town drains, streets,
and a great temple tower.
Terah took his son Abram, his
grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his
son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go
to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there.
Tablets : archives of Syrian city Ebla,
15,000 clay cuneiform tablets from the palace consists of administrative
records for the trade and commerce of that time.
There is also a flood story and
account of Creation found in the cuneiform tablets. Some of the city names
in the Bible are mentioned in these tablets. There are also codes
of law in this library, which
affirm the existence of a complex law system well before the time of Moses
(around 1,300 B.C.). A nineteenth century theory suggests that
Mosaic law in the Bible is a product of the 4th century B.C. These
refute that theory and add to the reliability of Old Testament.
Codes of Hammurabi of Babylon
: 1792 -1750B.C.
Babylonian stone stela is engraved with an ancient code of law.
This code of law, as well as the Hurrian Nuzi clay tablets (15th
century B.C.), bear close
resemblance to the customs in the Bible, such as the inheritence of
property, adoption of heirs and the purchase of land (Gen 23).
findings affirm the reliability of Genesis.
seal with the name of Jacob was found in Israel and
dating shows it to be from the 18th century B.C.
According to some scholars, the
name Jacob was common during the second millennium B.C. but increasingly
rare thereafter. This suggests the name used in the Bible was the
actually a name
from that period.
Tablet - Egyptian record of “Apiru”
Disturbance in Canaan, 15th - 14th century
and many other tablets belonging to the royal archives of the Egyptian
Pharaoh Amenophis IV, were the letters written by the vassal kings
of Canaan. The tablets record
conflicting accusations among Canaanite kings and complaints
about the lack of support from Egypt regarding a disturbance in the
land of Canaan from a group of
people, called "Apiru", which sounds like Hebrew. These clay
tablets show us clearly that there was a mixed population in Canaan and
wars waged among them (as described
in Genesis 14). Archaeological findings show that
their cities were fortified with great walls as described by the
in Numbers, Chapter 13.
"They gave Moses this
account: "We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does
flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live
there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very
large..." (Numbers 13:27-28)
clan arriving at Egypt - 19th
tomb painting in Egypt shows Semitic foreigners arriving in Egypt. In the
18th century B.C., the Egyptian empire was taken over by immigrants who
were called Hyksos. It was during
this time, the 15th and 16th dynasties, that Joseph, a non-Egyptian, could
possibly have a chance to become the prime minister of Egypt.
was a period in which foreigners, like the patriarchs, were welcomed more
than usual into the land. This
explains how Joseph could have held high position in
the Egyptian government as described in Genesis.
Discoveries in Egypt show striking similarities between the details
of Joseph's life in Egypt described in Genesis Chapters 40 and 41 and the
details of Egyptian daily life,
such as official titles and duties, the prison system, magic practices,
records of famine and the storage of food.
"So Pharaoh said to
Joseph, "I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt."
Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph's
finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around
his neck." (Genesis 41:41-42)
stele from Egypt :
struggle against Hyksos - 16th century B.C.
stele, found in Karnak, records the native Egyptian leader Kamose driving
the Hyksos king out of Egypt. The Hyksos dynasty was ended in 1550 B.C. by
Kamose's brother Amosis I.
Egypt then returned to the rule of native Egyptians and once again
resumed a hard line position against foreigners. This matches the
the Israelite experience in the book of Exodus.
"Then a new king, who did not
know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt...So they put slave masters over
them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses
as store cities for Pharaoh." (Exodus 1:8-11)
Slaves at work - 1458 B.C.
painting found in a tomb in Thebes shows Asiatic slaves at work under a
taskmaster making bricks. In the reigns of Rameses and Merneptah, Asiatics
were employed in various type of
work for the king. It was in the 19th dynasty,
1310-1200 B.C., that the capital cities were located to the north
of the Nile. There were massive
building projects in the north at this time. The towns recorded in Exodus
1:11 have been identified as Tell el-Retabh, and Ramses as Tanis-Avaris.
So they put slave masters over
them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses
as store cities for Pharaoh." (Exodus 1:11)
of Ramesses -
type of brick, found in Thebes in 1835, is made of mud and straw. They are
cm in length and have hieroglyphics stamping them as the property of
"That same day Pharaoh gave this
order to the slave drivers and foremen in charge of the people: "You
are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them
go and gather their own straw." (Exodus 5:6-7)
archaeologists suggested the ancient sites along the Biblical exodus route
did not exist during the time
of the exodus, and they concluded that
the Biblical account is fiction, but Egyptian inscriptions suggest
otherwise. A combination of inscriptions from three Egyptian Pharaohs
(1550-1200 BC) results in
a route matching the Exodus route in the Bible (Num 33)..
left Rameses and camped at Succoth. They left Succoth and camped at Etham,
on the edge of the desert. They left Etham, turned back to Pi Hahiroth, to
the east of Baal Zephon, and camped near Migdol. They left Pi Hahiroth and
passed through the sea into the desert, and when they had traveled for
three days in the Desert of Etham, they camped at Marah. They left Marah
and went to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees,
and they camped there. They left Elim and camped by the Red Sea." (Numbers
Silver scrolls from Ketef Hinnom
original scrolls were made of silver, inscribed with the Aaronic blessing
of Numbers 6:24-25, 'The Lord bless you and keep you . . . ', and are the
oldest biblical texts ever
discovered. Rolled into a scroll, they were probably carried as
an amulet, perhaps worn around the hand or forehead.
They were discovered in a tomb on
the southern side of Jerusalem at a site called Ketef Hinnom, and dated
from about 625 B.C. This artifact
also refutes the theory that the first five books of the Bible are just
fourth century B.C. products because of their refined concept of God and
Laws of Moses.
More on Old Testament Archaeology...