The Historicity of the Old Testament – part 3

LECTURE 3: Facts We Can Verify.

A Selection of Twenty Historical/Archaeological Evidences.

It is all very well to speak about Bible History, but can the claim be substantiated? Does the Old Testament stand up under scrutiny? There follows a broad sampling of its impressive credentials in this area.

It is among the rubble and ruins of the ancients (where Scripture would soon fall foul if it erred), that it is at its most impressive. Although unbelieving, liberal scholarship tries to reevaluate the evidence, all their assertions have been fended off many times by conservative Christianity. We offer some examples of the Bible’s accuracy in this area:

  • The Ebla Tablets verify the social conditions of Abraham’s time (c. 2000 BC).
  • They also identify numerous cities (e.g., Ashdod, Akko, Sidon, Alalakh, Lachish, etc.) which are mentioned in the OT.
  • One tablet was discovered which listed the five cities of the plain in exactly the same order as Genesis 14:2.
  • It is now known that there were at least six written languages extant at the time Moses wrote the Torah.
  • Balaam, the seer spoken of in Numbers 22-24 is actually known from an inscription discovered in 1967 at Tell Deir ‘Alla (8th century BC).
  • In 1994 the British revisionist P. R. Davies opined, “King David is about as historical as king Arthur.” At the same time the Tel Dan Stela (dated to the 9th century BC) was uncovered which mentioned David by name. The inscription reads:

“[I killed Jeho]ram son of [Ahab] king of Israel, and [I] killed [Ahaz]iahu son of [Jehoram kin]g of the House of David.”

Two other inscriptions speak of David (dwd); the Mesha Stela (9th century BC), and the topographical list of Shoshenq I (about 50 years after David!), which refers to the “highlands/heights of David.”

  • The Assyrian King List records a list of continuous years that run from 892 B.C. to 648 B.C. Whenever it mentions Israelite kings (e.g. Omri, Ahab, Jehoram, Jehu), it accords with the Bible’s chronology and history. This is the normal outcome when comparison is made with any ancient list (e.g. Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria).
  • Comparison with Mesopotamian King lists shows that, “the Hebrew writers of Kings, etc., have their Assyrian and Babylonian monarchs impeccably in the right order.” They also have their names right, which is in stark contrast to writers in the 4th to 2nd centuries BC, when the revisionists say that these Bible histories were written.
  • The “Ivory House” spoken of in 1 Kings 10:18; 22:39, and Amos 3:15; 6:4 has been excavated.
  • The city of Lachish was beseiged by Sennacherib in 701 B.C. (2 Kings 13; Isa. 36); a date confirmed by Assyrian records.
  • Kitchen has shown that the death of Sennacherib mentioned in 2 Kings 19:37(and Isa. 37:38) is known from non-biblical records. The Babylonian Chronicle speaks of murder by a son. Esarhaddon’s archives (plus records from Nineveh) mention two sons by name, the names being the Babylonian equivalent of those in the Bible.
  • Menahem and Rezin of Damascus (2 Kings 15:37; 16:5-9) are mentioned by Tizlath-Pileser III, King of Assyria from 745-727 B.C.
  • Pottery fragments dating from the reign of Sargon II, show that Samaria was settled by people from Babylonia and elsewhere (2 Kings 17:24).
  • Again, the Assyrian List implies that for a time, ShalmaneserV and Sargon II acted jointly in battle. (See the plural in 2 Kings 18:10!).
  • Baruch, son of Neriah, Jeremiah’s well-known amanuenses (Jer. 32:12, 36; 43:1-7), is mentioned by name from of his seals.
  • Scholars have shown that the Aramaic used in portions of Daniel (i.e. 2:4-7:28) was used in the 7th and 6th centuries B.C., the time of the traditional date of Daniel, but not in the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. when the liberals say it was written. The Aramaic of those later times was different. This is a strong indication of an early date for the book of Daniel.
  • Daniel 4 speaks about the rebuilding of Babylon by Nebuchadnezzer (4:30). This has only been verified in the last 100 years.
  • Sanballat (Neh. 2:19) is named in a papyrus document discovered at Elephantine. There is also a letter from Sanballat to Johanan the high priest at Jerusalem (Neh. 12:23).
  • Tatnai (Ezra 5:3; 6:6) is mentioned in a text dating to 5 June, 502 B.C.
  • The Hittites: An Example of Premature Conclusions.

A case where the would-be critical experts were left with egg on their faces is the case of the Hittites. As no one had ever heard of this people outside of the Bible it was concluded that here we had proof-positive that the Bible was a collection of mythical cum historical fragments. The non-existence of the Hittites showed that the Bible believers were naive obscurantists. But, as has so often happened (and will continue to happen!), they were the ones who had to revise their story.

“Dismissal of the Hittites as an Old testament fiction (cf. “sons of Heth” and “daughters of Heth,” Gen. 10:15 etc.; “Hittite[s],” Gen. 15:20; tc.) set the stage for a spectacular critical reversal. Except for references in the Bible, the historicity of the Hittites was wholly eclipsed until the late nineteenth century, when A.H. Sayce proposed that certain inscriptions in Syria be identified as Hittite. In 1906 Hugo Winkler recovered the Hittite Code among some ten thousand Hittite and Akkadian texts. The Hittites were in fact a dominant power in Asia Minor until about 1200 B.C.”

Closing Remarks: Cutting Through The Rhetoric.

We have tried to show in the above studies how the liberal criticism of the Old Testament developed into the ahistoricism of the present-day revisionists of Sheffield and Copenhagen universities. Hopefully, we have also shown that these approaches were, and are, naïve and uncritical of their own shortcomings, as well as being plain bad scholarship – as Provan and Kitchen have demonstrated.

At the end of the day, behind all the rhetoric, there lies very little of substance. And this is the way it has to be, since, as the Apostle Paul taught, and as Cornelius Van Til proved in his writings, the biblical worldview is essential if one is not to turn all human reasoning into foolishness (cf. 1 Cor. 1:20-21, 25; 2:14). The Bible is a solid rock, never to be overturn or aligned in terms of the fads of academia in any period. Liberal criticism is, at bottom, just a symptom of man’s willful resistance to the Lordship of Christ over all human history.

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