The Bible and Archaeology
The Bible is a book that talks about a great many peoples, places, and events. The Bible is also a very old book which has led people over the years to wonder: are the things described in the Bible accurate accounts of real things that happened, or are they just made up stories? As it happens there is a significant amount of archaeological evidence to support the Bible being a reliable record.
For some places described in the Bible, there is no dispute over their existence. No-one tries to argue that Egypt or Damascus never existed, because they are still here today. However, some places present a little bit more of a challenge as the bible talks about places that are no longer around. One example of this is the city of Babylon. In bygone years Babylon was something of a mythical place lost to time, however in 1811 it was excavated and has since then become a major archaeological site. There is now no disputing the existence of Babylon. The Bible talks about a place that really existed. But there’s more to Babylon than just the existence of the city.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon have caught people’s imaginations for many years having been listed as one of the Ancient Wonders of the World. However, it has never been found. On one occasion some archaeologists discovered a large building that they thought might be these wonderful gardens, but it turned out to be a granary. This granary contained a number of tablets that turned out to be receipts for ancient rations of food from royal archives. This might not seem particularly exciting however on of these tablets mentions that rations are to be given to a King of Judah called Jehoiachin. This is very interesting because 2 Kings 25:27-30 reads:
“And in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, Evil-Merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, graciously freed Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison. And he spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat above the seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king's table, and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, according to his daily needs, as long as he lived.”
2 Kings 25:27-30
This is an example of how archaeology can give us great confidence that even a small detail like Jehoiachin receiving a daily ration of food can be trusted to be an accurate record of real events that happened.
Another example of archaeology validating the historical accuracy of the Bible are Sennacherib’s annals. These are three clay pillars with the same writing written on them, of which one of the (the Taylor Prism) is pictured to the right. This is currently on display in the British Museum.
The annals talk of how the Assyrian King Sennacherib invaded Judah in the time of King Hezekiah. It talks of how the invasion was very successful and how Sennacherib and his armies captured all the cities of Judah despite Hezekiah trying to by him off. This matches the account in the Bible which says:
“In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them.”
However, there was one city that Sennacherib did not capture, Jerusalem. In the account on the prism, Sennacherib boasts about how he captured all the cities of Judah and had Hezekiah trapped in Jerusalem before they left. Again, this matches the account in the Bible which describes how the Assyrians never set foot in Jerusalem.
““Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city (Jerusalem) or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the LORD.”
Once again, the Bible account has been shown to be historically accurate by archaeology. But there is an additional interesting thing. The prism doesn’t explain why Sennacherib did not also conquer Jerusalem as it seems he had intended. However, the Bible does give an explanation:
“For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.” And the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home and lived at Nineveh.”
The prism may not directly talk about the angel of the LORD destroying the Assyrian army, but for me at least, it provides sufficient evidence for me to believe that the account in the Bible is a true account of what really happened.
These have just been two examples of occasions where archaeology has proven the historical accuracy of the Bible, but there are many more examples of this, and more and more are being discovered.