Archeologists from all over the world flock to the Holy Land to dig up the seemingly endless amount of ancient artifacts and historical relics. Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities on the planet, and, according to the bible, many important events occurred there. A recent excavation provides intriguing evidence that a passage from the bible is correct.
Mystery From The Scriptures
How exactly does the shocking discovery just made by archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority connect back to the words of ancient scriptures?
Rich Area For Discovery
The dig was near Warren’s Shaft, an early water supply tunnel of sorts that was found by British engineer Sir Charles Warren. Who knew that right nearby, there would be another huge discovery made. Archaeologists dig into the ground looking for artifacts in different layers – the deeper the layer, the older in history those artifacts are from. Dr. Joe Uziel, the head of the excavation and member of the Israel Antiquities Authority looked in stone buildings and uncovered a layer with an unexpected feature.
An Important Clue
In the new layer that was uncovered, the team found many artifacts. At first, they seem like pretty normal remnants of a past civilization. There were pottery shards, bones, and grapeseeds found. The team also found jars which were probably used to store grains and liquids. Looking closer at the storage receptacles, they noticed something distinctive about the handles. The archeologists noticed that they had a specific marking on them, almost like a brand name on a jar or can of food today. What was it really though?
While they hit the books to figure out what the markings on the jugs meant, the team also found another a very rare artifact: an ivory statuette. A very skilled artisan must have made it, which is why this sort of find is not common. It is not clear if the hair of the woman portrayed in the statue is natural or a wig, but apparently, it is cut and styled like the Egyptians used to. The most important find, though, was something any lay person would have ignored.
As time went on, the archaeologists discovered what the stamped markings on the jug handles meant. First, they compared them to older markings that used to be on storage jars in the 8th century BCE at the time of King Hezekiah. The older markings are called LMLK stamps, which was an acronym in Hebrew meaning “for the king.” These LMLK stamps were replaced with rosettes after the Assyrians defeated King Hezekiah. The important thing is that they used the stamps to put an approximate date on the artifacts.
Other Archeological Bible Proofs: Tel Dan Stele
While putting together the mystery of the rosette stamps on the jars, it is important to know that there are other Israeli relics are in line with the language of the bible. One relic that is well known in the archeology community is the Tel Dan Stele. It is a stone slab, etched with Aramaic letters. It is important, as, in lines eight and nine, the Stele makes a reference to the “house of David,” and the, “king of Israel,” which agrees with the language used in the bible.
Other Archeological Bible Proofs: The Sack Of Gezer
Gezer is a town in Israel mentioned in the bible, first in the Book of Joshua, as a special city. Importantly, the bible is the only written record for what is known as the “sack of Gezer.” This is when an Egyptian Pharoah came to town and burned it to the ground. According to the bible, the Pharoah gave the city to King Solomon. This is in 1 Kings 9:15-16. Gezer is considered to be an important archeological site where a tablet called the “Gezer calendar” was found.
Nelson Glueck was a biblical scholar as well as an archaeologist. As a religious leader, he led a prayer at John F. Kennedy’s Inauguration. One of his major achievements that truly show he is an expert of Middle Eastern archaeology was when he unearthed the remains of an ancient Nabatean civilization in Jordan. Glueck said, “I have excavated for thirty years with a Bible in one hand and a trowel in the other, and in matters of historical perspective I have never found the Bible to be in error.”
There were certain items in the dig that was something that regular people would have ignored, but a trained archeologist would not miss. In fact, they were really excited when they found these artifacts. They are not really items per se, but a characteristic of items: they were burnt. The archeologists found scorched wood, burnt charcoal, and ash. At first thought, it does not seem as exciting as actual relics. However, putting the burnt items together with the rosette stamps confirms a story that the bible told.
Setting A Date
Half of archaeology is done in the library, where the relics found in the field are categorized. The kind of stamps on the jugs are very important to establish a timeline. Dr. Joe Uziel, the head of this excavation, explains that the older LMLK stamps were tied to a time period, “prior to the arrival of the Assyrian army, which managed to conquer Judah in 701 BCE.” This helped Dr. Uziel understand the newest find of the burnt items was later than that.
Era Of Rosettes
Dr. Uziel knew that the jugs had to have arisen after 701 BCE. He also reported that the newer rosettes on the jugs were, “characteristic of the end of the First Temple Period and were used for the administrative system that developed towards the end of the Judean dynasty.” This, together with the burnt artifacts, plus cross-referencing with other sites, gave the team a eureka moment. They could explain why there was so much burnt charcoal in the excavation site, and it has to do with “destruction layers.”
Archaeologists uncover layer after layer of earth, looking for clues into humanity’s past. The layer found in the Jerusalem outskirts is called a “destruction layer,” because, as the name suggests, it shows there was some destruction there. Things you would find at a destruction site beyond burnt items would be corpses and swords or other weapons (that were not in arsenals). One of the most famous destruction layers is in Troy, as part of the Trojan War. However, the Jerusalem find was mentioned in the bible, not Greek myth.
Digging For Clues
Israeli archaeologists have made many discoveries in Jerusalem’s Old City, like thousand-year-old mosaics. The Israel Antiquities Authority, the organization behind the newest amazing discovery, has been so successful at finding artifacts, that they plan to display them in an underground complex they are calling an “archaeological campus.” The City Of David, where the new find was made, was originally thought to be outside the city walls of Jerusalem, but relatively new excavations show it might have been something like the city center at some point.
To understand the destruction layer found, we need to look back at the Babylonians. They were an ancient group who resided in what is now modern-day Iraq. Their king at the time was Nebuchadnezzar II. He was mentioned in the bible in multiple books. He was mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah as well as in the Book of Daniel. In the Book of Jeremiah, he is called a “destroyer of nations.” This turned out to be true, but, there is a bigger prediction that came true.
The Puppet King Rebels
Historically, King Nebuchadnezzar was, for all intents and purposes, in control of the part of the area where modern Israel is today, including the Kingdom of Judah. Although Judah had its own leader, King Zedekiah, he was essentially a puppet, as he was a “tributary” king. King Zedekiah was ungrateful and went behind Nebuchadnezzar’s back, and decided to make an alliance with Pharaoh Hophra, the leader of Egypt. When Nebuchadnezzar heard, he ordered his soldiers to arm themselves and head to Jerusalem, the capital of Judah.
The Siege Of Jerusalem
Once Nebuchadnezzar’s troops reached the walls of Jerusalem, they started a siege. This meant that the soldiers surrounded the city, letting nothing in or nothing out, essentially choking Jerusalem of its supplies. This is a tactic that eventually causes starvation and therefore weakness of the inhabitants of the city under siege. At the same time, the invading army usually works on breaking through the walls of the city. The bible said, “the famine was sore in the city … that there was no bread for the people of the land.”
Break On Through
At some point, the Babylonians got through the wall. According to the book of the bible 2 Kings, a “breach was made in the city, and all the men of war [fled] by night,” including King Zedekiah, the puppet king who had crossed King Nebuchadnezzar. Even though King Zedekiah briefly escaped, he was captured, maimed, and taken prisoner. Then, came the moment that is mentioned in 2 Kings, chapter 25, verse nine that was supported by the destruction layer found by Dr. Uziel and associates.
All The Houses Of Jerusalem
The bible says that the captain of the guard of King Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem and started destroying the city, including the house of God- Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, also known as the First Temple. “He burnt the house of the LORD, and the king’s house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, even every great man’s house, burnt he with fire,” says the scripture. This matches with the ashes and charred wood found in the outskirts of Jerusalem by the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Putting The Shards Together
The burnt objects in the rosette stamp era suggest the relics were from a time when Jerusalem burnt down. We know now this was no accidental fire- it was razed by invaders. “Jerusalem is known for two major destructions in its early history. One was in 586 BCE, when the Babylonians destroyed the city. The other was…when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem,” Dr. Uziel explains. Putting together the pieces, or should we say shards, it was clear that this site showed evidence of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem.
The destruction was total- the walls of the city were broken down, and the temple was sacked and looted. According to the bible, the Babylonian army took the pillars of brass that were in the temple, broke them into pieces, and carried them back to Babylon. They also took all the holy vessels used for in service to God. Not only that, they captured the priests within the temple, including the head priests, as well as other important Judeans. They were subsequently executed in Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar.
The Second Temple
Although the destruction of the temple was absolutely devastating, there eventually was a Second Temple built in Jerusalem. It was overseen by the Jewish king, Herod. The re-building happened around fifty years after the Babylonian destruction of the first temple, and it stood for about four-hundred years. However, history has a tendency to repeat itself. In 66 CE, the Jews rebelled against the ruling Romans, and in 70 CE, the Romans, led by Titus, besieged Jerusalem, and sacked the Second Temple, bringing spoils back to Rome.
One Loose End
It seems that the burnt ash that was found by Dr. Uziel and associates is perfectly explained by the verse in 2 Kings about the Babylonians burning down “all the houses of Jerusalem.” The archaeological dating of the rosette-stamped jugs suggests it was, in fact, the Babylonians. However, there is something strange. The destruction layer found has a different thickness from place to place. Were some areas spared from the burning? This is something they are working on squaring with the biblical account.
Dr. Uziel’s findings support the biblical account to an extent, as he said that perhaps not every building was burnt. “We think the Babylonians didn’t burn each and every building,” Dr. Uziel admits. Instead, “the process may have been to destroy certain points [so] they didn’t have to destroy every single building in order to destroy Jerusalem.” This matches the account in the bible that the Babylonians burned the houses of important people like princes and dignitaries, but perhaps not commoner’s houses.
Some Were Left Alone
In support of the idea that perhaps not every house in Jerusalem was burned was that the bible says that some of the poorest of the Judeans, like those who worked the land, were left alone and spared execution. Perhaps their houses were also spared burning. Another theory about how to square this information with the bible is to consider the fact that the borders of Jerusalem may have changed over time. The dig site is technically in the City Of David, in the foothills of Jerusalem.
Walls Of Jerusalem
The walls of the Old City Of Jerusalem do not encompass the City of David, but it is possible the borders have changed over time. The archaeologists assume that, according to news outlet Haaretz, their finding of burnt objects shows that, “sixth-century B.C.E. Jerusalem extended beyond the fortifications.” It is still unknown exactly what role the City of David area had in ancient Jerusalem, but many scholars believe it might have been the town center at one point. Scientists are stepping in to help figure it out.
Scientists can help confirm the age of the relics found in this excavation site by using a special method called carbon dating. Many of the items we use have carbon in them, especially remnants of living things, and those items can be dated by using this method. Therefore, it is possible to figure out exactly how old the bones found in the site are, providing further evidence that the biblical account of the burning of Jerusalem is, in fact, correct.
The use of carbon dating has been around in the 1940’s and has since then been considered a routine method in the toolbox of archaeologists, paleontologists, and certain kinds of biologists. However, as Jerusalem is an ancient city, and its values are ancient, people were not so into the idea of using it until recently. “In recent years we have made large effort, the Israel Antiquities Authority, and the universities, to bring Jerusalem to the methods of 21st-century archaeology,” Dr. Uziel reports.
Past And Future
This incredible new find is probably just the first of many excavations that are in support of the bible. It is remarkable to see that the words of 2 Kings match with an archeological record. As one of the oldest cities in the world, Jerusalem holds many treasures like this. It is exciting to see what might be found next, what might be hiding underneath the ground in the Holy Land. The understanding of Jerusalem in the past will help everyone understand its present and its future.