APOLOGETICS 02 - Archeology and the Old Testament


Archeology has found dramatic evidence of the accuracy of the Bible. Over 25’000 sites have been found and they are in accordance with the descriptions of the Bible. Archeologists have used the biblical accounts to locate many ancient sites.

36 people mentioned in the Old Testament have been identified positively in other ancient records. Another 22 people mentioned have been tentatively identified in other ancient records.

The further back in time we go, the less archeological evidence can be found, but as we progress through the Old Testaments the amount and specificity of the historical evidence increases:

Historical Evidence for Genesis

Creation Account                                                         Genesis 2

  • Genetic research thinks it can trace human genes back to a man and a woman, from Mesopotamia and East Africa.

The Fall of mankind                                                     Genesis 3

  • The Story of Adapa (the first of the 7 ante-diluvian Mesopotamian sages) tells of a test for immortality involving food, similar to the story of Adam and Eve in Eden.
  • Ancient Chinese symbols contain word pictures relating to the beginning of Genesis. The word picture for ‘flood’ is ‘8 people in a boat’. The word picture for ‘Satan’ is ‘evil man in the garden’.

Noah’s worldwide                                              Flood Genesis 6-9

  • A number of Babylonian documents have been discovered which describe creation myths and flood myths: the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Atra-Hasis tablets, the Enuma Elis, the Eridu Genesis and the Barton Cylinder.
  • The creation story and the flood would have been passed down from Noah to their descendants, and even though the story changed as it was passed down, it still has many common elements with the Biblical record. 
  • Barton Cylinder: Picture right.
  • Gilgamesh Epic. The 11th tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic speaks of an ark, animals taken on the ark, birds sent out during the course of the Flood, the ark landing on a mountain, and a sacrifice offered after the ark landed. Picture on the right is a fragment of the Gilgamesh Epic of Utnapishtim (‘he who found life’, Noah) describing the end of the storm.
  • Ancient tablet listing the Sumerian kings. More than 16 fragments and one nearly complete copy found at different places, i.e. temple library at Nippur, Iraq, published in 1906 AD.
  • The most complete is the Weld-Blundell prism now at Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England. Picture right.
  • This Sumerian King List, for example, lists kings who reigned for long periods of time. Then is mentions that a great Flood came. Following the Flood, Sumerian kings ruled for much shorter periods of time. Picture far right.
  • This is the same pattern found in the Bible. Men had long life spans before the Flood and shorter life spans after.

Cities founded by Nimrod                                              Genesis 10:10-12

Genesis 10:10-12 mentions Nimrod, the first strong king founding the cities of Babel, Erech and Accad (in the land of Shinar), then Nineveh, Rehoboth-ir, Calah and Resen (in Assyria).

These cities (the earliest mentioned in the Bible) have all been discovered and excavated around 1900 AD and positively identified.

Tower of Babel                                                                Genesis 11:1-9

  • Sumerian tablets record the confusion of language as in the Biblical account of the Tower of Babel. They describe a golden age when all mankind spoke the same language. Speech was then confused by the god Enki, lord of wisdom.
  • There is a similar Babylonian account in which the gods destroyed a temple tower and “scattered them abroad and made strange their speech.”
  • Genesis 11:1 mentions that the whole earth was of one language and one speech. According to evolution this makes no sense, as language should have sprouted up in many various ways and places.
  • Yet modern philologists attest to the likelihood of a common origin of language … Algredo Trombettis says he can trace and prove the common origin of all languages.
  • Maybe the Tower of Babel was patterned similar to a ziggurat. The ruins of several Zigguarats remain today. Picture on the right is a model of a ziggurat. 

Abraham                                                                              Genesis 12

  • Ancient artifacts in Babylon of about 2000 BC mention many names of people, among them “Abram” is a personal name.
  • Stone Inscription called Autobiography of Weni, dated 2280 BC, has an inscription in Egyptian hieroglyphs recording an Egyptian military campaign in Sinai and the western Mediterranean coast. 
  • Picture on the left
  • This is the oldest mention of the Sinai (and other places), which also occurs early on in the Biblical record (1446 BC, Exo 16:1). 
  • Discovered in Abydos, Egypt in 1880 AD, exhibited in the Cairo Museum.
  • In Ge 14:1-3 Abraham is described as defeating several kings of cities, the record mentions the cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar
  • Since no other record of these cities were found, it was treated as fiction, until recent finds of a library of tablets of the Kingdom of Ebla, in Ebla, Syria. 
  • The library contains 1800 complete clay tablets, and 4700 fragments, dated 2500-2250 BC. The Ebla tablets mention the same 4 cities in the same sequence as in Genesis. 
  • The library was discovered in 1975 AD during excavations at the ancient city of Tell Mardikh by Archaeologist Paolo Matthiae. 
  • Exhibited in the Museum of Aleppo, Damascus, Syria. Picture on the right.

Abraham at Shechem                              Genesis 33:18-34:31

  • On the Sebek-khu Stele, dated 1860 BC, there is an inscription in Eyptian hieroglyphs describing an Egyptian military campaign in Retienu, including ‘Sekmem’. 
  • This is thought to be the earliest mention of the city of Shechem.
  • This confirms the existence and importance of the city of Shechem as early as Abraham’s time. Abraham’s clan camps near Shechem and has a conflict with them in Gen 33:18, Gen 34
  • Discovered at Abydos, exhibited at the Manchester Museum. Picture on the left.

Abraham and Jacob’s migration to Egypt                    Gen 12:10, 47:5-6

  • There is evidence for frequent famine-induced migration of surrounding peoples into Egypt. Egypt’s agriculture is Nile-based irrigation.
  • The Nile has its head in the tropical zones of Africa, it carries water all year, whereas Canaan and surrounding areas were dependent on rain brought by the West wind. 
  • The 200 mile journey was a well-traveled road in times of famine as early as 2000 BC.
  • Examples in Genesis:
    • In Gen 12:10 Abraham goes to Egypt due to a famine. 
    • In Gen 26:2 Isaac is specifically instructed by God not to go down to Egypt (which was obviously in Isaac’s mind). 
    • Gen 42 Jacob’s sons go to Egypt to buy grain. 
    • Gen 43:1-2 Jacob’s sons go again to Egypt to buy grain. 
    • Gen 47:5-6 Israel’s family moves to Goshen, Egypt, by invitation of Pharaoh and Joseph.

Israel in Egypt                                           Genesis 47-50, Exodus 1

  • A nomadic culture like Abraham’s tribe would not primarily build houses or other permanent structures.
  • Yet still there is archeological evidence for Israel in Goshen in the north eastern Nile delta. Excavations since 1966 AD (still ongoing) by Austrian Archaeologist Manfred Bietak, Vienna, near modern day Kantir at Tel-el-Dab’a, strata D2 yielded structures of a simple unfortified village, a horse shoe shaped house with surrounding walls, stables of a pastoral culture. 
  • All artefacts are asiatic, nothing found there is Egyptian. Horse shoe house prototype is identical with later Hebrew architecture in Israel. Picture on the right: Excavation. Picture far right: Model.
  • In Egypt there are the Beni Hasan tomb paintings, dated to 1700 BC, depicting Semites, with beards, wearing colorful robes, moving with their families and livestock into Egypt. 
  • Picture upper left: Beni Hasan Tombs, view from outside.
  • Picture left: Photo of painting. 
  • Picture lower left: Re-constructed painting. 
  • The Egyptian man to the right in the painting holds an inscription stating the identity of these people. The inscription calls them ‘the Amo’, which means “God’s people”
  • Picture right: Man in the painting holding the inscription. 
  • Picture lower right: Inscription ‘the Amo’.
  • Also at Avaris, in the D2 strata, nine royal seals (signet rings) were found that bear the inscription ‘yakov’, a Hebrew name, ‘Jacob’ in English, the name of the father of Joseph.
  • This is the only time a Hebrew name was found on an Egyptian royal seal.
  • There is a possible link to the story of Joseph, rising to become the right hand man to Pharaoh in Gen 41:37-49. Picture: right.

Historical Evidence for Exodus

Hyksos and Hyksos Expulsion Exodus

  • According to Egyptian records in 1800-1500 BC the Hyksos ruled Egypt. ‘Hyksos’ means ‘ruler from foreign countries’. The Hyksos were Semites. They came end of 13th dynasty and initiated the 2nd intermediate period. Important Canaanite population first appeared in Egypt towards the end of the 12th dynasty, 1800 BC and formed an independent realm in the Nile Delta by 1720 BC. They regrouped under the 14th dynasty, co-existed with the Egyptian 13th dynasty, based in Itjtawy. The power of the 13th and 14th dynasties progressively waned, perhaps due to famine and plague, and in 1650 BC both were invaded by the Hyksos, who formed their own dynasty, the 15th dynasty. The collapse of the 13th dynasty created a power vacuum in the South, which may have led to the rise of the 16th dynasty, based in Thebes, and possibly of a local dynasty in Abydos. Both were eventually conquered by the Hyksos, albeit for a short time in the case of Thebes. From then on the 17th dynasty took control of Thebes and reigned for a time in peaceful co-existence with the Hyksos kings. Eventually Pharaoh Seqenenre Tao, Kamose and Ahmose waged war against the Hyksos and expelled Khamudi, their last king from Egypt 1550 BC approximately.
  • These records contain parallels to Exo 1, Israel falling from favor into slavery. Maybe the Israelites were one of the peoples described as Hyksos. The Hyksos expulsion is parallel the Exodus itself (Exo 12).

Slavery in Egypt                                                                     Exodus

  • 18th Dynasty (1550-1300 BC) Tomb wall paintings depict slaves making bricks from mud and straw.
  • The slave drivers have whips in their hands and the inscription reads: “the whip is in my hand, do not be idle”. Picture: upper left.
  • The tomb of Rekhmire, a Vizier, in Thebes (Luxor: tomb TT 100, dated to Thutmosis III, 1479-1425 BC) has wall paintings, depicting slaves making mud bricks. Picture lower left.
  • 15th century BC Tomb wall paintings (Murailles) depicts Canaanite slaves in agricultural labor (dressing vineyards) in Goshen. 
  • Picture: upper right.
  • Picture lower right: ancient mud brick walls in the Nile Delta.
  • A papyrus which lists the selling and buying of slaves during Pharaoh Sobekhotep III, dated 1700 BC was discovered. 
  • Over 50% of the names of the slaves listed are characteristically Hebrew. 
  • Among the names recorded the name Shiphrah is found, a parallel to the midwives, who helped prevent the genocide of Hebrew boys by the Eyptians described in Exo 1:15-21
  • Exhibited in the Brooklyn Museum, Papyrus 35.1446. Picture: left.
  • At the ancient Egyptian turquoise mines of Serabit-el-Khadim in the Sinai Peninsula, 400 km south of Goshen, slaves left inscriptions on the walls. 
  • Egyptians used hieroglyphs, but Israelites used an Alphabet, a fore-runner of our modern alphabets. 
  • An alphabetic inscription reads: “El, save me”. ‘El’ is the Hebrew word for God. 
  • The slave who inscribed this was able to read and write. Picture: left.
  • The tombs of Egyptian Pharaoh Ahmose, son of Ebana and of Ahmose Pen-Nkhebet record the earliest records of Egyptian control of Canaan

Plagues in Egypt                                             Exodus 7-12

  • Pharaoh Seqenenre Tao II, father of Ahmose I, was most likely one of the oppressing Pharaohs. His mummy has a skull crushed by enemy axes.
  • Ahmose I Stele, dated to about 1500 BC, with an inscription in Egyptian Hieroglyphs. Discovered 1947 AD by Archaeologist A. Chevalier.
  • The inscription records a fearsome and extraordinary storm coming on Egypt, a ‘great storm’ so ‘Egypt enveloped in darkness’ … all this is because ‘god (singular!!) manifested his power’.
  • The singular is very peculiar, as the Egyptians had an array of gods. 
  • Picture right: reconstruction of the Stele.
  • Ipuwer papyrus, some date it to the Hyksos period (1850-1550 BC as a description of Hyksos (Asiatic, Semitic) influence or invasion of the country), others date it to 13th century BC, describing Egypt as afflicted by natural disasters and in a state of chaos, where the poor have become rich, and the rich poor, and warfare, famine and death are everywhere. One symptom of this collapse of order is the lament that servants are leaving their servitude and acting rebelliously, having parallels with the Exodus, which would have been perceived like this by Egyptians.
  • Wordings like “the River is blood” parallels the 1st plague on Egypt in Exo 7:20.
  • Also described is strong hail, fire and ice mingled. This matches the 7th plague, Exo 7:24, where the hail is described as with fire flashing continually in the midst of it’, which Rabbi Chaim Sacknovitz says cannot be read metaphorically.
  • 9th plague of darkness could have to do with the Santorini Volcano eruption, one of the strongest ever in human history (ash cloud of 40 km height, sound circling earth 10-12 times).
  • Pumice and ash specific to Santorini has been found in many places in the Nile Delta, among others at Avaris in strata D2, 18th dynasty, during the Hyksos time.
  • The eruption of Santorini is dated by some 1600 BC, by others 1500 BC.
  • Picture right: Microscopic photo of finger print Santorini ash.
  • 10th plague of killing of firstborn is descibed in Ex 12:29.
  • Ahmose I’s son Sapair died as a youth, at 12 years of age, his mummy and sarcophage is preserved.
  • Picture: left.
  • Historic Goshen, Nile Delta, at the Hyksos capital Avaris: mass graves dated 1500 BC were found containing only male skeletons found, carelessly thrown into shallow graves.
  • This is suggesting a quick burial, but not a mass grave typical of an epidemic, where male and female skeletons are found.
  • This could be evidence for the 10th plague: the first born males of Egypt killed.

Exodus from Egypt                                                                   Exodus

  • The Egyptian Border towards the northeast was heavily fortified with fortresses and guarded by a great military presence, since that was the major trade route, but also route of attack if any. This is confirmed by the Biblical record in Exo 13:17-18, which states clearly that Israel did not take this route for fear of war and discouragement.
  • Another objection critics raise is the lack of Egyptian records mentioning the Israelite departure. British Egyptologist Kenneth A. Kitchen says that voluminous papyrus archives once stored in Egypt have vanished: ‘In the sopping wet mud of the Delta, no papyrus ever survives (whether it mentions fleeing Hebrews or not) … In other words, as the official thirteenth-century archives from the East Delta centers are 100 percent lost, we cannot expect to find mentions in them of the Hebrews or anybody else”.
  • Another aspect is that official records and inscriptions in the ancient Near East often were written to impress gods and potential enemies. 
  • It would be quite surprising to find an account of the destruction of pharaoh’s army immortalized on the walls of an Egyptian temple.
  • Indeed, the absence of direct material evidence of an Israelite sojourn in Egypt, an issue of defeat for Egypt, is not really surprising.
  • Picture left: A typical victory commemorating relief of a victorious Thutmosis III smiting asiatic slaves on the Temple of Amun, Karnak, Egypt.
  • So-called El-Arish Inscription exhibited at the Ismaili Regional Museum in Egypt, describes what is most likely the Exodus of Israel from an Egyptian point of view.
  • Moses is called ‘prince of the desert’. Israel is called ‘the evil ones’.
  • But it also records the dividing of a body of water, visible as three waves (hieroglyph ‘water body’ and two knives ‘cut/divided’).
  • Another objection is the absence of pottery fragments or throw away items remaining from Israel’s encampment in the various locations. As nomads during their time in the wilderness, every utensil and tool would be of great value. That nothing is left from temporary Israelite encampments from 3000 years ago, is not that surprising. Former Yale professor Millar Burrows agrees: “It is hardly reasonable, in fact, to expect archeological evidence of their sojourn anywhere. We cannot expect much help from archeology in tracing the route of a people’s migration through the desert.”
  • The Israelites left Egypt “in haste” and that “they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared provisions for themselves” (Ex 12:33, 39). Also they did not foresee that their disobedience that would keep them on the road for 40 years. They expected a relatively short trip and then re-establishment in the Promised Land, so why haul heavy pottery along?
  • Exo 14:5-7 says that after Israel leaving Pharaoh changed his mind and sent 600 chariots to chase the runaway slaves. This seems a formidable number. 
  • On the site of the city of Ramses II (built by Israelite slave labor Exo 1:11), German archeologists unearthed the foundations of an ancient stable. 
  • They excavated enough stables for at least 500 horses and chariots. 
  • Pictures left and right: examples of Egyptian chariots.

Many events that the Bible describes have no archaeological evidence. Some evidence may still be found by later excavations. Many events are not the type of event that leaves behind evidence archaeologists can find, and therefore will never be affirmed by archaeological evidence, though they are real. Numerous theories that were critical of the Bible have evaporated with the turn of the archaeologist’s spade.

Historical Evidence for the Law of Moses

The Pentateuch

  • The Pentateuch with its elaborate Law Code is the most detailed law document of its age, 1445 BC
  • Because of its age objections were raised and later dates suggested.
  • But the Near East has legal tablets older than the Law of Moses:
    • Code of Hammurabi (1772 BC),
    • the Code of Ur-Nammu, king of Ur (dated 2050 BC)
    • the Laws of Eshunna (1930 BC) and
    • the Codex of Lipit-Ishtar of Isin (1870 BC).
  • Later codes include the Code of the Nsilim, Hittite laws and Assyrian Law.
  • Picture left: Hammurabi law code. Picture right: Ur-nammu law code.
  • The Structure of Deuteronomy: For a long time scholars didn’t understand the structure of Deutoronomy
  • Then stone inscriptions were found from 1400 BC, chiseled covenant documents from the same time as Deuteronomy, using exactly that text format and structure that Deuteronomy uses:
    • 1 Covenant History
    • 2 Covenant Suzerain and Vassal
    • 3 Covenant Stipulations
    • 4 Consequences to keeping or breaking the covenant
    • 5 Covenant continuity.
  • The Hittites are a people mentioned 47x in the Bible. Since no other record mentioned them, their existence was long doubted.
  • Now the ancient capital of the Hittites was found near Ankara, Turkey. Hittite texts from 17th century BC and later have also been found.

Israel’s route through Transjordan Numbers 33, Joshua 15)

  • The list of cities in the Transjordan region through which the Israelites passed on their way into the land in Num 33:45-50 includes Iyim, Dibon-gad, Abel-shittim, and Jordan.
  • There are Egyptian records of where the Egyptian armies passed in their military campaigns,
    • Thutmosis III (1450 BC)
    • Amenophis III, 1387 BC and
    • Rameses II (1279 BC) and they also mention these four places in the same order.
  • Archaeologist Charles Krahmalkov says: “The biblical story of the invasion of Transjordan that sets the stage for the conquest of all Palestine is told against a background that is historically accurate. The Israelite invasion route described in Numbers 33:50 was … an official, heavily trafficked Egyptian road through the Transjordan in the Late Bronze Age.”
  • Joshua 15 mentions many locations in Southern Israel that also appear in the Egyptian records.

Balaam, son of Beor (Num 22-24, 31)

  • An inscription was found at Deir Alla, today’s Jordan, thought to be the Biblical Pethor, that mentions Balaam, son of Beor.
  • It reads: “Balaam, son of Beor, seer of the gods”.
  • Num 22-24 tells the story of how Balak, King of Moab and the elders of Midian send for Balaam, son of Beor, to curse Israel for them, unsuccessfully.
  • His counsel to involve Israel in sin leads to the disaster of Baal Peor (Num 25) and the war of revenge on Midian (Num 31:15).
  • Picture see right.

Historical Evidence for Joshua

Israel’s Conquest of Canaan                                                Joshua 1-12

  • Joshua 3:14-17 describes the miracle of the crossing of the Jordan River, that the waters of the Jordan “rose up in one heap a great distance away at Adam”. So the Israelites walked across the riverbed on dry ground.
  • The mentioning of the village of Adam some fifteen or twenty miles upstream (North) from where the Israelites crossed the river has a ring of authenticity, precisely because there is nothing historically or religiously significant about this village other than its role as a “footnote” in this account. If this report was written as “pious fiction”, surely the wall of water would have been in sight of the Israelites for effect like at the Red Sea crossing.
  • Historical records confirm that such mudslides that temporarily dam up the river have occurred from time to time at that very location on the Jordan, including in the years 1160, 1267, 1546, 1834, 1906, and 1927 AD. This is a not regular but also not unknown occurrence, and therefore not intrinsically unlikely.
  • Excavations at Jericho in 1930-36 AD showed that the walls fell out so completely, that the attackers could climb up and over the walls into the city, Archeologist Garstang says. 
  • Jos 6:20 gives exactly that description. Most scholars agree on this.
  • Since some dated Jericho’s fall to around 1500 BC while assuming a late date (1200 BC) for the conquest, they conclude that Jericho wasn’t conquered by Joshua.
  • The issue here, then, is one of chronology. But there is much evidence for an earlier date for the conquest.
  • In Egypt the Tel Amarna letters on cuneiform tablets have been found, dated early 14th century BC, containing desperate pleas by Canaanite rulers for Egypt (Pharaoh Achen Aten) to militarily intervene on their behalf and protect Canaan.
  • They say that otherwise “all Canaan will be lost” (Jos 12:9-24).
  • The invaders are called “apiru”, a term meaning ‘stateless’, a particularly fitting description for Israel. 
  • Pictures right: Examples of Tel Amarna tablets.
  • Pharaoh Mernepta of Egypt makes a military campaign into Canaan.
  • On the Merneptah Stele, dated 1210 BC, an inscription is found describing his victories the phrase is found “all Israel is laid waste”. 
  • This is the oldest mention of the nation of Israel having arrived in Canaan in extra-biblical records.
  • Discovered at Thebes in 1896 AD, exhibited at the Cairo Museum. Picture left.
  • Hazor is mentioned to be a city on a mound in Jos 11:13, which was confirmed by excavations in Tel Hazor. Pictures on the left.
  • Excavations at Hazor (Jos 11:10-11) have produced evidence for a 14th century BC invasion and destruction. Hazor was destroyed twice.
  • In the Hazor palace broken Egyptian and Canaanite idol statues were found, with their heads and hands deliberately hacked off. Pictures on the right.
  • Archeologist Amnon Ben Tor, who excavated Hazor in 1999 AD, interprets this to mean that the invaders must have been Israelites, for neither the Canaanites not the Egyptian would destroy their own idols.
  • Israel on the other hand was commanded to destroy all objects of idolatry (Deu 7:5).

Israel in Canaan                                                                   Joshua

  • In the Egyptian Temple of Pharaoh Amenhotep (1396-1358 BC) inscriptions were found mentioning “the Shashu of Yahweh’s land”.
  • These references to the promised land and its people are the oldest mention of ‘Yahweh’ outside of the Bible, written within the lifetime of Joshua.
  • The same words were found in an inscription dated to Pharaoh Rameses II (1304-1237 BC). Picture left.
  • Ugaritic religious texts from 14th to 12th century BC, verifies the account of Philo, preserved by Eusebius, regarding the Canaanite religion (Gen 15:16; Lev 18:24-31, Deu 9:4-5, Deu 16:21-17:7 and many more).

Historical Evidence for Judges

  • Berlin Statue Pedestal Relief in Egypt dated 1350 BC lists several areas, among them ‘Israel’. Pictures right.
  • This is the oldest record of the word ‘Israel’ outside the Bible, older still than the Mernepta Stele. 
  • 1350 BC would fall around the time of Judge Othniel (Judges 3:7-11). 
  • Amarna letters, 13th century BC, a correspondence on clay tablets between the Egyptian administration and various Canaanite kings (sub-rulers) during the New kingdom. Pictures left.
  • Midianite pottery was found dating to the 13th century BC. Midian is mentioned in the Bible as Moses’ land of exile, his wife Zippora, daughter of Jethro’s home (Exo 2:15-22).
  • Again: On the Mernepta Stele the military campaign of Pharaoh Mernepta of Egypt into Canaan are described. 
  • The Stele is dated to 1210 BC, an inscription mentions his victories, including the phrase ‘all Israel is laid waste’
  • This is the second oldest mention of the nation of Israel having arrived in Canaan in extra-biblical records.
  • Picture of the stele and the hieroglyphs on the right.
  • In Judges 4:1-2 Israel is oppressed by the Canaanite King Jabin, ruling from Hazor (which Israel lost to him). 
  • Judge Deborah and Military Commander Barak fight against him and his General Sisera (around 13th century BC). 
  • “Jabin” is a kingly title like “Pharaoh”
  • The Jabin dynasty lasted for 500 years. 
  • The Name “Jabin” or its transliterarion “Ibni” is recorded on a Clay tablet found at the ancient city of Mari and Hazor, dated 1700 BC.  
  • Clay tablet and the statue of Jabin from Hazor on the left.
  • North Wall of the Medinet Habu temple and the Papyrus Harris, dated 1150 BC depicts Rameses III’s conquests in Canaan including the Battle of Djahy.

Historical Evidence for Samuel or the Monarchy

  • King Solomon of Israel was a great builder (temple at Jerusalem, various palaces) and he fortified many cities of Israel, among them the city of Gezer (1 Kings 9:15). Excavations at Gezer show Solomon’s gate fortifications.
  • There are no direct extra-biblical records of the Monarchy of Israel. According to the excavators of the city of Hazor (Amnon Ben-Tor 1999 AD) and the city of Gezer (William Dever; Shanks 1997 AD) there is solid evidence from the days of Solomon’s kingdom.
  • And most archaeologists believe there is evidence from the the Monarchy period at Megiddo (Harrison 2003; Mazar 2003).
  • According to Jane Cahill (2004 AD), the archaeologist finishing the 1980’s City of David dig report, tenth century Jerusalem was fortified, served by two complex water-supply systems and populated by a socially stratified society that constructed at least two new residential quarters – one inside and one outside the city walls.

Historical Evidence for Kings & Chronicles

  • The Bubastite Portal of the Temple of Amun in Karnak, Thebes, Egypt, dated 925 BC records in Egyptian hieroglyphs and Egyptian military campaign by Pharaoh Shoshenq I in 926 BC.
  • Pharaoh Shoshenq I is the biblical Pharaoh Shishak, mentioned in in 1 Kin 14:25-26 as raiding Israel, especially the Jerusalem temple during the time of Rehoboam, King of Judah (931-914 BC). 
  • Discovered 1828 AD in Karnak, Egypt. 
  • The description mentions him raiding 187 cities, here visible, Beth-shan, Shunem, Gibeon.
  • The Mesha stele, dated 850 BC, with inscriptions in Moabite language recounting the Moabite King Mesha’s victories over the House of Omri (Israel).
  • The successful revolt of Moab against King Jehoram of Israel (852-841 BC) is also mentioned in 2 Kin 1:1; 3:4-27.
  • There is a probable reference to the “house of David”, “Yahweh” is mentioned, as well as “Bezer”, a city of Israel. 
  • This would make it the oldest reference to David outside the Bible.
  • Discovered in 1868 AD in Dhiban, Jordan, exhibited in the Louvre, Paris. Picture left.
  • The Kurkh Monolith, dated 850 BC, with an Assyrian cuneiform inscription containing the name of King Ahab of Israel (874-853 BC), described in 1 Kin 16-22
  • Discovered, in 1861 AD in Uctepe, Bismil, exhibited at British Museum. Picture right.
  • The Basalt Stele of Zakkur, dated around 800 BC and discovered 1903 AD near Aleppo, ancient Hamath mentions Hazael, King of Aram (Syria) who is a well known figure in the Bible:
    • Hazael is anointed by the prophet Elisha (1 Kin 19:15, 2 Kin 8:13)
    • he murders his master Ben-Hadad I (2 Kin 8:13)
    • he kills King Joram of Israel (2 Chr 22:5-7) and
    • King Ahaziah of Judah (2 Kin 8:28). 
  • Picture on the left.
  • Hazael’s victory Stele at Tel Dan, Israel.
  • The inscription mentions “I killed Joram, son of Ahab and Ahaziah, son of Jehoram, of the house of David.”
  • 2 Kin 8:28-29 describes the same event.
  • This mention of the “house of David” is the second oldest reference to David outside the Bible.
  • The black Obelisk of Assyrian King Shalmaneser III, dated 825 BC, depicts King Jehu of Israel (841-814 BC) or an ambassador of his, kneeling and paying tribute to King Shalmaneser III of Assyria.
  • The text mentions “Jehu, son of Omri”, which is technically incorrect. Jehu destroyed the family of Omri and Ahab and reigned in his stead. As in other inscriptions, “house of Omri” stands for Israel in general.
  • Discovered at 1846 AD in Nimrud, exhibited at the British Museum. Pictures left.
  • The Saba’a Stele, dated 800 BC, records in Assyrian cuneiform Assyrian King Adad-Nirari III’s campaign to Palaestine. 
  • Discovered in 1905 AD in Saba’a, exhibited at the Istanbul Archeology Museum. 
  • Picture right.
  • The Nimrud Slab, dated 800 BC, describes in Akkadian cuneiform the early conquests of Adad-nirari III in Palaestine, Tyre, Sidon, Edom, and Humri (a reference to Omri, meaning Israel). It was discovered at Nimrud in 1854 AD. Picture left.
  • King Ahaz of Judah’s Seal (735-715 BC).
  • A Clay Impression of King Ahaz’s seal has been found.
  • It reads: “belonging to Ahaz, son of Jotham, King of Judah”.
  • This evil king is described in 2 Kings 16 and Isaiah 7. Picture right.
  • The Nimrud Tablet K3751, dated 733 BC, described in Akkadian cuneiform the campaigns of Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 BC) to the region of Judah, also described in 2 Ki 15:29.
  • This is the oldest extra-biblical reference to Judah.
  • Discovered in 1850 AD in Ashurbanipal’s library, exhibited in the British Museum.
  • Picture left.
  • A seal with the following inscription was found: “Shema, servant of Jeroboam”. This most likely refers to an officer of Jeroboam II, King of Israel (793-753 BC), described in 2 Ki 14:23-29. Picture right.
  • Assyrian King Sargon II’s Prism (dated 710 BC) and Sargon’s Palace walls at Nineveh both have records of the Fall of Israel’s capital Samaria to Sargon II (2 Ki 17:3-6, 24; 18:9-11).
  • The prism describes in Akkadian cuneiform Sargon II’s campaigns (722-705 AD) to Palaestine, Judah, Edom, Moab. It was discovered in 1847 and 1850 AD in the Library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh and is now exhibited at the British Museum.
  • The story of Israel and Samaria’s fall in 722 BC is also referred to in Is 36:18-20. Sargon II’s Prism B, discovered by R. Campbell Thompson, mentions among other kings “King Manasseh” of Judah (2 Ki 21). The defeat of Ashdod by Sargon II (Is 20:1) is recorded on Sargon II’s palace walls. Picture left: Sargon II’s Prism.
  • King Hezekiah of Judah (715-686 BC), when threatened by Assyria, ensures water supply for Jerusalem that is about to be besieged: He cuts the Siloam Tunnel as described in 2 Chr 32:30. Both tunnel and the so-called Siloam Inscription, dated 701 BC have been found.
  • The inscription mentions in Paleo-Hebrew / Phoenician alphabet the construction of Hezekiah’s tunnel. 
  • Discovered in 1880 AD in Jerusalem, Hezekiah’s tunnel, exhibited at Istanbul Archeology Museum. Pictures left: Hezekiah’s tunnel and inscription.
  • As part of the so-called Sennacherib relief there is the Lachish relief, named after the Judean city of Lachish. It is dated 700 BC, and depicts captives from Judah being led into captivity after the siege and conquest of Lachish in 701 BC by Assyrian King Sennacherib as described in 2 Kin 18:14, 17.
  • The inscriptions are in Assyrian cuneiform. Discovered 1845 AD in Nineveh, exhibited in the British Museum. 
  • Picture and reconstruction right.
  • The so-called Azekah Inscription, dated 700 BC, describes in Akkadian cuneiform a campaign by Assyrian King Sennacherib against Hezekiah, King of Judah (2 Ki 18:13-19:37), including the conquest of the Judean city of Azekah. Discovered 1850 AD in the Library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh, exhibited in the British Museum. Picture left.
  • Assyrian King Sennacherib’s Annals on the Taylor Prism. The inscriptions describes in Assyrian cuneiform the campaign of the King Sennacherib against many nations including Judah and the siege of Jerusalem in 701 BC during the time of King Hezekiah of Judah (715-686 BC) as also described in 2 Ki 18:13-19:37. Discovered 1830 AD in Nineveh, exhibited in British Museum, Oriental Institute of Chicago and Israel Museum. Picture of Prism on the right. Detail on the left.
  • Assyrian King Esar-haddon’s Annals contain the story of the assassination of his father King Sennacherib by his own sons, Esar-haddon’s brothers as also described 2 Kin 19:37
  • The assassination took place in 681 BC, after which the third son Esar-Haddon seizes the throne from his two assassin brothers and rules from 681-669 BC
  • The Stele on the right depicts a oversized Esar-haddon with his two brothers begging mercy.
  • Esar-haddon’s Treaty with Ba’al of Tyre, dated 675 BC, describes a treaty between Esar-haddon of Assyria (681-669 BC) and Ba’al of Tyre concerning Philistia.
  • Discovered 1850 AD in the Library of Ashurbanipal, exhibited in the British Museum. Picture left.
  • Pharaoh Tirhakah is mentioned in a Wall carving at the Karnak Temple Complex in Egypt.
  • This Pharaoh is also described in 2 Ki 19:9 and Isaiah 37:9 as the Pharaoh who attacks Sennacherib during his campaign with the result of drawing the Assyrian armies away from the siege of Jerusalem.
  • Picture right.
  • Fall of Assyrian capital Nineveh in 612 BC as predicted by the prophets Nahum (Nah 2:18, 3:7) and Zephaniah (Zep 2:13-15), is recorded on the Tablet of Babylonian King Nabopolassar.
  • “Cyaxares (King of Medo-Persia) … for three months they subjected the city to a heavy siege … they inflicted a major defeat upon a great people. At that time Sinsariskun, king of Assyria, died. They carried off the vast booty of the city and the temple and turned the city into a ruin heap”. 
  • Picture: left.
  • The Assyrian capital Nineveh, visited by Jonah (Jonah 3-4) and prophesied against by Nahum and Zephaniah was thought a biblical invention for centuries, until French Consul General Botta found the remains of Nineveh. 
  • Excavations at the mound of Khorsabad produced the royal palace of Sargon II. 
  • Further excavations in 1849 AD produced the palace of Sennacherib and the famous library of Ashurbanipal with 22’000 cuneiform clay tablets. Most artefacts are exhibited in the British Museum. 
  • Picture right.
  • A silver scroll dated 600 BC was found which contains the exact text of Deuteronomy 6:22-27, showing the accuracy of the text passed down. Pictures right.
  • Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar’s Cylinder lists his building achievements. 
  • Nebuchadnezzar is the most mentioned foreign king in the Bible (for example 2 Kin 24:1). 
  • He conquered Judah and Jerusalem three times and exiles the people of Judah. 
  • Picture left.
  • Babylonian Arrowheads were found in Jerusalem on the temple mount. 
  • King Nebuchadnezzar besieged and conquered Jerusalem three times, in 605 BC, in 597 BC and in 586 BC as described for example in 2 Kin 24:10.
  • The siege and fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon as described in 2 Ki 24:10-14, is recorded in the Babylonian Chronicles, written in 550-400 BC, contains a ‘master narrative’ of Babylonian history. 
  • In one chronicle it states: ‘In the seventh year (of Nebuchadnezzar, 599 BC) in the month Chislev (Nov/Dec) the king of Babylon assembled his army, and after he had invaded the land of Hatti (Syria/Palestine) he laid siege to the city of Judah. On the second day of the month of Adar (16 March 597 BC) he conquered the city and took the king (King Jeconiah of Judah, 598-597 BC) prisoner. He installed in his place a king (King Zedekiah, 597-586 BC) of his own choice, and after he had received rich tribute, he sent forth to Babylon”. 
  • Discovered in British excavations in the 19th century, exhibited in the British Museum. Picture left.
  • Babylonian Ration Records. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took Judah’s King Jehoiachin into captivity in Babylon, as described in 2 Ki 24:15-16, 25:27-30, 2 Chr 36:9-10, Jer 22:24-26, 29:2, 52:31-34
  • Neo-Babylonian cuneiform Babylonian Ration Records have been found, dated 592-591 BC, that show the disbursal of rations from the royal storehouses. 
  • There are four texts that record monthly rations for “Jehoiachin, king of the land of Judah” along with other dignitaries, including his five sons. Picture right.
  • Cylinder of Nabonidus, dated 550 BC, describes in Akkadian cuneiform Belshazzar as Nabonidus’ eldest son. Daniel 3:16 indirectly describes the co-regency of Nabonidus and Belshazzar (third place offered to Daniel). Discovered at Ur in 1854 AD, exhibited at British Museum and Pergamon Museum. Picture right.
  • Cylinder of Cyrus, dated 530 BC, a inscription in Akkadian cuneiform about the Medo-Persian King Cyrus’ victory over Babylon (Da 5:30-31), his treatment of religion, the freeing of captives in Babylon (Ez 1:1-4; 6:3-4). 
  • It reads “I am Cyrus, king of the universe, since the gods of foreign lands made permanent sanctuaries which are now dilapidated, I returned the people to their lands and made provision to rebuild” in harmony with Ezra 1:1-4
  • Discovered 1879 AD in Babylon, exhibited in the British Museum. Picture right.
  • The Nabonidus Chronicles, dated 250 BC, contains an inscription in Akkadian cuneiform describing the conquest of Babylon by the Persan king Cyrus the Great, mentioned in Daniel 5
  • Discovered in Sippar in 1879 AD, exhibited in the British Museum. Picture left.
  • Medo-Persian King Darius’ Standard weight has been found at Persepolis, modern Iran. The artefact is dated to 500 BC
  • It reads “I am Darius, Great King …”. Darius, who reigned from 522 to 486 BC is recorded in the Bible as the Medo-Persian King who allows the Jews to continue the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem in Ezra 4:5. Picture right.
  • Alabaster jar with the inscription “King Xerxes” (486-465 BC).
  • King Xerxes is the biblical “Ahasversos”, King of Medo-Persia, husband of Jewess Esther (Esther).
  • He is also mentioned in Ezra 4:8.
  • Picture left.
  • Silver Bowl for Wine drinking of King Artaxerxes of Medo-Persia (465-424 BC).
  • Nehemiah served Medo-Persian King Artaxerxes as cup bearer (Nehemiah 1-2).
  • Artaxerxes grants Nehemiah governorship over Judah and allows him to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in 444-432 BC.

Further Historical Evidence for the Old Testament

10th century BC

  • Gezer calendar, an agricultural calendar of 925 BC. Picture left.

8th century BC

  • Sefire stele – (8th century BC) described as “the best extra-biblical source for West Semitic traditions of covenantal blessings and curses.”
  • Shebna’s lintel inscription – (8th – 7th century BC ?) found over the doorway of a tomb, has been ascribed to Hezekiah’s comptroller Shebna.
  • King Ahaz’s Seal (732 to 716 BC) – Ahaz was a king of Judah but “did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had done” (2 Kin 16:2; 2 Chr 28:1). He worshiped idols and followed pagan practices. “He even made his son pass through fire, according to the abominable practices of the nations” (2 Kin 16:3). Ahaz was the son and successor of King Jotham.
  • Annals of Tiglath Pileser III730 BC, records tributes from many Judean and Israeli kings; Ahaz of Judah, Menahem, Pekah and Hosheah of Israel. The annals also refer to Ahaziah who is considered by many scholars to be identical with the biblical Uzziah, king of Judah.


7th century BC

  • Bulla of Shaphan (609–598 BC) – possible link to a figure during the reign of Jehoiakim.
  • Khirbet Beit Lei contains oldest known Hebrew writing of the word “Jerusalem” outside the Bible, dated to 7th century BC “I am YHWH thy Lord. I will accept the cities of Judah and I will redeem Jerusalem” “Absolve us oh merciful God …YHWH”
  • Mesad Hashavyahu Ostracon is an inscribed pottery fragment dated to 7th century BC and written in ancient Hebrew language. It contains earliest extra-biblical reference to the observance of Sabbath.


6th century BC

  • Ketef Hinnom priestly blessing – Probably the oldest surviving texts currently known from the Hebrew Bible. It is a priestly blessing dated to 600 BC. The texts is from the Book of Numbers in the Old Testament.
  • Nebo-Sarsekim Tablet – (approximately 595 BC) a clay cuneiform inscription referring to an official at the court of Nebuchadrezzar II, king of Babylon, possibly the same official named in the Biblical Jeremiah.
  • Lachish letters – letters written in carbon ink by Hoshaiah, a military officer stationed near Jerusalem, to Joash the commanding officer at Lachish during the last years of Jeremiah during Zedekiah’s reign (588 BC), see Neh 12:32, Jer 42:1, 43:2). Lachish fell soon after, two years before the fall of Jerusalem.
  • House of Yahweh ostracon is an ancient pottery fragment discovered at Tel Arad probably referring to the Temple in Jerusalem.


5th century BC

  • Elephantine papyri, ancient Jewish papyri dating to the 5th century BC, name three persons mentioned in Nehemiah (Neh 4:1, 12:22): Darius II, Sanballat the Horonite and Johanan the high priest.

In Summary

  • Many ancient sites have only been found because of Bible descriptions.
  • 36 people mentioned in the Old Testament have been identified positively in other ancient records.
  • Another 22 people mentioned have been tentatively identified in other ancient records.