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Five archeological sites in the Holy Land

Introduction

The deciphering of the Rosetta Stone and the Behistun Inscription gave us an understanding of the ancient written languages of Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia. Official records and diplomatic correspondence were found inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform (or Akkadian) on clay tablets at Tell el Amarna. They deal with the reigns of Amenhotep III and IV (about 1400-1358 B.C.) and provide us with a wealth of information concerning the history and politics, as well as the customs of Bible lands. Archeological excavations in the Holy Land have brought to light secular writings which confirm Biblical accounts of events.

1. Jericho (Tell es-Sultan)

About 2 km NW of modern Jericho is the Tell es-Sultan, the remains of Old Testament Jericho. Dr John Garstang, excavating the mound in 1926-36, found traces of the oldest civilizations in Canaan. In the fourth occupational level he found evidence confirming the biblical account of Joshua's destruction of the city, which he dated at about 1400 B.C. Of the two walls surrounding the city, he found that the outer wall had fallen outward dragging the inner wall and houses with it. Of the burning of the city,[1] he found charred remains over the whole site.

The ruins of Jericho show no signs of habitation from 1400 B.C. until about 900-800 B.C., the time of king Ahab of Israel. 1 Kings 16:34 tells us how Hiel tried to rebuild Jericho, defying Joshua's curse,[2] and lost his sons. On this level three jars with the remains of children were found, one in a gate and two in the walls of a house.

2. Lachish (Tell ed-Duweir)

Lachish was an important fortified city, 40 km SW of Jerusalem. Joshua conquered the city [3] but did not burn it [4]. After the division of the kingdom of Israel, Rehoboam fortified Lachish and Azekah for the defense of Judah.[5]

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The archeological expedition of 1932-38, led by J.L.Starkey, uncovered evidence of the king of Assyria's destruction of Lachish in 701 B.C., and of the king of Babylon's in 588-87 B.C. The most important find, amongst the ashes of the latter fire, was the Lachish Letters. These consist of 21 "ostraca" in "biblical Hebrew", [6] from an outpost to the commanding officer at Lachish.

Amongst other things, they furnish corroborative evidence for Jeremiah's account of the fall of Judah: Jeremiah mentions Lachish and Azekah as the only fortified cities left standing apart from Jerusalem,[7] and in Letter IV the outpost wrote that they were watching for the signals of Lachish because they could not see Azekah. Letter I refers by name to some of the people living at the time, eg Gemeriah, an officer of king Zedekiah,[8] and Jaazaniah, a military captain of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. [9]

3. Megiddo (Tell el-Mutesellim)

As Megiddo guarded the important pass from the coastal plain to the valley of Esdraelon, many battles have been fought here. On this Hill of Megiddo ('harm- giddon') the final battle of Armageddon will take place.[10]

Megiddo was captured by Joshua and allotted to Manasseh,[11] who failed to kill the inhabitants.[12] King Solomon established it as one of his main fortified cities and kept his chariots and horses there.[13] Later the wicked king Ahab of Israel built a temple for Baal and erected Ashera poles "in Samaria"[14] which also includes Megiddo.

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During various excavations of the mound in 1903-71, twenty different occupational levels have been identified. Amongst other things, the finest collection of ivories was found and an ingenious water system was uncovered. On the level of Solomon's time, stables have been excavated which were capable of accomodating 450 horses. On the level od Ahab's time, the ruins of a temple of Ashtoreth, goddess wife of Baal, was found. Close by a cemetary was uncovered, containing many jars with the remains of infants who had been sacrificed in this temple.

4.Caesarea

This Roman capital of Judea in New Testament times, was built by Herod the Great on the shores of the Mediterranean, about 50 km north of Joppa. It flourished as a commercial centre for trade by sea as well as inland. It was so beautiful that it became known as "Little Rome". The Herodian kings and the Roman procurators lived there. In A.D. 1256 it was destroyed by Sultan Bibars of Egypt abd never again rebuilt.

The government of modern Israel has undertaken the excavation of Caesarea and has found magnificent buildings, including a crusader castle, the theater, the amphitheater, the hippodrome and the pavement of a Jewish synagogue.

At the theater a stone inscription was found naming Pilate as the Prefect of Judea. The remains of the synagogue may be the one Philip [15] and Peter [16] visited. Paul spent 2 years at its prison, appearing before felix, Festus and king Agrippa, [16] before sailing on to Rome. The harbour has been investigated by skindivers, confirming Josephus' description of its size.

5. Jerusalem

Jerusalem was built on a mountain ridge surrounded by deep valleys on three sides, about 60 km from the Mediterranean and 32 km from the Jordan river. Because of its strategic position and importance, it has been attacked and partially or in whole destroyed more than 40 times. The result is that present street levels in Old Jerusalem are about 10m above those of Jesus' time and 20m above those of Old Testament times. In addition, because of modern buildings and graveyards, there are very few places where excavations can be made.

The present Old Jerusalem is built on a W and E ridge, each of which can again be subdivided into N and S hills. Excavations have proved that the earliest city was built on the SE hill, Mt Zion, which now lies outside the old walls, and is known as the City of David. On the NE hill, called Moriah, where tradition has it that Isaac was offered, Solomon built his temple. By the time of Hezekiah, the city had extended to include the W hills.

In 1838 Dr Edward Robinson excavated curved stones, some as much as 26 feet long, which formed part of an arch built in Herodian times.These arches supported a bridge that extended from the western side of the temple mound to the W hills across the Tyropoeon Valley. Years later Charles Warren uncovered the western side of this bridge, built on a pavement 30 feet below the surface. Sir Charles Wilson discovered the remains of another arched bridge across the valley 560 feet north of Robinson's arch. These two bridges connected the temple area with the rest of the city on the W hills.

In 1852 Joseph Barclay discovered a cave 300 feet east of the Damascus Gate, extending southward under the city for 700 feet. From the piles of stone chippings and other evidence archeologists concluded that this was Solomon's quarry, where the stones for building the temple had to be dressed so that "no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built."[18]

In 1880 an inscription was discovered in a tunnel leading to the pool of Siloam. This is written in ancient Hebrew and describes how picking through the rock from the spring of Gihon to the pool was done from both ends, connecting in the middle.
When Hezekiah, king of Judah, was threatened by the king of Assyria in about 702 B.C., he "made the pool and the tunnel by which he brought water into the city." [19]

References:

1. Joshua 6:24
2. Joshua 6:26
3. Joshua 10:31f
4. Joshua 11:13
5. 2 Chronicles 11:5f
6. Douglas p.670
7. Jeremiah 34:7
8. Jeremiah 29:3
9. 1 Kings 19:15
10. Revelation 16:14,16
11. Joshua 17:11
12. Judges 1:28
13. 1 Kings 19:15
14. 1 Kings 16:32-33
15. Acts 8:40
16. Acts 21:8
17. Acts 24-26
18. 1 Kings 6:7
19. 2 Kings 20:20

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Douglas, J.D (ed)y, New Bible Dictionary, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1962
2. Halley, H.H. Halley's Bible Handbook, Michigan, U.S.A.: Regency Reference Library, 1965
3. Thompson, F.C. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible (N.I.V.), Michigan, U.S.A.: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1983
4. Unger, M.C. and Larson, G.N. The Hodder Bible Handbook, London, England: Hodder and Stoughton, 1984
5. Young, E.J. An Introduction to the OT, Michigan, U.S.A.: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964

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Posted in: Bible by on July 7, 2010 @ 10:05 pm

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