Observations on life; particularly spiritual


The strange sign

Wedding car 400pxAt a recent wedding the bridal party arrived at the church in a Lamborghini and stretch limousine. And they arrived at the Reception to fireworks and frenetic music and drumming. It was a grand entry. In contrast, although Jesus was announced by angels, His was a humble entry.

At Christmas we remember the coming of Jesus Christ into the world. This was announced when an angel told some shepherds that the Jewish Messiah had been born in Bethlehem. That’s amazing because shepherds were near the bottom of the social ladder. And Bethlehem was only a small town. But how would the shepherds find him? And how would they recognize him? So they were given a sign from God to help them.

What’s a sign?

The Greek word semeion (Strongs #4592) means a “sign”. In this context it’s the means by which a person is distinguished from someone else. For example, Judas Iscariot identified Jesus by kissing him (Mt. 26:48). And circumcision was a sign of the covenant between God and the Israelites (Rom. 4:11). Miracles signified an apostle (2 Cor. 12:12). And Paul’s handwriting showed that his letters were authentic (2 Th. 3:17).

The sign

They were given an unusual sign to identify the Messiah. Important people like royalty, and a President or Prime Minister are usually characterized by pomp, ceremony, security and publicity. That’s the kind of sign we would expect for the Messiah.

But the angel said, “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk. 2:12NIV). So the sign was a baby lying in a cattle feeding-trough! What a humble birth.

So the shepherds were to look for a baby lying in a cattle feeding-trough. Although there would have been other babies in Bethlehem, it would be unusual for one to be lying in a cattle feeding-trough. It was a strange sign.

A baby

Jesus was born into the world just like all of us. It was a normal birth (following a supernatural conception). He was a tiny helpless baby. Nothing would have seemed supernatural. Why did God choose to enter the human race like this? So that He could provide for our salvation. Jesus had to be fully human so He could die for our sins (Heb. 2:14-17). He had to become like us in order to save us.

Jesus manger 400pxA baby lying in a cattle feed trough

The reason that baby Jesus was lying in a manger was “because there was no guest room available for them” (Lk. 2:7). The last supper was held in the guest room of a house in Jerusalem (Mk. 14:14; Lk. 22:11). According to scholars, the most likely place for a manger in Bethlehem was in a one-roomed peasant house with two levels. People occupied the upper level (Arab. mastaba) and animals the lower one (ka’ al-bet). The animals are housed overnight and fed from mangers built into the floor of the upper terrace or mounted to the walls near the lower level. Presumably there was no cradle in the house, but a manger could perform the same function.

The shepherds were told that they would find the baby in a manger. Shepherds were near the bottom of the social ladder and in many homes they would feel their poverty and be ashamed of their low position in society. But in this case, they faced no humiliation because it was probably a simple peasant house like their own with mangers for the animals. That’s why they said, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about” (Lk. 2:15). And they hurried off to find Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus.

What a strange way for a Messiah and Savior to enter the world. Even the poorest child would not be found in a manger.

Lessons for us

The Bible says that Jesus gave up His divine glory when He came to earth “by taking the very nature of a servant (slave), being made in human likeness” (Phil. 2:7). And “that though He was rich (in heaven), yet for your sake He became poor (on earth)” (2 Cor. 8:9). He did this (was born, lived, died and rose again) in order to die the death that we deserve. Through what Jesus has done, we “might become rich”. The promise is not for physical earthly riches, but spiritual heavenly riches. It’s forgiveness of our sins, reconciliation with God, and eternal life. What Jesus did was like an “indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15). As a gift, it has not benefit to us unless we accept it. That’s why the Bible says. “might become rich”, not “will become rich”. Have you accepted God’s gift? Not many Jews recognized that Jesus was the Messiah. Why not recognize Him as your Savior?

Those who follow Jesus are to imitate His humility (Phil. 2:1-8). Our attitude is to be one of unity. mutual love, harmony, humility, sacrifice, and service, rather than being self-centered. Saul was recognized for being tall, Zacchaeus for being short and Jesus for being humble (1 Sam. 9:2; Lk. 19:1-4). But what is our characteristic attitude?

When Santa learned the gospel

santa gospel 3 400pxA poem by Simon Camilleri

When Santa learned the gospel, he first heard it from an elf.
This tiny Santa’s helper had just learnt of it himself.

A child had asked for Christmas to receive a Bible book.
This elf had made one in the shop, then paused to have a look.

He read all about Jesus and the call to follow Him.
He learned how Jesus lived and taught and died to pay for sin.

He learned how Jesus rose again and how He will return
And then this elf read how he should respond to all he’d learned.

He shut the book, put down his tools, then closed his eyes and prayed.
Right there and then this little elf trusted in Christ that day.

The next day he told Santa. It was awkward, unprepared.
He knew he didn’t know that much, but what he knew he shared.

He told Santa the gospel. It was simple. It was short.
But a seed was sown in Santa’s heart, which grew into a thought.

Santa reflected on his life and the message he supported,
Then compared it to the gospel that the elf had just reported.

He’d always thought that everyone was naughty or was nice.
He had them all on two big lists. He even checked it twice.

He’d always thought that you got gifts only if you’d been good.
The naughty kids got lumps of coal. That’s what he understood.

They’d all line up in shopping malls and sit upon his knee
And claim that they were always nice. As nice as nice can be.

Of course, he saw them when they slept and knew when they awoke.
He also knew their nice attempts were pretty much a joke.

Their heads were filled not with nice thoughts of kindness, peace and joy,
But with the never-ending list of their desired toys.

He knew their hearts, but he had thought, “They’re trying to be good.
That’s good enough to make the list. Otherwise no one would!”

So every year their “good enough” with toys would be rewarded.
And every year (he realized) this message he supported:


That was the message that he knew, but now he knew another.
He had just heard the gospel. So he compared them to each other.

The message of the gospel turned his message upside down.
The good, the bad, naughty and nice, it switched it all around.

“There’s no one good but God alone” he’d heard Jesus concluded.
And those who claim they’re “good enough” are simply just deluded.

If there’s a list of who is “good”, the standard we’ve all missed.
And Santa saw that even he was on the naughty list.

That shook his world. That rocked his boat. That gripped him in his soul.
To think that even Santa Claus deserved a lump of coal.

But that was only half of what the gospel message said.
It also flipped what happened to the naughty on its head.

Instead of being written off as just not good enough.
The message to the naughty list was one of grace and love.

The gospel offered mercy to all those deserving coal.
The gospel offered forgiveness and cleansing of your soul.

The gospel told how Jesus died our death to pay the price
To reconcile us all to God – both naughty and the nice.

This offer was a real gift, unlike presents ‘neath the tree.
It was not earned by being good. It was offered for free.

For all his life Santa had claimed that if you had been bad
Then you would not get presents and your Christmas would be sad.

Santa compared his message with this new one he had learned.
His message said you get the presents your good deeds had earned.

The message of the gospel offered something so much greater…
Jesus had come to reconcile the world to their Creator.

When Santa grasped the gospel, he did not know what to do
And so the elf said nervously, “How ’bout I pray with you?”

Then that night at the North Pole, by the fire in his den,
With a simple prayer led by an elf, Santa was born again.

And now, in Christ, forgiven, free – his new life had begun
and Santa had a new message to share with everyone.

© Simon Camelleri

Posted, December 2017

What Jesus wants for Christmas

December-17_AllJesusWantsForChristmas 400pxWhat a precious thing is a baby! The news that a little tiny human has safely made its way into the world is such a miracle, such a cause for celebration. Even when there is mourning or hardship, a new baby can bring hope.

On the first Christmas when baby Jesus arrived there was the usual joy and celebration. But there was so much more than that. Angels sang in the sky, shepherds dropped everything and came, wise men followed a star… all to honor and worship this new baby.

When God sent His Son into the world, in the form of a baby boy, He did it for us. In John’s gospel it says,
For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life“.

This is one of the most famous verses in the Bible, perhaps because it states so simply the most important things. God loves us so much that He sent His only Son to help us. This is why Christmas is special! It’s a time to celebrate the gift God gave to us long ago that shows how much He wants us to join His family. What we need to do is believe in Him.

There is a beautiful Christmas poem by Christina Rossetti that was put to music and became the carol, “In the Bleak Midwinter”. It tells of the unlikely and difficult place where the baby Jesus was born, of angels singing praises to welcome the new King, and of shepherds visiting and bowing down and of wise men who traveled a great distance to honor Him.

The author wonders what she could give to Him as a tribute.
“What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part,
Yet what can I give Him,
Give my heart.”

The Wise Men brought gifts fit for a King to honor the newborn Jesus, but there is nothing that we can give that is enough. All Jesus wants for Christmas is YOU!

Bible Verse: John 3:16 For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life”.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for loving me so much. Thank you for the precious gift of your Son. Please forgive me and help me to worship and honor you all year long. Amen.

Images and text © Outreach Media 2017

Posted, December 2017

Lessons from Egypt

Mena Egypt - 1915 400pxAll families have stories to tell, regardless of their culture or their circumstances. When parents share family stories, their children benefit in many ways. They demonstrate better understanding of other people’s thoughts and emotions. And they more often have higher self-esteem, more robust identities, better coping skills, and lower rates of depression and anxiety.

In Psalm 78 the Israelites are reminded of lessons from their history so they could to tell the next generation about what God had done. The main historical event recalled is the exodus from Egypt (Ps. 78:13-13; 42-53).

Egypt reminds me of two great characters in the Old Testament. Joseph and Moses both rescued God’s people. Joseph rescued them from a famine and Moses rescued them from slavery. Joseph led them into Egypt and Moses led them out of Egypt.

The events in Egypt described in the Bible range from the safety of a refuge to the tyranny of slavery.

A refuge from danger

Famine was one of the dangers in the ancient world. Both Abraham and Jacob’s family (the Israelites) travelled to Egypt to avoid a famine (Gen. 12:10 – 13:1; 46:1-7). Although Abraham’s visit was short, the other visit was for about 400 years. The longer visit was enabled by Joseph who rose to a position equivalent to that of Governor or Prime Minister.

There are some similarities between the life of Joseph and the life of Jesus. They were both rejected and betrayed. But their suffering saved many (Gen. 50:20; Jn. 3:16). And they were about 30 years of age when Joseph was put in charge of Egypt and when Jesus began His ministry (Gen. 41:46; Lk. 3:23).

Others fled to Egypt to escape danger. Jeroboam fled to Egypt because Solomon wanted to kill him (1 Ki 11:40 – 12:2; 2 Chron. 10:2). After the invasion of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC, some Jews fled to Egypt (2 Ki. 25:25-26; Jer. 41:16-18) and later a group of Jews forced Jeremiah to go with them to Egypt (Jer. 43:6-7). And Joseph, Mary and Jesus fled to Egypt because Herod was killing all male Jewish infants. Joseph was divinely directed to take Mary and Joseph to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod (Mt. 2:13-20).

On these occasions Egypt was a safe refuge that people could run to for protection.

Oppressive slavery

Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt. But he rose to be second to the king and his family thrived in Egypt. Later they were subject to slavery when a new Pharaoh cruelly used them for slave labor. They were only delivered from this under the leadership of Moses after the miraculous ten plagues. The Bible says, “the Lord at one time delivered His people out of Egypt” (Jude 1:5NIV).

There are some similarities between the life of Moses and the life of Jesus. They both narrowly escaped being killed by a king who was murdering baby boys. They both performed miracles. They both led God’s people out of captivity, being from slavery to Egypt in the case of Moses and from slavery to sin in the case of Jesus. They both mediated a covenant between God and humanity. And the Bible says that Jesus is a prophet like Moses (Acts 3:22; 7:37).

The exodus was a great victory of the God of the Israelites over the gods of Egypt, which was to be remembered in the annual Passover Festival. After the exodus, Egypt came to represent all that is opposed to God. After the decline of Egypt, Assyria and Babylon become the main distant enemies of the Israelites.

On this occasion Egypt was an oppressive place of punishment that people wanted to run away from. But during the journey from Egypt to Canaan the Israelites were tempted to return to Egypt.

An idolatrous nation

The Egyptians worshipped many gods (polytheism). And their Pharaohs were considered to be divine. Whereas the Israelites worshipped the true God and they were forbidden to marry idolatrous and immoral foreigners because they would cause them to be unfaithful to God (Dt. 7:1-4; 1 Ki. 11:1-13; Ezra 9:1-2, 10-12, 14).

When Moses was on Mount Sinai during the exodus, the Israelites built a golden calf idol (Ex. 32). So they disobeyed God and worshipped Egyptian gods instead.

Later when Israel was settled in the promised land, King Solomon married an Egyptian princess and many other foreign women who turned him to idolatry. Because of this disobedience, God caused the nation to be divided into two kingdoms (1 Ki. 11:9-13).

And when Jeroboam returned from Egypt to establish the northern kingdom of Israel, he set up calf images in Dan and Bethel (1 Ki. 12:26-33). These may have been Egyptian gods (or those of the Canaanites). Jeroboam’s sin was idolatry (1 Ki. 14:9). And subsequent kings of Israel followed his wicked example. Finally, God allowed the kingdom of Israel to be invaded by the Assyrians because of their idolatry (2 Ki. 17:7-23).

Likewise, many of the kings of Judah also worshiped idols. And finally, God allowed the kingdom of Judah to be invaded by the Babylonians because of their idolatry (Jer. 44:1-6). When some of these Jews fled to Egypt they were warned of disaster because of their idolatry (Jer. 44:1-30).

So Egypt was one of the nations that influenced the Israelites to worship idols instead of the true God. This idolatry led to the downfall of the Jewish nation when they were driven from their lands just as they had driven the Canaanites from their lands 770-900 years earlier.

Lessons for us

What can we learn from the role of Egypt in the history of the Israelites? They lived under the old covenant of Moses, whereas Christians live under the new covenant of Jesus.

First, God cares for His people. As He cared physically for the Israelites, so He cares spiritually for those who trust in Him through Jesus today. Their salvation is assured.

Second, God is powerful. As miracles accompanied the Israelites deliverance from Egypt (ten plagues; crossing the Red Sea), so miracles accompanied Christ’s act of salvation (Christ’s resurrection) and will accompany Christians deliverance from the presence of sin (their resurrection).

Third, God’s people needed to obey Him in order to benefit from His care and power. Obedience leads to blessing. To be delivered from Egypt the Israelites needed to obey God’s instructions given by Moses. Likewise, to be delivered from sin, we need to accept God’s gift of salvation through Jesus. Have you done this?

Fourth, disobedience and idolatry (following something or someone else than the true God) leads to God’s judgment. God wants His people to be faithful. Are idols keeping you from living for Jesus?

What can we tell the next generation about what God has done for us? That’s the best kind of family stories to tell.

Appendix: Egypt

Egypt is mentioned in the Bible more times than any other place outside Canaan/Israel (in 673 verses of the ESV). Egypt and Israel shared a border in antiquity as they do today. And Goshen in Egypt is about 400km (250 miles) from Jerusalem. Egypt (Mitsrayim in Hebrew, Strongs #4714) is named after the grandson of Noah (son of Ham) who settled there after the global flood (Gen. 10:6).

Israel is located between the Nile river (to the southwest) and the Euphrates river (to the north east). Nations thrived in these fertile river valleys and they were great powers in the ancient world. And it’s not surprising that the inhabitants of Israel were influenced by superpowers such as the Egyptians, Assyrians and Babylonians.

Written, December 2017

Also see other articles on places in the Bible:
Bethlehem, God’s solution to our crises
Gehenna – Where’s hell?
Where’s Zion?
Babylon, center of humanism and materialism
Lessons from Sodom

Genocide of the Amalekites?

Amalekites 3 400pxDoes the Bible support genocide, violence and war? In 1 Samuel 15:1-3 God tells the Israelites to destroy the entire Amalekite nation. I have been asked “Does god give us permission to commit genocide in situations where he deems it acceptable? How should this scripture help us find peace and stability for all in this world? What shall we say to the violence and utter destruction this poses should this be a model for us to use in future conflicts? How should one balance this with “thou shall not kill”? Is this what you are talking about when you speak of the bible’s congruency with itself over the time it was written?” That’s a good question!

Another comment was “I did quote you a verse from the Bible that I believe empowers Christianity to wage war and 1 Samuel 15:3 sounds like war to me. And “if” god really did inspire these scriptures then he IS THE PROBLEM. It is also irrelevant what part of the bible this comes from when it is the holy inspired truth. If this scripture is no longer valid or void because it is part of the Old Testament then your argument for the validity, authenticity, or divine authority of the whole bible is very questionable. How does this work? Do we now have Synod of George and those that think like him who now get to say that part of the bible is no longer valid and we like this part instead? If so then Islam seems to have the most uncorrupted book. If Jesus ended the old testament system how did we end up with all the crusades? Perhaps we need some new prophet to come forth again and end all this religious violence we have now. Lord knows we need it because as long as Jews, Muslims, and Christians are fighting none of us will ever know peace. If the bible cannot inspire us to “be peace” then it is no longer relevant to human beings and should be discarded in the anals of history”.

The Bible

The Bible was written in ancient times. To read it is like visiting those ancient times. We are like tourists travelling to a different place where there is a different language, culture, situation, time in history and maybe a different covenant in God’s dealing with humanity.

We also need to know that the Bible is a progressive revelation. Truth gets added as we move from the beginning to the end. So we should also read it as those who have the whole book and know God’s whole program of salvation.

Here’s what the Bible says, “Samuel said to Saul, ‘I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over His people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’’” (1 Sam. 15:1-3NIV). So, they were commanded to completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation.

We can understand God’s message in the Bible by finding the original meaning, and then the principles behind this, and updating them according to what has changed since then, and applying these modern principles in our daily lives.

History of the Amalekites

The Hebrews (Israelites) were God’s chosen people in Old Testament times. They originated from Jacob whose name was changed to Israel. They moved from Canaan to Egypt during a drought. Because of Joseph, they were encouraged to settle in Egypt (Gen. 47:5-12). But when the Hebrew population grew in Egypt, the Egyptians used them as save labor and ordered the killing of all Hebrew baby boys (Ex. 1:6-22). But Moses was spared this fate. And  God told him that He planned to rescue the Hebrews from slavery. Moses was to lead them out of Egypt towards the north so they could settle in the land of Canaan (Ex. 3:7-10). After ten plagues devastated the land of Egypt, the Egyptians urged the Hebrews to leave Egypt. God led them with pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of for by night. There were many obstacles during their journey. The first was when they miraculously crossed part of the Red Sea and the Egyptian army was drowned. They also experienced a polluted water supply, and lack of food and water. So the Hebrews grumbled against Moses. The next challenge recorded in the Bible is when the Amalekites attacked them just before they reached Mt Sinai.

The Amalekites were a nomadic group that moved around the southern regions of Palestine between Egypt and Edom (see Appendix 1). And at times they occupied the southern portion of the promised land. They were living in the Negev (near the southern border of the Promised Land) when the Hebrews spied out Canaan (Num. 13:29; 14:25, 43, 45). They attacked the Israelites who were travelling from Egypt towards Canaan (Ex. 17:8-16). God helped the Israelites warriors led by Joshua to defeat the Amalekites. And after the battle, God promised Moses, “I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven” (Ex. 17:14). Even the pagan Balaam repeated this message that the Amalekites were the first nation to attack the Israelites after they left Egypt and oppose God’s purpose for His people and he predicted their destruction (Num. 24:20). The word “first” is also used in this sense in Numbers 15:20, 21; 18:12. And Moses said, “Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the Lord, the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation” (Ex. 17:16).

By the way, the armies of other nations who attacked the Hebrews en route to Canaan (like the Amalekites), the Amorites and the people of Arad and Bashan were also completely destroyed (Num. 21:1-3; 21-35). This pattern of destruction is unique to the nations that opposed Israel’s settlement of Canaan.

After the men who spied Canaan returned with a negative report, the Israelites rebelled against God. So God said they would die in the desert before reaching Canaan. But the Israelites didn’t accept this judgement and decided to disobey God once again by invading Canaan (Num. 14:40-45). God commanded them not to do this. But they persisted and were defeated by the Amalekites and the Canaanites. At this time some Amalekites were living in the hill country near Hebron, which was inside the promised land.

Just before the Israelites entered Canaan they were given laws that included, “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the Lord your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land He is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget” (Dt. 25:17-19)! This is about 40 years after God’s promise to “completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven”. The context of this law is teaching on justice (Dt. 25. 1:16). So the destruction of the name of Amalek is a matter of justice.

After the Israelites settled in Canaan, the Amalekites helped the Moabites to capture Jericho from Israel (Jud. 3:12-14). And later they helped the Midianites oppress the Israelites (Jud. 6:3, 33; 7:12). So the Amalekites continued to attack the Israelites.

Then God’s instruction is given to Saul (1 Sam. 15:1-3). This is about 380 years after God’s promise to “completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven”. Saul went to destroy the Amalekites, but he disobeyed God by sparing the king and the best livestock (1 Sam. 15:4-26). As a result of this Samuel said that his reign would end and he would be replaced with another king (David). In a summary of Saul’s military victories it says that, “He fought valiantly and defeated the Amalekites, delivering Israel from the hands of those who had plundered them” (1 Sam. 14:48). It is evident that not all the Amalekites were destroyed in this battle because David and his men raided them about 17 years afterwards (1 Sam. 27:8).

When Samuel put king Agag to death Samuel said, “as your sword has made women childless”, which shows that he was punished for his own violence (1 Sam.15:33).

Soon afterwards when David and his men were away from their wives and children, they returned to find they had been kidnapped by the Amalekites who had destroyed the city (Ziklag) with fire (1 Sam. 30:1-31).  So David and his men went after the Amalekites and rescued the wives and children. They killed all the Amalekite army except for 400 young men who escaped. About 300 years later, in the days of king Hezekiah, the descendants of Simeon “killed the remaining Amalekites who had escaped” (1 Chron. 4:43). This is about 700 years after God’s promise to “completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven”.

The plot to destroy the Jews of Persia in about 470 BC was lead by Haman who may have been an Amalekite (Est. 3:1-6). This was about 970 years after their first attack on the Israelites!

The Amalekites tried to destroy Israel more than any other nation. Their hatred of the Israelites and their repeated attempts to destroy God’s people led to their ultimate doom. Their fate should be a warning to all who oppose God’s purposes.

The original meaning

The books of 1-2 Samuel are a historical narrative of the history of the nation of Israel from the birth of Samuel to near the end of king David’s reign.

The passage (1 Sam. 15:1-3) is a message from God to Saul the first king of Israel. It was given in about 1030 BC. The message was that the Israelites were to totally destroy the Amalekites and all that belonged to them (see Appendix 2). The reason given is because the Amalekites opposed Israel by attacking them when they came from Egypt about 420 years earlier. This was an unprovoked attack. And the Amalekites repeatedly attacked God’s chosen people many times over hundreds of years.

The passage is a command given to Saul and the Israelites. It’s not a model that they were to follow or just a report of events that occurred. The meaning is clear and there seem to be no figures of speech in the passage.

Now we know the original meaning of the passage, what are the principles behind it?

The original principles

A principle is a general truth applicable in a variety of situations. This message to Saul is a command that required obedience. So, one principle is that God’s people should obey God’s commands.

The command was to punish the Amalekites for attacking the Israelites when they were obeying God by travelling from Egypt towards Canaan. In this case the punishment was to be complete destruction (see Appendix 2). So another principle is that God judges (punishes) those who oppose Him or rebel against Him. God punishes the wicked.

In this case the punishment was to be death. So another principle is that death can be a punishment by God for those who oppose Him or rebel against Him. This episode also taught the Israelites that God protects His people.

Does this message justify God’s people retaliating or seeking revenge or warring against their enemies? No, because in this case God issued the command about 420 years after the offense. So, God was deciding the timing and not the Israelites.

Now we know the ancient principles behind the passage. But what about us today living about three thousand years later? We need to update the principle.

What has changed since then?

Our time in history, situation, and culture are different to then. Today God’s people are Christians from all nations, and not just Israelites (Jews) as was the case in the Old Testament. We have the whole book of the Bible and not just the Pentateuch. We know God’s whole program of salvation and not just the beginning of it. We are under a different covenant and no longer under the Old Testament law. We haven’t been given the commands of Moses to follow. We are not Israelites living in Canaan with God living in a tent; we are Christians with God living in us as the Holy Spirit. We are not Israelites living in a theocracy that was meant to drive out or destroy the previous inhabitants of Canaan.

Jesus told His followers to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44). But this thought is already in the laws of Moses (Ex. 22:4-5). Jesus was talking about people like the Romans who hated and threatened to harm Jews. Also, He treated the Samaritan woman (who Jews despised) with kindness (Jn. 4). When Jesus was arrested unjustly by men carrying weapons, Peter cut off the right ear of the high priest’s servant (Malchus) with a sword (Lk. 22:49-51; Jn. 18:2-11). But Jesus said, “no more of this!”. And He touched the man’s ear and healed him. And Jesus prayed for those who crucified Him to be forgiven of their sins.

Paul said, “bless those who persecute you” (Rom. 12:14). And don’t retaliate or seek revenge (Rom. 12:17-21). We are not the ones to take revenge. Instead we should leave that up to God.

Paul also said that our main enemies are spiritual and not physical (Eph. 6:10-20). He also said that Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pt. 5:8). This is a figure of speech that illustrates how we can be unaware of Satan, but he can devastate our lives. And our main weapons against these spiritual enemies are the truth, God’s righteousness, the good news (gospel) about Jesus Christ, salvation, the word of God (Bible), and prayer.

As Christians are under the new covenant and not the old one, God doesn’t promise to keep them from all physical harm. Instead He promises to protect them spiritually. Their salvation is assured. And nothing can separate them from God’s love.

Now we know what’s changed since the time of king Saul, what are the principles behind the passage for us today?

The modern principles

This is where we use the original principles and what has changed since then to develop equivalent principles for us today. We can also ask, what does the passage teach us about God and humanity?

The first principle for Christians today is that they should obey God’s commands to them. These commands are found in the New Testament (although we need to realize that the gospels describe a period that was under the old covenant). The commands in the New Testament were addressed to Christians living in the first century AD. Although we live in a different time in history, we still live in the church era where the Holy Spirit indwells all true Christians. So, these commands should still apply to us in some way. And any commands in the Old Testament (who weren’t given specifically to Christians) must be viewed through the insight of later revelation in the Bible.

The second principle for today is that God punishes sinners (those who rebel against Him). The New Testament says that we are all sinners and death is a consequence of our sin (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). This is bad news!

The third principle for today is that our main enemies are spiritual and not physical (Eph. 6:10-18).

The fourth principle for today is that God protects His people spiritually and not necessarily physically.

The fifth principle for today is to not retaliate when provoked and leave revenge up to God.

Now we know the modern principles, how can we put them into practice today?

The modern applications

How should we apply these universal principles? Each principle has many applications according to the different situations people can be in. What do we need to know and do?

We are to obey God’s commands to us. Those for the church are given in the New Testament. We need to read this portion of the Bible often in order to know what God’s commands are. Once we know and understand them, then we should put them into practice. For example, do we bless or curse those who oppose us (Rom. 12:14-21)? Do we love or hate them? Do we empathize with others?

What about the Old Testament? We can also read it and use the method used in this post to determine the principles and applications for us today.

We are to recognize that because we are all sinners who have disobeyed God, we are separated from God and deserve to be punished by Him. But Jesus came to earth to take this punishment. The good news (gospel message) is that we can avoid this punishment by confessing and turning away from (repenting of) our sins and trusting in Jesus’ work of salvation. Are we  aware of our sinfulness? Do we have a guilty conscience? Has this led us to repent and turn to God for forgiveness and salvation?

As Christians we have accepted that Christ’s sacrificial death was for our sins, and so the penalty for these has already been paid. But sin breaks our fellowship with God. This can only be restored by confessing the sin to God – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). Do we confess our sins to God?

As our main enemies are spiritual and not physical, we need to be empowered by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit using weapons such as prayer and the truth revealed in the Bible. How often do we read the Bible? Do we memorize scripture? How often do we pray?

God protects us spiritually when we are in a church fellowship, when we have joy in the Lord, when we practice the truths in the Bible, when we watch out for false teachers, and when we develop assurance of salvation (Phil. 3:1-3). Who holds us accountable? Do we have joy on the Lord? Do we use scripture to counter temptations? Are we aware of the major errors being promoted amongst Christians? And does our behavior show that we have changed to follow Christ?

As we are not to retaliate when provoked and leave revenge up to God, we should respect and pray for those who attack and oppose us. How do we treat those who oppose us? Do we pray for them?


This exegesis of 1 Samuel 15:1-3 shows that this passage doesn’t make genocide or war acceptable today. The command was justified in its original context, but it doesn’t apply to other situations. Furthermore, there are no commands given to Christians in the New Testament that are similar to 1 Samuel 15:1-3. So the ideas of genocide and physical warfare against other nations aren’t commanded or modelled in the New Testament.

But the New Testament does acknowledge that there will be wars between nations (Mk. 13:7-8). And wars are predicted in Revelation (Rev. 6:3-4; 8:7; 9:17-19; 12:14, 17; 13:7-9), culminating in wars against God and His people (Rev. 19:19; 20:7-9).

Also, the New Testament repeats the sixth commandment by saying “You shall not murder” (Rom. 13:9; Jas. 2:11). Murder is prohibited because people are made in the image of God (Gen. 9:5-6).

How can a loving God command a genocide? The Amalekites repeatedly tried to destroy Israel (God’s people on earth). This happened over a period of 400 years. God records these episodes to show how they opposed the Israelites from generation to generation. But the Israelites were chosen to bring blessing to all nations (Gen. 12:3). If God was going to keep on blessing the world, he needed to stop the Amalekites. God knew that the Amalekites would always oppose Israel. Moses said, “The Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation” (Ex. 17:16). Without total destruction of the Amalekite nation, they were going to keep on coming back, and God’s plan would not be safe. Women and children were included, because otherwise the pagan attacks on the Israelites would continue.

God is also holy, righteous and just. This means that God judges all rebellion against Him. What about God’s mercy? Before the Israelites attacked the Amalekites, king Saul told the Kenites, “Go away, leave the Amalekites so that I do not destroy you along with them” (1 Sam. 15:5). The Amalekites had a way out, if they were willing to deny their identity as Amalekites and live with another nation. The purpose was to destroy Amalek as a nation. So it is genocide (elimination) of a nation and not necessarily genocide of all the people of that nation. When the Amalekites became aware of the imminent attack they could chose to flee with the Kenites or stay with their people and oppose the Israelites. Those who fled lived and most of those who stayed died.

For those who seek “some new prophet to come forth again and end all this religious violence we have now”, in future Satan will provide a counterfeit Messiah (Rev. 13:1-18). But Jesus brings peace (Rev. 21:1-4). At the end of history He will bring in a kingdom of peace. So, violence and war are not models for us to follow.

Those who question the ethics and morality of the command in 1 Samuel 15:1-3 often don’t believe in the existence of God. But this is a contradiction. How can there be absolute morals without God? That’s impossible. Our society has no basis for morality at all. Democratic morality changes from time to time (for example it can approve of sexual immorality).


We have investigated the original meaning, the original principles, what’s changed since then, equivalent modern principles and modern applications of 1 Samuel 15:1-3. The original meaning given in about 1030 BC was that the Israelites were to totally destroy the Amalekite nation. But the modern application of this passage relates to obeying God’s commands to us in the New Testament, and realizing that we are all sinners who deserve God’s judgement, and realizing that our main enemies are spiritual and not physical, and not retaliating when provoked but leaving revenge up to God, So 1 Samuel 15:1-3 doesn’t make genocide or war acceptable today.

Appendix 1: Where did the Amalekites live?

From ancient times the Amalekites lived in the land extending to Shur and Egypt (1 Sam. 27:8). Shur was a desert between Egypt and Philistia. It was north-east of Egypt and west of the Negev. And “Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt” (1 Sam. 15:7). So Shur was outside the southern boundary of the promised land.

The Hebrew spies reported that “The Amalekites live in the Negev”, the desert between Egypt and Canaan (Num. 13:29). This is consistent with an earlier statement that they lived at En Mishpat (Kadesh) (Gen 14:7). And at this time the Amalekites and Canaanites were living in the valleys between Kadesh and the promised land (Num. 14:25). When the Israelites tried to enter Canaan from Kadesh, “the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah” (Num. 14:45). Hormah is east of Beersheba. This implies that some Amalekites were living in the hill country near Hebron, which was inside the promised land.

Later the Amalekites are associated with the Midianites and “other eastern peoples” (Jud. 6:3). Even later some Amalekites resettled in the hill country of Ephraim, which was inside the promised land (Jud. 12:15).

At the last mention in the Bible of the Amalekites they were living in the hill country of Seir (1 Chron. 4:42-43). Seir (Edom) was south and south-east of the Dead Sea. It was outside the southern boundary of the promised land.

So although the Amalekites are not listed among the nations who occupied Canaan before the Israelites settled there (Ge. 15:19-21; Ex. 3:8; Dt. 7:1; 20:17; Jud. 3:3-5), and they are not mentioned in the Book of Joshua, which describes battles between the Israelites and the Canaanite tribes, at times they did occupy the promised land.

It seems as though the Amalekites were a nomadic group that moved around the southern regions of Palestine between Egypt and Edom. And at times they occupied the southern portion of the promised land.

Appendix 2: “Charam”

According to Brown-Driver-Briggs, in 1 Samuel 15:3, the Hebrew verb charam (Strongs #2763) means “exterminating inhabitants, and destroying or appropriating their possessions”. It is used in the Old Testament for the destruction of the cities of Canaanites and other neighbors of Israel. The most well know example is the city of Jericho (Josh. 6:17). The related noun is cherem (Strongs #2764).

In the case of the Canaanites, God waited about 400 years until the sin of the Amorites “reached its full measure” (Gen. 15:13-16). Then God dispossessed the Amorites of their territory because of their sinful behavior. Those who practice gross sin and idolatry come under God’s judgement. And God decides when this punishment is administered. Later the kingdoms of Israel and Judah experienced the same punishment because of their sinful behavior and disregarding their covenant commitments to God.

We expect serious sin to be punished and have laws to administer this. But in God’s sight we are all sinners.

As these instances of cities and nations being “devoted to destruction” were specific to the settling of Israel in Canaan, this practice is not applicable today. So, its occurrence in the Old Testament shouldn’t be used to justify warfare today.

So what should the Christians attitude be to warfare? Some Christians are pacifists. Others would say that warfare is justified for self-defence and for supporting the defenceless against attacks.

Written, December 2017

Who and how to worship

Domitian 3 400pxThe book of Revelation was written during a time when emperor-worship unified the Roman Empire. The emperor was viewed as a divine figure, to whom temples, altars and priesthoods were dedicated. Emperors were worshipped, honored, respected and served at any cost. Because he rejected emperor worship, John was banished to the island of Patmos (Rev. 1:9-11). From Patmos John urged first century Christians to worship the true God and not the emperor, and he recorded this message in the book of Revelation.

The Greek verb to worship, proskuneo (Strongs #4352), occurs 60 times in the New Testament and 24 (40%) of these are in the book of Revelation. It’s the main book about worship in the New Testament. In this way, the book of Revelation is like the book of Psalms, which is the main book about worship in the Old Testament. In Revelation, worship describes homage or reverence towards God, or a person or an idol or an angel. This shows that if we don’t worship God, then we will worship someone else or something else. Who will we worship? The true God or Satan who is the power behind all false gods? This is important because it determines our eternal destiny.

The book of Revelation is framed with worship – it’s in the first and last chapters. After John sees a vision of the glorified Christ, he “fell at His feet as though dead” (Rev. 1:17NIV). This was an act of worship. After the final vison, John “fell down at the feet of the angel who had been showing” the visions to him (22:8). But the angel tells him to “Worship God” instead (22:9).

In Revelation, worshippers serve (7:15; 22:3), praise (19:5), and offer thanks (4:9; 7:12; 11:17). And they fall down (in worship) before God (4:10; 5:14; 7:11; 11:16; 19:4) and Christ (1:17; 5:8, 14).

The book of Revelation shows us who to worship and who not to worship.

Don’t worship angels

Angels are messengers from God. On two occasions when John received visions, he bowed down to the angel associated with them (19:10; 22:8). But he was told not to worship the angel. Jesus is superior to angels (Heb. 1-14). And Christians at Colossae were warned not to worship angels (Col. 2:18). So, don’t worship angels.

It is evident in the book of Revelation that there is a cosmic battle for our allegiance and worship. The true God and the victorious Lamb of God (Jesus Christ) continually reign and are being worshipped behind the scenes by angels and the redeemed in heaven, even during times when Satan seems to have his greatest impact. But Satan deceives the world into worshipping false gods and idols (12;9; 13:2-4; 20:2-3). 46% of the instances of The Greek verb to worship proskuneo in the book of Revelation refer to false forms of worship. In the end, Satan and his followers will be judged and cast into eternal punishment (20:1-4, 15). So, don’t worship Satan, who is an angel who rebelled against God.

Don’t worship heroes

Revelation describes political and religious leaders that oppose God’s people and God’s purposes (13:1-18). They are called beasts. And they deceive many people into worshipping them (13:4, 8, 12, 15; 14:9, 11; 19:20; 20:4). Paul also warned about worshipping and serving created things rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:25). We are not to worship saints, prophets, political leaders, religious leaders, or Mary, the mother of Jesus. So, don’t worship human heroes, no matter how great they are.

Don’t worship idols

An idol is anything we worship instead of the true God. Anything we want more than God. Anything we rely on more than God. Anything we give a higher priority than God. And anything we look to for greater fulfillment than God. In Revelation idols are described as “the work of their hands” and “idols that cannot see or hear or walk” (9:20). In those days it referred to images and statues, which people were urged to worship. It was like when some of the Jews (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) told the king of Babylonia, “we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up“ (Dan. 3:18).

Idolatry also refers to false gods such as materialism, naturalism, wealth, power, selfish ambition, self-indulgence, self-esteem (pride), recreation, and pleasure. And Paul said that it includes, “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed” (Col. 3:5). Idols can also be “good” things that we’ve elevated in importance. For example, our children, spouse, physical attractiveness, money, job, or friendships. And technology.

Revelation also says that worshipping idols is equivalent to worshipping demons (9:20). This means that Satan is the influence behind idolatry. So, don’t worship idols. Instead let’s turn away from idols “to serve the living and true God” (1 Th. 1:9).

So the book of Revelation says not to worship angels, Satan, heroes or idols. These are false (counterfeit) gods. But what does it say about worshipping the true God?

Worship the true God

In Revelation we learn about what worship is like in heaven. It’s mostly corporate (the redeemed and angels), not individual. Vast numbers of people and angels worship God together (5:11-12; 19:1, 6). And it’s God-centered – directed to God and Jesus Christ. Here’s three examples of this worship.

First, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (4:11). So, let’s praise and worship our God as the great Creator.

Second, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” (5:9-10).

And at this time the angels said, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise” (5:12)!

So, let’s praise and worship Jesus as the great Redeemer/Saviour/Rescuer. His death and resurrection enabled people from around the world to have their sins forgiven so they could be reconciled with God. This is the greatest example of unconditional love.

Third, “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (15:3-4).

The context of this passage is God’s judgement of the ungodly. So, let’s praise and worship God as Judge of all. He is pure, holy and just. He’s the one who will right all the wrongs. He judges rebels and rewards His servants. And He is to be praised for His righteous judgements.

The book of Revelation is full of corporate praise and worship like, “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory” (19:6-7)! And, “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever” (5:13)!

The redeemed will worship God throughout eternity. They “are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple” (7:14). And they will worship and serve God forever (22:1-5).


People were made to worship. Bob Dylan sang, “you’re gonna have to serve somebody”. We worship either the true God or we worship a counterfeit. So, let’s worship the true God and not false gods. Let’s worship Him based on the patterns of heavenly worship depicted in Revelation. He’s the great creator, the great redeemer and the great judge.

Written, December 2017

Archaeology confirms biblical characters

Sennacherib - king of Assyria 400pxDid you know that archaeology has confirmed the existence of many people mentioned in the Bible? In articles in the Biblical Archaeology Review, Purdue University scholar Lawrence Mykytiuk lists 53 people from the Old Testament who have been confirmed archaeologically. These include Israelite kings and Mesopotamian monarchs as well as lesser-known figures. Their names appear in inscriptions written during the period described by the Bible and in most instances during or quite close to the lifetime of the person identified.

This list excludes persons in two categories. The first category includes those about whom we know so little (from the Biblical record) that we cannot identify them with anyone named in an inscription. The second category includes identifications that do not come to us from archaeology (such as the writings in the first century AD of Flavius Josephus).

Number Name Who was he? Date (BC) Bible reference
Egypt  When reigned
1 Shishak (= Sheshonq I) pharaoh 945–924 1 Kings 11:40, etc.
2 So (= Osorkon IV) pharaoh 730–715 2 Kings 17:4
3 Tirhakah (= Taharqa) pharaoh 690–664 2 Kings 19:9, etc.
4 Necho II (= Neco II) pharaoh 610–595 2 Chronicles 35:20, etc.
5 Hophra (= Apries) pharaoh 589–570 Jeremiah 44:30
6 Mesha king early to mid-ninth century 2 Kings 3:4–27
7 Hadadezer king early ninth century to 844/842 1 Kings 11:23, etc.
8 Ben-hadad, son of Hadadezer king 844/842 2 Kings 6:24, etc.
9 Hazael king 844/842–c. 800 1 Kings 19:15, etc.
10 Ben-hadad, son of Hazael king early eighth century 2 Kings 13:3, etc.
11 Rezin king mid-eighth century to 732 2 Kings 15:37, etc.
Northern Kingdom of Israel
12 Omri king 884–873 1 Kings 16:16, etc.
13 Ahab king 873–852 1 Kings 16:28, etc.
14 Jehu king 842/841–815/814 1 Kings 19:16, etc.
15 Joash (= Jehoash) king 805–790 2 Kings 13:9, etc.
16 Jeroboam II king 790–750/749 2 Kings 13:13, etc.
17 Menahem king 749–738 2 Kings 15:14, etc.
18 Pekah king 750(?)–732/731 2 Kings 15:25, etc.
19 Hoshea king 732/731–722 2 Kings 15:30, etc.
20 Sanballat “I” governor of Samaria under Persian rule c. mid-fifth century Nehemiah 2:10, etc.
Southern Kingdom of Judah
21 David king c. 1010–970 1 Samuel 16:13, etc.
22 Uzziah (= Azariah) king 788/787–736/735 2 Kings 14:21, etc.
23 Ahaz (= Jehoahaz) king 742/741–726 2 Kings 15:38, etc.
24 Hezekiah king 726–697/696 2 Kings 16:20, etc.
25 Manasseh king 697/696–642/641 2 Kings 20:21, etc.
26 Hilkiah high priest during Josiah’s reign within 640/639–609 2 Kings 22:4, etc.
27 Shaphan scribe during Josiah’s reign within 640/639–609 2 Kings 22:3, etc.
28 Azariah high priest during Josiah’s reign within 640/639–609 1 Chronicles 5:39, etc.
29 Gemariah official during Jehoiakim’s reign within 609–598 Jeremiah 36:10, etc.
30 Jehoiachin (= Jeconiah = Coniah) king 598–597 2 Kings 24:6, etc.
31 Shelemiah father of Jehucal the royal official late seventh century Jeremiah 37:3, etc.
32 Jehucal (= Jucal) official during Zedekiah’s reign within 597–586 Jeremiah 37:3, etc.
33 Pashhur father of Gedaliah the royal official late seventh century Jeremiah 38:1
34 Gedaliah official during Zedekiah’s reign within 597–586 Jeremiah 38:1
35 Tiglath-pileser III (= Pul) king 744–727 2 Kings 15:19, etc.
36 Shalmaneser V king 726–722 2 Kings 17:3, etc.
37 Sargon II king 721–705 Isaiah 20:1
38 Sennacherib king 704–681 2 Kings 18:13, etc.
39 Adrammelech (= Ardamullissu = Arad-mullissu) son and assassin of Sennacherib early seventh century 2 Kings 19:37, etc.
40 Esarhaddon king 680–669 2 Kings 19:37, etc.
41 Merodach-baladan II king 721–710 and 703 2 Kings 20:12, etc.
42 Nebuchadnezzar II king 604–562 2 Kings 24:1, etc.
43 Nebo-sarsekim official of Nebuchadnezzar II early sixth century Jeremiah 39:3
44 Nergal-sharezer officer of Nebuchadnezzar II early sixth century Jeremiah 39:3
45 Nebuzaradan a chief officer of Nebuchadnezzar II early sixth century 2 Kings 25:8, etc. & Jeremiah 39:9, etc.
46 Evil-merodach (= Awel Marduk = Amel Marduk) king 561–560 2 Kings 25:27, etc.
47 Belshazzar son and co-regent of Nabonidus c. 543?–540 Daniel 5:1, etc.
48 Cyrus II (= Cyrus the Great) king 559–530 2 Chronicles 36:22, etc.
49 Darius I (= Darius the Great) king 520–486 Ezra 4:5, etc.
50 Tattenai provincial governor of Trans-Euphrates late sixth to early fifth century Ezra 5:3, etc.
51 Xerxes I (= Ahasuerus) king 486–465 Esther 1:1, etc.
52 Artaxerxes I Longimanus king 465-425/424 Ezra 4:7, etc.
53 Darius II Nothus king 425/424-405/404 Nehemiah 12:22

Appendix: The Biblical and archaeological evidence


1. Shishak (= Sheshonq I), pharaoh, r. 945–924, 1 Kings 11:40 and 14:25, in his inscriptions, including the record of his military campaign in Palestine in his 924 B.C.E. inscription on the exterior south wall of the Temple of Amun at Karnak in Thebes. See OROT, pp. 10, 31–32, 502 note 1; many references to him in Third, indexed on p. 520; Kenneth A. Kitchen, review of IBP, SEE-J Hiphil 2 (2005), http://www.see-j.net/index.php/hiphil/article/viewFile/19/17, bottom of p. 3, which is briefly mentioned in “Sixteen,” p. 43 n. 22. (Note: The name of this pharaoh can be spelled Sheshonq or Shoshenq.)

Sheshonq is also referred to in a fragment of his victory stele discovered at Megiddo containing his cartouche. See Robert S. Lamon and Geoffrey M. Shipton, Megiddo I: Seasons of 1925–34, Strata I–V. (Oriental Institute Publications no. 42; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1939), pp. 60–61, fig. 70; Graham I. Davies, Megiddo (Cities of the Biblical World; Cambridge: Lutterworth Press, 1986), pp. 89 fig. 18, 90; OROT, p. 508 n. 68; IBP, p. 137 n. 119. (Note: The name of this pharaoh can be spelled Sheshonq or Shoshenq.)

Egyptian pharaohs had several names, including a throne name. It is known that the throne name of Sheshonq I, when translated into English, means, “Bright is the manifestation of Re, chosen of Amun/Re.” Sheshonq I’s inscription on the wall of the Temple of Amun at Karnak in Thebes (mentioned above) celebrates the victories of his military campaign in the Levant, thus presenting the possibility of his presence in that region. A small Egyptian scarab containing his exact throne name, discovered as a surface find at Khirbat Hamra Ifdan, now documents his presence at or near that location. This site is located along the Wadi Fidan, in the region of Faynan in southern Jordan.

As for the time period, disruption of copper production at Khirbet en-Nahas, also in the southern Levant, can be attributed to Sheshonq’s army, as determined by stratigraphy, high-precision radiocarbon dating, and an assemblage of Egyptian amulets dating to Sheshonq’s time. His army seems to have intentionally disrupted copper production, as is evident both at Khirbet en-Nahas and also at Khirbat Hamra Ifdan, where the scarab was discovered.

As for the singularity of this name in this remote locale, it would have been notable to find any Egyptian scarab there, much less one containing the throne name of this conquering Pharaoh; this unique discovery admits no confusion with another person. See Thomas E. Levy, Stefan Münger, and Mohammad Najjar, “A Newly Discovered Scarab of Sheshonq I: Recent Iron Age Explorations in Southern Jordan. Antiquity Project Gallery,” Antiquity (2014); online: http://journal.antiquity.ac.uk/projgall/levy341.

2. So (= Osorkon IV), pharaoh, r. 730–715, 2 Kings 17:4 only, which calls him “So, king of Egypt” (OROT, pp. 15–16). K. A. Kitchen makes a detailed case for So being Osorkon IV in Third, pp. 372–375. See Raging Torrent, p. 106 under “Shilkanni.”

3. Tirhakah (= Taharqa), pharaoh, r. 690–664, 2 Kings 19:9, etc. in many Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions; Third, pp. 387–395. For mention of Tirhakah in Assyrian inscriptions, see those of Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal in Raging Torrent, pp. 138–143, 145, 150–153, 155, 156; ABC, p. 247 under “Terhaqah.” The Babylonian chronicle also refers to him (Raging Torrent, p. 187). On Tirhakah as prince, see OROT, p. 24.

4. Necho II (= Neco II), pharaoh, r. 610–595, 2 Chronicles 35:20, etc., in inscriptions of the Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal (ANET, pp. 294–297) and the Esarhaddon Chronicle (ANET, p. 303). See also Raging Torrent, pp. 189–199, esp. 198; OROT, p. 504 n. 26; Third, p. 407; ABC, p. 232.

5. Hophra (= Apries = Wahibre), pharaoh, r. 589–570, Jeremiah 44:30, in Egyptian inscriptions, such as the one describing his being buried by his successor, Aḥmose II (= Amasis II) (Third, p. 333 n. 498), with reflections in Babylonian inscriptions regarding Nebuchadnezzar’s defeat of Hophra in 572 and replacing him on the throne of Egypt with a general, Aḥmes (= Amasis), who later rebelled against Babylonia and was suppressed (Raging Torrent, p. 222). See OROT, pp. 9, 16, 24; Third, p. 373 n. 747, 407 and 407 n. 969; ANET, p. 308; D. J. Wiseman, Chronicles of Chaldaean Kings (626–556 B.C.) in the British Museum (London: The Trustees of the British Museum, 1956), pp. 94-95. Cf. ANEHST, p. 402. (The index of Third, p. 525, distinguishes between an earlier “Wahibre i” [Third, p. 98] and the 26th Dynasty’s “Wahibre ii” [= Apries], r. 589–570.)


6. Mesha, king, r. early to mid-9th century, 2 Kings 3:4–27, in the Mesha Inscription, which he caused to be written, lines 1–2; Dearman, Studies, pp. 97, 100–101; IBP, pp. 95–108, 238; “Sixteen,” p. 43.


7. Hadadezer, king, r. early 9th century to 844/842, 1 Kings 22:3, etc., in Assyrian inscriptions of Shalmaneser III and also, I am convinced, in the Melqart stele. The Hebrew Bible does not name him, referring to him only as “the King of Aram” in 1 Kings 22:3, 31; 2 Kings chapter 5, 6:8–23. We find out this king’s full name in some contemporaneous inscriptions of Shalmaneser III, king of Assyria (r. 858–824), such as the Black Obelisk (Raging Torrent, pp. 22–24). At Kurkh, a monolith by Shalmaneser III states that at the battle of Qarqar (853 B.C.E.), he defeated “Adad-idri [the Assyrian way of saying Hadadezer] the Damascene,” along with “Ahab the Israelite” and other kings (Raging Torrent, p. 14; RIMA 3, p. 23, A.0.102.2, col. ii, lines 89b–92). “Hadadezer the Damascene” is also mentioned in an engraving on a statue of Shalmaneser III at Aššur (RIMA 3, p. 118, A.0.102.40, col. i, line 14). The same statue engraving later mentions both Hadadezer and Hazael together (RIMA 3, p. 118, col. i, lines 25–26) in a topical arrangement of worst enemies defeated that is not necessarily chronological.
On the long-disputed readings of the Melqart stele, which was discovered in Syria in 1939, see “Corrections,” pp. 69–85, which follows the closely allied readings of Frank Moore Cross and Gotthard G. G. Reinhold. Those readings, later included in “Sixteen,” pp. 47–48, correct the earlier absence of this Hadadezer in IBP (notably on p. 237, where he is not to be confused with the tenth-century Hadadezer, son of Rehob and king of Zobah).

8. Ben-hadad, son of Hadadezer, r. or served as co-regent 844/842, 2 Kings 6:24, etc., in the Melqart stele, following the readings of Frank Moore Cross and Gotthard G. G. Reinhold and Cross’s 2003 criticisms of a different reading that now appears in COS, vol. 2, pp. 152–153 (“Corrections,” pp. 69–85). Several kings of Damascus bore the name Bar-hadad (in their native Aramaic, which is translated as Ben-hadad in the Hebrew Bible), which suggests adoption as “son” by the patron deity Hadad. This designation might indicate that he was the crown prince and/or co-regent with his father Hadadezer. It seems likely that Bar-hadad/Ben-hadad was his father’s immediate successor as king, as seems to be implied by the military policy reversal between 2 Kings 6:3–23 and 6:24. It was this Ben-Hadad, the son of Hadadezer, whom Hazael assassinated in 2 Kings 8:7–15 (quoted in Raging Torrent, p. 25). The mistaken disqualification of this biblical identification in the Melqart stele in IBP, p. 237, is revised to a strong identification in that stele in “Corrections,” pp. 69–85; “Sixteen,” p. 47.

9. Hazael, king, r. 844/842–ca. 800, 1 Kings 19:15, 2 Kings 8:8, etc., is documented in four kinds of inscriptions: 1) The inscriptions of Shalmaneser III call him “Hazael of Damascus” (Raging Torrent, pp. 23–26, 28), for example the inscription on the Kurbail Statue (RIMA 3, p. 60, line 21). He is also referred to in 2) the Zakkur stele from near Aleppo, in what is now Syria, and in 3) bridle inscriptions, i.e., two inscribed horse blinders and a horse frontlet discovered on Greek islands, and in 4) inscribed ivories seized as Assyrian war booty (Raging Torrent, p. 35). All are treated in IBP, pp. 238–239, and listed in “Sixteen,” p. 44. Cf. “Corrections,” pp. 101–103.

10. Ben-hadad, son of Hazael, king, r. early 8th century, 2 Kings 13:3, etc., in the Zakkur stele from near Aleppo. In lines 4–5, it calls him “Bar-hadad, son of Hazael, the king of Aram” (IBP, p. 240; “Sixteen,” p. 44; Raging Torrent, p. 38; ANET, p. 655: COS, vol. 2, p. 155). On the possibility of Ben-hadad, son of Hazael, being the “Mari” in Assyrian inscriptions, see Raging Torrent, pp. 35–36.

11. Rezin (= Raḥianu), king, r. mid-8th century to 732, 2 Kings 15:37, etc., in the inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser III, king of Assyria (in these inscriptions, Raging Torrent records frequent mention of Rezin in  pp. 51–78); OROT, p. 14. Inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser III refer to “Rezin” several times, “Rezin of Damascus” in Annal 13, line 10 (ITP, pp. 68–69), and “the dynasty of Rezin of Damascus” in Annal 23, line 13 (ITP, pp. 80–81). Tiglath-pileser III’s stele from Iran contains an explicit reference to Rezin as king of Damascus in column III, the right side, A: “[line 1] The kings of the land of Hatti (and of) the Aramaeans of the western seashore . . .  [line 4] Rezin of Damascus”  (ITP, pp. 106–107).


12. Omri, king, r. 884–873, 1 Kings 16:16, etc., in Assyrian inscriptions and in the Mesha Inscription. Because he founded a famous dynasty which ruled the northern kingdom of Israel, the Assyrians refer not only to him as a king of Israel (ANET, pp. 280, 281), but also to the later rulers of that territory as kings of “the house of Omri” and that territory itself literally as “the house of Omri” (Raging Torrent, pp. 34, 35; ANET, pp. 284, 285). Many a later king of Israel who was not his descendant, beginning with Jehu, was called “the son of Omri” (Raging Torrent, p. 18). The Mesha Inscription also refers to Omri as “the king of Israel” in lines 4–5, 7 (Dearman, Studies, pp. 97, 100–101; COS, vol. 2, p. 137; IBP, pp. 108–110, 216; “Sixteen,” p. 43.

13. Ahab, king, r. 873–852, 1 Kings 16:28, etc., in the Kurkh Monolith by his enemy, Shalmaneser III of Assyria. There, referring to the battle of Qarqar (853 B.C.E.), Shalmaneser calls him “Ahab the Israelite” (Raging Torrent, pp. 14, 18–19; RIMA 3, p. 23, A.0.102.2, col. 2, lines 91–92; ANET, p. 279; COS, vol. 2, p. 263).

14. Jehu, king, r. 842/841–815/814, 1 Kings 19:16, etc., in inscriptions of Shalmaneser III. In these, “son” means nothing more than that he is the successor, in this instance, of Omri (Raging Torrent, p. 20 under “Ba’asha . . . ” and p. 26). A long version of Shalmaneser III’s annals on a stone tablet in the outer wall of the city of Aššur refers to Jehu in col. 4, line 11, as “Jehu, son of Omri” (Raging Torrent, p. 28; RIMA 3, p. 54, A.0.102.10, col. 4, line 11; cf. ANET, p. 280, the parallel “fragment of an annalistic text”). Also, on the Kurba’il Statue, lines 29–30 refer to “Jehu, son of Omri” (RIMA 3, p. 60, A.0.102.12, lines 29–30).

In Shalmaneser III’s Black Obelisk, current scholarship regards the notation over relief B, depicting payment of tribute from Israel, as referring to “Jehu, son of Omri” (Raging Torrent, p. 23; RIMA 3, p. 149, A.0. 102.88), but cf. P. Kyle McCarter, Jr., “‘Yaw, Son of ‘Omri’: A Philological Note on Israelite Chronology,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 216 (1974): pp. 5–7.

15. Joash (= Jehoash), king, r. 805–790, 2 Kings 13:9, etc., in the Tell al-Rimaḥ inscription of Adad-Nirari III, king of Assyria (r. 810–783), which mentions “the tribute of Joash [= Iu’asu] the Samarian” (Stephanie Page, “A Stela of Adad-Nirari III and Nergal-Ereš from Tell Al Rimaḥ,” Iraq 30 [1968]: pp. 142–145, line 8, Pl. 38–41; RIMA 3, p. 211, line 8 of A.0.104.7; Raging Torrent, pp. 39–41).

16. Jeroboam II, king, r. 790–750/749, 2 Kings 13:13, etc., in the seal of his royal servant Shema, discovered at Megiddo (WSS, p. 49 no. 2; IBP, pp. 133–139, 217; “Sixteen,” p. 46).

17. Menahem, king, r. 749–738, 2 Kings 15:14, etc., in the Calah Annals of Tiglath-pileser III. Annal 13, line 10 refers to “Menahem of Samaria” in a list of kings who paid tribute (ITP, pp. 68–69, Pl. IX). Tiglath-pileser III’s stele from Iran, his only known stele, refers explicitly to Menahem as king of Samaria in column III, the right side, A: “[line 1] The kings of the land of Hatti (and of) the Aramaeans of the western seashore . . .  [line 5] Menahem of Samaria.”  (ITP, pp. 106–107). See also Raging Torrent, pp. 51, 52, 54, 55, 59; ANET, p. 283.

18. Pekah, king, r. 750(?)–732/731, 2 Kings 15:25, etc., in the inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser III. Among various references to “Pekah,” the most explicit concerns the replacement of Pekah in Summary Inscription 4, lines 15–17: “[line 15] . . . The land of Bit-Humria . . . . [line 17] Peqah, their king [I/they killed] and I installed Hoshea [line 18] [as king] over them” (ITP, pp. 140–141; Raging Torrent, pp. 66–67).

19. Hoshea, king, r. 732/731–722, 2 Kings 15:30, etc., in Tiglath-pileser’s Summary Inscription 4, described in preceding note 18, where Hoshea is mentioned as Pekah’s immediate successor.

20. Sanballat “I”, governor of Samaria under Persian rule, ca. mid-fifth century, Nehemiah 2:10, etc., in a letter among the papyri from the Jewish community at Elephantine in Egypt (A. E. Cowley, ed., Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1923; reprinted Osnabrück, Germany: Zeller, 1967), p. 114 English translation of line 29, and p. 118 note regarding line 29; ANET, p. 492.

Also, the reference to “[  ]ballat,” most likely Sanballat, in Wadi Daliyeh bulla WD 22 appears to refer to the biblical Sanballat as the father of a governor of Samaria who succeeded him in the first half of the fourth century. As Jan Dušek shows, it cannot be demonstrated that any Sanballat II and III existed, which is the reason for the present article’s quotation marks around the “I” in Sanballat “I”; see Jan Dušek, “Archaeology and Texts in the Persian Period: Focus on Sanballat,” in Martti Nissinen, ed., Congress Volume: Helsinki 2010 (Boston: Brill. 2012), pp. 117–132.


21. David, king, r. ca. 1010–970, 1 Samuel 16:13, etc. in three inscriptions. Most notable is the victory stele in Aramaic known as the “house of David” inscription, discovered at Tel Dan; Avraham Biran and Joseph Naveh, “An Aramaic Stele from Tel Dan,” IEJ 43 (1993), pp. 81–98, and idem, “The Tel Dan Inscription: A New Fragment,” IEJ 45 (1995), pp. 1–18. An ancient Aramaic word pattern in line 9 designates David as the founder of the dynasty of Judah in the phrase “house of David” (2 Sam 2:11 and 5:5; Gary A. Rendsburg, “On the Writing ביתדיד [BYTDWD] in the Aramaic Inscription from Tel Dan,” IEJ 45 [1995], pp. 22–25; Raging Torrent, p. 20, under “Ba’asha . . .”; IBP, pp. 110–132, 265–77; “Sixteen,” pp. 41–43).

In the second inscription, the Mesha Inscription, the phrase “house of David” appears in Moabite in line 31 with the same meaning: that he is the founder of the dynasty. There David’s name appears with only its first letter destroyed, and no other letter in that spot makes sense without creating a very strained, awkward reading (André Lemaire, “‘House of David’ Restored in Moabite Inscription,” BAR 20, no. 3 [May/June 1994]: pp. 30–37. David’s name also appears in line 12 of the Mesha Inscription (Anson F. Rainey, “Mesha‘ and Syntax,” in J. Andrew Dearman and M. Patrick Graham, eds., The Land That I Will Show You: Essays on the History and Archaeology of the Ancient Near East in Honor of J. Maxwell Miller. (JSOT Supplement series, no. 343; Sheffield, England:Sheffield Academic, 2001), pp. 287–307; IBP, pp. 265–277; “Sixteen,” pp. 41–43).

The third inscription, in Egyptian, mentions a region in the Negev called “the heights of David” after King David (Kenneth A. Kitchen, “A Possible Mention of David in the Late Tenth Century B.C.E., and Deity *Dod as Dead as the Dodo?” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 76 [1997], pp. 39–41; IBP, p. 214 note 3, which is revised in “Corrections,” pp. 119–121; “Sixteen,” p. 43).

In the table on p. 46 of BAR, David is listed as king of Judah. According to 2 Samuel 5:5, for his first seven years and six months as a monarch, he ruled only the southern kingdom of Judah. We have no inscription that refers to David as king over all Israel (that is, the united kingdom) as also stated in 2 Sam 5:5.

22. Uzziah (= Azariah), king, r. 788/787–736/735, 2 Kings 14:21, etc., in the inscribed stone seals of two of his royal servants: Abiyaw and Shubnayaw (more commonly called Shebanyaw); WSS, p. 51 no. 4 and p. 50 no. 3, respectively; IBP, pp. 153–159 and 159–163, respectively, and p. 219 no. 20 (a correction to IBP is that on p. 219, references to WSS nos. 3 and 4 are reversed); “Sixteen,” pp. 46–47. Cf. also his secondary burial inscription from the Second Temple era (IBP, p. 219 n. 22).

23. Ahaz (= Jehoahaz), king, r. 742/741–726, 2 Kings 15:38, etc., in Tiglath-pileser III’s Summary Inscription 7, reverse, line 11, refers to “Jehoahaz of Judah” in a list of kings who paid tribute (ITP, pp. 170–171; Raging Torrent, pp. 58–59). The Bible refers to him by the shortened form of his full name, Ahaz, rather than by the full form of his name, Jehoahaz, which the Assyrian inscription uses.
Cf. the unprovenanced seal of ’Ushna’, more commonly called ’Ashna’, the name Ahaz appears (IBP, pp. 163–169, with corrections from Kitchen’s review of IBP as noted in “Corrections,” p. 117; “Sixteen,” pp. 38–39 n. 11). Because this king already stands clearly documented in an Assyrian inscription, documentation in another inscription is not necessary to confirm the existence of the biblical Ahaz, king of Judah.

24. Hezekiah, king, r. 726–697/696, 2 Kings 16:20, etc., initially in the Rassam Cylinder of Sennacherib (in this inscription, Raging Torrent records frequent mention of Hezekiah in pp. 111–123; COS, pp. 302–303). It mentions “Hezekiah the Judahite” (col. 2 line 76 and col. 3 line 1 in Luckenbill, Annals of Sennacherib, pp. 31, 32) and “Jerusalem, his royal city” (ibid., col. 3 lines 28, 40; ibid., p. 33) Other, later copies of the annals of Sennacherib, such as the Oriental Institute prism and the Taylor prism, mostly repeat the content of the Rassam cylinder, duplicating its way of referring to Hezekiah and Jerusalem (ANET, pp. 287, 288). The Bull Inscription from the palace at Nineveh (ANET, p. 288; Raging Torrent, pp. 126–127) also mentions “Hezekiah the Judahite” (lines 23, 27 in Luckenbill, Annals of Sennacherib, pp. 69, 70) and “Jerusalem, his royal city” (line 29; ibid., p. 33).

During 2009, a royal bulla of Hezekiah, king of Judah, was discovered in the renewed Ophel excavations of Eilat Mazar. Imperfections along the left edge of the impression in the clay contributed to a delay in correct reading of the bulla until late in 2015. An English translation of the bulla is: “Belonging to Heze[k]iah, [son of] ’A[h]az, king of Jud[ah]” (letters within square brackets [ ] are supplied where missing or only partly legible). This is the first impression of a Hebrew king’s seal ever discovered in a scientific excavation.

See the online article by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, “Impression of King Hezekiah’s Royal Seal Discovered in Ophel Excavations South of Temple Mount in Jerusalem,” December 2, 2015; a video under copyright of Eilat Mazar and Herbert W. Armstrong College, 2015; Robin Ngo, “King Hezekiah in the Bible: Royal Seal of Hezekiah Comes to Light,” Bible History Daily (blog), originally published on December 3, 2015; Meir Lubetski, “King Hezekiah’s Seal Revisited,” BAR, July/August 2001. Apparently unavailable as of August 2017 (except for a rare library copy or two) is Eilat Mazar, ed., The Ophel Excavations to the South of the Temple Mount 2009-2013: Final Reports, vol. 1 (Jerusalem: Shoham Academic Research and Publication, c2015).

25. Manasseh, king, r. 697/696–642/641, 2 Kings 20:21, etc., in the inscriptions of Assyrian kings Esarhaddon (Raging Torrent, pp. 131, 133, 136) and Ashurbanipal (ibid., p. 154). “Manasseh, king of Judah,” according to Esarhaddon (r. 680–669), was among those who paid tribute to him (Esarhaddon’s Prism B, column 5, line 55; R. Campbell Thompson, The Prisms of Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal [London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1931], p. 25; ANET, p. 291). Also, Ashurbanipal (r. 668–627) records that “Manasseh, king of Judah” paid tribute to him (Ashurbanipal’s Cylinder C, col. 1, line 25; Maximilian Streck, Assurbanipal und die letzten assyrischen Könige bis zum Untergang Niniveh’s, [Vorderasiatische Bibliothek 7; Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1916], vol. 2, pp. 138–139; ANET, p. 294.

26. Hilkiah, high priest during Josiah’s reign, within 640/639–609, 2 Kings 22:4, etc., in the City of David bulla of Azariah, son of Hilkiah (WSS, p. 224 no. 596; IBP, pp. 148–151; 229 only in [50] City of David bulla; “Sixteen,” p. 49).

The oldest part of Jerusalem, called the City of David, is the location where the Bible places all four men named in the bullae covered in the present endnotes 26 through 29.

Analysis of the clay of these bullae shows that they were produced in the locale of Jerusalem (Eran Arie, Yuval Goren, and Inbal Samet, “Indelible Impression: Petrographic Analysis of Judahite Bullae,” in The Fire Signals of Lachish: Studies in the Archaeology and History of Israel in the Late Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Persian Period in Honor of David Ussishkin [ed. Israel Finkelstein and Nadav Na’aman; Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2011], p. 10, quoted in “Sixteen,” pp. 48–49 n. 34).

27. Shaphan, scribe during Josiah’s reign, within 640/639–609, 2 Kings 22:3, etc., in the City of David bulla of Gemariah, son of Shaphan (WSS, p. 190 no. 470; IBP, pp. 139–146, 228). See endnote 26 above regarding “Sixteen,” pp. 48–49 n. 34.

28. Azariah, high priest during Josiah’s reign, within 640/639–609, 1 Chronicles 5:39, etc., in the City of David bulla of Azariah, son of Hilkiah (WSS, p. 224 no. 596; IBP, pp. 151–152; 229). See endnote 26 above regarding “Sixteen,” pp. 48–49 n. 34.

29. Gemariah, official during Jehoiakim’s reign, within 609–598, Jeremiah 36:10, etc., in the City of David bulla of Gemariah, son of Shaphan (WSS, p. 190 no. 470; IBP, pp. 147, 232). See endnote 26 above regarding “Sixteen,” pp. 48–49 n. 34.

30. Jehoiachin (= Jeconiah = Coniah), king, r. 598–597, 2 Kings 24:5, etc., in four Babylonian administrative tablets regarding oil rations or deliveries, during his exile in Babylonia (Raging Torrent, p. 209; ANEHST, pp. 386–387). Discovered at Babylon, they are dated from the tenth to the thirty-fifth year of Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylonia and conqueror of Jerusalem. One tablet calls Jehoiachin “king” (Text Babylon 28122, obverse, line 29; ANET, p. 308). A second, fragmentary text mentions him as king in an immediate context that refers to “[. . . so]ns of the king of Judah” and “Judahites” (Text Babylon 28178, obverse, col. 2, lines 38–40; ANET, p. 308). The third tablet calls him “the son of the king of Judah” and refers to “the five sons of the king of Judah” (Text Babylon 28186, reverse, col. 2, lines 17–18; ANET, p. 308). The fourth text, the most fragmentary of all, confirms “Judah” and part of Jehoiachin’s name, but contributes no data that is not found in the other texts.

31. Shelemiah, father of Jehucal the official, late 7th century, Jeremiah 37:3; 38:1 and 32. Jehucal (= Jucal), official during Zedekiah’s reign, fl. within 597–586, Jeremiah 37:3; 38:1 only, both referred to in a bulla discovered in the City of David in 2005 (Eilat Mazar, “Did I Find King David’s Palace?” BAR 32, no. 1 [January/February 2006], pp. 16–27, 70; idem, Preliminary Report on the City of David Excavations 2005 at the Visitors Center Area [Jerusalem and New York: Shalem, 2007], pp. 67–69; idem, “The Wall that Nehemiah Built,” BAR 35, no. 2 [March/April 2009], pp. 24–33,66; idem, The Palace of King David: Excavations at the Summit of the City of David: Preliminary Report of Seasons 2005-2007 [Jerusalem/New York: Shoham AcademicResearch and Publication, 2009], pp. 66–71). Only the possibility of firm identifications is left open in “Corrections,” pp. 85–92; “Sixteen,” pp. 50–51; this article is my first affirmation of four identifications, both here in notes 31 and 32 and below in notes 33 and 34.

After cautiously observing publications and withholding judgment for several years, I am now affirming the four identifications in notes 31 through 34, because I am now convinced that this bulla is a remnant from an administrative center in the City of David, a possibility suggested in “Corrections,” p. 100 second-to-last paragraph, and “Sixteen,” p. 51. For me, the tipping point came by comparing the description and pictures of the nearby and immediate archaeological context in Eilat Mazar, “Palace of King David,” pp. 66–70,  with the administrative contexts described in Eran Arie, Yuval Goren, and Inbal Samet, “Indelible Impression: Petrographic Analysis of Judahite Bullae,” in Israel Finkelstein and Nadav Na’aman, eds., The Fire Signals of Lachish: Studies in the Archaeology and History of Israel in the Late Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Persian Period in Honor of David Ussishkin (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2011), pp. 12–13 (the section titled “The Database: Judahite Bullae from Controlled Excavations”) and pp. 23–24. See also Nadav Na’aman, “The Interchange between Bible and Archaeology: The Case of David’s Palace and the Millo,” BAR 40, no. 1 (January/February 2014), pp. 57–61, 68–69, which is drawn from idem, “Biblical and Historical Jerusalem in the Tenth and Fifth-Fourth Centuries B.C.E.,” Biblica 93 (2012): pp. 21–42. See also idem, “Five Notes on Jerusalem in the First and Second Temple Periods,” Tel Aviv 39 (2012): p. 93.

33. Pashhur, father of Gedaliah the official, late 7th century, Jeremiah 38:1 and
34. Gedaliah, official during Zedekiah’s reign, fl. within 597–586, Jeremiah 38:1 only, both referred to in a bulla discovered in the City of David in 2008. See “Corrections,” pp. 92–96; “Sixteen,” pp. 50–51; and the preceding endnote 31 and 32 for bibliographic details on E. Mazar, “Wall,” pp. 24–33, 66; idem, Palace of King David, pp. 68–71) and for the comments in the paragraph that begins, “After cautiously … ”


35. Tiglath-pileser III (= Pul), king, r. 744–727, 2 Kings 15:19, etc., in his many inscriptions. See Raging Torrent, pp. 46–79; COS, vol. 2, pp. 284–292; ITP; Mikko Lukko, The Correspondence of Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon II from Calah/Nimrud (State Archives of Assyria, no. 19; Assyrian Text Corpus Project; Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2013); ABC, pp. 248–249. On Pul as referring to Tiglath-pileser III, which is implicit in ABC, p. 333 under “Pulu,” see ITP, p. 280 n. 5 for discussion and bibliography.

On the identification of Tiglath-pileser III in the Aramaic monumental inscription honoring Panamu II, in Aramaic monumental inscriptions 1 and 8 of Bar-Rekub (now in Istanbul and Berlin, respectively), and in the Ashur Ostracon, see IBP, p. 240; COS, pp. 158–161.

36. Shalmaneser V (= Ululaya), king, r. 726–722, 2 Kings 17:2, etc., in chronicles, in king-lists, and in rare remaining inscriptions of his own (ABC, p. 242; COS, vol. 2, p. 325). Most notable is the Neo-Babylonian Chronicle series, Chronicle 1, i, lines 24–32.  In those lines, year 2 of the Chronicle mentions his plundering the city of Samaria (Raging Torrent, pp. 178, 182; ANEHST, p. 408). (“Shalman” in Hosea 10:14 is likely a historical allusion, but modern lack of information makes it difficult to assign it to a particular historical situation or ruler, Assyrian or otherwise. See below for the endnotes to the box at the top of p. 50.)

37. Sargon II, king, r. 721–705, Isaiah 20:1, in many inscriptions, including his own. See Raging Torrent, pp. 80–109, 176–179, 182; COS, vol. 2, pp. 293–300; Mikko Lukko, The Correspondence of Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon II from Calah/Nimrud (State Archives of Assyria, no. 19; Assyrian Text Corpus Project; Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2013); ABC, pp. 236–238; IBP, pp. 240–241 no. (74).

38. Sennacherib, king, r. 704–681, 2 Kings 18:13, etc., in many inscriptions, including his own. See Raging Torrent, pp. 110–129; COS, vol. 2, pp. 300–305; ABC, pp. 238–240; ANEHST, pp. 407–411, esp. 410; IBP, pp. 241–242.

39. Adrammelech (= Ardamullissu = Arad-mullissu), son and assassin of Sennacherib, fl. early 7th century, 2 Kings 19:37, etc., in a letter sent to Esarhaddon, who succeeded Sennacherib on the throne of Assyria. See Raging Torrent, pp. 111, 184, and COS, vol. 3, p. 244, both of which describe and cite with approval Simo Parpola, “The Murderer of Sennacherib,” in Death in Mesopotamia: Papers Read at the XXVie Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, ed. Bendt Alster (Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag, 1980), pp. 171–182. See also ABC, p. 240.

An upcoming scholarly challenge is the identification of Sennacherib’s successor, Esarhaddon, as a more likely assassin in Andrew Knapp’s paper, “The Murderer of Sennacherib, Yet Again,” to be read in a February 2014 Midwest regional conference in Bourbonnais, Ill. (SBL/AOS/ASOR).

On various renderings of the neo-Assyrian name of the assassin, see RlA s.v. “Ninlil,” vol. 9, pp. 452–453 (in German). On the mode of execution of those thought to have been  conspirators in the assassination, see the selection from Ashurbanipal’s Rassam cylinder in ANET, p. 288.

40. Esarhaddon, king, r. 680–669, 2 Kings 19:37, etc., in his many inscriptions. See Raging Torrent, pp. 130–147; COS, vol. 2, p. 306; ABC, pp. 217–219. Esarhaddon’s name appears in many cuneiform inscriptions (ANET, pp. 272–274, 288–290, 292–294, 296, 297, 301–303, 426–428, 449, 450, 531, 533–541, 605, 606), including his Succession Treaty (ANEHST, p. 355).


41. Merodach-baladan II (=Marduk-apla-idinna II), king, r. 721–710 and 703, 2 Kings 20:12, etc., in the inscriptions of Sennacherib and the Neo-Babylonian Chronicles (Raging Torrent, pp. 111, 174, 178–179, 182–183. For Sennacherib’s account of his first campaign, which was against Merodach-baladan II, see COS, vol. 2, pp. 300-302. For the Neo-Babylonian Chronicle series, Chronicle 1, i, 33–42, see ANEHST, pp. 408–409. This king is also included in the Babylonian King List A (ANET, p. 271), and the latter part of his name remains in the reference to him in the Synchronistic King List (ANET, pp. 271–272), on which see ABC, pp. 226, 237.

42. Nebuchadnezzar II, king, r. 604–562, 2 Kings 24:1, etc., in many cuneiform tablets, including his own inscriptions. See Raging Torrent, pp. 220–223; COS, vol. 2, pp. 308–310; ANET, pp. 221, 307–311; ABC, p. 232. The Neo-Babylonian Chronicle series refers to him in Chronicles 4 and 5 (ANEHST, pp. 415, 416–417, respectively). Chronicle 5, reverse, lines 11–13, briefly refers to his conquest of Jerusalem (“the city of Judah”) in 597 by defeating “its king” (Jehoiachin), as well as his appointment of “a king of his own choosing” (Zedekiah) as king of Judah.

43. Nebo-sarsekim, chief official of Nebuchadnezzar II, fl. early 6th century, Jeremiah 39:3, in a cuneiform inscription on Babylonian clay tablet BM 114789 (1920-12-13, 81), dated to 595 B.C.E. The time reference in Jeremiah 39:3 is very close, to the year 586. Since it is extremely unlikely that two individuals having precisely the same personal name would have been, in turn, the sole holders of precisely this unique position within a decade of each other, it is safe to assume that the inscription and the book of Jeremiah refer to the same person in different years of his time in office. In July 2007 in the British Museum, Austrian researcher Michael Jursa discovered this Babylonian reference to the biblical “Nebo-sarsekim, the Rab-saris” (rab ša-rēši, meaning “chief official”) of Nebuchadnezzar II (r. 604–562). Jursa identified this official in his article, “Nabu-šarrūssu-ukīn, rab ša-rēši, und ‘Nebusarsekim’ (Jer. 39:3),” Nouvelles Assyriologiques Breves et Utilitaires2008/1 (March): pp. 9–10 (in German). See also Bob Becking, “Identity of Nabusharrussu-ukin, the Chamberlain: An Epigraphic Note on Jeremiah 39,3. With an Appendix on the Nebu(!)sarsekim Tablet by Henry Stadhouders,” Biblische Notizen NF 140 (2009): pp. 35–46; “Corrections,” pp. 121–124; “Sixteen,” p. 47 n. 31. On the correct translation of ráb ša-rēši (and three older, published instances of it having been incorrect translated as rab šaqê), see ITP, p. 171 n. 16.

44. Nergal-sharezer (= Nergal-sharuṣur the Sin-magir = Nergal-šarru-uṣur the simmagir), officer of Nebuchadnezzar II, early sixth century, Jeremiah 39:3, in a Babylonian cuneiform inscription known as Nebuchadnezzar II’s Prism (column 3 of prism EŞ 7834, in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum). See ANET, pp. 307‒308; Rocio Da Riva, “Nebuchadnezzar II’s Prism (EŞ 7834): A New Edition,” Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und Vorderasiatische Archäologie, vol. 103, no. 2 (2013): 204, Group 3.

45. Nebuzaradan (= Nabuzeriddinam = Nabû-zēr-iddin),
a chief officer of Nebuchadnezzar II, early sixth century, 2 Kings 25:8, etc. & Jeremiah 39:9, etc.
, in a Babylonian cuneiform inscription known as Nebuchadnezzar II’s Prism (column 3, line 36 of prism EŞ 7834, in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum). See ANET, p. 307; Rocio Da Riva, “Nebuchadnezzar II’s Prism (EŞ 7834): A New Edition,” Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und Vorderasiatische Archäologie, vol. 103, no. 2 (2013): 202, Group 1.

46. Evil-merodach (= Awel Marduk, = Amel Marduk), king, r. 561–560, 2 Kings 25:27, etc., in various inscriptions (ANET, p. 309; OROT, pp. 15, 504 n. 23). See especially Ronald H. Sack, Amel-Marduk: 562-560 B.C.; A Study Based on Cuneiform, Old Testament, Greek, Latin and Rabbinical Sources (Alter Orient und Altes Testament, no. 4; Kevelaer, Butzon & Bercker, and Neukirchen-Vluyn, Neukirchener, 1972).

47. Belshazzar, son and co-regent of Nabonidus, fl. ca. 543?–540, Daniel 5:1, etc., in Babylonian administrative documents and the “Verse Account” (Muhammed A. Dandamayev, “Nabonid, A,” RlA, vol. 9, p. 10; Raging Torrent, pp. 215–216; OROT, pp. 73–74). A neo-Babylonian text refers to him as “Belshazzar the crown prince” (ANET, pp. 309–310 n. 5).


48. Cyrus II (=Cyrus the great), king, r. 559–530, 2 Chronicles 36:22, etc., in various inscriptions (including his own), for which and on which see ANEHST, pp. 418–426, ABC, p. 214. For Cyrus’ cylinder inscription, see Raging Torrent, pp. 224–230; ANET, pp. 315–316; COS, vol. 2, pp. 314–316; ANEHST, pp. 426–430; P&B, pp. 87–92. For larger context and implications in the biblical text, see OROT, pp. 70-76.

49. Darius I (=Darius the Great), king, r. 520–486, Ezra 4:5, etc., in various inscriptions, including his own trilingual cliff inscription at Behistun, on which see P&B, pp. 131–134. See also COS, vol. 2, p. 407, vol. 3, p. 130; ANET, pp. 221, 316, 492; ABC, p. 214; ANEHST, pp. 407, 411. On the setting, see OROT, pp. 70–75.

50. Tattenai (=Tatnai), provincial governor of Trans-Euphrates, late sixth to early fifth century, Ezra 5:3, etc., in a tablet of Darius I the Great, king of Persia, which can be dated to exactly June 5, 502 B.C.E. See David E. Suiter, “Tattenai,” in David Noel Freedman, ed., Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), vol. 6, p. 336; A. T. Olmstead, “Tattenai, Governor of ‘Beyond the River,’” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 3 (1944): p. 46. A drawing of the cuneiform text appears in Arthur Ungnad, Vorderasiatische Schriftdenkmäler Der Königlichen Museen Zu Berlin (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1907), vol. IV, p. 48, no. 152 (VAT 43560). VAT is the abbreviation for the series Vorderasiatische Abteilung Tontafel, published by the Berlin Museum. The author of the BAR article wishes to acknowledge the query regarding Tattenai from Mr. Nathan Yadon of Houston, Texas, private correspondence, 8 September 2015.

51. Xerxes I (=Ahasuerus), king, r. 486–465, Esther 1:1, etc., in various inscriptions, including his own (P&B, p. 301; ANET, pp. 316–317), and in the dates of documents from the time of his reign (COS, vol. 2, p. 188, vol. 3, pp. 142, 145. On the setting, see OROT, pp. 70–75.

52. Artaxerxes I Longimanus, king, r. 465-425/424, Ezra 4:6, 7, etc., in various inscriptions, including his own (P&B, pp. 242–243), and in the dates of documents from the time of his reign (COS, vol. 2, p. 163, vol. 3, p. 145; ANET, p. 548).

53. Darius II Nothus, king, r. 425/424-405/404, Nehemiah 12:22, in various inscriptions, including his own (for example, P&B, pp. 158–159) and in the dates of documents from the time of his reign (ANET, p. 548; COS, vol. 3, pp. 116–117).

Symbols and Abbreviations

ANEHST  Mark W. Chavalas, ed., The Ancient Near East: Historical Sources in Translation (Blackwell Sources in Ancient History; Victoria, Australia: Blackwell, 2006).
ABC  A. Kirk Grayson, Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2000).
ANET  James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1969).
B.C.E.  before the common era, used as an equivalent to B.C.
BASOR  Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research
c.  century (all are B.C.E.)
ca.  circa, a Latin word meaning “around”
cf.  compare
CAH  John Boardman et al., eds., The Cambridge Ancient History (2nd ed.; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1970).
CIIP Hanna M. Cotton et al., eds., Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae, vol. 1: Jerusalem, Part 1 (Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter, 2010). Vol. 1 consists of two separately bound Parts, each a physical “book.”
“Corrections”  Lawrence J. Mykytiuk, “Corrections and Updates to ‘Identifying Biblical Persons in Northwest Semitic Inscriptions of 1200–539 B.C.E.,” Maarav 16 (2009), pp. 49–132, free online at docs.lib.purdue.edu/lib_research/129/.
COS  William W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger, eds., The Context of Scripture, vol. 2: Archival Documents from the Biblical World (Boston: Brill, 2000).
Dearman, Studies  J. Andrew Dearman, ed., Studies in the Mesha Inscription and Moab (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989).
esp.  especially
fl.  flourished
IBP  Lawrence J. Mykytiuk, Identifying Biblical Persons in Northwest Semitic Inscriptions of 1200–539 B.C.E. (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2004). This book is a revised Ph.D. dissertation in Hebrew and Semitic Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1998, which began with a 1992 graduate seminar paper. Most of IBP is available on the Google Books web site:  www.google.com/search?tbo=p&tbm=bks&q=mykytiuk+identifying&num=10
ibid.  (Latin) “the same thing,” meaning the same publication as the one mentioned immediately before
idem  (Latin) “the same one(s),” meaning “the same person or persons,” used for referring to the author(s) mentioned immediately before.
IEJ  Israel Exploration Journal
ITP  Hayim Tadmor, The Inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser III, King of Assyria (Fontes ad Res Judaicas Spectantes; Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 2nd 2007 printing with addenda et corrigenda, 1994).
n.  note (a footnote or endnote)
no.  number (of an item, usually on a page)
OROT  Kenneth A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2003).
P&B  Edwin M. Yamauchi, Persia and the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1990).
Pl.  plate(s) (a page of photos or drawings in a scholarly publication, normally unnumbered,)
r.  reigned
Raging Torrent  Mordechai Cogan, The Raging Torrent: Historical Inscriptions from Assyria and Babylonia Relating to Ancient Israel (A Carta Handbook; Jerusalem: Carta, 2008).
RlA  Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archäologie (New York, Berlin: de Gruyter, ©1932, 1971).
RIMA  a series of books: The Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia: Assyrian Periods
RIMA 3  A. Kirk Grayson, Assyrian Rulers of the Early First Millennium BC, II (858–745 BC) (RIMA, no. 3; Buffalo, N.Y.: University of Toronto Press, 1996).
“Sixteen”  Lawrence J. Mykytiuk, “Sixteen Strong Identifications of Biblical Persons (Plus Nine Other Identifications) in Authentic Northwest Semitic Inscriptions from before 539 B.C.E.,” pp. 35–58 in Meir Lubetski and Edith Lubetski, eds., New Inscriptions and Seals Relating to the Biblical World (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2012), free online at docs.lib.purdue.edu/lib_research/150/.
Third  Kenneth A. Kitchen, The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100–650 B.C.) (2nd rev. ed. with supplement; Warminster, England: Aris & Phillips, 1986).
WSS  Nahman Avigad and Benjamin Sass, Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals (Jerusalem: The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Israel Exploration Society, and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The Institute of Archaeology, 1997).

Date Sources

This table uses Kitchen’s dates for rulers of Egypt, Pitard’s for kings of Damascus (with some differences), Galil’s for monarchs of Judah and for those of the northern kingdom of Israel, Grayson’s for Neo-Assyrian kings, Wiseman’s for Neo-Babylonian kings and Briant’s, if given, for Persian kings and for the Persian province of Yehud. Other dates follow traditional high biblical chronology, rather than the low chronology proposed by Israel Finkelstein.


Kenneth A. Kitchen, The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (1100–650 B.C.) (2nd rev. ed. with supplement; Warminster, England: Aris & Phillips, 1986), pp. 466–468.

Wayne T. Pitard, Ancient Damascus: A Historical Study of the Syrian City-State from Earliest Times until its Fall to the Assyrians in 732 B.C.E. (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1987), pp. 138–144, 189.

Gershon Galil, The Chronology of the Kings of Israel and Judah (SHCANE 9; New York: Brill, 1996), p. 147.

A. Kirk Grayson, Assyrian Rulers of the Early First Millennium BC, II (858–745 BC) (RIMA 3; Buffalo, N.Y.: University of Toronto Press, 1996), p. vii; idem, “Assyria: Ashur-dan II to Ashur-nirari V (934–745 B.C.),” in CAH, vol. III, part I, pp. 238–281; idem, “Assyria: Tiglath-pileser III to Sargon II (744–705 B.C.),” in CAH, vol. III, part II, pp. 71–102; idem, “Assyria: Sennacherib and Esarhaddon (704–669 B.C.),” in CAH, vol. III, part II, pp. 103–141; idem, “Assyria 668–635 B.C.: The Reign of Ashurbanipal,” in CAH, vol. III, part II, pp. 142–161.

Donald J. Wiseman, “Babylonia 605–539 B.C.” in CAH, vol. III, part II, pp. 229–251.

Pierre Briant, From Cyrus to Alexander : A History of the Persian Empire (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2002), “Index of Personal Names,” pp.  1149–1160.


This post has been sourced from the Biblical Archaeology Society.

Posted November 2017

Also see: Does archaeology support the Bible?

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