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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?


Does archaeology support the Bible?

Archaeology collage 1300px

The Bible is more reliable than archaeology

Old houses are being demolished in my suburb to make way for new ones. If we came back in 50 year’s time, what evidence will there be of how people lived in the old houses? Very little. But there would be more evidence if we excavated a rubbish dump. If the time gap was longer, like thousands of years, not much would be left to discover and it would be harder to work out the purpose and age of what was found.

In antiquity, instead of demolishing an old city, people would just build a new one on top of it. So the city grew higher with time until it became a hill called a tell. A tell is a mound of ruins and debris that is mainly comprised of mud bricks, which disintegrate rapidly. Excavating a tell can reveal buried buildings, pottery and other relics, located at different depths depending on their date of use. Archaeologists excavate tell sites to interpret the architecture, purpose, and date of occupation.

In this post we are looking at whether archaeology supports the Bible or not. The word archaeology comes from two Greek words meaning “ancient” and “knowledge”. So it means the study of ancient things. Archaeology is a historical science that studies ancient cultures through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artefacts, inscriptions, monuments and other physical remains. It’s like forensic science because it studies the past.

This topic is important because archaeology can impact our attitude towards the Bible. For example, a statement by an archaeologist that “the Israelites were never in Egypt or the Sinai desert”, can cause us to doubt the reliability of the Bible. But we will see that the Bible is more reliable than archaeology.

History and the Bible

Source of faith 400pxWhat is the foundation of the Christian faith? Is it Jesus Christ? Is it His death and resurrection? Is it because we needed a Savior because of the sin of Adam and Eve? These are historical people and historical events. So you could say Christianity is based on history. But it’s not just any history, it’s biblical history. Only the Bible gives the history and its meaning that’s essential to becoming a Christian. Paul says that Christian faith comes through accepting “the word about Christ”, which is the good news in the Bible (Rom. 10:17NIV). The source of Christian faith is shown in this schematic diagram. When we hear the good news in the Bible about Jesus and the Holy Spirit convicts us of our need to accept it, we can come to trust in what Jesus has done for us.

But the Bible is often under attack. And disciplines such as history, archaeology, geology and biology are often used to attack the Bible. Today we are focusing on archaeology. We will begin by looking at examples from two ancient cities.

Hezekiah’s tunnel

The first example is in Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom of Judah at about 700BC. What does the Bible say happened?

“After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself. When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to wage war against Jerusalem, he consulted with his officials and military staff about blocking off the water from the springs outside the city, and they helped him. They gathered a large group of people who blocked all the springs and the stream that flowed through the land. “Why should the kings of Assyria come and find plenty of water?” they said” (2 Chr. 32:1-4).
“It was Hezekiah who blocked the upper outlet of the Gihon spring and channelled the water down to the west side of the City of David” (2 Chr. 32:30).
“As for the other events of Hezekiah’s reign, all his achievements and how he made the pool (of Siloam) and the tunnel by which he brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah?” (2 Ki. 20:20).

Jerusalem’s water supply was vulnerable to enemy attack since it was outside the main city wall. And Sennacherib, king of Assyria, was invading Judah. So king Hezekiah, who reigned 715BC to 686BC, built a tunnel to bring water from the spring to a new pool. If these events really happened as described in the Bible, what would we expect an archaeologist to find? Maybe a tunnel through the rock from a water source outside the city to a pool inside the city.

Hezekiahs tunnel 3 400pxWhat did they find? In 1880 a tunnel was discovered from Gihon Spring in Kidron Valley to bring water into the city. It is about 530 meters (1750 feet) long. Being cut into solid rock and 40 m (131 feet) underground, it’s one of the greatest engineering feats of the ancient world. Tourists can walk through the tunnel and it still carries water from Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam, 2,700 years after it was built. The other archaeological evidence of King Hezekiah includes many bullae (impressed clay pieces that were used to secure the strings tied around rolled-up documents) of his royal seal and Sennacherib boasting that he trapped Hezekiah in Jerusalem “like a bird in a cage” (Sennacherib Prism). But Sennacherib doesn’t mention taking Jerusalem because the Bible says that God intervened (2 Ki. 19:35-36; 2 Chr. 32:20-21a; Isa. 37:36-37). So archaeology can support the Bible.

Sultan’s Hill

The second example is in the city of Jericho at about 1400BC. It was an oasis north of the Dead Sea called the city of palms (Dt. 34:3; Jud. 1:16; 3:13; 2 Chr. 28:15).

What does the Bible say happened? When Joshua lead the Israelites into Canaan, Jericho was the first city they conquered. After circling Jericho 13 times over seven days, “When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in (“up” is a better translation), and they took the city … Then they burned the whole city and everything in it” (Josh. 6:20, 24).
“At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: ‘Cursed before the Lord is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: At the cost of his firstborn son he will lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest he will set up its gates’” (Josh. 6:26). This curse was fulfilled when Heil rebuilt the city walls in about 850BC (1 Ki. 16:34). So the city went about 550 years without a wall.

If these events really happened as described in the Bible, what would we expect an archaeologist to find? Evidence of: toppled walls, destruction by fire, a new people with a new culture coming into the land, a gap in occupation, and then the city being rebuilt.

Jericho - anciernt 2 400pxWhat did they find at Tel es-Sultan (Sultan’s hill)?
– Carl Watzinger found the remains of two walls which he dated 1950-1550BC, and said that “in the time of Joshua, Jericho was a heap of ruins, on which stood perhaps a few isolated huts”.
– Kathleen Kenyon found many walls, some of which she thought may have been destroyed by earthquakes. The last of the walls was put together in a hurry, indicating that the settlement had been destroyed by nomadic invaders. She thought all these walls predated Joshua – they were in the middle Bronze age, not the Late Bronze age. After this there was little activity in Jericho until the 7th century BC. She did not find substantial evidence for renewed occupation in the Late Bronze Age at the time of Joshua and the biblical story of the battle of Jericho. Kenyon thought that there was no city and no wall at that time. She dated the demise of the city 150 years before the Israelites came into the land. Although Jericho was heavily fortified, it had been burned.

So in this case, archaeology and radiocarbon dating does not support the Bible. Instead it seems to contradict the Bible. How do we resolve this situation?

Interpretation of the evidence

At Jericho everything seems to fit in with the Bible except for the timing. When archaeologists excavate a tell they find items like broken pottery that require interpretation. These items don’t have labels to give their purpose and age. These depend on the assumptions or presuppositions used by the archaeologist.

What are the presuppositions of a secular archaeologist? These are beliefs about how the evidence is interpreted. And they depend on one’s worldview.

The Darwinian evolutionary theory in biology is often used to explain the process of cultural change with time. For example, cultural development is divided into three stages: Stone age, Bronze age, and Iron age. And the Stone age is usually divided into geological periods: Palaeolithic, Neolithic, and Chalcolithic. It is assumed that humanity developed gradually, both physically and intellectually, over millions of years. This timescale usually extends backwards past the creation of the universe according to the Bible! Whereas according to the Bible, the timescale should only go back the flood in about 2400BC. For example, Down suggested the following dates for Israel:
– Stone age – 2300 to 2100 BC
– Bronze age – 2100 to 540 BC
– Iron age – 540 to 300 BC
However, Anderson and Edwards quote the “generally acceptable” (secular) timing of:
– Stone age – creation to 3300 BC
– Bronze age – 3300 to 1200 BC
– Iron age – 1200 to 600 BC

Radiocarbon dating is often used without acknowledging the unreliability of this method (see Appendix A).

Naturalism is the belief that nature (or physical processes) is all that exists. It rules out the unseen, the spiritual and the divine. It also rules out the historical record in the Bible. They are biased against the Bible. The naturalist attempts to use logic and reason to support their position, but logic is not part of nature! Where in the physical world do the laws of logic come from? They can’t be explained by evolutionary processes. So the naturalist is inconsistent!

So a historical (forensic) science is a worldview discipline. Also, disciplines that depend on it like archaeology rely on one’s worldview. It’s findings largely depend on one’s worldview. We need to have the right worldview to get the right answer. If we reject the best account of ancient history in the Bible, our interpretation of archaeological evidence could be wrong, like that at Jericho. But when Bryant Wood made a better assessment of the pottery found at Jericho, he found that they were dated about 1400BC, which was consistent with the Bible (see Appendix B). He also realised when Israel destroyed Jericho, mud brick walls that were on top of a stone retaining wall fell to the ground to form a ramp so they could climb up into the city.

More archaeological findings

Here’s some more archaeological findings that are related to the Bible.

Merneptah Monument – About 1200BC

In 1898 a victory monument of Pharaoh Merneptah, the son of Ramesses II was found in the ancient Egyptian capital of Thebes. According to the traditional chronology, he reigned about 1200BC (but if Down can give a tentative date of 700BC, it shows that these dates are not robust). It has ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs engraved on granite rock. The monument documents his military victories such as over peoples and city-states in Canaan, including the Israelites. It says “Israel is laid waste; its seed is not”. This is claimed to be the earliest archaeological evidence of the Israelites.

Archaeologists have also dated the gates of Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer in Israel to the 10th century BC and the Bible says that Solomon had these constructed (1 Ki. 9:15-17).

Obelisk of Shalmaneser III – 840BC

In 1846 a black limestone obelisk that commemorates the deeds of King Shalmaneser III of Assyria (reigned 858-824 BC) was found at Nimrud (ancient Kalhu) in Iraq. It lists tribute paid by foreign kings, including Jehu the king of Israel. It has a relief of Jehu paying tribute to Shalmanaser, which is the only contemporary depiction of anyone mentioned in the Bible. It says, “The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri: I received from him silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king [and] spears”.

Tel Dan monument – About 840BC

This broken monument (inscribed stone) was discovered in 1993-94 during excavations of Tel Dan in northern Israel. It is written on basalt in an Aramaic dialect. In it the king of Aram boasts of his military victories over the king of Israel and his ally the king of the “House of David” (Judah). This is the earliest mention of David outside the Hebrew Bible. The king of Aram was probably Hazael because Elisha appointed Hazael to be king (2 Ki. 8:7-15) in order to punish Israel for their sins (2 Ki. 9:14-16; 10:32; 12:17-18; 13:3, 22). The monument seems to have been set up by Hazael, king of Aram to commemorate his victory over Joram (king of Israel) and Ahaziah (king of Judah) at Ramoth-Gilead in 841 BC (2 Ki. 8:28–29; 9:15-28; 2 Chron. 22:1-9).

Assyrian Lachish Reliefs – About 690BC

Lachish, the second largest city in Israel, was destroyed by siege by the Assyrians in 701BC. In 1847 a huge relief of the battle was found in the ruins of Sennacherib’s palace in Nineveh. It was a waiting room for people getting ready to see the king. The relief covered all the four limestone walls and was 2.4 m (8 foot) tall and 24 m (80 foot) long. It demonstrated the power of the king and the fate of those who resist his rule. This indicates that Israel was a powerful country at this time and that he didn’t destroy Jerusalem (otherwise that would have been illustrated). The Bible says that Sennacherib “attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them”, including laying siege to Lachish (2 Ki. 18:13; 2 Chr. 32:9; Isa. 36:1).

Keetef Hinnom amulet – About 600BC

In 1979 two tiny silver scrolls were fund in a burial chamber on the old road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. An amulet is an ornament or small piece of jewellery used to protect its owner from danger or harm. When they were unrolled, it was evident that they were inscribed with a priestly blessing from Numbers written in ancient Hebrew (Num. 6:24-26):
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace”.

This is the oldest copy of any portion of scripture (at least 400 years older than the Dead Sea Scrolls). It also shows that the Pentateuch was written earlier than is claimed by some critics.

House of God inscription – About 600BC

In ancient times notes were often written on pottery because it was more common than papyrus. Such a message was found at Tel Arad (near the Dead Sea) that mentions “the house of God (YHWH)” in ancient Hebrew script. It is written in ink by a professional scribe. It seems to be a letter sent from Jerusalem to the commander of the Arad. It is an early reference to the temple in Jerusalem that was destroyed in 586BC.

Cyrus cylinder – 530BC

A clay cylinder was found in the ruins of Babylon in Iraq in 1879. It is inscribed in Akkadian cuneiform script with an account made by Cyrus king of Persia (559-530 BC). It records his conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, as mentioned in scripture. Cyrus allowed various captives to return to their homelands (as recorded on the cylinder), which is consistent with the end of the Jewish exile in Babylon (2 Chr. 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-11). Isaiah mentions Cyrus 150 years before his birth (Isa. 44:28) and predicted the release of the Jews after the exile and their rebuilding of Jerusalem (Isa. 13:1, 17-19; 44:26 – 45:3).

Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) – 250BC to AD70

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection 980 Hebrew documents found in the Qumran limestone caves between in 1947 and 2017. Most of the texts are written on parchment. About 40% were copies from the Old Testament. Before the discovery of the DSS, the oldest Hebrew-language manuscripts of the Bible were Masoretic texts dating to the 10th century AD, such as the Aleppo Codex. The biblical manuscripts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls push that date back over one thousand years. The DSS have demonstrated that the Old Testament was accurately transmitted during this interval. This indicates that the Old Testament we have today is a very accurate copy of the original text (autograph) of Old Testament. By the way, the earliest copies of the Greek Septuagint Old Testament are dated about AD 350.

Pilate inscription – AD 36

In 1961 a block of limestone was discovered in Caesarea with the inscription “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea”. Pilate was the prefect (governor) of the Roman-controlled province of Judaea from 26–36 AD. After AD 6 Caesarea replaced Jerusalem as the administrative capital and military headquarters of the province. The civil trial of Jesus was before Pilate and Herod Antipas (Mt. 27:11-26; Mk. 15:6-12; Lk. 23:6-15) and Pilate made the decision, “Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate … had Jesus flogged, and handed Him over to be crucified” (Mk. 15:15). This inscription confirms the existence of a central character in the crucifixion of Christ.

Yehohanan crucifixion – AD 7 to70

In 1968 the remains of a crucified man were found in a stone ossuary (casket for bones) outside Jerusalem. According to the Hebrew inscription, his name was Yehohanan. A 11.5 cm (4.5 inches) iron nail pierced a heel bone. Iron was rare in Roman times so they would always remove the nails to use them again. However, in this case they could not remove this nail because it was bent so much at the tip. His feet had been nailed separately to the sides of the pole of the cross. The lack of traumatic injury to the arms and hands indicates that his hands were probably tied rather than nailed to the crossbar of the cross. The bones give clear evidence of first century AD Roman crucifixion. And this find proves that a victim of crucifixion (like Jesus) could receive a proper Jewish burial.

Ephesian theatre – AD 54

The theatre at Ephesus (in Turkey) was constructed in the 3rd century BC and enlarged to a seating capacity of 25,000 in the Roman period. Besides drama and gladiatorial combats, political and religious events were carried out in it as well. The Bible records conflict between Christians and the followers of Artemis in AD 54 when Paul’s safety was threatened. Luke records this riot as follows, “Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together. Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.” (Acts 19:29-31).

These archaeological findings do support the Bible.

Lessons for us

We have seen that some archaeology supports the Bible and some doesn’t. Like in Jericho, many alleged conflicts are due to disagreements about chronology (timing). This is because archaeological findings can be strongly influenced by the worldview of the archaeologist. The findings are based on evidence that must be interpreted. Every archaeologist has a worldview and every person has a worldview. What about us? Is our worldview trustworthy? Does it include God’s revelation in the Bible? Is our worldview true or false?

As all knowledge about the past is fragmentary, all history (and archaeology) is fragmentary. How much do you know about your great-grandparents? You can’t read their life story on Facebook! We probably know more about Moses, who lived 3,500 years ago! So history and archaeology are limited by the amount of evidence available. Very little evidence remains from ancient history. This limits the scope of history. Only a small fraction of historical artefacts that once existed have survived to the present. This limits the scope of archaeology because conclusions can only be made from the evidence that is available. However, like fossils, artefacts are more likely to be preserved if they remain buried in the ground.

Archaeology is also limited by the small extent of excavations made to date. Only a fraction of ancient sites have been surveyed, excavated, and the results published.

In archaeological investigations, the absence of evidence doesn’t prove anything. The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Archaeology needs to draw conclusions from what it finds, not what it doesn’t find. For example, in 1961 Khrushchev spread atheist propaganda that the Soviet cosmonaut “Gagarin flew into space and didn’t see God”. Does that prove God doesn’t exist? No, because God is invisible! And if someone excavates the ground near a house in my suburb in 50-years’ time and sees no evidence of any previous houses, it doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. And the same applies to archaeological statements like, “the Israelites were never in Egypt”. I’m not surprised if there is no evidence of this after 3,500 years.

A lot of archaeological evidence doesn’t overlap with the Bible because it’s from a different place or a different time period. Only a fraction of what is discovered and published relates to the Bible. So we should be careful in trying to correlate biblical accounts and archaeological data.

Archaeology can’t prove the Bible. And it can’t disprove the Bible. And archaeology is unable to address the Bible’s theological claims. But archaeology can confirm and support some of the biblical record. For example, it confirms the predicted demise of ancient Babylon, Nineveh and Tyre (Jer. 51:37; Ezek. 26:4, 12; Zeph. 2:13-15). It also helps us understand aspects of the ancient world. As shown in the previous section, many archaeological discoveries are consistent with biblical history. However, those with a different world view have challenged some of these interpretations. This shows that archaeological discoveries can be open to more than one interpretation.

The Bible stands alone and needs no affirmative evidence to verify its truth. The Bible was written by eyewitnesses, and eyewitnesses trump archaeology in confirming ancient events. History trumps science when dealing with the past. The Bible is reliable and trustworthy (2 Pt. 1:19). But do we “pay attention to it”? Because the Bible is more reliable than archaeology, it’s best to use the Bible to understand archaeology rather than vice versa.

Archaeology can supply some information about the past, but it is limited and requires interpretation. The Bible also supplies some information about the past, but it provides its own interpretation. The Bible provides sufficient information for us to know what was important about the past, but it doesn’t answer all our questions.

Finally, we are looking at this topic because history and faith are connected. For example, we can’t separate the historical nature of Christ’s death and resurrection from the spiritual forgiveness of sin. Jesus told Nicodemus, “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” (Jn. 3:12).

Our attitude towards the Bible

Source of faith 400pxGoing back to the diagram about the source of Christian faith. When we hear the good news in the Bible about Jesus and the Holy Spirit convicts us of our need to accept it, we can come to trust in what Jesus has done for us.

The Bible teaches that we are separated from God because we have rebelled against Him. And so we deserve to be punished. But God has acted to address this serious situation. He sent Jesus to take our punishment. Jesus’ followers, the apostles, taught people how to get right with God and this is written down in the Bible (1 Cor. 2:10-13). God also sent the Holy Spirit to help us get right with God. He does this in two ways:
– Convicting us of our sinful situation (Jn. 10:8-9), and
– Helping us understand the true meaning of the historical events recorded in the Bible (1 Cor. 2:14-16). For example, Paul preached about the meaning of Genesis history (Acts 17:24-26), Israel’s history and Jesus’ history (Acts 13:16-41).

These are the first steps towards becoming a follower of Jesus. And they are both based on the Bible. If we don’t make this step, it’s like not getting to first base in baseball. If we think the Bible is unreliable, then we stay in our sinful situation. If we don’t trust the Bible, we remain separated from God and face His punishment. So our attitude towards the Bible can be a barrier to belief. We have seen that archaeology can provide some support for the reliability of the Bible. Are we willing to read the Bible with an open mind? And are we willing to reject the views of those who reject the Bible? Are we willing to get right with God?

If we are already following Jesus, is the Bible really our authority? Or do we trust in what we read and hear from the internet, movies, videos and TV? Do we critique these with a biblical worldview? We can use “If …, then …” statements like:
– If the Bible is true, then that is true and good, or
– If the Bible is true, then that is false and rubbish.
Otherwise, it’s like swallowing polluted water without filtering it. We need to keep our biblical glasses and filters on our eyes, ears and minds. And don’t just accept what is preached by the ungodly world.


The answer to the question, “Does archaeology support the Bible?” is yes and no! We have seen that archaeology can support the Bible. But because archaeology relies so much on the worldview of the archaeologist, it can also contradict the Bible. This is because archaeological discoveries can be open to more than one interpretation. And archaeology is limited because its discoveries only relate to very few parts of history. For these reasons, the Bible is more reliable than archaeology. So, let’s test archaeological claims before accepting them, while trusting the Bible and its history because it can lead to salvation.

Appendix A: Radiocarbon dating

Radiocarbon dating uses the fact that an isotope of carbon (14C) is radioactive and decays at a known rate (it has a half-life of 5,730 years, which means that it is undetectable after about 50,000 years). In the carbon cycle, carbon atoms move between the atmosphere, plants and animals and the rest of the environment. If we assume that the 14C/12C ratio is the same across the environment and across the last 50,000 years, then when a plant or animal dies, it will contain carbon with this ratio of isotopes. If it is assumed that 14C decays at a fixed rate after a plant or animal dies, then an elapsed time can be calculated from the difference between the 14C/12C ratio in the sample compared to that in the atmosphere. This also assumes that 14C isn’t added to or removed selectively from the dead plant or animal. The elapsed time gives the “raw” age of the sample. It is claimed that the assumption that 14C/12C in the environment is fixed across all time periods (in the past 50,000 years) is removed by calibration with the international radiocarbon calibration curve (which is used to convert the raw age to a calendar age). This curve is based on the raw ages and calendar ages obtained from trees and corals. The trees are dated by counting the rings and assuming that each ring represent a calendar year (an annual cycle of seasons). The corals are dated by other radioactive dating methods (such as thorium/uranium). So the dates on this curve are inferred and not verified against historical records.

For the following reasons, this radiocarbon dating method is an example of historical science that is based on a secular (unbiblical) worldview (viewpoint):
– Radiocarbon dating is only done for samples which are believed to be younger than 50,000 years (on the secular timescale). If a sample (believed to be older than 50,000 years) is tested and gives an age less than 50,000 years, the result is said to have been influenced by contamination (by more recent carbon).
– If a sample (believed to be less than 50,000 years) is tested and gives an unexpected age, the result is said to have been influenced by contamination (by foreign carbon).
– The tree ring record has been extrapolated well past verified historical records (see below).
– Because the assumed dates of tree rings are determined from their 14C/12C ratio, and these assumed dates are used to determine the international radiocarbon calibration curve, the method of radiocarbon dating uses circular reasoning. It uses radiocarbon dating to calibrate radiocarbon dating!
– Because the assumed dates of corals are determined by radioactive dating, and these assumed dates are used to determine the international radiocarbon calibration curve, the method of radiocarbon dating uses circular reasoning. It uses radioactive dating to calibrate radiocarbon dating!

Historically verifiable dates

As history trumps science when dealing with the past, radiocarbon dates should be verified against historical records. The Bible has historical records back to the creation of the earth. The oldest of these that have been verified independently by archaeology are dated in the 9th century BC:
– Omri king of Israel (880BC) is mentioned on the Moabite Stone (Mesha Monument), which is dated about 850BC.
– Jehu king of Israel is mentioned on the Obelisk of Shalmaneser, which is dated 840BC.
This means that the radiocarbon dating method hasn’t been verified against historical data past 3,000 years ago. Yet the international radiocarbon calibration curve extends to 50,000 years ago! This is an extrapolation of more than an order of magnitude!

Also, the global flood (~ 2,400BC), which buried plant and animal life, would have upset the earth’s environment. What impact did this have on the carbon cycle and the rate of 14C decay? This is unknown, but is likely to have been significant. It throws significant doubt on the international radiocarbon calibration curve which assumes uniformity in the carbon cycle across the last 50,000 years.

So, although the concentrations of carbon isotopes can be measured with great precision, the radiocarbon dating method has many assumptions which result in significant uncertainties. I believe that the uncertainty in the determination of dates 3,500 years ago by the radiocarbon method would be greater than 5%, which is the difference between the historical and carbon dating predictions of the fall of Jericho (see Appendix B). Therefore, there is no significant difference between these historical and radiocarbon dates.

Appendix B: Archaeological assessment of Tel Es-Sultan

There are two views on the date of the major destruction of ancient city of Jericho in the second millennium BC:
– Kathleen Kenyon claims it was about 1550BC.
– Bryant Wood claims it was about 1400BC.

There is evidence that there were two walls around Jericho:
– An outer stone revetment (retaining) wall (about 4.6 m or 15 feet high) upon which there was a mudbrick parapet wall (vertical extension), and
– An inner mudbrick wall which served as Jericho’s city wall proper.
There was a sloping earth embankment (rampart) between the inner and outer walls. A photo and drawing of an excavation on the northern end of the tell shows the revetment wall, the mudbrick parapet wall (a height of 2.4 m or 8 feet had been preserved) and the remains of mudbrick houses on top of the rampart between the inner and outer walls (Watzinger, 1911).

Kenyon based her opinion almost exclusively on the absence of pottery imported from Cyprus and common to the Late Bronze I period (1550-1400 BC). This is a major deficiency in her methodology. As noted above, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. And she paid little attention to the pottery that was excavated, although the primary method of dating should be a thorough analysis of the local (not imported) pottery. The presence or absence of imported pottery can be used as a supporting argument, but it should not be the sole basis for determining a date.

Wood also claims that “Kenyon dug in a poor quarter of the city where they found only humble domestic dwellings. She based her dating on the fact that she failed to find expensive, imported pottery in a small excavation area in an impoverished part of a city located far from major trade routes!”

Wood based his opinion on four lines of evidence: the ceramic data; stratigraphical considerations; scarab evidence, and a radiocarbon date. However, because of the uncertainty associated with radioactive dating, this method is unable to discriminate between the different dates proposed by Kenyon and Wood (see Appendix A). Wood’s major finding were:
– The pottery excavated by Kenyon are from the Late Bronze I period and not the Middle Bronze Age.
– Kenyon’s dating requires the city to go through 20 different architectural phases (with evidence that some of these phases lasted for long periods of time) in approximately 100 years of time!
– The cemetery outside Jericho yielded a continuous series of Egyptian scarabs from the 18th through the early-14th centuries BC (Garstang, 1936) contradicting Kenyon’s claim that the city was abandoned after 1550 BC. Scarabs are small Egyptian amulets shaped like a beetle with an inscription.

Bienkowski wrote an article disputing Wood’s conclusions. But a review of the evidence relevant to the date of the destruction of Jericho by Wood revealed that Bienkowski’s objections do not stand up to critical assessment.

It has been pointed out that scarabs tend to be handed down as heirlooms. But this means that scarabs only set an upper limit for the date and the actual date may be lower than indicated than the scarab. This doesn’t invalidate Wood’s dating, but it makes Kenyon’s dating less likely. However, Woods also states that “It is extremely difficult to correlate the tomb groups with the tell strata”.

For the above reasons, I think that Wood’s dating is more robust than Kenyon’s. The only other probable conclusion is that secular history and archaeology is unable to differentiate between the two dates because of the significant uncertainty in their determination of these dates.

Was this destruction of Jericho at the hands of the Israelites? The correlation between the archaeological evidence and the Biblical narrative is substantial:
– The city was strongly fortified (Josh. 2:5,7,15; 6:5,20).
– The attack occurred just after harvest time in the spring (Josh. 2:6; 3:15; 5:10).
– The inhabitants had no opportunity to flee with their foodstuffs (Josh. 6:1).
– The siege was short (Josh. 6:15).
– The mudbrick walls collapsed, possibly due to an earthquake (Josh. 6:20).
– The city was not plundered as the grain harvested was ignored by the conquering army (Josh. 6:17-18).
– The city was burned (Joshua 6:24).


Anderson C and Edwards B (2014) “Evidence for the Bible”, Day One Publications.

Down D (2010) “The archaeology book”, Master Books.

Lisle J (2013) “The ultimate proof of creation – Presuppositional apologetics”, YouTube.

Wood B (2008) Did the Israelites conquer Jericho? A new look at the archaeological evidence. http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2008/05/Did-the-Israelites-Conquer-Jericho-A-New-Look-at-the-Archaeological-Evidence.aspx#Article

Wood B (2012) “Dating Jericho’s destruction: Bienkowshi is wrong on all counts” http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2012/03/28/Dating-Jerichos-Destruction-Bienkowski-is-Wrong-on-All-Counts.aspx

Written, June 2017

Also see: Archaeology confirms Biblical characters