Illustrating biblical history
Archaeological discoveries offer insights and interesting illustrations of some key events in biblical history. Here are just a few.
1. Tomb of Rekh-mi-re (15th century B.C.) A wall painting in an Egyptian tomb in the Valley of the Nobles at Thebes shows foreign slaves making mud bricks, recalling the enslaved Israelites’ forced brickmaking (Exodus 1:14:5:7).
2. Israel Stele (13th century B.C.) The name Israel is inscribed in hieroglyphs on a stone slab found in 1896 at Thebes. It is the only mention of Israel in all Egyptian records discovered so far, and the oldest evidence outside the Bible for Israel’s existence. Israel is listed as one of the peoples in western Asia during the reign of Ramses II’s son, Merneptah (c.1213-1203 B.C.), offering evidence that the Israelites were already settled in Canaan (the Promised Land) by that time.
3. House of David Inscription (ninth century B.C.) A stone tablet discovered in 1993 provides the first mention outside the Bible of the House of David. See main article for details.
4. Moabite Stone (ninth century B.C.) An inscribed basalt monument erected by Mesha, king of Moab, tells of the revolt of the Moabites after the death of King Ahab of Israel. It gives Mesha’s side of the story recorded in 2 Kings 3.
5.The Black Obelisk (ninth century B.C.) A monument found in the imperial palace at Nimrud depicts Assyria’s King Shalmaneser III receiving tribute from kings and vassals, including Israel’s King Jehu.
6. The Siloam Inscription (eighth century B.C.) An inscription carved in the rock wall of Hezekiah’s tunnel by a Jewish workman describes the construction of the underground conduit. The tunnel brought vital stores of water from Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam within Jerusalem’s city walls during the Assyrian siege of 701 B.C. (2 Kings 20:20); 2 Chronicles 32:30).
7. Sennacherib’s Prism (seventh century B.C.) A six-sided prism discovered in Nineveh and inscribes with Sennacherib’s own account of his siege of Jerusalem in 701 B.C., which made Hezekiah a prisoner in his own royal city (2 Kings 19). It is often called the "Taylor Prism" after its first owner.
8. Nebuchadnezzar Chronicle (sixth century B.C.) A Babylonian account of the siege of Jerusalem in 597 B.C., the appointment of Zedekiah as puppet ruler of Judah, and the Jews’ exile to Babylon (2 Kings 24).
9. Lachish Letters (sixth century B.C.) Twenty-one military communiques, written on pottery fragments (as documents often were) during Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Lachish (Jeremiah 34:6-7). They provide strong corroborative evidence for the historicity of the captivity and exile.
10. Nabonidus Cylinder (sixth century B.C.) A clay cylinder names Belshazzar (Daniel 5:29-30) as son of Babylonian King Nabonidus. See main text for details.
11. Cyrus Cylinder (sixth century B.C.) A 9-inch-long clay cylinder, discovered at Babylon in 1879, records the city’s conquest in 539 B.C. by Persia’s King Cyrus the Great (Daniel 5:30; 6:28). Cyrus took the city by surprise, without a battle. Cyrus also describes his new religious policy of toleration, which allowed captive Jews to return home (Ezra 1:1-3).
12. Dead Sea Scrolls (third century B.C. to first century A.D.) Several hundred ancient manuscripts found in Judean wilderness caves near the Dead Sea beginning in 1947. The oldest extant manuscripts of the Old Testament, they include portions of every book of the Hebrew Bible except Esther. The Dead Sea Scrolls point to the high degree of accuracy in the transmission of the Old Testament text and provide important information on Jewish history during the time between the Old and New Testaments.
13. Pilate Inscription (first century A. D.) A battered limestone slab found at Caesarea is the only known inscription from his lifetime naming Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea who ordered the crucifixion of Jesus. Part of Pilate’s name can be seen on the second line. The stone had been part of a building dedicated in honor of the Emperor Tiberius.
14. Skeletal remains of crucified man (first century A.D.) A crucifixion victim found in 1968 in a tomb at Giv’at ha-Mivtar, northeast of Jerusalem, provides the first authenticated physical evidence of a crucifixion in biblical times. The left heel bone was still fixed by a nail. An inscription names the victim as Yehohanan (John), a Jewish male about 25 years old who was executed around the mid-first century A.D.
15. Gallio Inscription (first century A.D.) An inscription from Delphi in Greece, dates to A.D. 52, names Lucius Junius Gallio as proconsul of Achaia. The apostle Paul was brought before Gallio by his Jewish accusers during his first visit to Corinth (Acts 18:12).
16. Rylands Papyrus (about A.D. 130) A fragment of John’s Gospel, discovered in Egypt, contains verses from chapter 18. It is the earliest surviving copy of a New Testament book and is now in the John Rylands Library in Manchester, England.