If the Bible is true, then we should expect archaeology to confirm it. This article reveals exciting discoveries of such confirmations—and why most scholars and news media outlets oppose them.
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As the Bible continues to be validated by new archaeological evidence, one would expect the public to take note with wonder.
Consider the 1983 discovery by Israeli scholar Adam Zertal, who unearthed a huge sacrificial altar on Mount Ebal, north of Jericho. Its construction perfectly matches the specifications described in Deuteronomy 27:4-8, which was later built by Joshua (Josh. 8:30-35).
Yet, as amazing as Dr. Zertal’s discovery was, it received a less than enthusiastic response from his academic colleagues. They claimed that he was probably politically motivated, linking his finding to the support of Jewish settlements in the region of Nablus (ancient Shechem), where Mount Ebal is located.
“It’s bad for business to find things from the Bible these days,” his peers observed. “It makes us look like unsophisticated messianic fanatics” (“Reclaiming Biblical Jerusalem,” aish.com).
Questioning the validity of the Bible has become fashionable for the academic elite. Weaned on evolutionary theory and molded by years of political correctness, most scholars equate any attempts to validate the Bible as promoting Zionism—a term that advocates of political correctness vigorously reject.
But despite the outcries of Bible skeptics, the restoration of a Jewish homeland in the region of ancient Israel was clearly foretold in Scripture, such as in Zephaniah 2:7 and Zechariah 12:2-8. And the One who orchestrated this prophesied migration, just prior to the Return of the Messiah, was God.
One major school of thought that rejects the existence of ancient Israel is called biblical minimalism (as spelled out in the 1996 book The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palestinian History, by Keith Whitelam). This movement actually denies the existence of ancient Israel, instead believing the biblical account to be imaginative fiction—an invention that covers up the “real” history of the Palestinians. (Our article “Palestine and the Palestinians” shows the true origin of the term “Palestine,” and gives a brief historical perspective of the peoples of this region.) Biblical minimalism holds that the monarchies of David and Solomon, and their rulership over a militarily and economically powerful Israelite nation, never existed. Rather, biblical minimalists portray these two kings as minor tribal chieftains of Jerusalem, which (they claim) was a small and insignificant village.
The 2001 book The Bible Unearthed, by Israel Finkelstein, chairman of archaeology at Tel Aviv University, attempted to discredit the biblical record while promoting radical revisions of ancient Israel. The book ranked high on the New York Times’ bestseller list, as Dr. Finkelstein became “the darling of a sympathetic media” (ibid).
As just one of many examples revealing the general leanings of the news media, it may explain why the public-at-large is rarely informed of the archaeological breakthroughs that corroborate the Bible’s authenticity.
In February 2005, an ongoing archeological project to find the palace of David began to produce an abundance of artifacts and structures, confirming biblical history. This project was spearheaded by Dr. Eilat Mazar, head archaeologist of the Shalem Center Institute of Archaeology, in Israel. She is also the granddaughter of a highly respected archaeologist, Dr. Benyamin Mazar, former President of Hebrew University. (See inset.)
There have been many attempts over the years to locate the palace of David within the ancient Jebusite stronghold that King David had conquered (II Sam. 5:6-10). This narrow fortified strip, which was later renamed the “City of David,” consisted of only nine acres, and is located just south of the former Temple of Solomon complex. Because evidence of the palace could not be found in there, some archaeologists began to doubt the biblical record.
Meanwhile, in Achziv, on Israel’s northern coast, Eilat Mazar was able to draw upon years of excavation experience. Her book The Complete Guide to the Temple Mount Excavations is based upon her experiences gained in the 1970s and 80s under the mentorship of archaeologists such as Yigal Shilo, as well as years of guidance from her grandfather. The book recounts the excavation of Dr. Shilo’s discovery of a huge wall—which he believed was a retaining wall for David’s palace, or possibly part of the Jebusite fortress David had conquered. This find served to heighten Dr. Mazar’s passion to locate the palace structure.
Based upon British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon’s discoveries of Phoenician stonework in the 1950s and 60s, a solid clue had surfaced as to the location of David’s palace: “Hiram king of Tyre [ancient Phoenicia] sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, and carpenters, and masons [hewers of stones] and they built David a house” (II Sam. 5:11). This direct link between Dr. Kenyon’s find and the account of David’s house as built by the Phoenicians led Benyamin Mazar to advise his granddaughter to begin her search at the location where the Phoenician stonework was discovered.
Another indicator of the location is found in II Samuel 5:17. It states that when David, upon being anointed king over Israel, heard that the Philistine army was coming after him, he “went down to the hold [stronghold].” This meant that David’s residence was located at a higher elevation than the stronghold called the City of David. Thus, the palace was higher up the hill, just north of the stronghold, but not as far north as what would later become the Temple complex. It became apparent that King David had built his palace outside the walls of the fortified, but cramped, former Jebusite city. His chosen location near the summit of the mountain was on bedrock, with no archaeological layers beneath.
The PLAIN TRUTH, predecessor of The Real Truth magazine, was once published under the leadership of the late Herbert W. Armstrong. As founder and chancellor of Ambassador College (formerly headquartered at Pasadena, Calif.), Mr. Armstrong had close ties with Dr. Benyamin Mazar, who directed the Temple Mount excavations.
The following are excerpts from The Autobiography of HERBERT W. ARMSTRONG, Volume 2:
“In September, 1968, our Dean of Faculties wanted Ambassador College to conduct an archaeological project at a location in Israel. I was personally not interested in such a project. But I consented to visiting Jerusalem to see whether permission could be granted from the government authorities.
“He found Dr. Mazar at the time in charge of the most important ‘dig’ so far undertaken, starting from the south wall of the Temple Mount. Three major United States universities had sought participation in this outstanding project. All had been rejected. But Professor Mazar offered a fifty-fifty joint participation to Ambassador College!…About mid-October (1968) I did fly to Jerusalem to look over this project. The ‘dig’ had been begun a few months before. I met Professor Mazar and inspected the project. [This was also the year and the project in which Eliat Mazar, at about age 11, first experienced excavations.]
“It was much more impressive than I had expected.
“I began to realize the scientific and educational value to Ambassador College. A luncheon was held in a private dining room in the Knesset—the government’s capitol building. Present at the luncheon were five high-ranking officials of both the university and the government.
“It was a most memorable luncheon. The favor we were given in their eyes—the warmth of their attitude toward us—was inspiring, astonishing, and most unusual. The Israeli Minister of Tourism and Development, Mr. Moshe Kol, proposed that we build an iron bridge that could never be broken between Ambassador College and Hebrew University...
“I did not make final decision, however, at that time. We agreed to meet again in Jerusalem on December 1, for final decision. Meanwhile, Dr. Mazar, with Dr. Aviram, Dean of the College of Humanities at the university, came to Pasadena, and visited also the Texas campus, to look us over. They liked what they saw. And on December 1, at the official residence of Israel’s President, Zalman Shazar, we made the joint participation official…So that is the manner in which this vitally important leap forward in the Work was started. We have been given very great favor in the eyes of both government and university chiefs in Jerusalem!”
In 1969, 50 Ambassador College students participated in their first summer excavation projects at the south and west wall of the Temple Mount. The project was highly successful, and the students greatly treasured the experience they gained from such a significant undertaking.
Among a number of their discoveries was a victory column dedicated to Rome’s Emperor Vespasian, which had been set up after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Over a seven-year span, hundreds of Ambassador College students were honored to participate in this excavation project. Also, during this time, Mr. Armstrong’s relationship with Dr. Benyamin Mazar and other educators and government officials of Israel grew into close, lifelong friendships.
Upon recognizing this discovery in the late winter of 2005, Eilat Mazar found it incredible that the structure was only one to two meters beneath the surface. Skeptics warned that her project was futile due to David’s palace being buried by the many remnants of past cultures. However, she commented, “I was shocked at how easy it was to uncover it, and how well preserved it was, as if it were just waiting 3,000 years for us to find it” (ibid.). She expressed that she, as a Jew and an Israeli, felt great joy when the details of what they found matched the Bible’s descriptions.
She said, “The construction that we found was a complicated and intricate engineering operation that must have required immense resources, and the dating matches.”
It even appears that Dr. Mazar had prepared herself for this discovery by excavating ancient Phoenician ruins on the northern Israeli coast. Her years of experience enabled her to identify the Phoenician construction of David’s palace, which is quite distinct from other ruins in Judea.
As expected, intellectual skeptics refused to acknowledge the significance of Dr. Mazar’s phenomenal find. Despite overwhelming archeological proof, many chose to continue embracing false notions of biblical minimalism—maintaining that there was no David, no Solomon, no prophets and no Temple.
Among Dr. Mazar’s find was a tiny clay disc within the palace ruins. Called a “bulla,” the disc is inscribed in ancient Hebrew script with the impressions of the sender’s name. It served as a “return address” used to seal papyrus scroll “mail.” This bulla bears the name of Jehuchal Ben Shelemiah, who is mentioned in Jeremiah 37:3 as one of two emissaries sent by King Zedekiah to implore the prophet Jeremiah to pray for Jerusalem, which was under siege by the Babylonians.
Later, in Jeremiah 38:1-4, Jehucal (or “Jucal”) was one of the emissaries who, upon hearing Jeremiah’s warning message of the Babylonians’ inevitable victory, declared that the prophet should be executed for demoralizing the people.
The fact that this bulla was discovered in David’s palace shows that this building continued to be used by the kings of Judah (or at least for governmental purposes) for about 450 years, until Jerusalem’s destruction.
Dr. Mazar stressed, “For me, finding the bulla was tremendous. Jehucal was no longer just some name in a biblical account…He was a real person. We now have his business card. The account is a real account. It is very rare to find such precise evidence for a narrative in the Bible” (ibid.).
Her late husband, also an archaeologist, had published material on bullas that helped her examine and decipher these intricate sources of valuable information.
In the last decade, more than 50 bullas have been discovered bearing dozens of Hebrew names. This provides even further confirmation of the biblical account. One such name is that of Gemariah Ben Shaphan, a scribe of King Jehoiakim, in whose chamber Baruch Ben Neriah read Jeremiah’s warning to Judah (Jer. 36:10). Another name inscribed on a bulla is that of Azariah Ben Hilkiah, a member of the family of high priests; he officiated before Jerusalem’s destruction (I Chron. 9:11).
Though Dr. Mazar was exhilarated by these discoveries, she did not bask in personal glory or fame. Her excitement solely focused on the fact that archeology validated God’s Word as historically accurate. (Her late grandfather published a five-volume work showing hundreds of connections between such finds and the Bible.)
As fast as artifacts are being unearthed, Dr. Mazar and other archaeologists are deeply concerned about the mass destruction and removal of valuable artifacts.
“According to agreements made between the Israeli government and the Waqf, to whom the Israelis handed control of the Temple mount in 1967, the Arabs are not permitted to carry out independent works on the Mount without permission from the Israel Antiquities Authority. Over the years, however, there have been indications of the Waqf breaking this status quo…The greatest breech was discovered in 1999, when the Waqf bulldozed and then paved over close to 6,000 square meters of the ancient Temple Mount surface. Temple Mount artifacts were ripped from the Mount and secretly dumped in several places throughout Jerusalem, mostly in the Kidron Valley east of the Old City and also in the city dump. Over 100 truckloads of Temple Mount rubble, soil and artifacts were clandestinely removed” (“Reclaiming Biblical Jerusalem”).
Dr. Mazar was critical of the “Israel Antiquities Authority, which by law is responsible for any archaeological activity on the Mount; The Authority didn’t pursue the matter, largely because the second intifada broke out and it had little stomach for enflaming Muslim sensitivities” (“Eilat Mazar: Uncovering King David’s Palace,” momentmag.com).
Such are the dilemmas of a turbulent world riddled with unpredictable outbreaks of conflict and chaos.
This same Bible—which Dr. Mazar and others continue to validate through their findings—makes some startling prophetic forecasts. It reveals that the Messiah (Jesus Christ) will soon return, and that Satan, the “god of this world” (II Cor. 4:4)—who “deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9)—will be dethroned.
At last, humanity will enjoy the benefits of worldwide peace, abundance and true fulfillment that will be brought by the rule of Christ and His resurrected saints. God’s Word also reveals that King David will once again reign over the 12 tribes of Israel (Jer. 30:9; Ezek 34:23-24; 37:24-25; Hos. 3:5).
You can catch a glimpse of that coming time of universal peace by reading our book Tomorrow’s Wonderful World – An Inside View!