Dramatic Archaeological Discoveries that Demonstrate the Reliability of the Old Testament
|By: Dr. Walter Kaiser, Jr.; ©1991|
|Does archeology “prove” the Bible is reliable? No, Dr. Kaiser says, that’s not its purpose. What archeology does do is give us a cultural context to help us understand the Bible. And our confidence in the Bible is certainly strengthened by the astonishing correlation between archaeological discoveries and the biblical record.|
Dramatic Archaeological Discoveries That Demonstrate the Reliability of the Old Testament
Digging Up Dirt
Dr. John Ankerberg: The information in this program was taped live at the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute’s apologetics conference in Orlando, Florida.
Our instructor for this session is Dr. Walter Kaiser. Dr. Kaiser is academic dean and professor of Semitic languages and Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. Dr. Kaiser received his Ph.D. from Brandeis University in Mediterranean Studies, and he is the author of numerous books, including The Old Testament in Contemporary Preaching; Toward an Exegetical Theology, Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching; A Biblical Approach to Suffering, which is a commentary on the Book of Lamentations; Toward Old Testament Ethics; The Uses of the Old Testament in the New; Hard Sayings of the Old Testament; Back Toward the Future: Hints for Interpreting Biblical Prophecy; and Exodus: A Commentary in Expositor’s Bible Commentary. In addition, he has written a number of other titles for both popular and scholarly audiences. What’s more, Dr. Kaiser has contributed articles to a number of periodicals, including Moody Monthly, the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, and Evangelical Quarterly. Dr. Kaiser is a widely respected conference speaker and an enthusiastic and skilled teacher. (Ed. note: This information valid as of 1991.)
Dr. Kaiser’s topic for this session is: “Dramatic Archaeological Discoveries That Demonstrate the Reliability of the Old Testament.” As you listen to this information, it will be my prayer that God will increase your faith and draw you closer to our Lord Jesus Christ.
Dr. Walter Kaiser: Thank you very much. It’s a delight to talk to you on archaeology. Some people think that archaeologists are people who just try to dig up dirt on other people. And in some ways, that is true. But there’s much more to archaeology than just sort of going and getting something under your fingernails. After a while, it gets under your skin because here comes evidence that has been buried in the ground for all this period of time but, nevertheless, I think introduces us to some of the wonderful discoveries and evidence that demonstrates the reliability of the Word of God.
What is archaeology attempting to do? I think we need, first of all, some real understanding about the purpose of archaeology. Is it basically to prove the Bible? Well, now, if you’re going to use that word in a very limited sense, actually we can only give an enormously high weight of evidence and probability that you are morally forced and obligated to go in the direction of the evidence. But prove? If I could prove it in that sense, I would think there would be no one who would be outside the Christian faith. Why, I could just sort of bring down the weight of the evidence and say, “Bend. Repent.” And, you know, just put the pressure on them. But as you know, it’s a little bit more complicated than that.
So, given a high degree of such a high weight of evidence so that it becomes so overwhelmingly disproportionate in favor of the thesis that the Bible is what it claims to be and comes from the God who has given it, I think, is clear.
I think archaeology, though, has another real purpose, and that is, I think, to illuminate the events of the Bible. It can help us to put it in the context, the culture, the times, and what we could not have appreciated because we’re remote, by many centuries, oftentimes; by a whole batch of cultures, by language spread, by geography spread. But archaeology can help bridge that.
So, how does archaeology help? First of all, it seems to me it helps to anchor the events that are mentioned in the biblical text in real history. The Bible is not anchored in sort of myth or legend. It is not as if we say, “Well, even if it didn’t happen, it’s so good that if it should have happened, it really would have been helpful to you in your faith.” No, the Bible deliberately says, and even our creedal statements, “Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried, and the third day He rose again.” I mean, boy, all of those are for people who come from Missouri. They want to see, and feel, and touch, and taste. It’s there. It’s there.
So, “He was here, Charlie,” is the great claim of the biblical text. And God did not sort of give His Word in meta-history, some sort of remote planet; but He gave it for our kind of people right down here where we are living, so, that, I think, anchoring it in real history. It illuminates the biblical text and, therefore, we are safe from subjectivism, from, “Well, this is what I think.” And “That’s what you think.” And someone else says, “Well, that’s what I think.” You know? And you come out of the whole thing saying, “Yeah, but what’s true? What’s real? What really happened?”
Now, archaeology, it seems to me, can focus right in. It’s like the scholars who were also not only attacking the Bible but were attacking Homer, and a businessman who had more dollars than he had scholarly training from Oxford or Cambridge—or as they say, “Oxbridge”—he just sort of took a shovel and with his little copy of The Iliad and he went over to Turkey and he started digging.
And he said, “What are those turkeys talking about?” He put his shovel down.
And they said, “There are no bronze greaves, therefore this part of The Iliad and The Odyssey is wrong.”
And he said, “You mean like these?”
And they said, “Yes.”
He said, “Guess where I found them. Where Homer said they were.”
Now, that’s disconcerting, especially if you’ve written a whole book about it. And then have a picture of what never existed coming from the time and the site that was there. It’s somewhat like that, I think, to have gotten on the wrong side of the Bible, and many have done that. I think the angels and our Lord must have fun waiting for some of the books to be written and then for Him to bring some of this stuff out. Sorry about that, but it does happen. And it serves them right. At any rate, so there is this kind of theme.
A third help, it seems to me, is to build confidence in the revelation of the God of truth who will always be consistent with what He said in His Word and with His works. Jesus said, “Believe me for my words’ sake or else, believe me for my works’ sake. Both are evidences that point in the same direction here.”
So, these are the helps, it seems to me, that have come from archaeology, probably the newest discipline in the whole of the arena of the sciences and that belongs to our century. We are the most favored of all people, particularly, I would say, since about 1930 that we have seen the rise of this discipline in all of its form, although Sir William Flinders Petrie, I think, was already at the beginning of the century initiating it before the so-called Baltimore school5 and William Foxwell Albright made it so popular in the 40s, 50s and then his students carrying on from that.
Well, each of these helps that come from archaeology is opposite to the big sell-out of our century. And I think there are several big sell-outs of the 20th century.
The first sell-out, it seems to me, is history. History, I think, many say, is really not something that we can know that really takes place, but that really faith belongs in the realm of “second story,” upstairs, where you can’t scratch it; you can’t taste it; can’t feel it. It’s somewhat like love, like some people describe love. Love is that feeling somewhere in the heart which you can’t scratch. And so some say that’s what faith is. Faith is without evidence. Well, if you believe something without evidence, that’s not a definition of faith, that’s a definition of folly.
“Did you buy a car?”
“What did you pay for it?”
“Oh, I paid $2,000.”
“You did? How does it run?”
“I have no idea.”
“Well, how are the tires?
“I don’t know.”
“You didn’t kick them?
“Well, do you have any idea…I mean, how are the tie rods? Anything? Did you see this car?”
“Oh, no, I bought it on faith.”
“Faith! You didn’t buy it on faith; you’re a fool!”
That’s what they say. Sorry about that, but I think that’s what your definition of a folly is. It’s taking something without any evidence. Any evidence. That doesn’t mean that faith has no part of risk to it; that is, the more evidence you have, the greater the grounds, the greater the bases for it. It’s like two sides of a stepladder. Evidence can go up so far, but faith will go way beyond the evidence. But at least it’s grounded and anchored to something. One man in one corner says, “Believe.” Another man in another corner says, “Believe.” A third one and a fourth one. On four corners of a street where it comes together at the intersection all four are saying, “Believe. Believe. Believe.” And they’re all different religions. So which one do you jump to?
You say, “Close your eyes and take a chance.”
Take a chance? For eternity? Not at all. Not at all. I’ve got to have some evidence. Got to have some evidence. So that’s where archaeology can come in, and I think the big sell-out that history is no longer part of the evidence and you don’t need to have that for faith or belief I think is incorrect.
The same thing, too, with regard to the plurality of truth. Ours is a day which says no more truth with a capital T. They say there are “truths” with a small t and an s, but there’s no longer a unity to truth. There’s no longer a universe. There’s no longer a university. They should call them multiversities or pluralversities but not universities. They’re no longer singing one song, they’re singing all kinds of songs. Why? Because we have lost the God of creation. We have lost the God of the Bible. We have lost the God of history. We have lost the God who is going to be the Sovereign who will come in the end day.
So, everything is as true as everything else is. Opposites are true. You’re true. I’m true. Everything is true. And so we have a world in which no one knows anymore. Everything goes. Everything goes. And what you say is just as good as what I say. But the question of validation, how do you know? How do you know?
“Can you validate that?”
“Oh, no. Can’t validate that. Got to take your chances.”
What a risky way to live on such an important question as my soul’s security for the future. And, again, the Bible comes back and says, “Listen, we had people who were there. Ask Thomas. He’s from Missouri. He said, ‘I won’t believe until I put my fingers in His hand, in His side.’ He said, ‘You give me…’” —now, you can fault him. You can say he wasn’t a man of belief, but Jesus didn’t sort of give him a lecture. “Where in the world were you? Come on, touch.” None of that stuff around here. You either believe or quit. He said, “Come here, Thomas. You want the evidence. Here, come on. Put your finger in.” And so I think He gives for all who doubt…honest doubt and caring is good. Doubting without caring is sloppy. It’s sloppy. It just doesn’t want to interact with the evidence anymore. So we ask for people who doubt and who still care, and archaeology can help us.
Well, all this talk about archaeology is going to help, how about doing some? Let’s get down to answering: What are some of these dramatic archaeological discoveries that have really demonstrated the reliability of the text? And here we could go on and on and on, and some of you probably will think that we are going to go on and on and on. But I’ll try to make it interesting and help you to smile. Have you ever noticed that you learn faster and better when you smile? I don’t know why that is. Your defenses seem to go down and it slips right in. So we’ll try to make you smile a little bit so that the learning takes place.
Let’s talk about how archaeology verifies history. Let’s go into a case of missing persons, missing places, misplacements of materials, misplaced text or missing text. Let’s go to a whole list of these.
I bring forward for you, first of all, Isaiah 20:1. Sargon. Sargon the Great. Here is the man who is supposed to have captured the northern kingdom of Israel. In 722 BC he captured Samaria, took it captive, and his name is Sargon. Now, we had a list of all the kings of Assyria. We had the Khorsabad King List and we had this long list of kings in the wedge shape cuneiform form writing on documents, clay tablets. It’s nicer on clay. The only thing you do is break them, but you can’t erase them. And they can’t rot. They’re baked in the stone, so it’s really nice. You can kick them around all you want, but you’re still going to read them.
And so here it is, baked in, but we’ve missed Sargon. The Bible said Sargon. And in the end of the 1800s it was possible for profs in classes to point their boney finger at some Little Miss Muffet who was an Evangelical Conservative believer and say, “Where is your Sargon?” You know? The poor kid shook and sung, “I believe. I believe.” You know? “But there’s no Sargon,” and just bear down heavily, you know? Put the real pressure on. They go home, “Mom, where’s Sargon? Pastor, where’s Sargon?” There was no Sargon.
And we had excavated Nineveh, too. We had the great palace of Nineveh. He wasn’t home. And Sargon was definitely a missing person. He should have been reported to the FBI.
Well, lo and behold, someone, working in the French/English Embassy went 11 miles across the Tigris River, a little bit north of Nineveh. Some of you have seen this; it’s been in the news there, Mosul, and went north of that to a site called Khorsabad. And, lo and behold, they came across a ruin, a ruin of almost 15 to 20 acres of material, with buildings, room after room after room.
And here were the two great bull lions weighing some 20 tons each at the entrance and over top of the entrance reads, “Sargon the Great, Conqueror of Samaria.” Honest. Everything except Scripture verse. It was there. It was there. Here was Sargon, missing person for a long time, suddenly turned up. Why? Because these archaeological digs are accidental. If you’re talking about all the work we’ve done in the 20th century—and it has been enormous—and the books with the excavation reports would probably circle this room and we still would not get them in. It’s been an enormous, prodigious amount of material. Almost every one of the major universities in the world have had their hands in it during this 20th century.
But I want to tell you, you take all of them together and of just Palestinian sites alone, there are less than one percent of all possible sites have been excavated. Less than one percent. So, there are some surprises, and I hope the people who are writing have a good sense of humor, because there’s much more to be found. I think the Lord is just waiting for them to say, “This didn’t exist,” and have someone come up like Schliemann did with his bronze greaves and say, “You mean this?” and put it out there, too, as well. We have a number of cases.
So, return, missing person. Now, I’ve got a moral to this story. There is another one at the present time who is missing. Darius the Mede. The book of Daniel talks about Darius the Mede. Where in the world is Darius? Now, we’ve got several theories. He could be Gubaru, Gubaru the general, who was also known by this title. He also could be Cyrus even, that is, taking the “and” there as epexegetical or oppositional, which is possible in Hebrew. So that translation by Donald J. Wiseman of the British Museum would be, “His name was Cyrus, even Darius the Mede.” That is, he took one name as being a Persian, for there were two joined together here. This was the Medo-Persian Empire. So he had one name as a Persian, the other name as a Medean, for he had both throne titles. So he carried both. That’s a possibility, too, but I can’t demonstrate that yet. I need an archaeological document that has come out.
We have excavated Persepolis in present day Iran, east of Iraq. We have also excavated Susa (Shushan). Those are the two of the capitals; we have not excavated the northern Medean capital, which is the one we need, Ecbatana. Ec Ba Tana. When we excavate that, wouldn’t it be nice if we found a tablet there that told us that Darius the Mede was a separate person or he was the same as Cyrus? But at the present time he’s missing.
I warn you, remember, not in this case, Pearl Harbor, not the Maine, not the Alamo, but Sargon. Remember Sargon. He is the one that I think ought to warn you about taking too risky a stand on Darius. But at the present time there are some who are making hay out of it and are destroying a lot in universities by saying, “Where’s your Darius? He doesn’t exist. At least from an independent, external, archaeological data at the present time.”
How about missing persons? Let’s go beyond a missing Sargon, let’s go to missing persons; let’s go to missing peoples. The Bible mentions the Hittites. You’ve got them mentioned and they’re interacting with the Hittites. You have Abraham buying a cave from the Hittites; Ephron the Hittite in the book of Genesis. Where in the world are we to find these people the Hittites? And again, until the 1900s—1901, 1908—there were no Hittites. None. None.
Now, we have found on the Halys River in Turkey, coming right through the middle, flowing right up to the Dead Sea, right where it bends in the river there, here we excavated Boghazkeui. Excavated it and found enough tablets. One of my friends at the University of Chicago is now cataloging and publishing a 15-volume dictionary on the Hittites. That’s just words, that’s not what they said, that’s just an alphabetical entry of the words of the people who “didn’t exist.” That’s pretty good evidence for existence. And again, here before Hugo Winckler of the German institution that came and excavated, there were no Hittites. They did not exist. But now they do exist. That is an advantage that our generation and our century has over previous centuries. That was not in existence.
Let’s go beyond that. Let’s go to sort of misplacements. We’ve got missing persons; we’ve got missing peoples; let’s go to misplacements. How about the kings of Israel. One of the men, William Irwin, who is now deceased, was a teacher at the University of Chicago and at the Divinity School. He used to tell his students as he wrote in the preface to the book I’m going to mention in just a minute, he said, “I told my students there are over 500 errors in the Bible in the kings of Israel and Judah alone.” He said, “You can’t reconcile the kings of Israel with the synchronisms between the north and the south.” He said, “It doesn’t fit. The whole thing is a mess.” And so he says, “If you want your inerrant Bible and all that, then solve the 500 problems that are there.”
Well, 1940s, end of the 1940s, a student, a young man by the name of Edwin Thiele came for doctoral studies at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. He worked diligently and decided to take the challenge up. The professor warned him that he was taking a large task, and indeed, he did. It took him five years to complete his doctoral dissertation alone, besides all the study he had done in advance of that. So it was, well, a decade of his life before he completed it. But in completion, he handed him a book which was called and published by the University of Chicago Press first and then subsequently by Eerdmans called The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings.
His teacher wrote the preface for it. He said, “Whereas, I had said that there were 500 errors, my student has convinced me on the basis of the study of the eponym list,” that is name list, “that come out of Assyria, and the Khorsabad King List, and also out of the Ptolemaic list and the synchronizing of that with astronomical observations, for example, particularly the full eclipse that occurred in June 15,” as I recall, in the 600s, 653, if I’m not mistaken, he said, “I am convinced that we’ve got a solid point of entry and he has explained adequately on extra-biblical, outside evidences the scientific reliability of all of the kings of Israel.”
So that he says, “Only one problem remains: Hezekiah.” Hezekiah. There’s one synchronism, he gave on 499—don’t hold me to that figure but it’s in that realm, but he said, “There’s one left.” And the one that’s left that Thiele said, that is a textual problem in which the word for “ten” in Hebrew with a plural should be read as “twenty.” By making it plural you added another ten to it. And he said, “It’s a textual problem very easily solved.” And there was some textual evidence that suggests that it might go in that direction.
Well, the truth of the matter is, and what I report to you, that volume published in early 1951, I believe it was, and now still being republished to this day in the late 90s, Thiele himself is also deceased by now, but I want you to know that indeed misplacements of these syncretisms that say the king up north was so many years old when the king down south began to reign and he reigned for so many years and all his years were and the king down south reigned for so many years and this was the year of his reign, he began to show the difference between the year, the calendar system up north, and the calendar system in the south and showed the reconciliation between them. It’s too difficult and too complicated for me to put in popular lecture here, but I want you to know of that resource if you would like to see it. Misplacements of detail. And the same thing, too, with missing Scripture.
It was said that Moses himself could not have written the Pentateuch. Why? Writing was not invented in the middle of the second millennium. But then we came up with all sorts of documents. Who was to know that we were to get hundreds of thousands, yea, just into the millions of tablets that are still untranslated? And the biggest archaeological finds are still to be found in the basements of most universities and university museums, and municipal museums that are just crated material from these archaeological digs waiting for someone to come down and to have, as the archaeologists say, an inscriptional thing, the different phrase from what we use, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” they say instead, “A tablet a day keeps the doctor away.” And so they try to have them read one of these tablets every day. And some, if you read for five, six years, yea, you may write a doctoral dissertation and they will “loose you and let you go.” John 11.
At any rate, so you have these wonderful things. And of course, now we have from Sumur alone, southern Iraq, ancient Babylon, some of the writing goes back to 3200, 3400 BC. We actually have tablets, not all of them can we read, but they go back to the very, very earliest—and that’s the earliest that I know of at the present time. So 1400, as compared to 3400 is sort of small potatoes. I think it’s two millennia off. And therefore Moses could have written and did write.
There are so many names preserved in the Bible: of the Egyptian pharaohs, of the Assyrian kings, of the Babylonian kings, of the Medo-Persian kings. As a matter of fact, there are at least 24 monarchs from antiquity with 120 consonants to their names which are preserved in spelling form exactly according to proper transcriptional evidence; and more than that, they are placed at the right point in history, too, as well. Again, a marvelous statement about the accuracy of the biblical text and about its ability to transmit it. If someone wrote it much later, you would think they would get the spelling wrong at least. Or they would put it at the wrong period of time. It’s hard to remember when you’re removed by, say, 50 or 100 (years), but some of these are claiming that it’s removed by a millennium later they’re written and trying to write this earlier material.
So, I think you have here a number of places like this. You have missing co-regions too as well. The Book of Daniel records that when Babylon fell, Daniel 5, there was a great feast that took place that night and in the niche behind the wall, which wall is now being restored, by the way, by our most recent man who claims himself to be Nebuchadnezzar II, he is restoring and trying to make a whole sort of, as it were, Babylonian Disneyland. Seriously. And in the niche behind the very wall where that banquet took place where he had a “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin,” or “weighed in the balances and found wanting,” that man is said to be, his name is said to be Belshazzar. But the last king of Babylon who was on the throne was Nabonidus.
Problem: How could the Bible say Belshazzar when the official list had Nabonidus? And what’s this Belshazzar, by the way not to be confused with Daniel’s other name, Belteshazzar, which was his other Babylonian name. Well, here we come with some tablets again. Yale, which is not a conservative place, particularly, published here, Dougherty, published an enormous set of documents out of Saudi Arabia, ancient Arabia, and what do we find but down at Tema here’s Nabonidus for ten years because he’s ill, he can’t govern and he has appointed—yes, you guessed it—Belshazzar to be co-regent. The Bible was on again. If someone had invented that or projected that from later time, they would have missed it. They would have gotten it balled up. Because it was lost just like it was lost to us. But again, the Bible stuck its neck out and it was on the money. It was on the money. It was right and it was correct.
How about even secretaries? I don’t think secretaries get their due. This may not be secretary week, but let’s bring one up. Jeremiah’s secretary, his amanuensis. His name is Baruch. Baruch wrote that chapter, mournful chapter, in Jeremiah 45, he said, “Everybody’s getting credit these days, but my work went up in smoke. I wrote the book, I stayed around and was copying this whole thing and then the king got out his famous pen knife, or his infamous pen knife and took that manuscript that I wrote so diligently and chucked it into the fire.” And he said, “My brother, he’s secretary of state and what am I? What am I? Secretary.” Well, that’s background to you. I’m just trying to get your sympathies.
But at any rate, Jeremiah’s secretary, though, does turn up. I think they have a little special surprise. We were digging around, and lo and behold, here come a number of seals that were attached to the string that were on deeds. Now if you remember in the book of Jeremiah, chapter 32, Jeremiah was told to buy real estate at a very bad time; that is, when there was someone outside. Here was Nebuchadnezzar outside the city going to take it and he’s buying real estate. If you’ve got any smarts you say, “This is a weak market. I think I’ll stay out and not buy now.” But the Lord said, “You’re coming back, and as a sign, buy this material, have your secretary help you, and go buy it.”
Guess what? We’ve found…now, the papyrus, of course, when it is put in that damp soil will rot. But the string is there. And then in order to show, they gave one to the owner and then deposited another one for safekeeping so that you could check against it and to make sure you couldn’t change it, they took clay, about a half inch by one inch long, put that over the top of the knot on the string so that you couldn’t open it, and then put a seal over top of it with the name of the person. So, whose seal did we find? Well, it says, “Baruchiah, son of Neriah, the scribe.” That’s all on there. Now, who is Baruch’s father? Neriah. What is his profession? Scribe. You said, “But didn’t you say that’s a little different name, Baruchiah.” Baruchiah is the lengthier form for Baruch. Baruch is the shortened form for that same name. Well established and well known. I think we’ve got the man. The same man. The secretary that worked under Jeremiah. And I’ve read a lot of scholarly opinion, too, that says he probably is a literary creation, a figment of the imagination. And, of course, what you can say now, you mean like this one? Like this fellow here, Baruchiah, son of Neriah, the scribe. Yeah. Would you read this for me? And would you also tell me the date from which it comes? It comes from the same period of time. Beautiful, beautiful illumination.
Well, we could go on with this. Even the Hebrew kings appear in non-Hebrew records. Shalmaneser the third, an Assyrian. He put up a reference in his work to Ahab. Ahab is Jezzie’s husband. Jezebel, really, to give the full name. But at any rate, that’s the one, and here he appears. And in a black obelisk, a tall, eight-foot-high kind of soft black stone with four sides on it, here’s a picture of a fellow with a little cap bowing down, leaning there, in a kind of garment. Not at all like you see in Sunday school plays, those things with the robe and the towel over the head. This is not this at all. But here it says underneath there, Jehu, king of Israel, getting tribute. He’s pictured even and it’s got his name down there. Exactly what the Bible talked about.
Or Tiglath-Pileser III, another one of the Assyrian kings, he received tribute from Jehoahaz and Menahem and also overthrew Pekah, references to kings in the Bible, which kings in the Bible said they had contact with them. And the same event is being talked about in an external form.
Even another one came and said, “I shut up Hezekiah like a bird in cage and took 46 cities.” Well, that event is also recorded in the Bible. And so on and on they go.
Jehoiachin or Jechoniah was taken off into Babylon. At the famous Ishtar Gate in Babylon which has now been recreated, by the way, to half its size on that big processional street. This Babylon covers 25 acres. The mighty Euphrates River used to go right through the center of town, 600 feet across. With a suspension bridge with chains going across the whole river with two piers on opposite shore, 30 foot lane to go across the center of the city so that you could get to both sides of the city, and with ferries in the north and ferries in the south. An enormously beautiful city. No wonder they talked about the Hanging Gardens which they’re trying to recreate again as being one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
What was there in the Ishtar gate? Guess what we found? We found a tablet naming Jehoiachin king of Judah with his five sons and their daily rations. That’s exactly what 2 Kings 24:12-15 talked about. And again, almost a carbon copy but buried in the very famous Ishtar Gate.
And the same thing, too, about the Lachish letters. We were there digging at the site in south Judah and here is Lachish and their letters. Letters about “we can’t see the fire anymore from Azekah. That must have been taken now, too. Things are bad. And there’s a prophet here who weakens the hands of the men of war.” Weakens the hands of the men of war? Oops. Wait a minute. Jeremiah 38:4. “Jeremiah, you weaken the hands of the men of war.” Same phrase. Same phrase. Is that prophet, though he doesn’t name him, he gives the same phrase about that one. Well, are you convinced yet or shall I keep on boring you to death?
It flows, folks, it really does. And I didn’t invent this stuff. This is straight dirt, and I want you to know that it came right out of the ground. So this is the ground of all being here and this particular subject.
Let’s talk about illumination, go on to see a little bit more here, about illumination. Even the background of what takes place in the Bible. To remove the sandal and spit in someone’s face is a legal transaction. You say, “Gross. What court is that in?” Well, the book of Ruth.
Here’s Ruth in a wonderful story you remember how she, kind of working with her mother-in-law Naomi, sort of devised a little plot to get Boaz. Very modern story. And in that sense she got her man. But one of the things that took place was, when she told Boaz what was happening, Boaz said, “Yes, I know who you are.” And he said, “Listen, I will redeem you and I will perform the rite of Levirate marriage. I’ll marry you,” he said. “But I must tell you there is another relative that’s closer than I. You don’t know about it, but there’s someone else who is closer than I am. And let me see if he wants to have the right to marry you and also incidentally get the property, too. This girl came with a prize.
So they went up to the city gate. Now the city gate was the official court. This is Town Hall. People pass by. There are elders sitting on this gate. There are ten elders generally. And they are working hard. You must understand that. You’ll see that in Proverbs 31 when it talks about the virtuous woman. She’s up at the crack of dawn, out buying real estate, investing, back home working on cottage industry, making things she can sell and then at night her lamp doesn’t go out. She’s still busy working. But her husband, he’s bushed. He’s already in bed. What’s he done? He is one of the elders. He’s been thinking all day at the city gate sitting there. So you can see the difference here between the two. This man works and she, of course, has a much lighter task. I’m teasing here. Some of you don’t understand it. Some of you are looking at me meanly. But at any rate, at any rate, this is that man who sat in the gate.
Well, he went up to the gate and then they said, “Remove your sandals.” And Deuteronomy 25:9-10 talked about that. But, so do the Nuzi documents from a site over in Babylon which records a culture about the same period of time, gives the same estimate. And in Ruth 4:7-8 there is this trading of obligations. Says, “No. I don’t want to marry this girl nor do I want to redeem the property.” Alright, “Would you please demonstrate that before the elders here? Take off your sandal.” And then they had this thing and because you won’t fulfill your societal obligation there is a ceremonial spitting in the face and then the elders must sign and say yes, we are witnesses. And this now belongs to Boaz.
Or another passage, 1 Samuel 12:2-5. Testify against me, there says Samuel. I’ll restore to anyone anything I’ve taken. A bribe or a shoe. Shoe? Why include a shoe? Unless it has something to do with this. So, a person who doesn’t redeem the property and do the rites here, we would say, I suppose, today, they’re a heel. And that’s why then they have to take off this shoe. And that follows there, too, as well. Sorry about the puns that that’s also part of the Old Testament, too, as well. And you must enjoy the pun-ish-ment. Well, there are others here, too, as well.
How about the patriarchs? The patriarchs. Suppose you are not able to have children. So important in that world. What do you do? You get a proxy and you take the gal who is a handmaiden, a concubine. Well now you say, “Is the Bible in favor of concubines?” No, the Bible reports this. There are many things the Bible reports that it doesn’t teach. The Bible says there is no God but it doesn’t teach that. It says the dummy says that. Well, literally the fool. And they don’t blurt it out; they at least say it in their heart. “The fool has said in his heart there is no God” (Psa. 14:1).
So, here you have a report, too, that Sarah, when she was unable to get pregnant, she said, “Take Hagar.” Chapter 16. And so Abraham did what his wife said. He was in submission. And so he took Hagar and then Sarah got jealous and she sent Hagar away. That was also a no-no. That went against Emily Post as well because once a concubine or a slave woman had a child for the master, you couldn’t put them out. Sarah put them out. So it was wrong on all social conventions there.
How about the same thing with Rachel and Leah. They couldn’t get pregnant either with Jacob and so Rachel says, “Take Bilhah” and Leah said “Take Zilpah.” And so we’ve got a little contest going here. You’ve got proxies into the fray.
Does the Bible teach this? No, but is this true to the culture? Oh yes. That’s Emily Post of that day. We have read numerous tablets again that that’s exactly what they do.
Or, what about adopting an heir? Abraham is now 100 years old and he says, “Lord, I guess you gave me a promise 25 years ago when I left Ur of the Chaldees,” but he said, “I don’t see any child. I’m 100 and Sarah’s 90, and as you know, Lord, I don’t have to teach you biology but there are problems. There are problems.” I’m giving you a free translation. This is out of the Living Kaiser. So at any rate, he then says, “I’ll tell you what. My verse for today is: God helps them that help themselves.” (Hesitations 1:2). And so he introduces here, he said, “I’ll tell ya what! I’ll introduce Eliezer. He’s one of my servants. Great guy. I’ll adopt him. It’s a legal fiction and therefore he can be called my son. And your program can go on through eternity.” And God said, “No. No. That’s not so.” He said, “You’re going to have a son.” And He told Sarah, too. Sarah, when she heard that, she said, “That’s a yuck.” She said, “Me, have a son?” I’m giving you again a loose translation there because I want to make a pun. The Lord said, “Honey, the last laugh’s on you. Call him Is-yuck.” Isaac. And so that was the name of the child, the child Isaac means laughter. See, that’s about as close as I can get it for you in English. So she called him Isaac and brought him here to be the child and God raised them up.
But they’re adopting all the time. Laban adopted a son-in-law, you remember? Jacob…and this goes on and on. How about teraphim? Rachel steals teraphim. What are teraphim? Little household idols. She’s got them in her saddlebag. She won’t get off for her father to examine the camel’s saddlebag. Why? She’s got the teraphim. What difference does it make? Household gods. It’s idolatry. Yeah but they were the will, too. The one who carried the teraphim carried the will. She stole the will. That’s what was happening here. You say, “How do you know?” Nuzi Tablets, and again we’ve seen it from that particular culture. Well, on and on it goes, and I think that you can begin to see numerous texts of this sort.
How about archaeology not only as illuminating the Bible but building confidence, too. There is a reference in the Bible that during Solomon’s day they brought gold from Ophir. Everyone says, “Ophir? There is no Ophir. Ophir is a figment of someone’s imagination.” All right. They were digging at a coastal site in Israel called Tell Qasile. Tell Qasile 1956 had a little piece of pottery called an ostracon, and there they dug this thing up and it said, “30 shekels of gold from Ophir.” Same spelling. Same spelling on the text here. And it was 30 shekels of gold from Ophir to Beth Horon, a city there. So you’re talking about real cities and apparently Ophir is a place. Now we’re still guessing. We think we might know where this is but we’ve not located it definitely.
But the point of the matter is, here in this same archaeological context as the Solomonic period here comes a reference to gold from Ophir. Gold from Ophir. Builds confidence, it really does. When they doubted at Megiddo they were talking about Solomon’s stables and Petrie and some of those old-timers were a lot of good archaeologists with a lot of common sense even though they didn’t have a lot of scientific smarts yet. All of dendrochronology and these sort of methods of carbon-14 and that kind of thing. They asked him, when he was on a mount, if this the place where Solomon had his stables. They said, “Where on this site would you think that the stables were?” Do you know what he did? He licked his finger like that and put it up and he said, “That way.” That way. That’s a smart archaeologist. If you’ve not come from a farm you need to think about this for a while. But if you have and you know which way the wind is blowing, you can figure out why they were that way after he licked his finger to find out which way the wind was blowing. So it was. And they came across the whole site with the Solomonic stables there.
Same thing, too, even in the New Testament. And though I’m focusing on the Old Testament, let me tell you something about texts, too. And here I think I can bring you up to date. One of the great problems that we had over the years was the Gospel of John. Everyone said too theological, too developed, too formulated. Sounds like Christian theology. This doesn’t belong to the first century. This is really second, third century. I know of a man, one of the great presidents and Christian leaders in the middle of this century wanted to do a doctoral dissertation at an unnamed university for the present moment and he wanted to write on this problem. They said, “You can’t even come to be enrolled because that’s not even an option. That’s not even worth writing on. We have concluded what that is and there is no first century John’s Gospel. Saint John was written in second or third century.”
Well, we have a little fragment about an inch and a half by two and a half inches called the John Ryland’s Papyrus and on the John Ryland’s Papyrus here’s a piece out of John’s Gospel, Chapter 18. Where did we find it, though? Way south up the Nile River past the Aswan Dam and dated by the papyrologists to 100 to 125 AD. This so impressed William Foxwell Albright of Johns Hopkins University that he then said, “John must be the earliest of the Gospels.” So he dated, whereas I would say John is about 90, 95 AD, he dated 45 AD. He was impressed. He didn’t need to be that impressed but the truth of the matter is, he said if it’s in circulation that far up the Nile for that period of time, he said it must have been written for a long period of time to get a piece of it that far down. And we know that it belongs to the corpus because it’s late in the text and it’s imbedded; it comes from a verse deep in the book of John’s Gospel.
Well, I must caution you, though, is archaeology a cure-all? No, because, as a matter of fact, faith is still resident. I mean, I, again, can’t tell you that I can prove so that you’ve got every person that is rational, every person that is normal IQ and once I give you the facts I’ll tell you they’ll so bend you, everyone’s going to become a Christian. But on the other hand, it seems to me that what happens here is that it can build up such a high weight of evidence on the side of the reliability, the trustworthiness, it can so illuminate the text, it so demonstrates that it belongs to that culture and that time, that it seems to me [that] to go in the opposite direction, you’ve got to run in the teeth of all the evidence that is here. And therefore, the facts, it seems to me, are enormously important.
So, does archaeology help? Yes. It gives setting for God’s Word. It gives the truthfulness of God’s Word. It illuminates that Word. It builds confidence in that Word. And time after time, where we have been tempted to distrust that Word, it will come back with reliability.
Well, there I lay a case before you, but let’s take—we’ve got a few minutes left, about five or so—let’s talk about some things that you wanted to ask. Are there some questions you would like to–and you’ll have to be spontaneous now.
Audience: Where do you think Ophir was?
Kaiser: Ophir, I think, is probably to be located on the spice route and therefore it would seem to me that you would either find it in Nubia, that is, Ethiopia or southern Egypt of that day, which was called Gold Land or in the south part of the mines that were located in Sinai but I think that we’ve found turquoise in there. I don’t think we’ve found gold. Or it could go over to India, some have suggested too. So those are two or three possibilities. Okay, another question. Yes, thanks.
Kaiser: Yes, thank you. The question about Ebla. Ebla is one of the most sensational finds of the most recent period—and I haven’t even said a word about that—in Syria which I think has demonstrated sites, cities and places, Abraham, some of the five cities of the plain for example, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Admah, and Zeboiim and Zobah, Genesis 18 and 19, the five cities of the plain. I’m almost certain that they’re there. Problem though. There is a problem with Ebla because you can’t have the demonstration of a people and a culture that does not exist. You understand, you’re talking here about Syria and Israel and you can’t acknowledge the existence politically of something that doesn’t exist. So to come back and to say these are real places and a real people with a real history for which you won’t give a passport or you won’t accept someone whose got it stamped with a passport because they’re coming from somewhere like the moon is a difficulty. So that has meant that there’s been a quiescence, a quieting down of that evidence. But Ebla is going to be exceedingly important in the years ahead. It’s mainly an Italian team that has excavated that site and so we’ll have to wait a little bit more for the future. I expect some dramatic things to be coming from Ebla. Already there have been a number of books published on Ebla. But it’s in Syria, north of Israel. One final question.
Audience: What about Noah’s ark?
Kaiser: Yeah, thank you. The question is, what about the site of Noah’s ark, which the Turkish government is recognizing by building, you say, a four-lane highway up to the site on Mount Ararat? I didn’t know that latter part of the evidence. But I know that traditionally, of course, the biblical evidence is that it is on Mount Ararat. The question is whether it has been preserved to this day and therefore in a glacier or an ice pack there. The evidence has gone back and forth, and I think the jury is still out on the real verdict so that we’ve got a solid confirmation. Thus far I think we’ve had bits and pieces and evidences and we must wait to the final day.
Well, many thanks to you for listening to this part of the lecture and I trust that your confidence in the biblical text has been strengthened because of this great science and the evidence that has come from archaeology. Case after case, missing persons, missing people, misplaced states, missing texts, missing co-regents, missing kind of archaeologists or even secretaries have been discovered over and over again because here we have come with the real evidence from that text.
Now I want you to note, too, that while archaeology hasn’t proven so that there are no more questions remaining, there are questions; yet we have had sensational discoveries in this century along with the Ebla text. I haven’t said anything about the Dead Sea Scroll texts which were amazing in their demonstration; the finding of Ugaritic materials which was the Canaanite, the lip of the marketplace in which the Bible, the Old Testament, was written and also of all of the archaeological background to the religious settings was found in that one site.
May God give us His special grace to keep pressing on. I trust that the Evangelical community will be just as active as the non-Evangelical community has been in helping us with many of these evidences. Remember, it hasn’t been Evangelicals all the time, it’s been in the main those who were not believing and trusting of an inerrant Bible that have given us most of this evidence. We’re deeply grateful and I’m grateful to you as well. Thank you.