Last week some ancient discoveries were announced. Standing alone, these discoveries would be of interest only to specialists in ancient archaeology. But because these discoveries converge with the Bible, they carry broader implications. Reported from the Times of Israel, the first discovery is summed up nicely in their title:
The article reports on the discovery, under debris of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, of a Hebrew inscribed ‘beka’ stone which was used to measure the Temple Tax – for the First Temple (960 – 586 BCE) . This was exactly as prescribed ‘straight from the Bible’ in the book of Exodus way back in the time of Moses.
The silver obtained from those of the community who were counted in the census was 100 talents and 1,775 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel— one beka per person, that is, half a shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel,from everyone who had crossed over to those counted, twenty years old or more,a total of 603,550 men. (Exodus 38:25-26)
This discovered beka stone had mirror image (reverse) Hebrew lettering. It is very rare that lettering this old is discovered.
The second announcement, just a few days later, was the publication of a multi-disciplinary report on the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah.
This paper used archaeological findings of a deeply burned and scarred surface area of 500 square km adjacent to the Dead Sea to argue that this was caused by a huge meteor blast – and that the biblical account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19) was the biblical account of this same event. The authors of the paper write:
“The physical evidence from Tall el-Hammam and neighboring sites exhibit signs of a highly destructive concussive and thermal event that one might expect from what is described in Genesis 19.”
These two announcements this week are merely the latest in a steady stream of archaeological discoveries and announcements that have been coming out of Israel this year. Last month a stone column engraved with the word ‘Jerusalem’ in Aramaic and Hebrew, dated to 100 BCE, was unearthed at the city gate. A city gate, used by David (1000 BCE) and where Jesus was recorded to have performed miracles was also discovered this summer.
The Bible records events as history. Its accounts do not begin with ‘Once upon a time … in Never Never Land …’ As Israelis have returned to Israel, and with a deep interest in their ties to the land, they have been digging all over the country – and making findings that corroborate the historicity of the Bible. There is evidence that there was a city by the Dead Sea that was destroyed by a searing fire from the sky. The evidence is in the ground. The absurd idea that Moses did not write the Torah (Pentateuch) looks increasingly tenuous as artefacts are unearthed that can be tied back to those writings. Of course, what is excavated does not directly show that ‘God did it’. But the accounts preserved in the Bible broadly match and corroborate what is being dug up from the ground.
But it is not only ancient history that comes to life with these discoveries. This is what is written in Jeremiah (about 588BC)
“This is what the Lord says: ‘You say about this place, “It is a desolate waste, without people or animals.” Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither people nor animals, there will be heard once more 11 the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord, saying,
“Give thanks to the Lord Almighty,
for the Lord is good;
his love endures forever.”
For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the Lord.
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In this place, desolate and without people or animals—in all its towns there will again be pastures for shepherds to rest their flocks. 13 In the towns of the hill country, of the western foothills and of the Negev, in the territory of Benjamin, in the villages around Jerusalem and in the towns of Judah, flocks will again pass under the hand of the one who counts them,’ says the Lord. (Jeremiah 33:10-13)
These artefacts, lieing buried in the ground for thousands of years, are a testament to the long desolation of the land – a desolation that was predicted. Yet the mere fact that these artefacts are now being discovered is a witness to the reviving of the land – also predicted and happening right before our eyes.
Then Jeremiah continues directly from above:
14 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.
15 “‘In those days and at that time
I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
he will do what is just and right in the land.
16 In those days Judah will be saved
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:
The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’ (Jeremiah 33:14-16)
In almost the same breath when he predicts the desolation now being unearthed, Jeremiah foresaw the ‘Branch’ coming from David. This was the theme begun by Isaiah earlier, continued by Zechariah, predicting that the name of the Branch would be ‘Jesus’. The time of His coming was foreseen by Daniel.
Funny as it may seem, the manner in which the Bible ties its record to events on the ground and then seamlessly predicts the coming of ‘Christ’, makes it so that even little stones being unearthed today are a witness to Him. Almost like what He said, “the stones will cry out”. That’s worth ruminating on as the Christmas season comes upon us.