Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Athiest.

Biblical Archaeology 4: The Moabite Stone (a.k.a. Mesha Stele)

by Jason Dulle

2 Kings 3:4-6,24  Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheep breeder, and he had to deliver to the king of Israel 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams. 5 But when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel. 6 So King Jehoram marched out of Samaria at that time and mustered all Israel. [The account goes on to talk about an alliance with Jehoshaphat of Judah and the king of Edom.  When they run out of food and water, they consult Elisha who prophesies that the Lord will provide water for them, and defeat Moab.] 24 But when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose and struck the Moabites, till they fled before them. And they went forward, striking the Moabites as they went. … 26 When the king of Moab saw that the battle was going against him, he took with him 700 swordsmen to break through, opposite the king ofEdom, but they could not. 27 Then he took his oldest son who was to reign in his place and offered him for a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel. And they withdrew from him and returned to their own land.
In 1868, at Dhiban in Jordan, archaeologists uncovered a black basalt stone measuring 3’8” x 2’3” with an inscription recording the acts of Mesha, King of Moab around 850 BC.  It contains 34 lines of text written in Moabite:
  1. I am Mesha, son of KMSYT (Kemosh[-yat]), the king of Moab, the Di-
  2. -bonite. My father was king of Moab thirty years, and I reign-
  3. -ed after my father. And I built this high-place for Kemosh in QRH (“the citadel”), a high place of [sal-]
  4. -vation because he saved me from all the kings (or “all the attackers”), and because let me be victorious over all my adversaries. Omr-
  5. -i was king of Israel and he oppressed Moab for many days because Kemosh was angry with his
  6. land. And his son replaced him; and he also said, “I will oppress Moab”.
  7. But I was victorious over him and his house. And Israel suffered everlasting destruction, And Omri had conquered the lan-
  8. -d of Madaba, and he dwelt there during his reign and half the reign of his son, forty years. But Kemosh
  9. returned it in my days. So I [re]built Baal Meon, and I the water reservoir in it. And I bu[ilt]
  10. Qiryaten. The man of Gad had dwelt in Ataroth from of old; and the king of Israel
  11. built Ataroth for him. But I fought against the city and took it. And I slew all the people [and]
  12. the city became the property of Kemosh and Moab. And I carried from there the altar for its DVDH (“its Davidic altar”?) and I
  13. dragged it before Kemosh in Qerioit, and I settled in it men of Sharon m[en]
  14. of Maharit. And Kemosh said to me, “Go! Seize Nebo against Israel.” So I
  15. proceeded by night and fought with it from the crack of dawn to midday, and I to-
  16. -ok it and I slew all of them: seven thousand men and boys, and women and gi-
  17. and maidens because I had dedicated it to Ashtar Kemosh I took [the ves-]
  18. -sels of YHWH, and I dragged them before Kemosh. And the king of Israel had built
  19. Yahaz, and he dwelt in it while he was fighting with me, but Kemosh drove him out before me. So
  20. I took from Moab two hundred men, all his captains. And I brought them to Yahaz, And I seized it
  21. in order to add (it) to Dibon. I (myself) have built the ‘citadel’, ‘the wall(s) of the forest’ and the wall
  22. of the ‘acropolis’. And I built its gates; And I built its towers. And
  23. I built a royal palace; and I made the ramparts for the reservo[ir for] water in the mid-
  24. -st of the city. But there was no cistern in the midst of the city, in the ‘citadel,’ so I said to all the people, “Make [for]
  25. yourselves each man a cistern in his house”. And I hewed the shaft for the ‘citadel’ with prisoner-
  26. -s ofIsrael. I built Aroer, and I made the highway in the Arnon.
  27. I built Beth-Bamot, because it was in ruins. I built Bezer, because it was
  28. a ruin [with] the armed men of Dibon because all of Dibon was under orders and I ru-
  29. -led [ove]r [the] hundreds in the towns which I have annexed to the land. And I bui-
  30. -lt Medeba and Beth-Diblaten and Beth-Baal-Meon, and I carried there [my herdsmen]
  31. [to herd] the small cattle of the land, and Horonain, in it dwelt …
  32. [and] Kemosh [s]aid to me, “Go down, fight against Horonain”. And I went down [and I fou-
  33. -ght with the city and I took it and] Kemosh [re]turned it in my days. Then I went up from there te[n...]
  34. [...a high] place of justice and I [...]

  1. The stele corroborates events in 2 Kings 3. Kings mentions that Moabwas subject to Israel, but it does not name the king who subjected them (so it could have been Omri as the stele says).
    Who did Moab rebel against?  According to the stele it was the son of Omri (Ahab), but according to 2 Kings they did not rebel until after the death of Ahab (2 Kings 1:1; 3:5).  Kings implies that they rebelled first against Ahab’s son Ahaziah (reigned 2 years), and continued to rebel against Jehoram (nothing in 2 Kings 3 requires that we see the rebellion as beginning under Jehoram, but it would be ok even if that was the meaning).
    Is this a contradiction?  No, not if we understand “son” to mean “descendent of.”  Perhaps Mesha mentioned the grandfather (Omri) rather than the actual father of the king(s) he rebelled against (Ahaziah, Jehoram) because Omri was the one who was responsible for the defeat of Moab.
    This might also help us make sense of Mesha’s mention of the king of Israel being present in Madaba for 40 years.  Omri only reigned for 12 years and died.  But Ahab reigned for 22 years, Ahaziah 2 years, and Jehoram reigned for 12 years.  Assuming Omri defeated Moab early in his reign, then Moab would have been subject to Israel for 36 years.
  1. It contains the earliest extra-biblical reference to YHWH in any artifact.
  2. It may also contain a reference to the “house of David.”  In 1994, AndrĂ© Lemaire argued that line 31 should be translated “as for Horonen, there lived in it the house of [D]avid.”[1]  To support this translation Lemaire had to supply one missing letter: the Hebrew letter “D” for David’s name.[2]  If Lemaire is correct, then this would be the earliest extra-biblical reference to King David.

[1] Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1994, pp. 30-37.
[2] http://biblicalarcheology.net/?p=62.

Biblical Archaeology 3: Pharaoh Shishak’s Invasion

by Jason Dulle

2 Chron 12:2-4,9  “Because they were unfaithful to the Lord, in King Rehoboam’s fifth year, King Shishak of Egypt attacked Jerusalem. 3 He had 1,200 chariots, 60,000 horsemen, and an innumerable number of soldiers who accompanied him fromEgypt, including Libyans, Sukkites, and Cushites. 4 He captured the fortified cities of Judahand marched against Jerusalem. 9 King Shishak of Egypt attacked Jerusalem and took away the treasures of the Lord’s temple and of the royal palace; he took everything, including the gold shields that Solomon had made.” (NET)  See also 1 Kings 14:25-26.
When archaeologists discovered the Karnak Temple of the god Amun in Egypt, on its walls there was a record of Pharaoh Shishak’s (Shoshenq I, 943-922 BC) raid of 140 different places, including cities in Judah and Israel (925 BC).  The Judahite section of the wall is mostly ruined, so we can’t see many of the names.  The engraving is dated to 924-922 BC.
  1. Confirms the Biblical account of the invasion of Judah (the Bible does not mention Shiskak’s raids in Israel).
  2. Confirms some of the place names mentioned in the Biblical accounts.

Biblical Archaeology 2: The Pool at Gibeon

by Jason Dulle 

2 Samuel 2:12-17  Abner the son of Ner, and the servants of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon. 13 And Joab the son of Zeruiah and the servants of David went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. And they sat down, the one on the one side of the pool, and the other on the other side of the pool. 14 And Abner said to Joab, “Let the young men arise and compete before us.” And Joab said, “Let them arise.” 15 Then they arose and passed over by number, twelve for Benjamin and Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David. 16 And each caught his opponent by the head and thrust his sword in his opponent’s side, so they fell down together. Therefore that place was called Helkath-hazzurim, which is at Gibeon. 17 And the battle was very fierce that day. And Abner and the men of Israel were beaten before the servants of David. (ESV)
Jeremiah 41:11-12  But when Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done, they took all their men and went to fight against Ishmael the son of Nethaniah. They came upon him at the great pool that is in Gibeon. (ESV)

After Saul’s death, David went to Hebron and was set up as king by the children ofJudah.  Meanwhile, Abner set up Saul’s son, Ishbosheth, as king over all Israel.  David’s and Ishbosheth’s generals met at the Pool of Gibeon for the first face-off of many battles that ultimately ended with David assuming the kingship of both Judah and Israel.  According to the Bible, then, such a pool existed in the lifetime of David (~1000 BC).  Jeremiah spoke of the same pool some 400 years later.
In 1956 the Pool of Gibeon was discovered six miles north of Jerusalem.  A tunnel runs from the pool to Jerusalem. It is an astonishing 80 feet deep, and was dug sometime before 1000 BC.  The immense size of the pool can be seen from the photograph above (see the tiny people in the upper right corner?) and below.
  1. It confirms the Biblical detail about the pool’s existence in David’s day.

Biblical Archaeology 1: The Merneptah Stele

by Jason Dulle

In 1896 archaeologists discovered a stele in Pharaoh Merneptah’s mortuary temple in Thebes,Egypt.  The stele measures 10’4” x 5’4”, and is written in Egyptian Hieroglypics.  It dates to 1209-1208 BC, which places it during the time of the Judges.

The stele was originally erected by Pharaoh Amenhotep III, but later inscribed by Merneptah (1213-1203 BC), the son of Ramses II.

Mummy of Pharaoh Merneptah

And we have Merneptah’s mummy!

The stele describes Merneptah’s victories over the Libyans et al, but the last two lines mention a prior military campaign in Israel (this campaign is not mentioned in the Bible): “Canaan is captive with all woe. Ashkelon is conquered, Gezer seized, Yanoam made nonexistent; Israel is wasted, bare of seed.  Hurru is become a widow for Egypt! All lands together, they are pacified; everyone who was restless has been bound by the king of Upper and Lower Egypt; Be-en Re Meri-Amon; the Son of Re; Merneptah Hotep-hir-Maat, given life like Re every day.”

"Israel" in the Merneptah Stele

1. This is the oldest extra-biblical mention of the name “Israel” (and the only mention in Egyptian records). The next oldest is the Mesha Stele, 300 years later.

2. This is the only reference to Israel prior to the Divided Kingdom.

3. This proves that a people group named “Israel” existed, and was dwelling in Palestine in the 13th century B.C.  A particular hieroglyphic used to indicate a country is missing.  This means thatIsrael is depicted as a people-group rather than as a nation with clearly defined boundaries.  This depiction ofIsrael at this time in history is consistent with the portrait painted in the book of Judges.

4. Given the fact that the purpose of the stele is to celebrate the great accomplishments of Pharaoh Merneptah—the most powerful man in the world at the time—the fact that he mentionsIsraelat all is significant.  It indicates that they were seen as a worthy opponent, sufficient to be mentioned in the annals of a great king’s military victories.