Israel In Egypt -- Moses -- The Exodus
-- Jericho -- Israel's Monarchy -- Daniel In Babylon -- Nebuchadnezzar
-- A Triumphant Vindication of the Scriptures As A true and Reliable
In course of time Abraham
died, leaving behind his sons, Ishmael and Isaac, who continued
the nomadic life of their father. Ishmael became the father of
the Ishmaelite Arabs. The Jewish line was preserved in Isaac
whose son Jacob became the father of twelve sons, and from them
sprang the twelve tribes of Israel (for it was to Israel that
Jacob's name was changed). Israel with his sons and their families
were compelled to go down into Egypt for grain because of a great
famine that had arisen in Canaan. Most people are fairly familiar
with the details of this time: how that Joseph, the favourite
son of Israel, was sold as a slave by his brothers, how he afterwards
became great in the land and was able to succour his brethren
and get them settled in the land in the district of Goshen.
For about 200 years the Israelites, favoured at the first by
the Egyptians, grew into a very considerable nation. A Pharaoh
then arose who "knew not Joseph," and becoming alarmed
at the growth of this foreign people, brought them into a rigorous
bondage as described in detail in the book of Exodus.
At present, archaeology has
little to tell us about Israel in Egypt; one reason being that
the Egyptians were very bad historians. Little is recorded except
boastful claims of individual kings concerning their personal
exploits in war or in temple building; recorded history as such
is almost non-existent. Another reason is that, while enthusiastically
exaggerating their victorious exploits in war, these ancient
monarchs were equally energetic in playing down their humiliating
defeats. Therefore, to expect to find records of the overthrow
of Pharaoh and his hosts in the Red Sea, or a recital of the
humiliating ten plagues on Egypt, is to expect more than is reasonable.
Fierce and sustained have been the arguments employed by Bible
opponents to discredit the birth of a nation, and their deliverance
from Egypt under Moses. Today these arguments are less self-assured,
less sustained; convulsive would best decribe them now. Nothing
very dramatic has come to light in Egyptian archaeology, but,
like the history of Abraham in Canaan, the local colour is true
to life. Incidental harmony prevails, undesigned coincidences
abound. No incident can be pronounced "impossible"
as once it was or indeed even "improbable", for the
narrative fits the facts as known. In the opinion of many archaeologists
(Dr. Yahuda in particular) THE BIBLE RECORD WAS WRITTEN BY SOMEONE
INTIMATELY ACQUAINTED WITH EVERY SMALL DETAIL IN EGYPTIAN LIFE,
and it is impossible for it to have been compiled by a later
romancer; it could only have been written by a man on the spot.
We have no doubts as to who was that man, who could answer all
the requirements so fully. It was Moses, the adopted son of Pharaoh's
daughter; Moses the destined leader of Israel out of Egyptian
"CHILD OF THE LADY"
Now for one or two of these
incidental evidences of Israel's contact with Egypt. Moses was
a little Hebrew child who fell under Pharaoh's edict that all
male Hebrew babies were to be destroyed at birth. With a despairing
heart Moses' mother conceived the idea of making a little reed
boat, and hiding him in the rushes on the bank of the river Nile,
trusting to her God that in some way, she knew not how, his tiny
life might be spared. Later, Pharaoh's daughter came down to
the river and there found Moses in his little green cradle where
loving hands had placed him, and a breaking heart had left him.
The princess, stirred at the sight of the helpless babe, and
with maternal instincts strong within her, determined to adopt
this helpless object of her pity.
Many years pass, when we learn that Moses was educated at the
court of Pharaoh and was known as the adopted son of Pharaoh's
Of recent years a very remarkable inscription has come to light
which seems to have a bearing on this event. In the reign of
Rameses II (the reputed Pharaoh of the oppression), a public
function was held, and among the recorded names of the princes,
says Dr. Kyle, was:
"The Ra-Moses child of
the Lady and priestess of the sun god Ra."
The name, Moses, commemorated
his rescue from the river Nile as a baby, for it meant the "drawn-out
one." The prefix Ra was common in Egypt and is found in
many Egyptian names. The definite article "The", Dr.
Kyle tells us, is a pun upon Moses' name: "The Moses,"
i.e., "The drawn-out one." Then, Moses is not described
as the son but as the child of the Lady; the usual Egyptian word
for son is not used. As the narrator says, the record plainly
shows "a laboured effort on the part of the scribe to describe
an unusual situation."
A MORE CONCRETE EVIDENCE
These records show a remarkable resemblance to the story of Moses
almost to the point of identification, but we must be careful
not to claim more than the facts clearly warrant. Indeed we have
no need to do so with so much clearly corroborated testimony
at our disposal. But as one writer pertinently enquires concerning
this singular record: "Does mere romantic legend ever find
such natural setting and a place of such fitness in real history?"
The only rational answer is, "Of course not!" There
is another and more concrete evidence of Israel's sojourn in
Egypt, in two of Egypt's exhumed cities. The Bible record tells
us that Israel, besides making bricks under forced labour, also
built the store cities of Pithom and Rameses (Ex. 1:11). Of this
Sir Frederick Kenyon says:
"In 1883 Professor E.
Naville, excavating for the Egypt Exploration Fund, identified
the site of Pithom, near the modern Ismailia, and subsequently
Petrie found Rameses in a mound a few miles west the mound contains
a temple of Rameses II."
The nature of the ruins clearly
show them to have been store cities (for grain) as the Bible
Moses has been credited with writing the Pentateuch (the first
five books of the Bible), but it is unfashionable to believe
this today. It is well, however, that you should be told that
the same class of higher critic who now affirms the piece-meal
authorship of the Pentateuch was but a few years ago boldly proclaiming
that Moses never did and never could write the Pentateuch or
any other document, because writing was entirely unknown in Moses'
day. The Scriptures commit themselves in no uncertain way concerning
the existence of a "book of the law" written by Moses.
"And Moses WROTE THIS
LAW, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi . . .
"And it came to pass, WHEN MOSES HAD MADE AN END OF WRITING
THE WORDS OF THIS LAW IN A BOOK, until they were finished, that
Moses commanded . . . saying, Take this book of the law, and
put it in the side of the ark of the covenant . . . that it may
be there for a witness . . ." Deut. 31:9, 24:6.
The testimony of Jesus Christ
to this truth is frequent and unmistakable, notably when he declared:
"Had ye believed Moses,
ye would have believed me; for HE WROTE OF ME." John 5:46.
Against this Dr. Kyle quotes
Von Bohlen as scoffing "at the idea of the 'undisciplined
horde' Israel possessing letters."
A REVOLUTIONARY CHANGE
But history did not reach far enough, except Bible history, and
this was suspect. Since those days, however, secular history
has been extended and made to "reach" back further
by archaeological discovery, and the Bible has been shewn to
be true and reliable history.
Dillman, another critic, is reported as saying:
"But also the legal portion
Of THE PENTATEUCH CANNOT BE FROM MOSES, neither written by him
nor delivered orally and written down by another. And aside from
the fact that so extended A LITERARY PRODUCTION AT THE VERY RISE
OF THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL IS NOT BELIEVABLE."
Such compositions as this,
which give the lie direct to the Bible, look very learnedly foolish
in the light of modern discovery. It has been truly said: "That
the theory of the ignorance of the patriarchal age has been absolutely
abandoned by everyone, hardly needs to be stated."
This revolutionary change has been effected by the amount of
written evidence that has come to light which confirms the fact
that communication by writing was carried on between Egypt and
distant Babylonia centuries before Moses was born.
Clay writing tablets sent from Babylon and Palestine to Egypt
at this early age were found at Tel-el-Amarna in Egypt in the
year 1887. They have been deciphered and they clearly "reveal
the literary conditions in Palestine about midway between Abraham
and Moses. The widest diffusion of letters is indicated. All
sorts of people are found writing letters: governors and court
officers, petty officials, private citizens, ladies and servants."
Among them were royal communications also, so that, with the
help of those skilled in cuneiform writing, we may read the letters
that the king of Babylon sent to the king of Egypt a century
before the birth of Moses.
PEN AND INK
Even more recent than the Tel-el-Amarna finds are the manuscripts
discovered in Egypt written, not on clay, but on papyri (a paper
manufactured from reeds). Among them is an actual original Egyptian
document written about 2200-2000 B.C.
This is centuries before Moses was born and about contemporary
with Abraham -- written, mark you, at that very time. Some of
them are written in "beautiful cursive handwriting";
that is, a running hand such as we use in our private letter
writing. Thus was paper, pen and ink in use in Abraham's day.
These facts -- for facts they most certainly are -- entirely
destroy the once learned disbelief in the credibility of Moses
writing the law. For as Sir Charles Marston says, the knowledge
of those times makes it "preposterous to affirm that all
that Moses said and did was handed down by oral tradition for
Of the exodus of Israel from Egypt under Moses archaeology has,
as yet, little of a definite nature to say. One point of interest
is that among the clay letters found at Tel-el-Amarna were urgent
communications from petty kings in Syria, frantically appealing
to Egypt for help against the incursions of powerful invaders.
The Hittites were coming in from the north and the Habiru from
the south. The Hittites, once only a name in the Bible, are now
well known to the archaeologist.
Of the Habiru, or southern invaders, Sir Charles Marston writes:
"For many years it has
been suggested that those invaders (the Habiru) were the Hebrews
under Joshua; the evidence that Jericho fell about 1400 B.C.,
in the middle of the reign of one of the Pharaohs to whom these
letters were addressed, now definitely establishes that identification."
Here is one of the letters
of appeal from the Tel-el-Amarna Tablets; it is from the then
king of Jerusalem, Abdkiba:
"As long as ships were
upon the sea the strong arm of the king occupied Nahrima and
Kas, but now the Habiru are occupying the king's cities. There
remains not one prince to my Lord the King, everyone is ruined."
Upon which Sir Charles Marston
"It is difficult and
indeed impossible, because the dates are so identical, any longer
to resist the conclusion that, so far as Canaan is concerned,
the Tel-el-Amarna letters contain Canaanite, Amorite, and Jebusite
accounts of Israelitish invasion -- versions of the Bible story
written by the other side."
Thus there seems no doubt
that in the invaders from the south, who were striking terror
into the hearts of the inhabitants of Palestine, we have the
victorious Israelites, or Hebrews, under their military leader
Joshua. Egypt being pre-occupied with her own troubles was unable
to help them, and so the invasion continued.
The capture of one great city by the Hebrews, and the unusual
manner of its fall, is recorded in detail in the book of Joshua.
Jericho was to be compassed once a day for six days by a procession
of Israelites, blowing with trumpets. On the seventh day the
process was to be repeated with seven circular marches, and the
priests blowing with trumpets. This was to be followed by a great
shout from all the Israelites, whereupon God promised "the
wall of the city shall fall down flat" (Josh. 6:5). After
this we are told that the city's destruction was completed by
"And they burnt the city
with fire, and all that was therein." (Josh. 6:24).
Joshua then pronounced a curse
upon any who should presume to rebuild its ruined walls, a curse
involving the loss of sons to the offender:
"And Joshua adjured them
at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the Lord, that
riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation
thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set
up the gates of it." (Josh. 6:26).
Many years later, during the
time of Ahab, king of Israel, a bold spirit defied the curse
of Joshua, and reaped the consequences:
"In his days did Hiel
the Beth-elite build Jericho: he laid the foundation thereof
in Abiram his firstborn, and set up the gates thereof in his
youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which
he spake by Joshua. (I Kings 16:34)
These three points -- the
violent destruction of Jericho's walls, the subsequent destruction
by fire, and a long desolation followed by a subsequent rebuilding
centuries later have ALL BEEN DRAMATICALLY CONFIRMED BY THE RECENT
EXCAVATIONS AT ANCIENT JERICHO.
Among the findings of Professor Garstang concerning Jericho were
"(THE) WALL ALSO HAD
BEEN VIOLENTLY DESTROYED. Masses of it had fallen down the slope,
and all the ruins within the walls had been destroyed by fire,
the evidences of which were of unusual intensity."
"It would appear, therefore,
that the city... was VIOLENTLY DESTROYED AND BURNED at a date
about 1400 B.C. Thereafter IT REMAINED DESOLATE FOR A LONG TIME."
Sir Frederick Kenyon, commenting
on the subject, says:
"The wall was destroyed
by some violent convulsion; archaeology cannot tell us how the
convulsion was caused . . .
"The town also, had been
burned with fire, as it is recorded to have been by Joshua."
What more could the most biased
sceptic ask than this remarkable and recent evidence of this
ancient historical record of the far-off wars of Joshua. Sir
Frederick Kenyon further writes:
"It will not be denied
that, if the conclusions of the excavator are to be accepted
(and Professor Garstang's statement of the evidence and his deductions
from it have been confirmed by other experts) THERE IS HERE A
REMARKABLE CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE OLD TESTAMENT NARRATIVE."
A BUFFER STATE
After Joshua's time Israel
had a chequered career for about 400 years, under various non-hereditary
rulers known as Judges. This condition then gave place to a monarchy
in Israel when David became the founder of a royal line of kings.
In the days of Rehoboam, David's grandson, ten tribes revolted
against the house of David, and established an independent government
in Samaria, leaving two tribes with their capital at Jerusalem.
It is at this point, the history
of the dual-monarchy, that the Bible record and archaeology again
make contact. Egypt and Assyria were often at war in those days,
with Israel very much in the same position as Belgium between
Germany and France, as a glance at the map will show. If Israel
favoured Egypt she incurred the displeasure of Assyria, or, if
Assyria, she lost the friendship of Egypt. Thus from time to
time Jerusalem, the capital city of Judah, and Samaria, the capital
city of Israel, were besieged by the kings of Assyria.
The Bible has much to say concerning a king of Israel by the
name of Jehu, also of Shalmanezer, king of Assyria, who warred
with Israel. At Nineveh a black marble obelisk was found which,
upon being deciphered, proved to be a record of the triumphant
exploits of Shalmanezer. On its four sides are pictures in bas-relief,
and over 200 lines of cuneiform inscription, recording the leading
events of the reign of Shalmanezer. It contains also
"The first direct reference
in any Assyrian record to a person known to us from Scripture;
'I received the tribute of Jehu, son of Omri, silver, gold, etc'."
A "CAGED BIRD"
The Bible records events in the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah,
and tells how on one occasion Hezekiah was besieged in Jerusalem
by Sennacherib, another king of Assyria. Things were beginning
to look black for Jerusalem, and Hezekiah was compelled to buy
off his enemy by the payment of tribute money. The Bible record
is as follows:
"Now in the fourteenth
year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up
against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them.
And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria to Lachish,
saying, I have offended; return from me: that which thou puttest
on me will I bear. And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah
king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents
And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house
of the Lord, and in the treasures of the King's house."
(2 Kings 18:13-15.)
Sennachcrib had his own account
made of this incident, and his stone record has recently come
to light. In the boastful manner common to Assyrian monarchs
"I besieged Hezekiah
of Judah . . . and captured forty-six of his strong cities .
. . (Hezekiah) himself, like a caged bird, I shut up within Jerusalem,
his royal city . . . I reduced his land. I added to their former
yearly tribute . . . and he (Hezekiah) despatched after me his
messenger ... to pay tribute and to make submission with thirty
talents of gold, eight hundred talents of silver etc."
"A DREAMER OR AN IMPOSTER"
Thus Scripture history has
again been unexpectedly confirmed out of the rubbish mounds that
once were Nineveh, the proud capital of Assyria. A comparatively
few years ago "he who would have ventured to predict such
a discovery would have been treated as a dreamer or an imposter."
Yet today we can look on the name of Hezekiah inscribed on stone
by the command of Sennacherib over two and a half millenniums
After Hezekiah's death Manasseh his son succeeded to the throne
of Judah. He, too, was a victim of Assyrian violence, but this
time for an offence against his God. The record in 2 Chron. 33:11
"Wherefore the Lord brought
upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which
took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters and
carried him to Babylon."
The Assyrians carried Manasseh
to Babylon! Babylon was not an Assyrian city but was the capital
of Babylonia. Babylonia and Assyria were enemies and rivals --
surely the divine scribe erred in making such a statement. So
men might have supposed, but now that Assyrian and Babylonian
history has been revealed by archaeology, THE BIBLE'S STRICT
ACCURACY HAS AGAIN BEEN DEMONSTRATED. Sennacherib, the contemporary
of Hezekiah, father of Manasseh, had made war on Babylon, conquered
it, and, as the custom was, carried off their gods in triumph.
Esarhaddon, the son of Sennacherib, had, upon his accession to
the throne of Assyria, returned Babylon's gods and repaired their
damaged buildings, and thus conciliated them. He then proclaimed
himself king of Assyria and Babylon, and thenceforward spent
his time between the two capitals. Hence the record that Manasseh
was carried to Babylon by his Assyrian captors fits the facts
of history exactly. Yet for this corroboration the Bible has
had to wait patiently for over 2,000 years!
Although archaeology does not touch at many points during this
period, we find among the points touched, direct confirmation
of Scripture narrative. In points indirectly touched we find
general agreement and harmony as in the other cases already noted.
As illustrative of this background harmony we might notice some
of the finds made in Samaria and other cities which were destroyed
by the Assyrians before they carried Israel into a captivity
from which they never returned.
Samaria, just a mound for centuries, has of very recent years
been uncovered, and many things found there bear a remarkable
similarity to descriptions in the Bible. The discovered documentary
evidence was written in ink upon broken pottery, termed "Ostraka"
by the archaeologists. Sufficient has been read to "provide
useful evidence on the economic details of life under the Israelite
Just prior to and during the break-up of Judah's kingdom by Babylon,
Jeremiah, a prophet of God, was commissioned to turn his brethren
from their sins in order to avert the impending calamity. His
efforts, and the names of his contemporaries great and small
are recorded in considerable detail in Jeremiah's prophecy. Now
that the ruins of this national calamity are being unearthed,
many of the names mentioned by the prophet are found written
As recently as 1935 the Wellcome Archaeological Research Expedition
discovered, at Lachish, ostraka "amid the fiery ruins marking
the final overthrow of the city." Among them were letters
of "the military (?) governor" of the city, all agreeing
with the picture presented in the Scriptures. Also there are
many names occurring in the ostraka which are identical with
Scripture names mentioned at this time, such as:
"Gemariah," Jer. 29:3; 36:10.
"Jaazaniah," Jer. 35:3;
"Neriah," Jer. 32:12.
"Elnathan," Jer. 36:12; and
"Nedabiah grandson of the king," i.e. Nedabiah
grandson of Jehoiakim (1 Chron. 3:18).
The names remarkably confirm
the local colour, at least; whilst the "grandson of the
king" is an historical confirmation without a doubt.
The Bible record tells us that at this time Nebuchadnezzar, the
victorious king of Babylon, who had now turned the tables on
the king of Assyria, had overthrown Judah and appointed a military
governor by the name of Gedaliah (Jer. 40:5). There has recently
been unearthed at Lachish
"A clay seal, bearing
on its back the impression of the fibres of the papyrus document
to which it must once have been attached, and inscribed with
the words 'The property of Gedaliah who is over the house'."
Sir Frederick Kenyon does
not, in our opinion, over-state the case when he says:
"It is quite reasonable
to suppose that it is actually an impression of the seal of the
unfortunate governor (Gedaliah was murdered)."
A REMARKABLE DOCUMENT
A remarkable document has
also been found which illustrates the work of the prophet Jeremiah
at this time. Jeremiah, commissioned by God, declares:
"Thus saith the Lord,
This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of
Babylon's army, which shall take it.
Therefore the princes said
unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death:
for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain
in this city, and the hands of all the people in speaking such
words unto them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this
people, but the hurt." (Jer. 38:3-4.)
And here for comparison is
the recently discovered letter, Letter VI:
"Who is thy slave, a
dog, that my lord has sent the letter of the king and the letter
of the officers, saying, Read, I pray thee, and thou wilt see;
THE WORDS OF THE (PROPHET) ARE NOT GOOD, TO LOOSEN THE HANDS,
TO (MAKE) SINK THE HANDS OF THE COUNTRY AND CITY."
The word "prophet"
is conjectural, but Mr. J. W. Jack "identifies him with
Jeremiah, who, at this time was pronouncing military defeat upon
Judah." Here again, to say the very least, is a remarkable
agreement; even if we could not claim identity, surely here is
the harmony which we expect to characterise true records.
Now consider the following (ostraka extract) in the light of
"Then the princes (same
word as translated 'officers' in Jeremiah) said ... THIS MAN
... WEAKENETH THE HANDS OF THE MEN OF WAR THAT REMAIN IN THIS
CITY, AND THE HANDS OF ALL THE PEOPLE."
That "this man"
was any other than Jeremiah, in view of what we read in Scripture,
is difficult to believe. For of the contemporary nature of these
finds Sir Frederick Kenyon declares:
"There is no sort of
reason to doubt that they (ostraka) are the original documents
belonging to the last days of the Jewish kingdom, the days in
which Jeremiah spoke and wrote."
Also the similarity, and even
identity, of the wording of ostraka and Scripture, altogether
rules out coincidence.
A HOPELESS EXPECTATION
Upon the defeat and overthrow
of Jerusalem (603 B.C.) Nebuchadnezzar transported thousands
of Jews to Babylonia, with the object of preventing further insurrection.
When they were settled among the Babylonians Nebuchadnezzar hoped
that they would become absorbed and cease to be Jews, but this
was a hopeless expectation, as many have found since his day.
The reason for its hopelessness is revealed in prophecy, but
this is another subject.
By Nebuchadnezzar's orders several refined and promising young
Jews were selected from among their brethren to be trained in
the Babylonian arts, wisdom, and court etiquette. Among them
was a young man whose name is now a household word -- Daniel,
not then a prophet but just an upright, God-fearing young Hebrew.
The book which bears his name was written by him at Babylon,
and Babylon occupies a prominent place both in the narrative
and in the prophecy. For the present we are confining ourselves
to the narrative, which has received more criticism than any
other writing of the Hebrew prophets.
Points like the Greek names for Babylonian musical instruments,
described by Daniel, have been seized by the critics to prove
a late authorship, whereas the book claims an early one. But
archaeology has since shown that the "Greek" musical
instruments were used in Persia and Babylonia before ever Greece
saw them, and thus has been dispelled another suggested anachronism.
Then the size and might of
Babylon, of which Nebuchadnezzar boasts in the book of Daniel,
was once declared to be "grossly exaggerated"; but
this was in the days when even the site of Babylon was unknown
and in dispute among scholars. But from the middle of the nineteenth
century onwards Babylon has been disinterred, and steady progress
in knowledge has been made, so that today quite a lot is known
about Babylon. We will not tire you with tedious details -- rather
will we reproduce a word picture, constructed from modern discoveries,
by an archaeologist. He describes the Babylon into which Daniel
and his companions were led, in triumphal procession, as captive
slaves of war:
"In the heyday of (Babylon's)
splendour under the New Empire, when the Jews of the exile first
beheld her, the city must have appeared a miracle of glory and
beauty. Her explorer permits himself few superlatives in writing
of what he has discovered; but even his style warms as he speaks
of the wonders of the vast Temple of Marduk: The colossal mass
of the tower which the Jews of the Old Testament regarded as
the essence of presumption, amidst the proud palaces of the priests,
the spacious treasuries, the innumerable lodgings for strangers
-- white walls, bronze doors, mighty fortification walls set
round with lofty portals and a forest of a thousand towers --
the whole must have conveyed an overwhelming sense of greatness,
power, and wealth, such as could rarely have been found elsewhere
in the Babylonian kingdom.
"When you add to the
picture the many others, only less glorious than the mighty house
of Marduk, the glittering palaces, the many coloured splendours
of the great Procession Street and the Ishtar Gate, the frowning
might of the great ramparts, with their gates of gleaming bronze,
and people the whole with the thronging rainbow-hued crowds of
an Eastern city, and the flashing bravery of an unconquered army,
you can understand something of the pride with which the great
king said, as he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon:
"'Is not this great Babylon,
that I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might
of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?"'
So much then for the corroborated
testimony of Daniel concerning Babylon's greatness which, after
all, was not "grossly exaggerated."
AN INDEFATIGABLE BUILDER
In the quotation at the end of the above extract are the words
of Nebuchadnezzar as reported by Daniel. In them, the king claims
to be the great builder of great Babylon. If ever there was a
builder it was Nebuchadnezzar, and upon this subject archaeology
speaks unequivocally. Here is an abridged account by Nebuchadnezzar
"In Babylon my favourite
city, which I love, the Palace . . . the abode of my royalty
in the land of Babylon . . . In Babylon a site for my abode,
for the insignia of my majesty . . . a structure of brick I constructed,
and on top of it a great house for the seat of my royalty with
bitumen and brick loftily I made . . . the city of Babylon I
made strong as the wooded hills."
Today you may see some of
the bricks used in these buildings with Nebuchadnezzar's name
stamped on them. So widespread was his demolition and new building
that archaeologists state:
"NINE OUT OF EVERY TEN
BRICKS of the ruins of Babylon have Nebuchadnezzar's name on
To this Sir Leonard Woolley
adds his testimony:
"Shortly before 600 B.C.
Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon succeeded to the empire which
Assyria had won. OF ALL THE RULERS OF MESOPOTAMIA HE WAS PERHAPS
THE MOST INDEFATIGABLE BUILDER, and in almost every city of his
dominions there are monuments witnessing to his passion for bricks
and mortar; he rebuilt his capital (Babylon) so thoroughly that
modern excavators could find SCARCELY ANY TRACE OF BUILDINGS
OLDER THAN HIS TIME."
Nothing need be added to impress
upon the reader such remarkable evidence of archaeology's verdict
upon yet one more Bible record:
"THIS GREAT BABYLON THAT
I HAVE BUILT." (Dan. 4:30.)
In the third chapter of Daniel
is a story which may read like a legend and which many once believed
it to be. lt records the erection of a great image exposed to
the public gaze. Upon an appointed day, and at a given signal,
all people were commanded to prostrate themselves in worship
before it. Such an act was contrary to the conscience of enlightened
Jews; therefore Daniel's companions refused to do obeisance,
and as a punishment were cast alive into a furnace of fire.
For some time, at least during the early part of their captivity,
the Jews had not been required thus to pay homage to an idol,
else they would have come into conflict with the customs of Babylon
much earlier. Up until the king's decree it is obvious that there
was no religious persecution of Jews. The king at this time was
evidently introducing a departure from the current religious
practices. Let this fact once be granted, then the revelation
that archaeology provides upon the subject again produces an
unexpected, unlooked-for corroboration of the truth of Bible
history. Sir Leonard Woolley says:
"The temple (Ur) was
indefinitely old. Too little was left of the earliest buildings
to shew its form, but from the days of Ur-Nammu at least up to
and after those of Kuri-Galzu, that is FOR MORE THAN A THOUSAND
YEARS, SUCCESSIVE BUILDERS HAD RESPECTED AND REPEATED ITS GROUND-PLAN
. . . only the priests would enter here, and IN PRIVACY wait
upon the twin deities."
"THIS ANCIENT TRADITION WAS COMPLETELY SET AT NOUGHT BY
NEBUCHADNEZZAR WHEN HE RESTORED THE TEMPLE. The rooms in front
of the sanctuary, store-rooms and rooms which, as tablets found
in them shewed, were for the priestesses specially dedicated
as concubines to the god who would naturally be at home in this
harem building, were swept away; the whole front of the sanctuary
was opened up. . .
"IN THE OLD TEMPLE EVERYTHING
HAD BEEN SECRET; NOW A NUMEROUS PUBLIC COULD WATCH the priest
making his offerings on the open-air altar, and behind him could
see through the sanctuary's open door the image of the god."
Thus archaeology testifies
that a firmly established religious tradition of Babylon was
set at nought, and radically changed by Nebuchadnezzar. Then
a remarkable thing happened -- remarkable, that is, to us who
are so used to Bible disparagement. Sir Leonard Woolley appeals
to the Bible to explain this archaeological phenomenon. He says:
"THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT
THE REMODELLING OF THE BUILDING IMPLIES SUCH A CHANGE OF RITUAL,
BUT HOW CAN THIS ITSELF BE EXPLAINED? THE ANSWER IS GIVEN IN
THE OLD TESTAMENT story of the Three Children of the Book of
Daniel . . . Now the gist of the story is this, that Nebuchadnezzar
made a great image and set it up in a public place, and ordered
that at a given signal everybody was to fall down and worship
it; the Jews who seemed to have lived hitherto undisturbed in
the land of their captivity, were by this order given the choice
between idolatry and disobedience involving death.
"What was there new in the king's act? Not the setting up
of a statue, because each king in turn had done the same; the
novelty was the command for general worship by the public: for
a ritual worship performed by the priests the king is substituting
a form of congregational worship which all his subjects are obliged
"WE MUST NEEDS ACCEPT"
"SO STRIKING IS THE CORRESPONDENCE
BETWEEN THE WRITTEN STORY AND THE FACTS OF THE RUINS, AND SO
COMPLETELY DO THEY EXPLAIN EACH OTHER, THAT WE MUST NEEDS ACCEPT
THE BACKGROUND ... AS HISTORICAL. The alterations in (the temple)
were designed deliberately with a view to religious reform attributed
to its builder in the Old Testament."
With such singular evidences
accumulating, who can escape the inevitable conclusion that the
Bible is the most reliable history we have, even to put it no
higher than history? But it is impossible so to limit it on account
of its inextricable connection with prophecy -- but this is another
There is another point worthy of notice before we leave the book
of Daniel. Belshazzar figures in Daniel's prophecy as the son
or descendant of Nebuchadnezzar. Many critics, for a long time,
just disbelieved in such a person's existence; for archaeological
discovery, whilst confirming previously known kings, had not
confirmed Belshazzar; therefore its very silence was construed
to deny his existence. They declared:
"Belshazzar is not mentioned
by any secular historian."
In other words, the Bible,
which does mention him, is not of the same authority as a secular
history. Oh the blasphemous folly of such an objection, which
has since been shown to have no more real foundation than many
other objections! for Belshazzar is now a well-known historical
person. Clay cylinders have been unearthed recording the restoration
of the temple at Ur, by Nabonidus the restorer; and, says the
"The inscription upon
all of them closed with a poetical prayer for the life Of THE
KING'S OLDEST SON, BEL- SHAR-USER, who is no other than the Biblical
Belshazzar." (Daniel 5).
This Nabonidus, addressing
himself in prayer to the moongod Sin, petitions:
"And as for me Nabonidus
the king of Babylon, protect thou me from sinning against thy
exalted godhead, and grant thou me graciously a long life; and
in the heart of BELSHAZZAR, MY FIRST-BORN SON, the offspring
of my loins, set the fear of thine exalted godhead, so that he
may commit no sin and that he may be satisfied with the fullness
Comment is unnecessary.
Arising out of the captivity of Judah in Babylon, although not
necessarily connected with the record in Daniel, there is a corroboration
of a wholesale Jewish captivity and removal of Jews to Babylonia,
in recent finds at Nippur (the Bible Calneh). Among the clay
records, recently unearthed, were found the business accounts
of a great banking firm with the modern appellation:
Bankers and Brokers, Nippur.
Of these accounts the excavator
"Very numerous are Persian
and Aramean personal names in these documents. Unusually large
is the number of Jewish names known from the Old Testament, especially
from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. There can be no doubt that
a considerable number of Jewish prisoners carried away by Nebuchadnezzar
were settled in Nippur."
Thus again do witnesses start
out of the earth to confirm the Bible and confound its critics.
HERODOTUS, THE FATHER
Before the days of archaeological research two records bore testimony
to ancient happenings; they were the secular histories of the
classical Greeks, chief of whom was Herodotus "Father of
History"; and the Bible. Both records contained references
to the same things in more recent history, i.e., a few
centuries B.C. When disparity was found between the Bible and
the classics, most men preferred to believe the classics. Now
archaeology has come to act as an arbitrator upon the matters
in dispute, and what a gulf has been revealed between the revered
human recorder and the divine. Archaeological light has exposed
the flaws of human narration, but has enhanced the beauty of
the Bible records. For instance, a modern scholar speaking of
the "classical authority" of "Herodotus, Strabo,
Diodorus, Xenophon and others" says:
"Today . . . we correct
the errors and faulty perspective of the ancient historians by
the irrefutable data afforded by contemporary documents and relics."
Professor Sayce, well-known
in archaeological circles, is even more severe on the Greek and
Latin "historians" whom many once preferred to the
Bible. The monuments, which have confirmed the Bible, have made
havoc of their once-thought sober "histories" by repeated
exposures. He speaks of:
"The profound difference
between the history of the East as told by the great writers
of classical antiquity and by the native monuments themselves."
Then he singles out the "Father
of History" when he declares:
"The monuments have proved
decisively that the knowledge Herodotus possessed of Egyptian
history was extremely slight ... the 'history' of Egypt as detailed
by Herodotus is no further removed from the truth than his 'history'
of Assyria and Babylonia, or the rise of the Persian Empire.
"MYTHS AND FOLKLORE, such as were current among Greek loungers
and half-caste dragomans on the skirts of the Persian Empire,
HAVE USURPED THE PLACE OF ACTUAL HISTORY."
THE TABLES TURN
Oh, what a turning of the
tables! "Myths" and "folklore," the identical
terms once applied to Bible history whilst secular history was
trusted implicitly. Now IT IS THE ONCE REVERED HERODOTUS WHO
IS GUILTY, AND THE SCRIPTURES, STAND ACQUITTED. WHAT POETIC JUSTICE
TO BE SURE! This great and welcome change is further described
by the same authority:
"We need only compare
the following chapters (of the author's book "Ancient Empires
of the East") with a work on ancient history, like that
of Rollin, founded entirely on the statements of Greek and Latin
authors, to see how different -- nay, how inconsistent -- they
are. If one is true, the other cannot be. If the record of the
contemporaneous monument is correct, we must give up our faith
in the legends of a later age, reported by writers who scorned
to know oriental languages."
Yes, THE MONUMENTS HAVE CONVICTED
THE HUMAN RECORDS," living witnesses, as it were, have started
out of the grave of centuries to convict them of error and deceit."
So much for the effect of archaeological research on secular
histories. The exact opposite of all this is true of the Bible.
Archaeology is its friend because it has nothing to fear from
established truths; in the words of Sir William Dawson:
"The Bible ... coming
from God and conscious of nothing but God's truth, it AWAITS
THE PROGRESS OF KNOWLEDGE WITH CALM SECURITY. It watches the
antiquary ransacking among the ruins, and rejoices in every medal
he discovers and every inscription he deciphers; for from that
rusty coin or corroded marble IT EXPECTS NOTHING BUT CONFIRMATION
OF ITS OWN VERACITY."
It is true that in the past
there was conflict between the Bible and "finds," but
in every case it was owing to premature conclusions. Sir Henry
Rawlinson mentions an instance arising out of the paper squeezes
which were taken of the inscriptions on the famous Behistun Rock:
"An erroneous impression
was at one time in circulation that the information obtained
from the inscriptions was adverse to Scripture. But so much was
it the reverse of this, that IF THEY WERE TO DRAW UP A SCHEME
OF CHRONOLOGY FROM THE INSCRIPTIONS, WITHOUT HAVING SEEN THE
STATEMENTS OF THE SCRIPTURES, THEY WOULD FIND IT COINCIDE ON
There are still some, however,
who never seem to learn their lesson. They still object, quibble,
and find fault, but one by one their objections go the way of
those of their foolish predecessors. As Sir Henry Rawlinson is
reported to have said:
"IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO
PRODUCE FROM AUTHENTIC HISTORY ANY CONTRADICTION OF ANY PORTION
OF THE HEBREW RECORDS. When such a contradiction has seemed to
be found, it has invariably happened that, in the progress of
historical inquiry the author from whom it proceeds has lost
credit, and finally comes to be regarded as an utterly untrustworthy
"Before the age of archaeological
research," says Sir Frederick Kenyon, "the Hebrew records,
in the form of the books of the Bible, were alone in the field."
Surely we can now say that since the age of archaeological discovery
the Bible is still alone in the field as a record confirmed by
archaeological research. We have seen how varied and diverse
that confirmation has been, ranging from the Garden of Eden to
Jewish names on an ancient banker's accounts: from the Flood
to the fallen walls of Jericho. To these and other incidents
archaeology offers its testimony and sets its seal to the truthfulness
of the records.
OUR HISTORICAL GROUND
For the present, as a result of the evidence we have placed before
you, we ask you to accept the conclusion that THE BIBLE IS A
RELIABLE HISTORICAL NARRATIVE. This we feel sure is not asking
too much in the light of what we have seen.
Having got our historical ground settled it will give us confidence
as we proceed to examine and test some of its many prophetic
utterances, which, if they are found to be true, will take us
a step further in our acceptance of the Bible, not only as a
reliable history, but as a divine revelation.
CONTENTS | 1 | 2(1) | 2(2) | 3 | 4 | 5(1) | 5(2) | 6