“Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.”
I love it when archaeologists dig the Bible out of the ground. I’m cautious not to over-promote ancient artifacts, particularly when they have hazy trails through the antiquities market, but there are lots of recent archaeological discoveries in Israel that precisely fit the text in the Bible. Since the excavation of the steps of the Pool of Siloam by Ir David Foundation archaeologists in 2004, digs in the City of David have produced an impressive, rapidly growing catalog of artifacts and discoveries. Critics continue to debate the interpretation of these findings, but the preponderance of evidence is piling up rapidly.
The video below highlights recent finds in the City of David. You may be amazed to learn just how strongly the archaeology matches the text in the Bible, and the text in extra-biblical sources, such as the writings of Josephus. The video describes:
- A Phoenician capital that prominent archaeologist Eilat Mazar suspected must have rolled downhill from King David’s palace. She started searching for the palace uphill from the capital’s resting place, and unearthed what many archaeologists agree are the remains of King David’s palace. 2 Samuel 5:11 states that King David’s palace was built by (Phoenician) King Hiram of Tyre. What kind of capitals would Phoenician craftsmen put on the palace columns? Makes sense to me.
- Jebusite pottery from the Iron Age, right where it is supposed to be in the stratigraphy. David captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5).
- Two seals (bullae) that were found 30 feet apart containing the exact names of two officials, who in the same sentence of the Bible were part of a plot to kill Jeremiah (400 years after David and right where they should be in the layers of the excavation).
- A cistern that could be the muddy cistern recorded in Jeremiah 38:1-13, into which those officials threw Jeremiah.
- An underground tunnel leaving the temple area, where according to Josephus, the Roman 10th legion blocked escaping Jews headed to Masada in 70 CE, then opened the tunnel and butchered them. Archaeologists found a sword in its scabbard from the Roman 10th legion in that tunnel, along with pottery that had food caked on it—indicating the last 2,000 fleeing Jews were indeed hiding or stuck in the tunnel for some period of time. These artifacts match accounts in Josephus’ Jewish Wars.
- A golden bell that matches the raiment prescribed for Hebrew priests in the Bible.
- An incomplete inscribed depiction of the Jewish menorah from the Second Temple period, one of only three depictions ever found.
‘Veracity’ is a one-word description for the Bible, recognizing and appreciating that Jesus Christ claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). But veracity is also an ethic—we don’t need to make things up or overreach reality to make a point. Do these artifacts and discoveries ‘prove’ the Bible is true? No. Do they line up consistently with the text of the Bible? Amazingly so.
Not everyone thinks this kind of archaeology is good. Even after countering extremist claims that the Jewish people did not inhabit these areas—and therefore have no legitimate historical claim to these lands—a massive religious and racial dispute remains over the right to inhabit and explore parts of Jerusalem and the City of David. The following award-winning student video gives insight to sentiments on the Palestinian side of the dispute. The “city of peace” has a longstanding history of being anything but peaceful.
As with many truths, it’s not a simple matter. How would you feel if someone showed up and said that you and all your neighbors had to leave?
Personal discipleship involves listening when God speaks. I don’t hear voices or see angels behind bushes, but I am constantly amazed at how the dots connect.
First, my son David asked me to read through the Old Testament with him this spring. Just read it straight through—no stopping and digging into books, chapters or verses. Take a bird’s-eye view. So I found an iPhone app to read the Bible aloud while I commute, and started listening. The Old Testament is a strange world. In many ways it is best to keep moving through all the rebellion, violence, murder and intrigue. Wholesale slaughtering of disobedient peoples—from 3,000 Hebrews at the foot of Mount Sinai to entire nations. By our modern standards life was cheap. Long recitations of military campaigns and battles, with painstaking records of genealogies and sacrifices. Mosaic law, history, miracles, prophecies, wisdom literature, poetry, love stories, redemption. It’s the raw story of the displaced people group that God chose to bless. When read without pausing it’s easy to miss the significance of the names and places in the text.
Secondly, last week Mike Stump’s Bible class was in Acts 2—Peter’s famous speech at Pentecost where he states, “Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day” (Acts 2:29, NIV84). Here we have the apostle Peter citing David’s Old Testament prophecy that Christ would not see decay, and hanging the proof on Christ’s departed and missing body, witnesses to the resurrected Christ, and that by comparison everyone knew where David’s body was interred. Anyone wanting to flatten Christianity at that moment in history had only to produce Christ’s body. No one could, and the rest is history.
So I drew a connecting line between the two dots, looping in some biblical archaeology around the City of David. Sorry David, I just couldn’t help digging in a little.