We’ve written recently of some glaring examples of the secular world being so desperate to prove the Bible wrong that non-believing scholars often stick their feet in their mouths about the Bible’s historical accuracy. This post about the Hittites, and this one about the “camel fallacy” demonstrate this quite well. The March/April 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review proclaimed that “Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible.” This is fascinating reading, and it is especially satisfying that before the evidences were found, several of these real people were claimed by skeptics to have been merely mythological.
One such person was King David himself. Now don’t get us wrong. The evidence for a Davidic empire is not so overwhelming that all skeptics concede the point (it is the opinion of this blogger that some of those could not ever be given enough evidence to do so). But if this evidence was related to a historical king that was not written about in the bible, we would wager that there would be no doubters. The issue is presupposition – pure and simple.
The Tel Dan Stele resides in the Israel Museum
Israeli archaeologist Avraham Biran began digging at Tel Dan in Israel in 1966. From 1993 – 1994, after nearly 30 years of excavations, his expedition uncovered a basalt (an igneous rock) stone with an inscription in Aramaic. It has been dated to about the mid-800’s B.C. The inscription described military victories by an Aramaean king (almost certainly Hazael of Damascus). In the inscription, the king bragged about killing the king of Israel (Joram) and the king of Judah (Ahaziah) in one of his campaigns. Later, once the occupying forces were finally defeated at Dan, they broke the stone up and used the pieces in construction of their city gate; and this is how the expedition found it in the dig.
In 2 Kings 9, it was actually Jehu that assassinated these two kings. But the text does detail Hazael’s extensive fighting against both kings (2 Kings 9:14-16). It is not surprising that Hazael would erect this inscribed stone in Dan, which he occupied, taking credit for these assassinations in order to show his “bright feathers” for all men there to see. Though Jehu did the assassinations, Hazael was nonetheless responsible for the demise of their reigns in every other respect. More than one biblical passage make that clear, including 2 Chronicles 22:1-9, and 2 Kins 8:7-15, and 28. And in 1 Kings 19:15-17, God told Elisha:
“Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death.”
Mesha Stele: stele of Mesha, king of Moab, recording his victories against the Kingdom of Israel. Basalt, ca. 800 BC. From Dhiban, now in Jordan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A huge significance of the find in this dig is that the inscription refers to the kingdom of Judah as the “House of David.” It is the earliest known reference to it outside the Bible. A few naysayers, of course, say that all it proves is that there was a tribe of Israel and that they had a leader named David at one time. But they come off like whiny children who just cannot stand not getting their way. It is highly unlikely that this Aramaean king would be so proud as to erect this monument to boast about defeating relatives of a small tribal sheep-herder.
But there is more. The Moabite Stone or “Mesha Stele,” first discovered in 1868 contains the words “House of David” in the Moabite language, meaning that he was the beginning ruler of the dynasty. It is a ninth century B.C. inscription that the Moabite king Mesha had erected as bragging rights for his victory over the king of Israel and his accompanying armies. Though his boasting differs greatly from what the Bible tells us in 2 Kings 3, it is nonetheless important for several reasons beyond the confirmation it gives us from the “house of David” reference.
The Stele (now housed in the Louvre in France) also confirms by name two other kings written about by scripture (Mesha himself, and King Omri of Israel), the tribute extracted from the Moabites by Israel, and the tribe of Gad. It is also the oldest secular evidence we have of the Tetragrammaton YHWH (Yahweh) as the name that God revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14. But it also was the best confirmation at the time of the existence of Moab itself – yet another factual place that skeptics had long doubted.
(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.