Great Discoveries in Bible Archaeology -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 17:3 (Summer 2004)
Article: Great Discoveries in Bible Archaeology
Author: Anonymous


Great Discoveries in Bible Archaeology

The Amarna Tablets

In 1887, an Egyptian peasant discovered some 3200-year old clay tablets. They came from the ruins of Egypt’s former capital city, Akhetaten. An early investigator called the site Tell Amarna, a corruption of the name of a local tribe, the Beni Amran, and the name has stuck. The city was built by Pharaoh Amenhotep IV—who later changed his name to Akhenaten after changing gods from Amun to Aten. Flinders Petrie excavated the site in the 1890’s and today we have almost 400 tablets. As small as two by three inches, each tablet was inscribed in cuneiform script on both sides. Most were incoming diplomatic messages from throughout the ancient Near East. Some 106 of them are from Egypt’s vassal kings in Canaan.

These clay tablets describe Canaan during the early period of the Judges, about 50 years after the Conquest. The kings of the cities not conquered by the Israelites were making desperate pleas for help. They said the land was being taken over by an unruly group not connected to any specific city in Canaan. Called the Apiru, which is linguistically compatible to “Hebrew,” they show up in the Amarna tablets in the right place at the right time to be the Hebrews as described in the Bible.

It appears the bad guys in the Amarna tablets were the good guys in the Bible—the Israelites! (For further information, see Douglas S. Waterhouse, Who Were the Habiru of the Amarna Letters? Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 12 [2001]: 31-42.) (GAB)

The Merneptah Stela

The only mention of Israel in Egyptian texts, and the earliest mention of Israel anywhere outside the Bible, is a seven-foot tall granite monument from the mortuary temple of Pharaoh Merneptah. A hieroglyphic inscription celebrating the Pharaoh’s recent victory over Libya, it ends by referring to an earlier campaign in Canaan. A portion of the record states:

Israel is wasted, its seed is not;

And Hurru (Canaan) is become a widow because of Egypt.

Called the Merneptah Stela (stela is Greek for an inscribed monument) and today kept in the Egyptian museum, it was discovered at Thebes by Flinders Petrie in 1896. Pharaoh Merneptah reigned Pharaoh Merneptah reigned from 1212 to 1202 BC and his campaign to Canaan took place around 1210 BC.

As of today we have no Egyptian record of Israel living in Egypt. But the Biblical description of the Ten Plagues, Exodus and Reed Sea crossing might suggest why. Egyptian monuments were to impress their gods or their enemies; and the story of the Israel...

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