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Tel el Amarna was in ancient Egypt near the Nile River about halfway between Memphis and Thebes. In 1988 there were about 400 cuneiform tablets discovered at this site which were part of the royal archives of Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) who reigned about 1400 BC.
Among them were letters written in Babylonian cuneiform script to these Pharaohs of Egypt by various kings dwelling in the land of Canaan and Syria, they were written during the time of Moses. They provide the first evidence of the Hebrew tribes entering into the land of Canaan in ancient times.
Some of the tablets were anxious letters written from Jerusalem (Urusalim), warning the pharaoh an invasion by the 'Habiru [Khabiru]', who were approaching from Trans-Jordan.
It is interesting that Akhenaten's new capital, Akhetaton, which he built with his queen Nefertiti was at the same place as modern Amarna (Tell el Amarna).
The Amarna Letters discovery is highly important in the study of Biblical Archaeology because they refer to events in the middle east in the 15th and 14th centuries BC. They refer to the Hebrews, they give evidence of the trustworthiness of the book of Judges. They mention a lot about Canaan, the half of Israel to the west of the Jordan. This name "Canaan" has been found in Egyptian inscriptions of the New Kingdom. The king of Babylon used the word Canaan to designate the entire Egyptian province of Canaan when he wrote to Pharaoh: "Canaan is thy land and its kings are thy servants" (El-Amarna 8, 25)
The Tablets are from 3 inches wide and anywhere from 3 to 9 inches in length, and they are inscribed on both sides. The letters were written in Akkadian, which had been the language of international relations for some time. Today the Tell el Amarna Tablets are mainly in the British, Berlin and Cairo museums.
The original name of Jerusalem was Babylonian, Uru-Salim, "the city of Salim," shortened into Salem in Gen 14:18 and in the inscriptions of the Egyptian kings Ramses II and Ramses III. In the Tell el-Amarna Letters (1400 BC) Jerusalem is still known as Uru-Salim, and its king bears a Hittite name, implying that it was at the time in the possession of the Hittites. His enemies, however, were closing around him, and one of the tablets shows that the city was eventually captured and its king slain. These enemies would seem to have been the Jebusites, since it is after this period that the name "Jebus" makes its appearance for the first time in the Old Testament (Judges 19:10,11).
"But the man would not tarry that night, but he rose up and departed, and came over against Jebus, which is Jerusalem; and there were with him two asses saddled, his concubine also was with him. And when they were by Jebus, the day was far spent; and the servant said unto his master, Come, I pray thee, and let us turn in into this city of the Jebusites, and lodge in it." Judges 19:10-11
British Museum Excerpt
Tell el-Amarna (ancient Akhetaten, Egypt)
In the fifth year of his reign, Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV, 1352-1336 BC) moved the royal residence to a previously uninhabited site in Middle Egypt. He called the new capital Akhetaten, 'the horizon of the sun-disc', and marked its limits on both banks of the River Nile with a series of boundary stelae.
The central part of the city was occupied by the main religious and administrative buildings. An archive of diplomatic correspondence between the kings of the Amarna period and rulers of the Levant was found in the records office. The official buildings were linked to the outlying palaces by the Royal Road, a wide processional way. The main royal residence was the fortified North Riverside Palace.
Timeline of Egypt's New Kingdom Beginnings
Ahmose (Nebpehtyre) 1539 - 1514
Amenhotep I (Djeserkare) 1514 - 1493
Thutmose I (Akheperkare) 1493 - 1481
Thutmose II (Akheperenre) 1491 - 1479
Hatshepsut (Maatkare) 1473 - 1458
Thutmose III (Menkheperre) 1504 - 1450
Amenhotep II (Akheperure) 1427 - 1392
Thutmose IV (Menkheperure) 1419 - 1386
Amenhotep III (Nebmaatre) 1382 - 1344
Amenhotep IV / Akhenaten 1350 - 1334
Smenkhkare (Ankhkheperure) 1336-1334
Tutankhamun (Nebkheperure) 1334 - 1325
Ay (Kheperkheperure) 1325 - 1321
Horemheb (Djeserkheperure) 1323 - 1295
Ramesses I (Menpehtyre) 1295 - 1294
Seti I (Menmaatre) 1394 - 1279
Ramesses II (Usermaatresetepenre) 1279 - 1213
Merenptah (Baenrehotephirmaat) 1213 - 1203
Amenmesse (Menmire) 1203 - 1200
Seti II (Userkheperuresetepenre) 1200 - 1194
Siptah (Akhenresetepenre) 1194 - 1188
Tausert (Sitremeritamun) 1185-1187
1407 Moses dies; Joshua conquers Canaan
Archaeology Discoveries and the Ancient Biblical World
The Black Obelisk. In the 1840's a British man named Austen Henry Layard had a desire to travel to the Middle East and dig around some of the strange looking mounds near the City of Mosul. He had heard many tales about things being found in these mounds. He was looking for any trace of evidence that would lead him to the lost city of Nineveh, the capital of the ancient Assyrian Empire. Little did he know that one of his discoveries would turn Europe upside down with excitement. He discovered a black limestone monument which is known today as The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III. This discovery brought a new authenticity and historicity to some of the stories in the Bible. It also gained him the support of the British Museum, and all the finances he needed to continue his excavations, and become known as "The Father of Assyriology."
The Pilate Inscription. It wasn't long ago when many scholars were questioning the actual existence of a Roman Governor with the name of Pontius Pilate, the procurator who ordered Jesus' crucifixion. In June 1961 Italian archaeologists led by Dr. Frova were excavating an ancient Roman amphitheatre near Caesarea-on-the-Sea (Maritima) and uncovered this interesting limestone block. On the worn face is a monumental inscription which is part of a larger dedication to Tiberius Caesar which clearly says that it was from "Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea."
The Megiddo Seal Bearing King Jeroboam's Name. It is very interesting that the Jasper Seal, found at Tel Megiddo bearing the name of King Jeroboam who ruled in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, would contain the symbol for their rival, the Southern Kingdom of Judah. But in examining all of the circumstances involved and seeing what the Bible says it is no wonder that the prosperous and victorious Northern Kingdom of Israel would boast with a symbol of their enemy.
The Tomb of Cyrus the Great. An inscription on the tomb of the great Persian monarch read: "O man, whoever you are and wherever you come from, for I know that you will come--I am Cyrus, son of Cambyses, who founded the Empire of the Persians and was king of the East. Do not grudge me this spot of earth which covers my body." - Cyrus". Is it true that Isaiah the Hebrew prophet mention Cyrus by name almost 200 years before he was born?
Sennacherib's Hexagonal Prism. This amazing discovery excavated in Nineveh in the 1830 records the Assyrian king Sennacherib's 8th campaign, which includes his siege of Jerusalem during the reign of "Hezekiah the Judahite" in 701 BC. There are 500 lines of writing in the Akkadian language on this magnificent clay prism. Is the story true that it was purchased by an American from an antiquities dealer in Baghdad?
Coming Soon The Ishtar Gate of Babylon. During the last days of the southern kingdom of Judah the Jews were taken captive to a distant land called Babylon at the latter part of the 6th century BC. They passed through a beautiful entrance gate made of mud brick masonry and glazed skin which stood 47 feet tall, commonly referred to as the Ishtar Gate since its discovery at the turn of the 20th century near modern Baghdad, Iraq. The tall gate was dedicated to the gods by Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylonia who reigned from 605—562 BC). Is it true that Hitler had it transported to Berlin? Where is the Ishtar Gate now?
[Next] The Remains of Solomon's Temple
The Bible mentions many things about people, places and events that happened in history. The Bible also gives an accurate chronology of those people, places and events. What is amazing is that modern archaeology has confirmed that the Bible has never made one error, or given any clear contradictions in all of its text in matters of historical fact. The paintings and illustrations below of archaeological discoveries and ruins illustrate this emphatically.
Paintings By Bjanikka Ben and Maliyah Weston
(More to come)
Bible History A
growing database of images and sketches of the ancient world.
Bible Maps A growing database of maps for study and teaching.
Reconstructions Sketches of ancient cities & monuments from archaeology.
The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible by Holden and Geisler. 352 Pages, 2012
The Story of the Bible
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