Walter G. Williams
Characters and History
purpose of the archaeologist is to recover and study the
remains of ancient civilizations so that historians may
reconstruct the story of ancient people...It is
important, therefore, for us to know something about
history. Of particular importance is the need to
recognize that Bible characters have their roots in
history. For too many people such individuals as Noah,
Abraham, Isaiah, and Jeremiah are unreal people who live
only in the pages of a book or perhaps are portrayed in
the windows of their churches. Through the work of the
archaeologist many Bible figures may stand firmly on the
solid ground of historical fact."
"If history is concerned with individuals as well as the
group, then one method of validating the trustworthiness
of the record is to establish the historicity of the
individuals named. This is possible in many cases of
individuals named in the Bible. First of all there is
the listing in non-Hebrew records of Hebrew kings. In
the inscriptions of Shalmaneser III he spoke of Ahab the
Israelite, and on the Black Obelisk he recorded the
tribute he received from "Jehu, son of Omri."
Tiglath-pileser III received tribute from Jehoahaz and
made proper note on clay tablets. This same monarch
lists Menahem as one of the Kings he "overwhelmed."
Tiglath-pileser refers to the Northern Kingdom as "Omri-Land"
and tells of the overthrow of Pekah by the people and
Tiglath-pileser's appointment of Hoshea as the new king.
There is record of constant contact between as Syria and
Israel during the ninth and the eight centuries B.C.
until the final defeat of the Northern Kingdom. During
the earlier period in which the United Kingdom had been
established there is no biblical record of contact with
Assyria, nor is there Assyrian record. This is in
agreement with the fact that during the eleventh and
tenth centuries the Assyrian Empire was on the decline
and no forays were made into Palestine.
It is only after the fall of the Northern Kingdom that
much attention is given by Assyria to Judah. Several
records include references to kings Ahaz, Hezekiah, and
Manasseh. Sennacherib's account of his attack on the
city of Jerusalem has been preserved in that king's
annals. He tells us that he held Hezekiah prisoner in
Jerusalem, like a bird in a cage, and laid siege to 46
cities altogether. From the administrative documents of
Nebuchadnezzar II we have confirmation of Jehoiakin's
imprisonment in Babylon (II Kings 24:12-15) and the
added information that a quota of oil was provided from
the royal treasury for the prisoner.
Just as there is confirmation in clay tablets of the
historicity of many biblical figures, so also there is
evidence from papyri, stone, and clay that foreign kings
listed in Scripture were historical figures. Prior to
the finding of these ancient documents such names as
Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar were merely names, not
recognizable people. Most dictionaries and encyclopedias
prior to the end of the 19th century had little
information to guide the reader. Today we have rather
full histories, and the newer dictionaries containing
biographies are replete with information concerning
kings and queens of Babylonia, Assyria, Neo-Babylonia
(Chaldea), Egypt, et cetera."
Walter G. Williams, "Archaeology in Biblical
Research" (Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1965)
pp. 15-16; 118-119.