Ancient Near East
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Mythology & Beliefs
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Bible Characters and History
"The 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.
Bibliography on Ancient Customs
The Art of Ancient Egypt, Revised
by Robins, 272 Pages, Pub. 2008
© Bible History Online (http://www.bible-history.com)
Bible & History QuotesFirst Mention of Herod in History - Ehud Netzer