Sunday, December 22, 2019

An Interesting Side Note on the Bible

While Christians and many people today accept the Bible as it is written without basic questions, and in some ways has become part of the public conscience, not only do many disagree with the contents, time and location, there have always been those that do not believe there is sufficient “proof” of the holy lands to warrant scriptural consistency. That is, many claim there is no “proof” of the lands in that location, therefore no “proof” of the Bible.
   While Christians and many people today accept the Bible as it is written without basic questions, and in some ways has become part of the public conscience, not only do many disagree with the contents, time and location, there have always been those that do not believe there is sufficient “proof” of the holy lands to warrant scriptural consistency. That is, many claim there is no “proof” of the lands in that location, therefore no “proof” of the Bible.
    In fact, the question they ask is: “Did the ancient land of Israel really exist?
    Not covered well in this country, and not too much in other Christian societies, the period of time surrounding King David and King Solomon have been under fire for some time, with many claiming the society depicted in the scriptures really did not begin until the 8th century, some 300 years later, and that in the 10th century period, many historians believe that Israel was nothing but a small nomadic, illiterate tribe in the foothills.
    In fact, many ask the question: “Did the ancient land of Israel exist?” In addition, many archaeologists have debated this question for decades. It might be a surprise to many today to think there is a question about the authenticity of not only Biblical events, but of the Israelite existence entirely. Not unlike those who question the existence of Book of Mormon events and places, the Bible has few areas that can known and understood. As an example, the city of She’arayim mentioned in the Bible, a city appearing in the list of Judah's tribal inheritance, after Socoh and Azekah (Josephus 15,36). Also after David killed Goliath, the Philistines ran away and were slain on the “road to She'arayim" (1 Samuel 17:52). In the city list of the tribe of Simeon, She'arayim is mentioned as one of the cities "unto the reign of David" (1 Chronicles 4:31).
    Yet, it’s existence is unknown after all of the meticulous archaeological work done in the area of Israel. AT least, until 2012 when archaeological finds 15 miles southwest of Jerusalem confirmed the existence of the biblical figures King David and King Solomon. The confirmation rests on excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, an archaeological site considered to be the biblical city of Sha’arayim, which dates back to the 10th  century BC.
    Uncovered at the site were two monumental buildings, one massive structure measuring over 10,000 square feet at the center of the site that “reflects power and authority over the city, as well as the region.” They believe it was an administrative center of the recently established Davidic kingdom. When the discovery was first announced, it was heralded as King David’s palace in the popular media, and the archaeologists write that while “he lived in his palace at Jerusalem…as the major administrative center on the western edge of David’s kingdom, it could have been a palatial building.”
    Model shrines discovered at Khirbet Qeiyafa were meant to represent Solomon’s Temple, and was the original home of the Ark of the covenant. Carbon dating places these relics within the time frame of biblical accounts of David's kingdom. Not only is the timing correct, but the relics potentially support the possible existence of a Jewish realm with a dedicated religion. Then there is the already observed fact that Khirbet Qeiyafa was a walled city, indicating that it was a town within a larger polity with a centralized administration Wynne Parry, “Earliest Evidence of Biblical Cult Discovered,” May 10, 2012).
Believed to be the site of She’arayim on a hilltop overlooking the Elah Valley in the Judean Hills, the valley of the terebinth (tree)

After excavating the site, Yossi Garfinkel of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and others believe that Khirbet Qeiyafa is She'arayim. Field work uncovered a wall that makes a nearly complete circuit with two gates. Garfinkel says it is the only contender for She'arayim as all other sites dated to the period have a single city gate (“Oldest Hebrew inscription' Discovered in Israelite Fort on Philistine border,” Biblical Archaeology Review, Washington DC, March/April 2010, p52).
    This is a clear example of how Biblical events are continually being discovered through archaeology. For the first time, archaeologists have uncovered shrines from the time of the early Biblical kings in the Holy Land, providing the earliest evidence of a cult, they say.
    Excavation within the remains of the roughly 3,000-year-old fortified city of Khirbet Qeiyafa, 19 miles southwest of Jerusalem, have revealed three large rooms used as shrines, along with artifacts, including tools, pottery and objects, such as alters associated with worship.
    The three shrines were part of larger building complexes, and the artifacts included five standing stones, two basalt altars, two pottery libation vessels and two portable shrines, one made of pottery, the other of stone.
Aerial photo of Khirbet Qeiyafa at the end of the excavation project. It is located southwest of Jerusalem, on the summit of a hill that borders the Elah Valley on the north

When a readable ostrocon (a potsherd used as a writing surface) was found at a place called Khirbet Qelyafa (Hirbet Kaifeh) the fortress overlooking the Elah valley (where David fought Goliath), it changed all the hints at a nomadic group of tribes in Israel. The ostrocon dated from around the time in which king David would have lived and the inscription was interesting, both for its language, as well as its archaeological context.
    First of all, there were words in it that clearly represented some type of set kingdom such as king [מלך] and judge [שפט]. Second, there were words that were, although not non-existent in other Northwest Semitic languages, they were most typical of Hebrew, for example, "to do" [עשה] and "judge" someone [שפט]. Also, finding this ostrocon in the context of a fortress also showed the fallacy that Israel was just simply a nomadic tribe.
    Much work has been going on at Qelyafa, which fortress covers nearly 6 acres and is encircled by a 2300-foot-long city wall constructed of stones weighing up to eight tons each.
    A number of archaeologists have claimed that it might be the biblical city of Sha’arayim while many claim it was Judhaite or Canaanite fortress. This is a key strategic location in the biblical Kingdom of Judah, on the main road from Philistia and the Coastal Plain to Jerusalem and Hebron in the hill country. The city was constructed on bedrock, 2.3 hectares in area, surrounded by massive fortifications of megalithic stones. Five seasons of excavation were carried out in 2007-2011, five areas of the site were examined, and nearly 20% of the city has been uncovered. The expedition excavated 656-feet of the city wall, two gates, a pillar building like a small stable, and 10 houses. In this area one of the world's most famous battles took place, the battle between David and Goliath.
    The city has the most impressive First Temple period fortifications, including an encircling casemate city wall. The gates are of identical size, with one in the east and one in the south, and consist of four chambers. This is the only known city from the First Temple period with two gates. The urban planning of Khirbet Qeiyafa includes the casemate city wall and a belt of houses abutting the casemates, incorporating them as part of the construction. Such urban planning has not been found at any Canaanite or Philistine city, nor in the northern Kingdom of Israel, but is a typical feature of city planning in Judean cities: Beersheba, Tell Beit Mirsim, Tell en-Nasbeh and Tell Beth-Shemesh.
    Khirbet Qeiyafa is the earliest known example of this city plan and indicates that this pattern had already been developed by the time of King David.
    The city came to an end in a sudden destruction, as indicated by hundreds of restorable pottery vessels, stone utensils and metal objects left on the floors of the houses. Thus, during these five excavation seasons, very rich assemblages of pottery, stone tools and metal objects were found, as well as many cultic objects, scarabs, seals and the most famous Khirbet Qeiyafa ostracon, an inscription written with ink on a pottery sherd.
     The massive construction of Khirbet Qeiyafa and its urban planning clearly indicate central authority in Judah in the early 10th century BC, the time of King David.
This inscription was discovered in 2008 and dates to the late-11th/early-10th century B.C., around the time of the Biblical Saul and David. It may be the oldest Hebrew inscription yet discovered, and some scholars believe it to be Hebrew written in Early Alphabetic script, though others assert we cannot rule out other similar languages such as Phoenician.

    Ancient words for “judge,” “king,” and “slave” are visible but too many of the other letters are faded to permit a sure translation of the message.
    Since it has taken many years, in fact more than two centuries, of digging for Biblical artifacts, and now just recently discovering for certainty of the origin of the Davidic era and that of Solomon, one can only wonder how long it will take to find the same settings for Book of Mormon archaeology which, surely as that of the Bible, will one day come indisputedly out of the ground.

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