A-1 - Encouraged by What You Read?

For over two centuries liberal skeptics of an inerrant Bible have challenged the Bible’s historical accounts. Archaeological digs in Israel over the past hundred years, however, have been silencing these critics, artifact discovery by artifact discovery, making an ever stronger case for the complete reliability and inerrancy of the Bible’s historical narratives and geographical descriptions.

In the February 2017 issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports three archaeologists, Erez Ben-Yosef, Dafna Langgut, and Lidar Sapir-Hen, announced their findings from excavations they performed in one of the most inhospitable regions in southern Israel.1 They excavated a gatehouse and livestock pens in Timna, Israel. The red dot in the figure below marks the location of Timna, approximately 19 miles north of the northernmost point of the Gulf of Aqaba. It is in one of the most arid and desolate parts of the Negev Desert.

Figure: Location of Timna in Southern Israel
Map credit: NASA

The excavated gatehouse and livestock pens were part of one of the largest copper smelting camps in the Timna Valley. The dating of several recovered artifacts established that the camp supported a community of copper metalworkers in the tenth century BC.

This dating resolved a major historical controversy. While there is abundant historical evidence that the rich copper ore in the region had been mined since the fifth century BC, historians expressed considerable skepticism about whether the mines and smelters were active during the reign of Israel’s King Solomon. The new dating measurements remove that skepticism. The mines and smelting camps in the Timna Valley indeed are the fabled King Solomon’s mines.

Because of the extreme aridity of the camp region, organic materials were extraordinarily preserved. Ben-Yosef, Langgut, and Sapir-Hen were able to recover animal bones and seeds and pollen in donkey dung piles. Analysis of the dung revealed that the donkeys were fed grape pomace and hay rather than straw.

The grape pomace and hay diet shows that the donkeys were well cared for. This care would have been critically important for the donkeys to be effective draft animals for the hauling of copper from the camp to central and northern Israel and for the transport of supplies to the camp. Analysis of the animal bones and seeds shows that the metalworkers ate a rich diet that would have enabled them to engage in highly productive labor.

Ben-Yosef, Langgut, and Sapir-Hen also noted that donkey dung was piled against the inner face of walled structures. This piling indicates that the dung was used as a fuel for the initial heating of the smelting furnaces. The three archaeologists also discovered artifacts demonstrating that the metalworkers engaged in secondary metallurgy. That is, they not only smelted copper ore, but also further refined it and manufactured ingots.

The gatehouse and walls evidently were for defense. They show that the Israelites of Solomon’s time invested heavily in military deterrence. The three archaeologists commented that their excavation revealed the camp’s “complexity and centralized organization, as well as its involvement in inter-regional trade.”2

The Bible devotes twenty-one chapters to describing the history of King Solomon’s reign and the extent, wealth, power, and organization of Solomon’s empire. Many scholars presumed that these descriptions were just as exaggerated and embellished as are the annals of famous kings in the nations bordering Israel during the BC era. What Ben-Yosef, Langgut, and Sapir-Hen discovered in Timna is that these biblical descriptions are not exaggerated. They are entirely consistent with everything the Bible describes about the reign of King Solomon.

Featured image: This formation in Israel’s Timna Valley is known as King Solomon’s Pillars.

Endnotes

  1. Erez Ben-Yosef, Dafna Langgut, and Lidar Sapir-Hen, “Beyond Smelting: New Insights on Iron Age (10th C. BCE) Metalworkers Community from Excavations at a Gatehouse and Associated Livestock Pens in Timna, Israel,” Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 11 (February 2017): 411–26, doi:10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.12.010.
  2. Ibid., 411.

Subjects: Archaeology, Bible, Inerrancy, Historical Theology

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About The Author

Dr. Hugh Ross

Reasons to Believe emerged from my passion to research, develop, and proclaim the most powerful new reasons to believe in Christ as Creator, Lord, and Savior and to use those new reasons to reach people for Christ. I also am eager to equip Christians to engage, rather than withdraw from or attack, educated non-Christians. One of the approaches I’ve developed, with the help of my RTB colleagues, is a biblical creation model that is testable, falsifiable, and predictive. I enjoy constructively integrating all 66 books of the Bible with all the science disciplines as a way to discover and apply deeper truths. 1 Peter 3:15–16 sets my ministry goal, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience." Hugh Ross launched his career at age seven when he went to the library to find out why stars are hot. Physics and astronomy captured his curiosity and never let go. At age seventeen he became the youngest person ever to serve as director of observations for Vancouver's Royal Astronomical Society. With the help of a provincial scholarship and a National Research Council (NRC) of Canada fellowship, he completed his undergraduate degree in physics (University of British Columbia) and graduate degrees in astronomy (University of Toronto). The NRC also sent him to the United States for postdoctoral studies. At Caltech he researched quasi-stellar objects, or "quasars," some of the most distant and ancient objects in the universe. Not all of Hugh's discoveries involved astrophysics. Prompted by curiosity, he studied the world’s religions and "holy books" and found only one book that proved scientifically and historically accurate: the Bible. Hugh started at religious "ground zero" and through scientific and historical reality-testing became convinced that the Bible is truly the Word of God! When he went on to describe for others his journey to faith in Jesus Christ, he was surprised to discover how many people believed or disbelieved without checking the evidence. Hugh's unshakable confidence that God's revelations in Scripture and nature do not, will not, and cannot contradict became his unique message. Wholeheartedly encouraged by family and friends, communicating that message as broadly and clearly as possible became his mission. Thus, in 1986, he founded science-faith think tank Reasons to Believe (RTB). He and his colleagues at RTB keep tabs on the frontiers of research to share with scientists and nonscientists alike the thrilling news of what's being discovered and how it connects with biblical theology. In this realm, he has written many books, including: The Fingerprint of God, The Creator and the Cosmos, Beyond the Cosmos, A Matter of Days, Creation as Science, Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, and More Than a Theory. Between writing books and articles, recording podcasts, and taking interviews, Hugh travels the world challenging students and faculty, churches and professional groups, to consider what they believe and why. He presents a persuasive case for Christianity without applying pressure. Because he treats people's questions and comments with respect, he is in great demand as a speaker and as a talk-radio and television guest. Having grown up amid the splendor of Canada's mountains, wildlife, and waterways, Hugh loves the outdoors. Hiking, trail running, and photography are among his favorite recreational pursuits - in addition to stargazing. Hugh lives in Southern California with his wife, Kathy, and two sons.

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