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This is a compilation of the 24-part series presented in the Good News
magazine over the past several years. This document is only available as an

electronic file. It is not available in print or hard-copy at this time.

The Bible and
Archaeology
Sections 1–12

The Bible and
Archaeology
Sections 1–12

Page 52

20 The Good News

20 The Good News

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invasion does not end there. Another dis-
covery sheds light on Sennacherib’s siege
of Jerusalem. In 1919 the Oriental Institute
of the University of Chicago purchased a
15-inch clay cylinder, called the Prism of
Sennacherib or the Taylor Prism. The
artifact testifies of eight of Sennacherib’s
military campaigns. Regarding the third,
the narrator describes Sennacherib’s inva-
sion of Judah and the subsequent siege
of Jerusalem.

The account reads: “As to [Judah’s king]
Hezekiah, the Jew, he did not submit to my
yoke. I laid siege to forty-six of his strong
cities, walled forts and to countless small vil-
lages in their vicinity, and conquered them
by means of well-stamped earth-ramps, and
battering-rams brought thus near to the
walls, combined with attack by foot soldiers
. . . [Hezekiah] himself I made a prisoner in
Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in
a cage” (James Pritchard, The Ancient Near
East,Vol. 1, 1958, pp. 199-201).

Sennacherib boastfully begins his
description of the siege. His language
leads the reader to expect that the Assyrian
monarch captured Jerusalem, just as he
had taken 46 other strongholds during his
campaign. But the account turns curiously
quiet. Sennacherib ends the account
bragging about the tribute money paid by
Hezekiah, a poor consolation prize. Sen-
nacherib concludes: “Hezekiah himself,
whom the terror-inspiring splendor of my
lordship had overwhelmed, . . . did send
me, later, to Nineveh, my lordly city,
together with talents of gold, . . . talents
of silver . . . and all kinds of valuable trea-
sures, his (own) daughters . . . In order to
deliver the tribute and to do obeisance as
a slave he sent his messenger” (p. 201).

What really happened? Although the
Assyrian records are awkwardly silent, the
Bible completes the story: “And it came to
pass on a certain night that the angel of the
LORD went out, and killed in the camp of the
Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thou-
sand; and when people arose early in the
morning, there were the corpses—all dead.
So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and
went away, returned home, and remained at
Nineveh” (2 Kings 19:35-36).

“The one city he sought to subdue, but
failed,” says Pearlman, “was Jerusalem, the

capital of Judah, where Hezekiah’s spirit
of resistance was much strengthened by the
tough advice of the prophet Isaiah [see
Isaiah 36-37]. Doubtless he would have
wished the centerpiece of his wall decora-

tions to have depicted the fall of Jerusalem.
Instead, judging by the prominence given
to Lachish, this must have been the scene
of the fiercest fighting, and he evidently
regarded its capture against stubborn
defense as his most outstanding victory
in this land”—instead of Jerusalem, which
escaped (Pritchard, p. 97).

The Assyrian report describes only the
siege of Jerusalem. Something incredible
must have occurred for the mighty Assyri-
ans, who had conquered many powerful

empires, to prevent the fall of Jerusalem.

A possible explanation

Sennacherib’s defeat is not only recorded
in the Bible; the Greek historian Herodotus
gives an account of Sennacherib’s humilia-
tion in his History. He attributes the miracu-
lous defeat to mice overrunning the camp
and wreaking great havoc. “An army of
field-mice swarmed over their opponents
in the night . . . [and] gnawed through their
quivers and their bows, and the handles of
their shields, so that on the following day
they fled minus their arms and a great
number fell” (Book 2:141).

The story about the mice might appear as
fanciful myth. However, it might bear a ker-
nel of truth. Josephus, a first-century Jewish
historian, also mentions Sennacherib’s
defeat, explaining that it was caused by a
plague. He cites an earlier historian who
had written: “Now when Sennacherib was
returning from his Egyptian war to Jeru-
salem, he found his army . . . in danger [by
a plague], for God had sent a pestilential dis-
temper upon his army; and on the very first
night of the siege, a hundred fourscore and
five thousand, with their captains and gener-
als, were destroyed” (Antiquities of the Jews,
Book X, Chapter I, Section 5).

Some speculate the mice may have been
carriers of the plague. If so, this would not
be the only such historical example. Mice
contributed to the spread of the black plague
in the Middle Ages and just as easily could
have transported this deadly malady into the
Assyrian camp. The Bible states simply that
the destruction came from God and does not
mention specifics.

Even the biblical description of the death
of Sennacherib is confirmed by discoveries
in ancient Assyrian archives. “Now it came
to pass, as he [Sennacherib] was worshiping
in the temple of Nisroch his god, that his
sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him
down with the sword; and they escaped into
the land of Ararat. Then Esarhaddon his son
reigned in his place” (2 Kings 19:37).

The Assyrian account of Sennacherib’s
death is the same. The International Stan-
dard Bible Encyclopedia explains: “Accord-
ing to Esarhaddon’s records, his father
Sennacherib had named him over his broth-
ers as successor. ‘To gain the kingship they

The Taylor Prism describes Sennacherib’s
military campaigns, including an inva-
sion of Judah. In its own curious way,
this boastful account of the monarch’s
exploits supports the biblical account of
an astounding miracle.

Page 53

November/December 1998 21

slew Sennacherib their father,’” forcing
Esarhaddon to hasten back from a military
campaign to claim the throne (1988,Vol. 4,
p. 396, “Sennacherib”). A parallel Babylon-
ian account also mentions this assassination.

Thus we see confirmed even a tiny detail
from the biblical account.

Hezekiah’s Siloam inscription

Another aspect of Sennacherib’s siege of
Jerusalem is well worth noting. Assyrian tac-
tics called for surrounding the targeted city,
shutting the inhabitants off from any outside
source of food and water to starve them into
submission before a final and decisive direct
attack. While Sennacherib was busy plun-
dering Judah’s other cities, Hezekiah began a
desperate building project to provide the city
a secure water source before the Assyrians
could lay siege to the capital.

“And when Hezekiah saw that Senna-
cherib had come, and that his purpose was
to make war against Jerusalem, he consulted
with his leaders and commanders to stop the
water from the springs which were outside
the city; and they helped him” (2 Chronicles
32:2-3). “. . . Hezekiah also stopped the
water outlet of Upper Gihon, and brought
the water by tunnel to the west side of the
City of David” (verse 30).

Long after the Assyrian menace, this tun-
nel lay forgotten and undisturbed for cen-
turies. Then, in 1880, two Arab boys were
playing near the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem
when one fell in. Swimming to the other side
of the small body of water, he came under a

rock overhang. There in the darkness he
noticed a small passageway. After further
investigation by the authorities, the biblical
tunnel of Hezekiah’s time was discovered
anew. In the tunnel they even discovered an
inscription in Hebrew made by the workers
commemorating their amazing engineering
feat during Hezekiah’s time.

It reads: “And this is the account of the
breakthrough. While the laborers were still
working with their picks, each toward the
other, and while there were still three cubits
to be broken through, the voice of each was
heard calling to the other, because there was
a [split, crack or overlap] in the rock to the
south and to the north. And at the moment
of the breakthrough, the laborers struck each
toward the other, pick against pick. Then
the water flowed from the spring to the pool
for 1,200 cubits. And the height of the rock
above the heads of the laborers was 100
cubits” (Biblical Archaeology Review, July-
August 1994, p. 37).

The “Siloam Inscription,” as it came to be
called, resides in the Istanbul Archaeological
Museum, taken there by Turkish authorities
who ruled Jerusalem at the time. Israeli
authorities claim it as a national monument
and desire its return to Jerusalem.

The Bible vs. fables

All these accounts lead us to several
important conclusions.

• They call into question claims of critics
that the Bible is merely a collection of
myths, fables and other fiction. Extrabiblical

records, like those from Assyria, consistently
confirm the biblical accounts.

• These biblical narratives could not
have been written centuries after the fact as
many critics claim. The incidental details
preserved in the Bible could have been
known only by the people living during the
events described.

• Finally, a spiritual guiding force must
be inspiring the biblical accounts, for they
always seem to match what independent
sources describe.

• The Bible narrative rings true. Unlike
secular accounts, which exaggerate their
heroes’accomplishments, the Bible stands
as a believable report. It describes both the
strengths and weaknesses of its leading char-
acters. Its truths are not exaggerated or dis-
torted as is the obvious case with records left
by scribes and narrators with transparent
national interests or personal agendas.

Even if archaeology is an imperfect sci-
ence incapable of providing all the answers,
it continues to independently verify the
truthfulness of the biblical record.

In the next installment, we will continue
our examination of archaeology and the
kingdom of Judah. GN

King Hezekiah’s engineers performed a remarkable engineering feat, carving a long
tunnel (right) through the limestone underneath Jerusalem to provide the city a secure
water source in the face of an Assyrian invasion. This inscription records how workers
tunneling from both ends met in the middle, completing the monumental task.

November/December 1998 21

Page 103

July/August 2001 21

goddess Artemis. The city was especially
famous for its fine woolen cloth, usually
dyed in a shade that came to be called
Thyatiran purple. It was from Thyatira
that Lydia, a seller of purple and convert
to Christianity, had come (Acts 16:14).
Inscriptions at the site reveal the existence
of trade guilds, many of them associated
with the powerful textile industry.

Christ says about this congregation:
“I know your works, love, service, faith,
and your patience; and as for your works,
the last are more than the first. Neverthe-
less I have a few things against you,
because you allow that woman Jezebel,
who calls herself a prophetess, to teach
and seduce My servants to commit sexual
immorality and eat things sacrificed to
idols” (Revelation 2:19-20).

Since Thyatira was a religious center,
and the home of powerful guilds demanding
religious participation of their workers in
their banquets, it was difficult for Christians
to resist falling into idolatry.

“The strong trade guilds in this city,”
says Leon Morris, “would have made it very
difficult for any Christian to earn his living
without belonging to a guild. But member-
ship involved attendance at guild banquets,
and this in turn meant eating meat which
had first been sacrificed to an idol. What
was a Christian to do? If he did not conform
he was out of a job . . .

“The teaching of Jezebel [probably a

symbolic name] apparently reasoned that
an idol is of no consequence, and advised
Christians to eat such meals. That these
meals all too readily degenerated into sexual
looseness made matters worse. But we can
understand that some Christians would wel-
come a heresy of this type. It enabled them
to maintain a Christian profession while
countenancing and even engaging in
immoral heathen revels” (Tyndale New
Testament Commentaries, 1975, p. 71).

Christ reminds the Thyatiran brethren
they must come out of that worldly society,
no matter how enticing it appeared, and not
compromise with the truth. He promises to
those of Thyatira who remain faithful that
they will be arrayed, not in Thyatiran pur-
ple, a cloth used mainly by Roman royalty,
but at His coming with the spiritual mantle
of rulership over the nations.

He tells them that “he who overcomes,
and keeps My works until the end, to him
I will give power over the nations—‘He
shall rule them with a rod of iron; they
shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s
vessels’—as I also have received from My
Father” (Revelation 2:26-27).

Sardis: Warning to watch

Poised above the rich Hermus Valley,
Sardis was 30 miles south of Thyatira. The
city appeared as a gigantic watchtower and
was considered impregnable. Five roads
converged below it and contributed to

Sardis’s status as a great commercial center.
The wealth of the city—which had been
the capital of the Lydian Empire under the
opulent King Croesus—was legendary.

Christ exhorts this church, “Be watchful,
and strengthen the things which remain, that
are ready to die, for I have not found your
works perfect before God” (Revelation 3:2).

The Sardian brethren could readily iden-
tify with a warning to be watchful. The only
two times Sardis had been conquered were
when its citizens had become overconfident
and failed to watch.

Once, when King Cyrus of Persia
besieged the city, the Sardians, nestled in
their fortress high above, paid little atten-
tion to the invader. Cyrus could not find a
way to get up to the citadel and even
offered a reward to the soldier who discov-
ered a pathway. Sometime later a vigilant
Persian soldier spied a defender who had
accidentally dropped his helmet from
above. The careless soldier climbed down a
secret pathway to retrieve it, and that night
the Persians led their troops up the same
pathway and to the top. To their surprise,
the site was completely unguarded. The
watchmen had gone home to sleep, think-
ing there was no need to keep guard at
night—and so Sardis fell.

Incredibly, several centuries later the
same sequence of events occurred when
a Greek general besieged the city. After a
year’s siege the Greeks appeared to lose allAr

tT
o
d
ay

Pergamos, Roman capital of Asia Minor, was the center
for worship of the serpent god Asklepios Soter, which
supposedly had great healing powers. This god’s massive
shrine, the Asklepieion (left), attracted visitors from all

over the known world. Such corrupt worship led John to
refer to Pergamos as the city “where Satan’s throne is.”
Like other major Roman cities, it erected temples for
emperor worship, including the Trajaneum (right).

Page 104

hope of conquering the city. Then one of
the Sardian soldiers dropped a helmet and
retrieved it. That night the Greeks led some
men up the steep cliff. When they reached
the top, the place was again unguarded.
Sardis’s inhabitants had forgotten their
lesson, and their city fell again.

Christ uses this lesson to drive home
a powerful spiritual point to His Church:
“Therefore if you will not watch, I will come
upon you as a thief, and you will not know
what hour I will come upon you” (verse 3).

Faithfulness in Philadelphia

About 25 miles southeast of Sardis lay
the city of Philadelphia, newest of the seven
cities. An imperial road passed through it
from Rome to the east, so it became known
as “the gateway to the East.”

Christ says to this church: “These things
says He who is holy, He who is true . . .
Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what
you have, that no one may take your crown.
He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar
in the temple of My God, and he shall go out
no more” (Revelation 3:7, 11-12).

Christ emphasizes His loyalty to His true
followers and reminds them to be equally
faithful to Him. If they persevere in His
Word, He will give them a crown that they
may rule with Him in His Kingdom.

We find a definite theme of brotherly
fidelity in this section. The Philadelphian
brethren could well identify with this
admonition.

Philadelphia means “brotherly love.”
The city was named after the love the king
who founded the city held for his brother.
The city was established by Attalus II (159-
138 B.C.), who was called Philadelphus
(“brother lover”) in honor of his loyal affec-
tion toward his brother, King Eumenes II
of Pergamos. During his brother’s lifetime
Attalus II was his most loyal assistant. He
successfully commanded his brother’s
forces in several wars and later became
the trusted ambassador to their ally, Rome.
There he won respect and admiration from
the Romans for his brotherly fidelity.

The New Bible Dictionary comments:
“As Philadelphus was renowned for his
loyalty to his brother, so the church, the
true Philadelphia, inherits and fulfills
his character by its steadfast loyalty to

Christ” (1982, “Philadelphia,” p. 926).

Laodicea: Warning to repent

The last city on the route was Laodicea,
45 miles southeast of Philadelphia. With
three main roads crossing it, the city was
one of the richest commercial centers in the
world. The Laodiceans were famous for
producing shiny, black wool clothing and
boasted of an outstanding medical center
that specialized in eye ointments. With the
wealth amassed, it had also become the
banking center of the region.

Christ says to this church: “I know your
works, that you are neither cold nor hot.
I could wish you were cold or hot. So then,
because you are lukewarm, and neither cold
nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become
wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do
not know that you are wretched, miserable,
poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to
buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that
you may be rich; and white garments, that
you may be clothed, that the shame of your
nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint
your eyes with eye salve, that you may see”
(verses 15-18).

Archaeologists have discovered the main
aqueduct going to Laodicea, and several
miles of it can still be traced. The water
piped in from the south had so many miner-
als that the Roman engineers had covers
installed so they could remove the mineral
deposits before the pipes clogged.

“For all its wealth, the city had poor
water,” says The Expositor’s Bible Commen-
tary. “The water either came from the nearby
hot springs and was cooled to lukewarm
or came from a cooler source and warmed
up in the aqueduct on the way” (notes on
Revelation 3, Zondervan software).

Christ uses the Laodiceans’ lukewarm
and distasteful water to point out that their
poor spiritual state is equally offensive to
Him. He warns them that, if they do not
rapidly improve their spiritual condition, He
will reject them. He detests the Laodicean
attitude of compromising with God’s laws.
By contrast, He later describes those who
are faithful to Him as “those who keep the
commandments of God and the faith of
Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).

Further, even if their clothing were

world renowned, Christ tells them their
“spiritual garments” were in pitiful condi-
tion. He recommends they focus instead on
buying from Him the spiritual clothing of
true righteousness that He later describes
as “fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine
linen is the righteous acts of the saints”
(Revelation 19:8).

Jesus next tells those brethren, who were
blind to their true spiritual condition, that the
“Phrygian powder” concocted in their med-
ical center as an eye ointment was useless.
Instead, He advised them to use His true
spiritual eye salve so they can clearly see
and repent of their compromising attitudes.

Lastly, Christ warns them not to put their
trust in their physical wealth but in Him,
who can develop the true gold that comes
from overcoming trials and building righ-
teous spiritual character. This solid advice is
of lasting value to the entirety of the Church
at any time in its history.

Conclusion

This concludes our archaeological
review of the last book of the Bible. We
hope this series has been a satisfying
journey through the Bible and that it has
strengthened your faith.

Throughout this series we have con-
firmed what Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16-
17: “All Scripture is given by inspiration
of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for
reproof, for correction, for instruction in
righteousness, that the man of God may be
complete, thoroughly equipped for every
good work.” GN

22 The Good News

Recommended Reading

To learn more
about the book of
Revelation and
what it reveals
about the past,
present and
future, be sure
to request your
free copy of The
Book of Revelation Unveiled. Contact
any of our offices listed on page 2, or
request or download it from our Web
site at www.gnmagazine.org.

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