Shocking the Skeptics

Four years ago, Israeli archeologists digging at Tel Dan in the Golan Heights discovered something so astonishing that some scholars insisted it must be a fraud. The find was a piece of stone from an ancient monument. Inscribed upon the stone, in ancient Aramaic, were the words, "King of Israel" and "House of David." The inscription dates from the ninth century B.C. A year later, in 1994, archeologists found more fragments of the monument, with additional inscriptions referring to King David. According to Ronny Reich of the Israeli Antiquities Authority, the new scholarly consensus is that David was a real, historical figure—not because the Bible says so, but because archeology has found him. Why do so many scholars persist in this attitude? It’s because they don’t regard the Bible as an authoritative historical source. Biblical stories are considered myth unless they’re confirmed by non-biblical sources. Unless the ancient Philistine or Aramean records mention biblical characters, skeptics assume that they didn’t actually exist. Until recently, King Ahab was the earliest biblical character to appear in secular historical records. His treaty with the king of Syria is recorded in Syrian inscriptions. Going by the "skeptics’ rule," no biblical character before Ahab—including David—could be considered a historical figure. That’s why the 1993 discovery at Tel Dan—the biblical city of Dan—must have come as such a shock to the skeptics. But it should have come as no surprise to Christians. In the Old Testament, in First Kings chapter 15, we read that the kings of Israel and Judah were at war with each other. The king of Judah, fearing defeat, took gold and silver from the temple and used it to bribe the king of the Arameans to come fight on his side. The Arameans agreed. They took Judah’s gold, attacked Israel—and captured the Israelite city of Dan. This fragment found at Tel Dan confirms the biblical record. So much for scholars who claimed that David’s dynasty was a myth, and that the kingdoms of Israel and Judah didn’t exist in the ninth century B.C. There’s more. Scripture tells us that the king of Aram was named Ben-Hadad, which means "son of the storm god Hadad." Interestingly, the inscription discovered at Dan credits the pagan storm god Hadad with the victory over Israel. Yet another confirmation of the historical accuracy of Scripture. The meaning of these exciting archeological discoveries has not been lost on Christians. Time magazine states that "believers around the world are attuned… to the significance of archeological finds… [that establish] the reality of the events underlying their faith." So the next time someone tries to tell you that the Bible is nothing but a collection of unproved myths, tell him about the latest archeological evidence that King David actually existed—just as the Old Testament says. And share with him this special series on evidence for biblical history. As the Toronto Star put it, "the rock upon which David’s name was found" is just one of many "discoveries that may be ushering in a golden age of biblical archeology."


Chuck Colson


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