Category Archives: Archaeology

Wealthy Canaanite coffin discovered in Jezreel Valley

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced today the discovery of a “3,300 year old coffin” at Tel Shadud on the north side of the Jezreel Valley.

Part of a burial site dating to the Late Bronze Age (thirteenth century BCE) was exposed in an excavation at the foot of Tel Shadud. According to the excavation directors, Dr. Edwin van den Brink, Dan Kirzner and Dr. Ron Be’eri of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “During the excavation we discovered a unique and rare find: a cylindrical clay coffin with an anthropoidal lid (a cover fashioned in the image of a person) surrounded by a variety of pottery consisting mainly of storage vessels for food, tableware, cultic vessels and animal bones. As was the custom, it seems these were used as offerings for the gods, and were also meant to provide the dead with sustenance in the afterlife.” The skeleton of an adult was found inside the clay coffin and next to it were buried pottery, a bronze dagger, bronze bowl and hammered pieces of bronze. “Since the vessels interred with the individual were produced locally”, the researchers say, “We assume the deceased was an official of Canaanite origin who was engaged in the service of the Egyptian government”. Another possibility is that the coffin belonged to a wealthy individual who imitated Egyptian funerary customs. The researchers add that so far only several anthropoidal coffins have been uncovered in the country. The last ones discovered were found at Deir el-Balah some fifty years ago. According to the archaeologists, “An ordinary person could not afford the purchase of such a coffin. It is obvious the deceased was a member of the local elite”.

Coffin lid from Tel Shadud. Photo: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Anthropoid coffin lid from Tel Shadud. Photograph: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The graves of two men and two women who may have been members of his family were also located near the coffin. The discovery of the coffin at Tel Shadud is evidence of Egyptian control of the Jezreel Valley in the Late Bronze Age (thirteenth century BCE). During the period when the pharaohs governed the country, Egyptian culture greatly influenced the local Canaanite upper class. Signs of Egyptian influence are occasionally discovered in different regions and this time they were revealed at Tel Shadud and in the special tomb of the wealthy Canaanite. A rare artifact that was found next to the skeleton is an Egyptian scarab seal, encased in gold and affixed to a ring. The scarab was used to seal documents and objects. The name of the crown of Pharaoh Seti I, who ruled ancient Egypt in the thirteenth century BCE, appears on the seal. Seti I was the father of Ramses II, identified by some scholars as the pharaoh mentioned in the biblical story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.§ Already in the first year of his reign (1294 BCE) a revolt broke out against Seti I in the Bet Shean Valley. Seti conquered that region and established Egyptian rule in Canaan. Seti’s name on the seal symbolizes power and protection, or the strength of the god Ra – the Sun God – one of the most important deities in the Egyptian pantheon. The winged Uraeus (cobra), protector of the pharaoh’s name or of the sovereign himself, is clearly visible on the seal. The reference to the pharaoh Seti on the scarab found in the coffin aided the archaeologists in dating the time of the burial to the thirteenth century BCE – similar to the burials that were exposed at Deir el-Balah and Bet She‘an, which were Egyptian administrative centers.

§ Other scholars date the exodus from Egypt about two centuries earlier than Ramses II.

Gold Scarab of Egyptian Pharaoh Seti I. Photograph: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Gold Scarab of Egyptian Pharaoh Seti I. Photograph: Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Tel Shadud, often called Tel Sarid, is identified with the Biblical site of Sarid included within the territory of Zebulun.

The third lot came up for the people of Zebulun, according to their clans. And the territory of their inheritance reached as far as Sarid. Then their boundary goes up westward and on to Mareal and touches Dabbesheth, then the brook that is east of Jokneam. From Sarid it goes in the other direction eastward toward the sunrise to the boundary of Chisloth-tabor. From there it goes to Daberath, then up to Japhia. (Joshua 19:10-12 ESV)

The offspring of Abraham were given the land of the Canaanite.

You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous. (Nehemiah 9:8 ESV)

The IAA news release, with more photos, is currently available here. See the report in Arutz Sheva, the Israel National News, here.

HT: Joseph Lauer, traveling in Israel.

 

 

Visualizing Isaiah 31: Egypt relies on horses and chariots

A woe is announced on those who go to Egypt for help in the form of horses and chariots.

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD! (Isaiah 31:1 ESV)

The prophet explains that this would be a mistake for Israel.

The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together. (Isaiah 31:3 ESV)

The temple walls throughout Egypt are replete with reliefs of the Pharaohs riding in their chariots pulled by powerful horses. Their enemies are portrayed as tiny and trodden down. The photo below is on one of the large interior walls of the Mortuary Temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu in the Valley of the Kings at Luxor. Various conquered enemies are portrayed on the walls of the temple.

Relief from the mortuary temple of Ramses III. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Relief from the mortuary temple of Ramses III. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Solomon had made this mistake earlier, but Israel failed to learn from it (1 Kings 10:26). Moses prohibited the kings of Israel from returning to Egypt to acquire horses.

“Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’(Deuteronomy 17:16 NAU)

 

Visualizing Isaiah 30: not a shard to take fire from the hearth, or to dip water out of the cistern

There were those in Israel who wanted to rely on Assyria and others who wanted to rely on Egypt. The prophet Isaiah urged that the LORD’S people wait on Him.

Trust in Egypt would be like dependence on a wall that was ready to collapse. The destruction would be as complete as “that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern.”

Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, “Because you despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them, therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant; and its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern.” (Isaiah 30:12-14 ESV)

The Believer’s Bible Commentary has this comment on our text:

Let it be recorded for posterity that the treaty with Egypt (and all such misplaced trust) is a blatant rejection of the law of the Lord through His prophets. Judah will see that Egypt is a poor wall of defense. In fact the high wall will bulge and crash. It will be smashed as completely as an earthenware vessel, with no fragments big enough to use in minor chores.

During archaeological excavations thousands of broken pottery shards are recovered. The destruction (judgment) of the LORD would be so complete that there would not even be a piece large enough to use to move coals of fire from a hearth, or large enough to dip water from a cistern.

In the photo below, made at Ramat Rachel between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, we see part of a pile of pottery shards recovered during the excavation of the site.

Broken pottery shards at Ramat Rachel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Broken pottery shards at Ramat Rachel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

If enough large pieces of a pot or jar are found they may be restored. This can be seen in the photo below that was taken at the En-Dor archaeological museum.

Restored pottery at the En-Dor archaeological museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Restored pottery at the En-Dor archaeological museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Jeremiah used a similar illustration during the Babylonian period (19:10-11).

Visualizing Isaiah 29: a book that is sealed

Sealed documents were common in Bible times. Isaiah had already used this figure in chapter 8:16. Here the same illustration is used to show that because of Israel’s blindness of heart, no one was able (or willing) to accept and understand the will of God (see 6:9-10).

And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read.”(Isaish 29:11-12 ESV)

The photo below was taken in the archaeological museum in Gaziantep, Turkey. It shows a rolled up document with three strings held by clay seals. It appears that the document is modern with three ancient seals, but it illustrates what Isaiah is writing about.

The illiterate man says, “I cannot read.” The man who is literate says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” The illiterate man does not try to find someone who can read, and the literate man does not find someone with authority to break the seal. Blindness, darkness, and spiritual insensitivity prevent either man from finding out what is in the document. No wonder Jesus cited Isaiah’s statement to explain why he used parables (Matthew 13:13-15).

A sealed document displayed in the Gaziantep Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A sealed document displayed in the Gaziantep Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (Walton, Matthews & Chavalas) has this explanatory note about sealed documents in Bible times.

Official documents were written on scrolls of papyrus or vellum and then, when stored or dispatched by messenger, were rolled up and sealed with string and an affixed seal (see 1 Kings 21:8; Jer 32:10–11). The seal, either a ring or signet, was impressed into either wax or a lump of clay known as a bulla (Job 38:14). Archaeologists have found many of these clay bullae with the names of Israelite officials.

I am aware of one ancient document with as many as seven seals. It is the Wadi ed-Daliyeh Aramaic papyrus document dating to the 4th century B.C. The seals are currently displayed in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. This document provides an illustration for Revelation 5 and 6.

Visualizing Isaiah 26: strong city, walls, bulwarks, gates

Isaiah’s readers should find consolation in the fact that the city that was to be devastated by the Babylonians would eventually be rebuilt.

In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: “We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. (Isaiah 26:1-2 ESV)

A remnant of Judeans returned from Babylonian exile in 536 B.C., with a second group returning in 458 B.C. (Isaiah 10:21-22; 2 Chronicles 36:23; Ezra 1; 9:13-15). Nehemiah came to Jerusalem in 444 B.C. to lead in the rebuilding of the walls of the city.

The photo below shows the foundation of a large wall thought to be the “Broad Wall” of Nehemiah 3:8 (see 12:38). The wall, excavated after 1967, was originally about 25 feet high.

Next to them Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, goldsmiths, repaired. Next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, repaired, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. (Neh 3:8 ESV)

The "Broad Wall" in Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The “Broad Wall” in Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Prof. Eilat Mazar believes she has discovered a wall dating to the time of Nehemiah (Persian Period) in the City of David excavations. If so, this would mean we have portions of the wall on the west and on the east side of the ancient city.

Possible portion of wall from time of Nehemiah in the City of David. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Possible portion of wall (right) from time of Nehemiah in the City of David. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

Visualizing Isaiah 24: the tambourines

In the apocalyptic account of the LORD’S judgment upon the earth, Isaiah says…

The wine mourns, the vine languishes, all the merry-hearted sigh. The mirth of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the jubilant has ceased, the mirth of the lyre is stilled. No more do they drink wine with singing; strong drink is bitter to those who drink it. (Isaiah 24:7-9 ESV)

The normal activities of life will cease when the judgment of God comes upon Judah.

The photo below shows clay images of women playing tambourines. These items are part of the Bethlehem Group of mostly pillared figurines, now displayed in the British Museum.

Musicians from Bethlehem. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Female musicians from Bethlehem. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Viewing Jerusalem from Paul Emile Botta Street

The photo below shows a portion of the western wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. There are ruins here belonging to the time of John Hyrcanus (2nd century B.C.), but most of what we see belongs to the Turkish construction from the 16th century A.D. The large structure is known as the Citadel. Jaffa Gate is out of sight on the left side of the photo.

View of the Citadel and the Tower of David. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of the Citadel and the Tower of David. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Our photo was made from Paul Emile Botta Street near the King David Hotel. The French excavator Botta is known for his discovery of the palace of Sargon at Khorsabad in northern Iraq.

Visualizing Isaiah 22: Shebna cut a tomb for himself

Shebna, the steward over the household of David, is to be replaced by Eliakim the son of Hilkiah. He will have the key of the house of David with power to open and shut. Consider the use of this text by Jesus in Revelation 3:8.

Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts, “Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the household, and say to him: What have you to do here, and whom have you here, that you have cut out here a tomb for yourself, you who cut out a tomb on the height and carve a dwelling for yourself in the rock? Behold, the LORD will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you and whirl you around and around, and throw you like a ball into a wide land. There you shall die, and there shall be your glorious chariots, you shame of your master’s house. I will thrust you from your office, and you will be pulled down from your station. In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your sash on him, and will commit your authority to his hand. And he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house. (Isaiah 22:15-23 ESV)

D. J. Wiseman comments on this text and a discovery possibly related to it.

The historical background of the prophecies of Isaiah is provided by a number of contemporary records. One inscription, on a rock lintel from a tomb, was read by Avigad in 1953: ‘This is the (the sepulcher of Shebna) yahu who is over the house. There is no silver or gold here, but only (his bones) and the bones of his slave-wife with him. Cursed be the man who breaks this open.’ (Illustrations from Biblical Archaeology, 60)

Shebna inscription from a tomb. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Shebna inscription from a tomb in Silwan. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This tomb inscription was discovered in 1870 by Charles Clermont Ganneau in the village of Silwan. Following the 1967 war David Ussishkin and Gabriel Barkay examined numerous tombs in Silwan. For more information about the inscription, see Lost Treasures of the Bible by Fant and Reddish (154-157).

Visualizing Isaiah 20: Sargon the king of Assyria

For many years there was no reference to Sargon II (722-705 B.C.) in the available Assyrian records. Yet, the prophet Isaiah, writing at the time of the Assyrian captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel, mentions Sargon’s campaign against Ashdod.

In the year that the commander in chief, who was sent by Sargon the king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and fought against it and captured it– (Isaiah 20:1 ESV)

The palace of Sargon was discovered by Emile Botta at Khorsabad in 1843. This was the period of “monumental” discoveries in archaeology. Both the British Museum and the Louvre have impressive artifacts from the palace of Sargon. The photo below shows Sargon (on the left) receiving one of  his ministers.

Sargon II received a minister. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sargon II receives a minister. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

D. J. Wiseman explains the historical context of what happened at Ashdod.

In 716 bc Sargon sent his army commander (turtan; the *‘tartan’) to war against the Arabs in Sinai. This led to the reception of tribute from the pharaoh Shilkanni (Osorkon IV) of Egypt and from Samsi, queen of the Arabs. Despite these Assyrian successes, the people of Ashdod displaced their Assyrian-nominated ruler, Ahimetu, by a usurper Iadna (or Iamani) who initiated yet another Syro-Palestinian league against Assyria, doubtless relying on Egyptian help. In 712 bc the same turtan was sent to conquer Ashdod (Is. 20:1), which was reduced to the status of an Assyrian province. Since Azaqa (’Azeqah or Tell es-Zakariye) on the Judaean border near Lachish surrendered in this campaign, it will be seen how narrowly independent Judah escaped a further invasion. Iamani fled to Nubia for refuge, only to be extradited to Nineveh by the ruler Shabaka. (The New Bible Dictionary, 3rd edition)

One hundred twenty years after the discovery of Sargon’s palace, archaeologists working at Ashdod discovered fragments of a cuneiform stele of Sargon II at Ashdod. For more information about the discovery and a photograph of it see “Sargon II, Ashdod, and Isaiah 20:1″ here.

This inscription tells of the building of Sargon's palace. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This inscription tells of the building of Sargon’s palace. Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Visualizing Isaiah 19: “the idols of Egypt will tremble”

Isaiah 19 is a continuation of the announcement of the LORD’S judgment upon Egypt.

An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them. (Isaiah 19:1 ESV)

All over Egypt we see evidence of the ancient fallen power. This fallen statue of Ramses II at Memphis illustrates what happened.

Fallen colossal statue of Ramses II at Memphis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fallen colossal statue of Ramses II at Memphis. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The princes (leaders) of Zoan, and other places in Egypt, are likened to pillars that were to be crushed. Columns, pillars, and statues are scattered over the ruins of ancient Zoan (Tanis) in the land of Goshen. In the photo below we see columns stacked up.

Fallen stonework piled together at Zoan (Tanis) in the Land of Goshen. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fallen stonework piled together at Zoan (Tanis) in Goshen. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Those who are the pillars of the land will be crushed, and all who work for pay will be grieved. The princes of Zoan are utterly foolish; the wisest counselors of Pharaoh give stupid counsel. How can you say to Pharaoh, “I am a son of the wise, a son of ancient kings”? Where then are your wise men? Let them tell you that they might know what the LORD of hosts has purposed against Egypt. The princes of Zoan have become fools, and the princes of Memphis are deluded; those who are the cornerstones of her tribes have made Egypt stagger. (Isaiah 19:10-13 ESV)