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Author's Journal Transcripts for Bill Humble
Bible Archeology - Proofs From the Earth

 


Professor Bill Humble has traveled to the Holy Land numerous times over the past 30 years. He has visited many of the ancient sites that provide evidence of the accuracy of the Bible. He shares his insights with us in the KNLS series,  Bible Archeology—Proofs from the Earth.

 

 


 

Standard of Ur. Seventy small figures made of white sea shell. For information about Abraham’s faith in leaving Ur, read Genesis 11:27-12:9 and Hebrews 11:8-19.  Bill Humble photo - all rights reserved.  (Click photo to view a larger image)

Standard of Ur

Did you know that Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldeans? And did you know that when Ur was excavated, they found beautiful gold treasures? I’ve seem those treasures in the British Museum and I’d like to tell you about them. According to the Bible, Abraham grew up in Ur of the Chaldeans, now in southern Iraq, but when God called him, Abraham left Ur and God led him to the promised land. Thanks to the work of archaeologists, we know a lot about the Ur that Abraham left behind. Ur was excavated in the 1920’s by Sir Leonard Wooley and he uncovered some royal tombs with gold treasures still there. He found a lyre decorated with a bull’s head and it was overlaid with gold. He also found women’s headdresses made of gold leaves and flowers. These are now in the British Museum in London. But Wooley’s most famous discovery was the standard of Ur. The standard has about 70 small figures that were carved out of white sea shell and set in a background of blue stone. The figures are arranged in a panorama, showing the men of Ur at war and peace. The war panel shows armed men marching out to battle. They carry weapons and they have battle chariots drawn by horses. After the war has been won, they celebrate. A bullock is sacrificed to one of their gods and they have a feast with music and drinking. Perhaps you wonder, what do these treasures have to do with Abraham? Perhaps nothing—directly. But the standard of Ur was made 500 or 600 years before the time of Abraham. And according to the archaeologists, the standard and the gold treasures show that Ur had one of the most advanced cultures anywhere in the world around 2000 BC. So the city that Abraham left behind was not a backwoods town. It was a great city with temples, an army, and beautiful pieces of art. But according to the New Testament, when God called Abraham, he obeyed and left Ur, and he became a wanderer in the land that God would give his descendants. He was a Bedouin, living in tents, and following his flocks around Hebron and Beersheba. But by faith he looked forward to the city that God would build. Abraham was a man of great faith in God, and now as Christians, we are the spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham, and we are the heirs of the promise that God made to him.


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This is the natural opening of the Cave of Macpelah at Hebron. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their wives were buried here. The cave is sacred to Muslims, so no one is allowed to ente.  (Click photo to view a larger image)

Cave of Machpelah

Did you know that Abraham was buried in the Cave of Machpelah at Hebron nearly 4000 years ago? And that the cave is still there? You can see it at left.  Let me tell you about it.  Genesis is the first book in our Bible, and it tells us about Abraham and God’s three promises to him: the promise of a people, a land, and a Messiah who would bless all mankind. God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldeans, Iraq today, and led him into the promised land. Abraham and Sarah spent the rest of their lives wandering in the land. God blessed Abraham and he became wealthy. But he was always a nomad, a Bedouin, wandering around Hebron and Beersheba with his flocks. Abraham did not own any land, and when his beloved Sarah died, he had nowhere to bury her. So Abraham bought the Cave of Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite, and it became his family tomb. There was a time when we had no record of the Hittites outside the Bible, and critics doubted whether there ever was such a race of people. But now, thanks to archeology, the Hittites have been rediscovered, and we know they were a great race in the days of Abraham. Genesis chapter 23 tells how Abraham bargained with Ephron the Hittite, bought the cave, and buried Sarah there. Then when Abraham died, the Bible says that his sons, Isaac and Ishmael, buried him in the Cave of Machpelah. Then Isaac and Ishmael went their separate ways, and sadly, their descendants, Jews and Arabs, have been alienated and hostile ever since. The natural entrance to the Cave of Machpelah is now sealed. The cave is very holy to Muslims, so no one is allowed to go into the cave. All archeology is forbidden, so we cannot know whether the graves and bones are still there. But even so, it is a moving experience to stand at the cave’s sealed opening and remember….Abraham brought Sarah through this entrance, then Isaac and Ishmael brought Abraham and buried him here. And later Isaac and Jacob and their wives were carried here by their sorrowing families. So standing there at the Cave of Machpelah, the Bible and its men and women become very real…and very near. 


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The Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron was built over the Cave of Macpelah by the Jewish king, Herod the Great. It was built in the years just before the birth of Jesus. It is the best-preserved Herodian structure still standing.  (Click photo to view a larger image)

Tomb of the Patriarchs

Did you know that the 2000-year-old Tomb of the Patriarchs, seen at left, in Hebron stands over the cave where Abraham was buried and is holy ground to Jews, to Christians and to Muslims? Let me tell you about it. The Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is one of the most important historical sites anywhere in the Holy Land. Let’s go back nearly 4000 years ago. God had called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldeans (Iraq today), and Abraham spent the rest of his life as a Bedouin wandering with his flocks around Hebron and Beersheba. When Sarah died, Abraham bought the Cave of Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite and buried Sarah in the cave. Later when Abraham died, his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave. Then Isaac and Jacob were buried there. The Cave of Machpelah became a holy place to the Jews. So in the years just before Jesus was born, Herod the Great built an enormous wall around the cave. And today that wall, called the Tomb of the Patriarchs, is the best preserved Herodian building anywhere in the Holy Land. The walls are massive. At the corners there are stones that are 25 feet long and five feet high and weigh around 200 tons. The stones have a margin around the edges, just like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Herod’s builders covered the area inside the wall with a stone floor, and that floor is still in place today. Hundreds of years later, a roof was added. The Crusaders used this building for a church, and after the crusades, it became a mosque for the Muslims, the fourth holiest place in the Muslim world. The Muslims don’t allow archaeological work in the Cave of Machpelah, so we don’t know what archaeologists might be able to find in the cave. But there are six large cenotaphs, or monuments, in the Tomb of the Patriarchs. These cenotaphs are more than a thousand years old, and they honor the six men and women who were buried in the cave, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah. As we walk among the cenotaphs and think of the three patriarchs and their wives, we step back in time nearly 4000 years. And those men and women of God, who lived so long ago, seem very near, and we can hear them say, "Follow God in faith, as we did, and you too will be blessed."


Israeli soldiers guard the entrance of the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. A Palestinian city, Hebron came under Israeli control during the Six Day War in 1967. The Israelis converted one room into a synagogue, so both Jews and Muslims pray in the tomb above Abraham’s grave.  (Click photo to view a larger image)

Tension at the Tomb

The grave of Abraham should be a place of peace and brotherhood, but instead, it’s become a place of bitter hatred. Let me tell you about it.  The Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron stands over the Cave of Machpelah where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their wives, were buried nearly 4000 years ago. The tomb is holy ground to the world’s three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, because all three religions honor Abraham. So the Tomb of the Patriarchs should bring people together, but instead, it has been the scene of bitter hatred, and even violence and bloodshed. The question, quite simply, is who will control this sacred site. Long ago in Old Testament days, the Jews were in control. Israel was their "land of promise" and Jerusalem and Hebron were their cities. And it was Herod the Great, King of the Jews, who built the Tomb of the Patriarchs 2000 years ago. But that changed in the 7th century. A new religion, Islam, came out of Arabia, and in 638 AD the Muslims captured the Holy Land. They took control of the Tomb of the Partiarchs in Hebron and it became the fourth holiest place in Islam. And why was Abraham so important to the Muslims? Because the Arabs are descendants of Abraham, through Ishmael, and their holy book, the Quran, teaches that Abraham was the first Muslim. Except for the crusades, the Muslims were in control of the Tomb of the Patriarchs for the next 1300 years, and for most of those years Jews were forbidden to enter the Tomb. When the state of Israel was established in 1948, Hebron and the West Bank were in Jordan, not Israel, and the Palestinians were still in control. That changed with the Six Days War in 1967. The Israeli army occupied the West Bank and took control of the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Remember that the Tomb had been a mosque for a thousand years, but the Israelis took one part of the Tomb and turned it into a synagogue. So today, Jews and Muslims both pray above the grave of their father Abraham. With heavily armed Israeli soldiers standing guard. I have visited the Tomb of the Patriarchs many times over the past twenty years. The Israeli army is always there in force, but even so, the tension and hatred are heavy, and a few times we have not dared leave the bus and go into the Tomb. How sad for the descendants of Abraham, distant cousins, to hate one another so bitterly at his grave. I pray for the people of the Holy Land. I pray that the diplomats may find a solution that will bring some kind of peace. But even more, I pray that somehow in the providence of God, the people of that land, Jews and Palestinians, may become disciples of the Prince of Peace. 


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