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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 ArcheologyóProofs from the Earth.

 

 


 

 

Archaeologists discovered this tower, eight meters tall, in ancient Jericho. They had to dig deeply through numerous layers of previous cities. They estimate the tower was built in 8000 B.C, which means Jericho is the oldest city on Earth. Cities were often built on top of the ruins of older cities. The Jericho of Joshuaís day was destroyed circa 1300 B.C. (Joshua 5-6)  (Click photo to view a larger image)

Jericho

Do you know what city archaeologists have called "the oldest city in the world?" Itís a Biblical city, and Iíd like to tell you about it. Jericho is mentioned many times in the Bible, and when archaeologists excavated the tell of ancient Jericho, they found evidence that it was the oldest city in the world. But let me explain what archaeologists mean when they talk about a "tell." When ancient people were looking for a place to build a town, they usually chose a hill, because it was easier to defend. But the town would be destroyed by enemies or earthquake, and later, perhaps centuries later, another town would be built on the site. And then another. Itís new levels of civilization built on the ruins of earlier towns, an archaeological layer-cake, and thatís what we mean by a "tell." The tell at Jericho is about 50 feet high, and archaeologists have uncovered many levels of civilization. Jericho first appears in the Bible in the time of Joshua, about 1300 BC. When John Garstang excavated Jericho in the 1930ís, he found mud-brick walls and he thought they were the walls that fell down when Joshuaís army marched around the city. Later archaeologists have questioned this, so we are not sure whether the walls from Joshuaís time have been found. The most important discovery at Jericho is a stone tower. Itís about 25 feet tall and has a stone stairway inside the tower. The tower lies deep in the tell, and this means that it was built very early, around 8,000 BC., according to the archaeologists. It would take a group of people working together, a community or a town, to build such an impressive structure. Thereís nothing like it anywhere else in the world. And thatís why archeologists think that Jericho is the oldest town in the world. And why was Jericho built there? Because of a natural springóit still flows a thousand gallons a minuteówatering the biggest oasis anywhere in the Middle East. Sustained by that oasis, Jericho has been there for 9,000 or 10,000 years. Iíve visited Jericho many times. Itís called "the city of palm trees" in the Bible, and itís still a city of palm trees, bananas and oranges, and other sweet tropical fruit. I have stood atop the tell of ancient Jericho, and the Old Testament history seemed very near. I could almost see the men of Israel marching around those ancient wall, blowing on their ramís horns, and watching as the walls fell down. And I remembered that long after Joshua, Jesus visited Jericho several times. Standing there on the ancient tell, the stories of the Bible come alive and ring true.


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This is Herod the Greatís winter palace at Jericho. It was built just before Jesus was born. The Jericho of Jesusí time is about three kilometers from the ruins of Old Testament Jericho. Jesus encountered blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52) and Zacchaeus, the tax collector of short stature (Luke 19:1-10), in New Testament Jericho.  (Click photo to view a larger image)

New Testament Jericho

Jericho is located in the Jordan River valley about fifteen miles east of Jerusalem, and itís one of the cities that Jesus visited. Let me tell you about it. When archaeologists excavated Old Testament Jericho, they found a 25-feet-tall stone tower that was built about 8,000 BC, and this shows, they say, that Jericho is the oldest city in the world. By New Testament times, Jericho was located about two miles south of the ancient tell. This site was excavated by Ehud Netzer in the 1970ís, and his most important discovery was a large palace built by Herod the Great in the years just before Jesusí birth. Netzer found that Herodís palace had a sunken garden 360 feet long, many buildings and courtyards, a five-room Roman bath, and a hippodrome more than a thousand feet long. Aqueducts brought water into the city, and some of those aqueducts are still in use today. Why would Herod build such an elaborate palace at Jericho? It was his winter palace. Jericho is in the Jordan valley, nearly a thousand feet below sea level, and itís warm there when it may be snowing at Jerusalem fifteen miles away. Jesus used Jericho in one of his parables. A man was going from Jerusalem down to Jericho when he was beaten by robbers, and a good Samaritan came to his rescue. Jesus had walked that road, fifteen miles, from Jerusalem down to Jericho. But he was not a guest at Herodís palace. He usually ministered to the poor, the sick, and the down-and-out. At Jericho a blind beggar named Bartimaeus had heard about Jesus. As Jesus came into town, he shouted, "Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me." And because of his faith, Jesus restored his sight. But there were also times when Jesus went to the homes of the rich, and he did this at Jericho. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector and a very wealthy man. He wanted to see Jesus, but he was a short man so he climbed up into a sycamore tree to see over the crowd. Jesus saw him and said, "Come down, Iím coming to your home." And that night, he promised salvation to a penitent tax collector. Iíve been to Jericho many times. I have waded in the ancient aqueducts bringing water into the city. And I have thought about Jesus. He came here to Jericho. He brought sight to the blind beggar Bartimaeus, And he promised salvation to a rich tax collector. When Jesus came to Jericho, he was concerned about rich and poor alike. And now, 2000 years later, he still is.


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This buried army of terra-cotta soldiers at Xian, China, was discovered by chance in 1974. It is part of the tomb complex of Emperor Qinshi, who built the Great Wall circa 200 B.C. There are 6,000-8,000 of the life-size soldiers.  (Click photo to view a larger image)

Buried Army at Xian

I have been telling you about archaeological discoveries in the Holy Land that confirm and the Bible and make the Bible come alive. But this time, Iíd like to tell you about a remarkable discovery in China, the buried army at Xian. The emperor Qinshi ruled China 2200 years ago, and we remember him for three things that he did. He was the first emperor to unify China. He built the first sections of the great wall. And he built an enormous tomb for himself at Xian, about 600 miles southwest of Beijing. According to ancient records, it took 700,000 workers more than thirty years to build the tomb. The tomb was located in the 1970ís, but excavations did not begin until four years ago. And remarkable treasures have already been found. Then in 1974 a buried army of terra-cotta soldiers and horses was found about a mile from the emperorís tomb. Some farmers were digging a well, but instead of water, they found pieces of sculpture. And when the archaeologists arrived, they were amazed to find thousands of soldiers and horses, buried near the emperor to be his guard in the afterlife. The soldiers are buried in three vaults, and the archaeologists still donít know how many there are, but at least 6,000 or 8,000, and more than a thousand have been uncovered and restored. The soldiers are life-size, and each one is a work of art with individual facial features and with different beards and moustaches and hairstyles. The soldiers carried their weapons, swords, spears, and crossbows. The terra-cotta soldiers were made of clay, and after firing, they were painted with bright colors. But the paint has faded and they are all gray now. After I began reading articles about this buried army, I dreamed of seeing it, and I was able to make my first visit in 1985, just a few years after the site was opened to the public. I was amazed, and I still remember my wonder and awe at what the emperor Qin had done. You may ask, what does the buried army have to do with the Bible? Nothing. Nothing at all. But it does show the value of archeology. When the people of China see the buried army, they go back 2200 years to the time of Emperor Qinshi, and what he did, unifying their country and building the great wall, comes alive and they relive the past. In the same way, when I visit the archaeological sites connected with the life of Jesus, places like Bethlehem and Capernaum and Jerusalem, the Bible comes alive to me and I am walking where Jesus walked and hearing his voice. And when he says, "Come follow me," my faith in him grows stronger.


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This is the massive platform that shows where the government buildings of Lachish were located. The kings of Judah who followed David and Solomon constructed Lachish.  (Click photo to view a larger image)

Lachish

 

Have you ever heard of a city named Lachish? Perhaps not. But Lachish was an important Biblical city. And Lachish is a good example of how the historical record in the Bible and the discoveries of archaeology come together. Let me tell you about it.

Lachish was located about 30 miles southwest of Jerusalem, midway between Jerusalem and Gaza. The Canaanites built the first city there about 3000 BC. Then when the Israelites under Joshua invaded their land, the king of Lachish formed an alliance with four other kings to fight the invaders. But they were defeated and Lachish was destroyed by the Israelites. You can read about this in Joshua 10.

Then about 1000 BC, under David and Solomon, Lachish was rebuilt and fortified. After Solomon, when Israel and Judah became separate nations, Lachish became the second most important city in Judah, second only to Jerusalem. Lachish was located on a hill, or tell, and was protected by strong walls. A large platform was built in the heart of the city, and the governorís palace and other public buildings were built on this platform. But in 701 BC the Assyrian army under Sennacherib invaded Judah and laid siege to Lachish. In 2 Kings 18, the Bible tells how king Hezekiah sent messengers to Sennacherib at Lachish asking for peace. But the Assyrians were powerful and cruel, and Lachish was doomed. It fell to the Assyrians and was destroyed.

Archaeologists worked at Lachish back in the 1930ís and again in recent years, and their work has confirmed much of the history we have in the Bible. They have uncovered the large platform where the public buildings of Lachish once stood. They have found the city gate where the Assyrians attacked. They have found a large earthen ramp that the Assyrians built to move battering rams up to the wall. And they have found Assyrian weapons, armor and helmets, and large stones hurled by the catapults.

When Sennacherib returned home to Nineveh, he celebrated his victory by building a new palace, and the central room was decorated with a relief, carved in stone, picturing his victory at Lachish. Amazingly, that stone relief has actually been found. I have seen it many times, and Iíll tell you about it in my next program.


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