January 9, 2016

Adventist Digs Included in Top 10 Biblical Archaeology Discoveries of 2015

, with Adventist Review staff

Two of the top 10 biblical archaeology discoveries of 2015 reported by Christianity Today came from excavations sponsored by Southern Adventist University.

“Archaeological discoveries made public in 2015 have given us new information about biblical events and people,” Christianity Today, a leading Christian magazine in the United States, wrote in a Dec. 30 article titled “Biblical Archaeology’s Top Ten Discoveries of 2015.

No. 5 on the list is the Eshba’al inscription found at Khirbet Qeiyafa, located in the Elah Valley in southern Israel. The inscription dates back to the days of Saul and David and mentions a man by the name of Eshba’al, the same name as one of King Saul’s sons.

The inscription’s publication made international headlines in June 2015 and prompted a meeting between the directors and Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

“This name only occurs in 10th-century BC contexts in the Bible, which means that the biblical text fits very well with the archaeological data in Judah,” said Michael G. Hasel, professor of Near Eastern studies and archaeology at Southern Adventist University, and a director in the excavation. “It also confirms, with the other inscriptions found at the site, that Hebrew writing was well established in Judah by the early 10th century BC.”

Khirbet Qeiyafa has become the crucial site in the ongoing debate about the early history of Judah. New data from the site, including this inscription, has established an early date for the monarchies of Saul and David, which some scholars wish to dismiss from history.

No. 4 on the journal’s list is a Canaanite ostracon found at Tel Lachish. This is the first time a proto-Canaanite inscription was found in the past 30 years of archaeology in Israel. The context of the inscription was a Late Bronze Age Canaanite temple at Tel Lachish, one of the most important cities of Canaan during the period of the Judges.

“The fragmentary inscription is very difficult to read, but provides important information about the development of the proto-Canaanite alphabet as it progressed from Hebrew, Greek, and then Latin,” Hasel said.

Also on the Top 10 list, at No. 3, is the discovery of the Hezekiah seal impression, which Hasel wrote about in the Adventist Review last month.

Southern Adventist University’s Institute of Archaeology is a co-sponsor with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem of the expeditions to Khirbet Qeiyafa and Lachish. The Khirbet Qeiyafa excavation phase concluded in 2013 and is now completing final publications.The Fourth Expedition to Lachishbegan its investigations at the second-most important biblical site in Judah in 2013 and has become the largest excavation in the Middle East with 115 to 120 staff members and volunteers in the field every year. An international consortium of Adventist institutions joins Southern every year, including the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (Philippines), Adventist University of Bolivia (Bolivia), Helderberg College (South Africa). Other consortium institutions include Korean Jangsin University, Oakland University, and Virginia Commonwealth University.

The excavations at Lachish have also uncovered massive destructions from the Babylonian campaign of Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC (2 Kings 25) where dozens of whole vessels have been found and the earlier 701 BC destruction of Sennacherib, the king of Assyria (2 Kings 18; Isaiah 36-37). The Assyrian destruction level contained several so-called LMLK jars found on the surface. The term LMLK in Hebrew means “for the king.” In previous expeditions, more than 400 LMLK storage jar handles were uncovered at Lachish, many dating specifically to King Hezekiah.

This coming summer, the project will continue from June 16 to July 24 as participants hope to uncover more buried secrets from the ancient city of Lachish.

For information on how to participate, visit southern.edu/lachish.