Biblical Archaeology


Daniel's Library

Daniel’s Library

Daniel 9:2 records that Daniel “observed in the books” that the exile would last 70 years, and apparently realized that the time was nearly up. The book of Jeremiah is mentioned specifically, but the reference to plural “books” begs the question of what kind of collection Daniel had. One of the first questions, which can be answered with a fair amount of certainty, is the nature of these “books.” The book with pages as we know it, otherwise referred to as a codex, can be excluded altogether since it would not be......


A Den of Lions in Babylon?

A Den of Lions in Babylon?

In a previous post we argued that the most likely location for the events of Daniel 6 was Babylon, the place where Daniel had spent nearly his entire life. So what kind of den might have been located in Babylon? Lions do not naturally live in caves or dens. Their natural habitat is open grassland or open forest. Clearly the place where Daniel was to be executed was the place where captive lions were held. No such place has been found in Babylon (or elsewhere in the ancient Near East), but there......


Who was Darius the Mede?

Who was Darius the Mede?

Darius the Mede is mentioned several times in the book of Daniel: Dan 5:31 – Darius the Mede received the kingdom at the age of 62; he was “made king” over Babylon. Dan 6:28 – “So Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” Dan 9:1 – Darius was the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent. Dan 11:1 – in the first year of Darius the Mede . . . The question comes from the fact that no ancient document or historian other than......


A Letter About the Temple

A Letter About the Temple

The small potsherd with writing shown here (also known as an ostracon) was discovered by archaeologists digging at a Judean fortress in southern Israel. The name of the site is Arad; this ostracon and the others found at the same site are known as the Arad Letters. They date to about 600 BC, not long before the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon. Arad is located in the desert, about 35 miles straight south of Jerusalem. Both Arad and Jerusalem can be seen on this Google Earth map. What is most interesting about......


Babylon - How to Take a Strong City

Babylon – How to Take a Strong City

Ancient Babylon was a mighty city. Although ancient historians greatly exaggerated its size as well as the height and width of its walls, it was likely the largest city of its day. Excavations have shown that the city walls were built of mudbrick, using bitumen as mortar. The Ishtar Gate , which was located near the palace, was 45 feet tall and 32 feet wide, which probably reflects the approximate size of the rest of the city walls. The city proper was about 2 by 3 miles in size, although there may......


He Will Sit as a Smelter

He Will Sit as a Smelter

Malachi uses the word picture of a metal refiner to describe how God will separate those who are truly his own from those who are not. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness” (Malachi 3:2-3).......


How to Desecrate a High Place

How to Desecrate a High Place

“High places” are mentioned often in the Bible. They were places where religious practices took place, although not necessarily in a temple. Although some were located on physically elevated places, others were located in places like gates (e.g. 2 Kings 23:4). Brian Taylor has argued that high places all had three things in common: A priesthood – personnel to care of the cult and oversee the events that took place there. Cultic activity – the typical activity other than the generic “worship” was the burning of a food offering, in which the......


Name of Another Biblical Figure Identified

Name of Another Biblical Figure Identified

It’s always exciting to hear of the discovery of another name in an archaeological setting that also appears in the Bible. In this case, it is a bullah that bears the name of Nathan-melek. The archaeological context and the writing style place the bullah at about 600 BC, give or take 25 years or so. A man by this very name, and in this place at this time, is known from the Bible. “And Josiah did away with the horses which the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the......


Samuel and the Tabernacle

Samuel and the Tabernacle

The tabernacle was a portable structure that had every sign of being a temporary structure. Constructed as a semi-permanent tent, it had walls made of wooden panels set in metal sockets. The whole was covered with several layers of material (linen, woven goat hair, and leather). The tabernacle was surrounded by posts, between which were hung linen curtains. The entire structure could be taken apart for transportation, and it was moved with the Israelites during their wanderings in the wilderness. When the land was initially subdued, Joshua and the Israelites met at......


Did Jesus Have an Ossuary?

Did Jesus Have an Ossuary?

Jewish burials in the first century AD in the area of Jerusalem followed a regular pattern. The tomb itself was dug as a cave in the rock. The typical tomb included a small room that had one or more benches located around it, each about 5 or 6 feet long, as well as smaller cavities or niches that were dug into the walls. When a person was buried, they were brought into the tomb and laid on one of the benches (blue in the diagram above). The tomb was then sealed for......


A Rolling Stone

A Rolling Stone

The Gospel accounts tell that a large stone was used to block the entrance to Jesus’ tomb (Matt 27:60). Many modern artists incorrectly depict that stone as a massive 5-6′ stone disk. Archaeology tells a different story, and one that fits better with the Gospel accounts. Archaeologists have excavated hundreds of rock-hewn burial caves around Jerusalem from the time of Jesus. Three different types of tomb closures have been found: swinging stone doors, large circular disks, and heavy square blocking stones. The first two types, swinging stone doors and large circular disks,......


Where was Jesus' Tomb?

Where was Jesus’ Tomb?

Christian tourists who visit Jerusalem nearly always want to see the tomb of Jesus. There are two locations that they most often visit. Is either more likely to be the actual tomb of Jesus than the other? History and archaeology give a clear answer. The so-called “Garden Tomb” is located north of the Old City of Jerusalem. It provides a serene, outdoor garden setting that allow the visitor to contemplate the resurrection in a pleasant setting. For that reason it is worth visiting. However, it is not the tomb of Jesus. The......


Crucifixion in Antiquity

Crucifixion in Antiquity

The practice of crucifixion is known from as early as the 5th century in Greece.  Herodotus mentions the crucifixion of a captured Persian general at the hands of the Athenians in 479 BC. Numerous other historical examples are known, including the following: Alexander the Great crucified 2,000 survivors of his siege of Tyre. Alexander Jannaeus, king of Judea from 103 to 76 BC, crucified 800 rebels, said to be Pharisees, in the middle of Jerusalem. In Hannibal’s day, crucifixion was an established mode of execution which could even be imposed on generals......