An archeological find aligns with one of the seminal Old Testament stories


    One of the important things to remember about Biblical archeology is that our modern understanding keeps changing as the earth keeps disgorging materials hidden for millennia, and new technologies allow us better to understand those discoveries. That’s the case with a Bronze Age tablet that reveals something consistent with one of the Bible’s oldest and most consequential narratives.
    My father loved Werner Keller’s 1955 book, The Bible as History, about Biblical archeology. Although raised in an Orthodox orphanage (in Weimar and Nazi Berlin!), my father was not religious. He was, however, a historian, so he agreed completely with the last sentence in Keller’s introduction:
    In view of the overwhelming mass of authentic and well-attested evidence now available, as I thought of the skeptical criticism which from the eighteenth century onwards would fain have demolished the Bible altogether, there kept hammering in my head this one sentence: “The Bible is right after all.”
    Today leftists engage in an all-out war against Jews and Christians who hew to a Biblical narrative demanding morality, justice, and grace. Leftism’s belief system is premised on revering the amoral state, with its situational favoritism and police power.
    Unfortunately for the leftists, archeology has just scored another one for the Bible’s historic accuracy.
    Deuteronomy repeats the instructions that Moses, who was barred from entering the Promised Land, gave to Joshua, his successor. Chapter 11 explicitly states that the instructions are important because following them will bring God’s blessings to the Israelites while failing to do so will lead to God’s curses.
    To hammer home the significance of this binary choice, Moses instructed Joshua to write on separate tablets the promise of a blessing and the threat of a curse. Then Joshua was to place the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal, the gateways from the Sinai to Israel:
    26 See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— 27 the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; 28 the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known. 29 When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses. (Deuteronomy Ch. 11.)
    Joshua followed the instructions to the letter:
    30 Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, 31 as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the Israelites. He built it according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses—an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool had been used. On it they offered to the Lord burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings. 32 There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua wrote on stones a copy of the law of Moses.
    This would have taken place during the Bronze Age. (The precise time is subject to debate, Timothy Mahoney argues that the scholarly guesstimate for Exodus and the Israelite’s time in the desert and entry into Canaan misses the mark by 400 years. That 400-year period can make the difference between archeology supporting the Biblical account and claims that it’s unrelated to the historic record.)
    Not the Bee now clued me into something awesome: A 1982 dig on Mount Ebal unearthed ancient Bronze and Iron Age altars. Adam Zertal, the lead archeologist, saved everything from that dig but died before he could analyze it all. However, starting in 2019, archeologists revisited the items and discovered a folded lead tablet. (Think of it like a birthday card taken from an envelope, only made of lead.)
    The tablet was too fragile to open but, thanks to modern X-ray tomography, scientists could reconstruct the writing inside the tablet. And this is what it said: “You are cursed by the God YHW.”
    To recapitulate: Moses told Joshua that God—whose unpronounceable real and ineffably powerful name is written as YHWH, with El, Elohim, or Adonai as respectful generic names—that He wanted reminders of his blessings on Mount Gerizim and of His curses on Mount Ebal. Accordingly, Joshua placed that reminder on Mount Ebal.
    And now, archeologists have a tablet dating back to when those events would have occurred with that same reminder. And yes, the Bible says the curse was written on stone, while the tablet is lead, but one would expect some differences in detail during the hundreds of years before the oral narrative was written down.
    All I could think when I read about that tablet was, “The Bible is right after all.” You don’t have to believe in God to believe in the Bible, which repeatedly proves to be an accurate historic account of events in ancient Israel.
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