Bible skeptics often talk as if there is a dearth of evidence that any of the events in the Bible took place. Skeptics consider the Bible, and especially the Old Testament, as fictional, a fanciful product of the imagination trumped up many, many years after the actual events took place, and full of places and characters that never actually existed. The Ebla Tablets found in Northern Syria tell a different story.
The Ebla Tablets predate the Biblical record that is ascribed to Moses and confirm many of the names, locations and other assertions found in the Mosaic text of the Old Testament.
Professor Paolo Matthiae of the Rome University has been excavating in Tell Mardikh, Syria (ancient Ebla, a/k/a Sumaria) since 1964. He has found approximately 17,000 tablets, including one tablet stating that the city had a population of 260,000. Professor Giovanni Pettinato, the epigrapher from the University of Rome, has been working on the tablets, which are a collection of records kept near the central court in what was once a royal city.
The Ebla Tablets are the kind of discovery that scholars dream about. They date from about 2400 BC to about 2250 BC (the time of the destruction of Ebla). Many of the historical texts can be tied in with other known records, including the Old Testament. They include personal names, geographic names, lists of animals, fish, birds, professions and names of officials. The literary texts include myth, incantations, collections of proverbs and hymns to various gods, many of which are referenced in Babylonian literature of a later time.
The tablets include Sumaerian Eblahite vocabularies with thousands of translated words. The tablets also reveal an ancient language, dubbed “Paleo Canaanite”, that is closely related to Hebrew and Phoenician. “The vocabularies at Ebla were distinctively Semitic: the word ‘to write’ is k-t-b (as in Hebrew), while that for “king” is ‘malikum,’ and that for “man” is ‘adamu.’ The closeness to Hebrew is surprising.” (Ebla: Its Impact on Biblical Records)
Some of these tablets reveal a legal code replete with case law applying the code, with different penalties for different offenses, predating the Mosaic Code by about 1000 years. Names that appear in the tablets also appear in later Old Testament text (such as Michael, David, Esau, Saul and Ishmael). Many words are clearly related to Hebrew words, indicating “a certain interdependence” between Ebla and the Old Testament. “At many points the similarity to Old Testament Hebrew is very close.”
The tablets identify many towns also referenced in the Old Testament, including Salim (possibly the city of Melchizedec), Hazor, Lachish, Megiddo, Gaza, Dor, Sinai, Ashtaroth, Joppa, Damascus and Urusalima (Jerusalem). The tablets also reference a creation account similar to the Genesis account, treaties and covenants, ritualistic sacrifices, prophetic statements, though these references differ in complexity and character to the biblical references of the same things.
“The story has only just begun and there will be echoes from Ebla for generations to come. It is at least thought-provoking that findings such as those at Ebla consistently support the Bible as a thoroughly acceptable record.”
The Ebla tablets indicate that critics who argue that Moses invented the stories in Genesis and that people in Old Testament times were too primitive to record documents with such precise detail are wrong. The Ebla tablets predate the Old Testament. The tablets confirm names and locations in the Old Testament text. Places such as Canaan, Sodom and Gomorrah and Haran (the city of Abraham’s father) are proven to be more than fictional, having been identified centuries before the Old Testament times.
The evidence uncovered by archaeology over the years has provided little help to the skeptics. In fact, archaeological discoveries over the years have almost inevitably confirmed names, places and events that are referenced in the Bible.
Here is a list of some events chronicled in the Old Testament that are confirmed by other sources:
- The campaign into Israel by Pharaoh Shishak (1 Kings 14:25-26) is recorded on the walls of the Temple of Amun in Thebes, Egypt. (The Bible According to Karnak in Biblical Archaeology Aug. 13, 2009)
- The revolt of Moab against Israel (2 Kings 1:1; 3:4-27) is recorded on the Mesha Inscription. (Louvre, Near Eastern Antiquities/Levant; New World Encyclopedia – Mesha Stele)
- The fall of Samaria (2 Kings 17:3-6, 24; 18:9-11) to Sargon II, king of Assyria, is recorded on his palace walls. (Ancient History Encyclopedia – Dur-Sharrukin; Former Things – Sargon)
- The defeat of Ashdod by Sargon II (Isaiah 20:1) is recorded on palace walls. (Wikipedia – Sargon II; Theo-sophical Ruminations – Biblical Archaeology 16: Sargon II Inscriptions)
- The campaign of the Assyrian king Sennacherib against Judah (2 Kings 18:13-16) is recorded on the Taylor Prism. (British Museum.org; U. of Chicago Oriental Institute)
- The siege of Lachish by Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:14, 17) is recorded on the Lachish reliefs. (British Museum; org – Assyrian Lachish reliefs)
- The assassination of Sennacherib by his own sons (2 Kings 19:37) is recorded in the annals of his son Esarhaddon. (Ancient History Encyclopedia – Sennacherib)
- The fall of Nineveh as predicted by the prophets Nahum and Zephaniah (2 Kings 2:13-15) is recorded on the Tablet of Nabopolasar. (The British Museum)
- The fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-14) is recorded in the Babylonian Chronicles. (livius.org – Early Years of Nebuchadnezzar; enduringword.com – commentaries)
- The captivity of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, in Babylon (2 Kings 24:15-16) is recorded on the Babylonian Ration Records. (biblehistory.net – jehoiachin; Wikipedia – Jehoiachin’s Rations Tablets)
- The fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5:30-31) is recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder. (org – Cyrus Takes Babylon; Wikipedia – Cyrus Cylinder )