Arad Ostraca and Composition of the Old Testament

For the past hundred years, scholarship of the Old Testament has been dominated by Documentary Hypothesis. One of the central assertions of the Documentary Hypothesis is that the bulk of the Old Testament was composed during or after the Babylonian Exile. Implied is that the stories of pre-Exilic Israel are more of a national mythology than a real history - that the tales of Moses, Samuel, David, etc. were essentially unhistorical, created after the Babylonian Captivity as a means of affirming national identity. The conventional wisdom, according to the Documentary Hypothesis, is that pre-Exilic Israel was polytheistic and largely illiterate, incapable of producing such exceptional literary works as the Book of Genesis or the Psalms. Essentially, their entire literary culture was absorbed from the culture of Mesopotamia during the Exile. This is why proponents of the Documentary Hypothesis consistently attempt to prove Mesopotamian-Bablyonian influence behind the stories of the Old Testament.

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Solomonic Gates: Hazor, Megiddo, Gezer

Despite the vast trove of archaeological data that has come to light in the past century in Israel, solid historical evidence of the existence of King Solomon has continued to elude archaeologists and scholars. While there are inscriptions indisputably referring to kings such as Hezekiah, Omri, Ahab, Jeroboam II and even some fragmentary mentions of King David, the historical record has been silent on King Solomon. This has prompted some skeptics to assert that Solomon is nothing more than a Jewish fable; in fact, some will go so far as to deny that there ever was a United Monarchy, and this supposition is in turn used to cast doubt upon everything the Bible says of the events prior to the 9th century. Yet, if the name of Solomon has not yet come to light, perhaps archaeology can tell us something about the many great construction projects Scripture attributes to Solomon? In this essay we will look at three such sites: the so-called "Solomonic Gates" of Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer.

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Israelite Houses in Egypt

According to the Biblical narrative, the Israelites dwelt in Egypt abount four centuries, for the latter part of that time as slaves. Much effort has been expended seeking for archaeological evidence of the long Israelite sojourn in Egypt. Tantalizing hints about Israel's presence in Egypt are found in certain pottery fragments discovered in Avaris (the biblical Goshen), in certain Egyptian inscriptions, and in some New Kingdom artistic representations. These are but glimpses, however. Full scale, undeniable hard evidence of an Israelite presence in Egypt between 1700-1300 BC. has yet to emerge. We should not make too much of this, however. Much of the physical culture of the ancient Egyptians themselves has vanished; tombs and temples remain, but the houses of the average Egyptian peasant are long gone. If the material infrastructure of the Egyptians has long since vanished, what should we expect of their slaves?

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Gezer Calendar

In excavations carried out in 1908 in the city of Gezer, twenty miles west of Jerusalem, Irish archaeologist R.A.S. Macalister unearthed a limestone tablet containing seven lines of inscription written in a script that is known as paleo-Hebrew. Subsequent investigation revealed that the tablet was a sort of rudimentary calendar of the agricultural year, beginning with the Israelite month of Tishri. The name Abijah appears vertically on the side of the tablet, probably indicating name of the tablet's owner. The calendar was dated to the middle 10th century B.C. - probably during Solomon's reign, when Gezer was under the control of the Israelites (1 Kings 9:16). To date, the Gezer Calendar is the earliest extant example of a Hebrew inscription and is an important piece of evidence in the debate surrounding the Documentary Hypothesis of the form critics.

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Stone shrines of Khirbet Qeiyafa

Khirbet Qeiyafa is a hill-top site some twenty miles southwest of Jerusalem. The hill overlooks the famous Valley of Elah - where David fought Goliath - and was long suspected to contain the remains of an Iron Age settlement beneath it's hills. Excavations, beginning in 2007, confirmed the hunch of Yosef Garfinkel, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and director of the digging at Khirbet Qeiyafa. A massive fortress and city  were discovered there during the first season of digging, which was subsequently dated to the late 11th century BC (c. 1020-980). Though there was some debate on what ethnic group dwelt in the fortress, continued research suggested that Khirbet Qeiyafa was an Israelite settlement affiliated with the Judean monarchy. The evidence was controversial, as modernist scholars had denied the existence of a united kingdom... 

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