The video above is a presentation by Dr. Don Patton, a geologist and archaeologist who shares with us a few amazing historical and archaeological evidence that proves the Bible is true. In the past, I have had so many atheists and non-believers tell me that the Bible is a book of fairy-tales, if you ever heard someone making this ignorant claim, then this video and article will help to put that claim to rest. The goal of this post in particular is to expand more on what Dr. Don Patton says and provide updates on a few of the discoveries that he discusses. In the future, I will release more details and updates on the other archaeological proofs mentioned in this video as well as the other discoveries in Israel in separate posts.
1) Joshua’s Altar on Mt. Ebal
2) Gilgal site at Jericho found
3) Fallen Walls of Jericho and Rahab’s House
4) The Prophet Balaam Inscription
5) Shiloh Plateau, the Ancient Site of the Tabernacle
1) Joshua’s Altar on Mt. Ebal
Professor Adam Zertal, chairman of Archaeology Department of the University of Haifa, found this altar on April 6, 1980 on Mt. Ebal while doing an archaeological survey of the area. He was once an atheist, when asked about his find he replied, “We discovered this place, all covered with stones, in April 1980. At that time I never dreamt that we were dealing with the altar, because I was taught in Tel Aviv University – the center of anti-Biblical tendencies, where I learned that Biblical theories are untrue, and that Biblical accounts were written later, and the like. I didn’t even know of the story of the Joshua’s altar. But we surveyed every meter of the site, and in the course of nine years of excavation, we discovered a very old structure with no parallels to anything we had seen before. It was 9 by 7 meters, and 4 meters high, with two stone ramps, and a kind of veranda, known as the ‘sovev,’ around.” This altar is described to us in the following scriptures:
Joshua 8:30, 31
Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal,
As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings.
Deuteronomy 27:4, 5
Therefore it shall be when ye be gone over Jordan, that ye shall set up these stones, which I command you this day, in mount Ebal, and thou shalt plaister them with plaister.
And there shalt thou build an altar unto the LORD thy God, an altar of stones: thou shalt not lift up any iron tool upon them.
Exodus 20:25, 26
And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.
Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.
Adam quickly changed his beliefs and became a Christian a few years after he fully realized what he had found. Adam says that there is actually two altars on the same site, the one visible dates back around 1250 B.C. based on the pottery found, which puts it at the time of Deborah of Judges 4, during the period of the Judges. Beneath this altar, Adam found a circular altar made from unhewn stone about 6.5 feet across. This circular altar has been dated to be about 1405 B.C. which puts it just about 40 years after the time of the Exodus, which took place around 1446 BC. This circular altar has been found with the remains of kosher animals and thus eliminates any idea of it being a pagan altar. The date of 1405 B.C. was determined by the discovery of an Egyptian scarab of Tuthmose III (the scarab shown to the left in the picture below), dated to around the time of the Exodus. The scarab to the right below is actually quite rare, only five known parallels exist- one from Egypt, three from Israel and one from Cyprus. These two Egyptian scarabs found at the site are quite telling as they indirectly confirm the Exodus story exactly as the Bible says, because Mt. Ebal was one of the first settlements of the Israelites once they left Egypt, finally crossed the river Jordan and came into the promised land.
Naturally, some skeptics have opposed the idea of this being the altar of Joshua with claims that this was a watchtower, this is simply not true, the site is lower down Mt. Ebal and was actually built into the mountain, watchtowers were often built at the very top of hills for a more advantageous view. Another big problem with this watchtower view is that the structure is simply too short to be a watchtower and the stones at the site are not sufficient to build a tall watchtower according to Hebrew standards. The structure is also built with unhewn or rough tones untouched by building tools, which is the exact specification outlined by Deuteronomy 27:4, 5 and Exodus 20:25, 26 for the building of altars. The only reasonable explanation is that this is in fact a Hebrew altar and the many remains of kosher animals found at this site confirms this. Dr. Lawrence Stager, Professor of the Archaeology of Israel at Harvard University had this to say concerning the discovery, “If a sacrificial altar stood on Mt. Ebal, its impact on our research is revolutionary. All of us have to go back to kindergarten.” This may have to be the case as Adam Zertal made clear in his quote that he had only stumbled upon this altar because he was taught all his life that it was nonexistent.
In Adam’s book, “A Nation is Born: The Mt. Ebal Altar and the Beginnings of the Nation of Israel,” he goes into greater detail on the excavation of this altar and explains that the archaeological community hasn’t even debated his find with books but has opted to remain silent because of the serious implications of this amazing discovery. As Adam puts it, “If there was an altar on Mt. Ebal, the most ancient and the first Jewish or Israelite altar here. The meaning is that all the story of Deuteronomy and parts of the story in Joshua are scientifically true!” Another implication is that if this old part of the Bible is true then all the later events documented in the Bible must also be true as Adam puts it, “If this corroborates exactly what is written in that very old part of the Bible. It means that probably other parts are historically correct. The impact is tremendous.”
2) Gilgal site at Jericho found
Between 1996 to 2008, Professor Adam Zertal had been surveying regions in Samaria, specifically at the Jordan valley, in search of potential Israelite camps sites (each one called Gilgal in the Bible), which the Israelites would have used after crossing the Jordan river into the promised land. Adam has found several sites which all seem to bear the likeness of the sole of a right foot, which was perhaps intentionally done by the Israelites in response to the words of God in Joshua 1:3, “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.” In the picture below you can see the “heel” of the sole of the “foot” at the left. This “heel” has been found to fit the dimensions of the tabernacle, the portable temple, used by the Israelites before establishing the more permanent tabernacle at Shiloh.
And the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho.
This particular Gilgal site near Jericho was the same site where the Israelite males born after the Exodus were circumcised, the first Passover in the Promised Land was celebrated there, and for six years it served as a base of operations during the time of conquest. This Gilgal site was discovered within a large enclosure by Professor Zertal and his team. Adam Zertal had this to say concerning all the discoveries that he made in the Manasseh area, “The nearly 1000 new sights explored create a new archaeological reality, which connects the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua and Judges to the territory where they have happened.”
3) Fallen Walls of Jericho and Rahab’s House
The site of Jericho, known today by the locals as Tell es-Sultan has been excavated numerous times. The first documented excavation was done by Charles Warren, a British engineer, who mistook the site as only being a defense structure in 1868, which is not completely wrong as the Bible does inform us that Jericho was well fortified (Joshua 2:5, 7). After other excavations at the site, it was only in 1930 that John Garstang, a British archaeologist, discovered the walls and openly proposed that the site was the biblical Jericho that was conquered by the Israelites after arriving into the promised land:
And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days.
And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets.
And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.
John Garstang dated the walls to around 1400 B.C. which sets it precisely around the time that Israel entered the promised land. Kathleen Kenyon, one of the world’s most famous archaeologist, excavated this site between 1952 and 1958, only to conclude that the site was far too ancient to have been conquered by the Israelites in spite of the presence of pottery which links the site to the period of 1400 B.C. Carbon dating, which was done on the ashes and charcoals found at the site, has determined that the age of the site is around 1410 B.C. which confirms that this must be the city of Jericho recorded in the Bible. Apart from this there are many other pieces of evidence which confirms this as being biblical Jericho – the walls was described by the Bible as falling upon itself which is what archaeologists have determined (Joshua 6:5), the Bible was correct that people dwelled within the walls of the city which was confirmed by the excavations done (Joshua 2:15) and the city has many burnt remains indicating that it was burned exactly as the Bible says (Joshua 6:24). In fact, Kathleen Kenyon, was amazed at the degree of fire destruction at Jericho by saying, “The destruction was complete. Walls and floors were blackened or reddened by fire, and every room was filled with fallen bricks, timbers, and household utensils; in most rooms the fallen debris was heavily burnt, but the collapse of the walls of the eastern rooms seems to have taken place before they were affected by the fire.”
Archaeologists have also found charred remains of grain within clay vessels at this site which was strange because grain was precious at that period of time and also served as a currency, and if the city was invaded by invaders then all the grain should have been looted. Well, the Bible explains to us that all the contents of the city was dedicated to God and that even the grain remained untouched by the conquering Israelites (Joshua 6:17-19). Also the abundance of grain found suggests that the city was seized soon after the harvest time exactly as the Bible suggests (Joshua 2:6). In fact, there is a portion of the northern wall which for some odd reason still stands today and many strongly suspect that this wall may have very well been the home of Rahab, the woman who was saved during the fall of Jericho (Joshua 6:17, 25).
4) The Prophet Balaam Inscription
A Dutch expedition, led by Professor Henk J. Franken of the University of Leiden, at Tell Deir ‘Alla, Jordan on March 17th 1967, discovered a wall with two different sets of inscriptions which makes mention of Balaam, a non-Israelite prophet who was hired by Israel’s enemies to curse Israel. The inscription has been dated to have been made around the late 9th century to 8th century B.C. Three times in the first four lines of the first inscription, translated by J. Hoftijzer and G. van der Kooij in their book, “Aramaic Texts from Deir ‘Alla,” Balaam is referred to specifically as “Balaam son of Beor” exactly as Numbers 22:5 does and is described as “A divine seer” just as the Bible profiles him to be. Within the inscription, Balaam prophesies destruction upon his own people and as such this inscription is the very first extra-biblical example of a prophet in the Old Testament doing so. You may read excerpts of the translation of the Balaam inscription here. The following verses of the Bible tells us a bit about Balaam:
Numbers 22:2, 5, 28
And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.
He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me:
And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?
After the encounter with the angel, Balaam was coerced by God to bless Israel instead of cursing them (Numbers 22 to 24; Deuteronomy 23:5; Micah 6:5, Joshua 24:9, 10). However, after this blessing he still rejected God on account of his greed and the wealth that the Canaanite kings gave him and actually seduced the men of Israel to commit sins against God to force God to punish Israel (Numbers 31:16; Numbers 25:1-3, 9; Psalms 106:28, 29; Revelation 2:14). Balaam was then later killed by Moses and the Israelites by the order of God according to Numbers 31:8. Although, Balaam had served foreign gods he made a prophesy that his own nation would be destroyed which was exactly what had happened. His prophesy was recorded in the following verses below:
I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.
And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly.
Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city.
Whether this “Star out of Jacob” was a reference to Joshua or to the coming Messiah, Jesus, who was a type of Joshua, this is not entirely clear, but the verses above are still quite intriguing. The present day country of Jordan, was once the nation called Moab in the days of Balaam, which backs up the biblical account of Balak, who was a king in Moab. The inscription also seems to suggest that Tell Deir ‘Alla maybe the site which the Bible refers to as Pethor (Numbers 22:5), the home of Balaam. While the story which was documented in the inscription is not in the Bible it serves as strong evidence to verify the existence of Balaam. This also opens wide the possibility that Balak, Moses, Joshua and all the other characters within these books of the Bible were real individuals.
5) Shiloh Plateau, the Ancient Site of the Tabernacle
Khirbet Seilun, was found to indeed be the place that the Bible refers to as Shiloh, which was once the capital of Israel for 369 years. The Talmud, a rabbinical text, informs us that during those years a more permanent structure was built to house the Ark of the Covenant at Shiloh (Zevahim 119). This is the place where Eli served as priest, Hannah prayed, Samuel served and where Eli finally died. Soundings were first made to survey the area of Tel Shiloh in 1922 by Aage Schmidt. A Danish team led by H. Kjær and overseen by William F. Albright excavated the area from 1926 to 1932. A probe was then done by Sven Holm-Nielson and Marie-Louise Buhl in 1963. The biblical references to Shiloh and its purpose is recorded below in the following scriptures:
And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them.
Ye shall not do so unto the LORD your God.
But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there (Shiloh), even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come:
And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks:
And there ye shall eat before the LORD your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the LORD thy God hath blessed thee.
Excavations, which were led by Professor Israel Finkelstein at Shiloh between 1981 to 1984, uncovered a heap of pottery that were dated to be around 1050 or 1000 B.C. which sets it to the time of the Judges of the Book of the Judges. Professor Finkelstein also located what may be the very gates of Shiloh which Eli, the priest, died in 1 Samuel 4:18. Excavations on 2006 and 2007, done just south of Shiloh has uncovered elaborate mosaic floors as well as several Greek inscriptions, one explicitly referring to another site near the foot of Tel Shiloh as the “village of Shiloh.” The Mishna, which contains oral Jewish traditions, shares this concerning the tabernacle “And in Shiloh there was no roof but a building of stone below and cloth above, and it was a resting place (Zevachim 14).” The picture below shows the specific location that Zeev Yeivin and Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nund (found on 1981 and 1982), proposed to have been the home of the tabernacle. It just so happens that these rocks outline an area which fit the dimensions of the tabernacle perfectly.
The tabernacle was built out of wood and fabrics, exactly as God had specified in Exodus 26, and would not have survived the test of time, as such the site does not feature those materials. In spite of this supposed “lack” of evidence for the tabernacle specifically, Israel HaYom, an Israeli newspaper, has reported that holes had been found carved into the rock at intervals along the perimeter of the tabernacle, which may have been the places where the wooden beams which supported the tabernacle stood, exactly as God had outlined. Near the holes towards the North of Tel Shiloh, some structures were unearthed which confirms that this site was indeed used during the period of Joshua’s leadership all the way to the time of King David. One of the structures contained ceramic vessels as well as three large taboon clay ovens. In light of all these finds, Hananya Hizmi, staff officer for archaeology in the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, responded with this statement to the skeptics, “This is not something that was common in private residences and therefore we do not believe these structures served as family dwellings.” One of the latest finds at Tel Shiloh has been a Jewish-styled stone altar built near the foot of Tel Shiloh. The altar was found amid the stones of a wall dated to somewhere between 1200 B.C. to 600 A.D. Avital Faleh, administrator of the Tel Shiloh site, has theorized that the Byzantines had moved the altar which originally sat on Tel Shiloh to the southern side of Shiloh. This altar was found accidentally during a dig conducted by an archaeological staff officer of the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria. The altar proves that religious ceremonies took place at Tel Shiloh and serves to confirm that this site was indeed the biblical site of the tabernacle.
“Shiloh yields some, but not all, of its secrets,” Israel Finkelstein writes, such words cannot be more true as even more evidence was dug up at the site. A broken clay pitcher was found in a bed of ashes, suggesting that a great sudden destruction may have fallen upon the site. Tazpit News Agency reports that, “The ashes found attest to a devastating fire that occurred at the site. The dating of the clay pitcher, 1050 B.C., correlates with the dating of the events depicted in Book of Samuel.” Israel Finkelstein has suggested that, “After defeating the Israelites, the Philistines apparently took advantage of their victory to press on up to the hills and burn Shiloh to the ground,” which may have happened around the time of the same events recorded in 1 Samuel 4. While the Bible does not clearly detail the destruction of Shiloh it has alluded to its destruction in a few passages (Jeremiah 7:12-14; Jeremiah 26:6, 9; Psalms 78:60).
Jeremiah 7:12, 14
But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel.
Therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh.
I would like to close this post with a few quotes from some of the most respected archaeologists in the world, the late William F. Albright, once said, “There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of Old Testament tradition (J. A. Thompson, The Bible and Archaeology [Grand Rapids, MI; Eerdmans, 1975], p. 5).” Nelson Glueck, after a lifetime of making several archaeological discoveries, confidently had this to say, “As a matter of fact, however, it maybe clearly stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a single biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible.” It must be noted that both Gleuck and Albright were both non-Christians, yet they were forced to shamefully admit to the Bible’s historical accuracy. “After years of research, however, I believe it is impossible to explore Israel’s origins without the Bible. …Again and again we have seen the historical value of the Bible” – Professor Adam Zertal, Chairman for the Department of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, a former atheist, once gave that statement. I absolutely agree, archaeology has done nothing but to become an unlikely ally to prove the Bible. Ironically, it seems that the Bible has anticipated this assistance from archaeology, and I will show you how. In Joshua 24:27, Joshua actually stated that the very rocks of the promised land will become a witness for us all and that certainly seems to be the case now in these Last Days:
And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the LORD which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God.