Proof Muslims Wrong, Jews did Ocupy Israel in Ancient Times
On Sept. 24, the president of Iran informed reporters that Israel has "no roots there in history" in the Middle East. Now a lot of good jokes come to mind at the expense of this clueless man, but, seriously folks, he has at least conveyed an important truth: he recognizes that Israel's historical presence in that world since antiquity matters -- matters enough to deny it. Now, the Bible pictures an Israelite-Jewish population and government there starting in the 12th century B.C.E. and continuing until the end of the Bible's history about 800 years later. But how do we know if this is true? As scholars, we can't just say, "The Bible tells us so."
In the first place, the land is filled with Hebrew inscriptions, so I begin with that. These are not just an occasional inscription on a piece of pottery or carved in a wall. Nor should we even start with one or two of the most famous archaeological finds. Rather, there are thousands of inscriptions. They come from hundreds of excavated towns and cities. They are in the Hebrew language. They include people's names that bear forms of the name of their God: YHWH. This means names like: Hoshaiah, which means "YHWH Saved" Ahijah, which means "YHWH is My Brother" Shemariah, which means"YHWH Watched"
The inscriptions also refer to their kings. They include stamps and seals from official documents. They come from tombs where that land's people were buried. They name people who are mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. They include wording that also appears in the Hebrew Bible. They reflect a widespread community whose dominant language was Hebrew, who didn't eat pork and who worshipped a God named YHWH.
I happened to be present at the time of the discovery of another important inscription in Jerusalem. Right below the Church of Scotland in Jerusalem, in a Jewish tomb from the seventh century B.C.E., was a silver cylinder with the words inscribed in it: "May YHWH bless you and keep you. May YHWH make his face shine to you and give you peace."
It is the words of the Priestly Blessing in the Hebrew Bible (Numbers 6:24-26).