Hide and Seek: Archaeological Discoveries of 2018 Shed Light on the Bible

Just as 2018 was drawing to a close, an unsuspecting woman was taking a stroll in Beit She'an after a particularly heavy downpour. Suddenly, she noticed some ancient sculptures (which later turned out to be from the late Roman period) sticking out of the mud, revealed after more than one and a half thousand years by the rain.1
Like a game of hide and seek, it’s almost comedic how often priceless archaeological treasures pop up in this ancient land! And very often they bring a message or insight of some kind.
Here’s a review of some of the most exciting archaeological findings from 2018:

Pilate's ring

The day after the Prime Minister of Pakistan declared that there is no historical evidence for Jesus,2 archaeologists from Hebrew University revealed that the ring of Pontius Pilate had been discovered near Bethlehem! This timely discovery adds further credence to the already substantial historical and archaeological evidence for Jesus, and what the New Testament has written about him. And what remarkable timing. The ring itself was found some 50 years ago along with many other artifacts, but only now have experts managed to decipher the name on the ring:

“The famous name on it was discerned after a thorough cleansing, when it was photographed with the use of a special camera at the Israel Antiquities Authority labs. The inscription on what was apparently a stamping ring included a picture of a wine vessel surrounded by Greek writing translated as saying “Pilatus.’”3 

The name was very rare, the ring belonged to a man of high status who was in the cavalry, and the dating fits. They are confident that it did indeed belong to the Pontius Pilate of the New Testament. Did God orchestrate events to reveal this ring right after that ludicrous statement denying historical evidence for Jesus? We shouldn’t be surprised!

Seals of Hezekiah and Isaiah

Two important seals were discovered this year in Jerusalem, bearing the names of two important men: one was King Hezekiah, and the other was Isaiah. The seal of King Hezekiah was discovered close to Hezekiah's tunnel in the City of David, and the other was found earlier in the year with what appeared to be the name of Isaiah the Prophet. However, the seal was missing a piece and it is not clear whether it in fact was Isaiah the Prophet or another Isaiah. However, we can say for sure that Isaiah was not only a contemporary of Hezekiah, but according to the Bible, the two men knew each other, met together, and Isaiah gave Hezekiah counsel. The discovery caused people to reflect on Isaiah and his prophecies, with one mainstream news source explaining why Isaiah 53 is seen as a prophecy about Jesus!

Temple tax silver shekel “beka” weight

A weight to measure silver for the temple tax was found this year.4 Exodus 38:25-26 tells us that God required half shekel temple tax due from each member of the community, regardless of whether they were rich or poor: 

The silver from those numbered from the congregation was 100 talents and 1,775 shekels, according to the Sanctuary shekel—that is, a beka, or half a shekel per head, according to the shekel of the Sanctuary, for everyone who was recorded, from 20 years old and upward, for 603,550 men.” 

The tiny weight (5.5 grams / 0.2 ounces) was inscribed with the Hebrew letters spelling beka and was discovered in archaeological excavations near Robinson's arch, where the temple once stood. This silver half shekel tax is significant for a number of reasons.

Silver represents redemption of a life (consider the lives of Joseph and Jesus were exchanged for silver coins). We can also see the significance in the Tabernacle where the bases upon which the poles rest are all made of silver. The poles are made of wood, overlaid in gold, and resting in silver. This is like us as corruptible humanity (wood), wrapped in God's holiness (gold), and resting in the redemption that Jesus bought for us (silver).

Even though rich and poor paying the same amount might go against our sense of fair play, it speaks volumes about the equal value of each life before God. Our redemption costs exactly the same.

Oldest known inscription of Jerusalem

An ancient column, dated to 100 BC, was found, with the word Jerusalem inscribed in Hebrew. This exciting discovery is the oldest known example with the name “Jerusalem” fully spelled out in this manner. The artifact proves that Jewish people were indeed in the land at that time, and that there were Hebrew speakers living and working in Jerusalem. Along with an ancient Roman pillar found in 2016 marked with the word “Judea”, it’s getting harder and harder to say that the Jewish people have no connection to the land. They very evidently do, and archaeological discoveries are proving it again and again.

Figurine from time of ancient Israel

Photograph by Gaby Laron (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

The perfectly preserved head of a tiny figurine from the ninth century BC was found earlier this year. “We're guessing [it’s] probably a king, but we have no way of proving that,” said Robert Mullins, Ph.D., lead archaeologist at Abel Beth Maacah and chair and professor in Azusa Pacific’s Department of Biblical and Religious Studies.According to Mullins, radiocarbon dating suggests the sculpture was made some time between 902-806 B.C. “Given that the head was found in a city that sat on the border of three different ancient kingdoms, we do not know whether it depicts the likes of King Ahab of Israel, King Hazael of Aram-Damascus, or King Ethbaal of Tyre, rulers known from the Bible and other sources. The head represents a royal enigma.” The hunt will go on to find the identity of the mystery king from the days of ancient Israel!

Who knows what we'll dig up in 2019?

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  1. Israelnationalnews.com, Woman finds 1,700-year-old stone busts while taking walk, 30/12/18
  2. Times of Israel, Pakistani PM denigrates Jesus, wants world convention to prevent insult to Islam ‘There is no mention of Jesus in history,’ says Imran Khan, ‘but the entire life of Muhammad, who was Allah’s last prophet, is part of history’, 30/11/2018
  3. Haaretz, Ring of Roman Governor Pontius Pilate Who Crucified Jesus Found in Herodion Site in West Bank, Nir Hasson, 2nd December 2018
  4. City of David,New Discovery: A 3000 Year Old “Beka” Weight
  5. A Royal Enigma: Ancient Head from Biblical City Displayed at Israel Museum
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