This is another edition of the Bible in the News, and this is Paul Billington back with you after a few weeks absence.
Well, the Battle for Bible Truth seems to have gained another small piece of evidence this week as a tiny Babylonian tablet has been deciphered at the British Museum in London, England. According to news reports the tablet is 2,500 years old and makes mention of a little known character by the name of Nebo-Sarsekim (or "Sarsechim" in the King James Version). He was a prince, or chief officer, of the king of Babylon--that is, of Nebuchadnezzar, and was involved in the destruction of Jerusalem in BC 588-89. The Biblical reference to this individual is found in Jeremiah 39:3.
According to a report in "The Daily Telegraph" newspaper, this discovery "has been called the most important find in Biblical archaeology for 100 years, a discovery that supports the view that the historical books of the Old Testament are based on fact."
Such is the comment that is so typical of the age of unbelief in which we live. In the first place it brushes aside the many other archaeological discoveries which also demonstrate the factual basis of the Biblical record; and in the second place it reveals a condescending as well as sceptical frame of mind towards the Bible. This truly is an age in which it is fashionable and respectable to doubt Bible Truth, even in the face of hard evidence--and in this case, even documentary evidence.
The small tablet that confirms the personality mentioned in Jeremiah chapter 39.
When one eminent professor of Jewish studies at the University of Oxford heard about this tablet, his comment was that it shows that "the Biblical story is not altogether invented." How hardened in their unbelief can these eminent professors be?
This particular tablet is interesting because it mentions Sarsechim in an everyday context, and because the reference to him in Jeremiah 39:3 is virtually incidental. Dr. Irving Finkel, assistant keeper in the British Museum's Middle East Department commented:
"If Nebo-Sarsekim existed, which other lesser figures in the Old Testament existed? A throwaway detail in the Old Testament turns out to be accurate and true. I think that it means that the whole of the narrative [of Jeremiah] takes on a new kind of power."
Well we know that many Bible characters really did exist and performed the acts that are recorded of them. We had an article on this kind of thing some years ago in the Bible Magazine (that was Vol. 9, issue No. 4) where we listed some 40 Bible references that were matched to archaeological discoveries. Let me quote from that article in connection with this kind of discovery:
"Archaeological discoveries themselves serve to put us in direct contact with the realities of the past--and in a different way to that of the written records that have been copied and handed down to us. When a stone monument or clay tablet is unearthed bearing the name of a person that appears in Scripture, it provides physical evidence of Bible Truth. When, as often happens, that evidence is examined, scrutinized and questioned--and yet survives the scholarly critics and sceptics--then we know that it is reliable indeed; far more so than if it had not been subjected to that process.
"Let us appreciate this. It is not merely a question of certain discoveries supporting the Bible's record, but that those discoveries have been subjected to the most rigorous examination possible by men who are often hostile to the concept of Bible Truth. This happened in 1993 with a find made in Tel Dan; it was the first inscription ever found bearing the phrase "House of David" and "King of Israel." Critics had claimed that David (like Moses) had never existed--now an inscription had been found which demonstrated that the critics were wrong. A critic soon challenged the claim--Philip R. Davies said that the inscription had been wrongly translated and was "wishful thinking," "bias" and "shameless" (BAR JLY/AUG issue 1994). Davies was later roundly defeated by two other scholars--the reading "House of David" WAS CORRECT. TIME commented: "The sceptics' claim that King David never existed is now hard to defend."
Among other Biblical personalities that have been confirmed by archaeology we may include Kings Omri, Ahab, Jehu, Azariah, Pekah, Hoshea, Hezekiah, Manasseh as well as several Assyrian and Babylonian kings. The account given in 2 Kings chapter 3 of the battle with Moab was confirmed as real history by the Moabite Stone, discovered as long ago as 1868. And so we could go on to mention the Taylor Prism that confirms the campaign of Sennacherib against Hezekieh--and so on.
Coming back to the time of Nebuchadnezzar and Jeremiah 39 where Sarsechim is mentioned, we should also mention the Babylonian clay tablet that records the very fall of Jerusalem itself, not only that, but seals bearing the names of several other contemporary personalities have been found--for example Gemariah son of Shaphan, Baruch son of Neriah (Jeremiah 36 and chapter 45) and so on.
It does seem that to many modern scholars, overwhelming evidence is never enough! There are those people who just do not want to believe the truth of the Bible. Well, that is their choice, but they are flying in the face of evidence which teaches us otherwise.
We have the Bible itself, preserved for some 2,000 years. Then there is archaeological discovery, and also Bible prophecy which foretold world history in advance.
Put it altogether and you have a case that is certain and sure. Not only that, but you have a message of hope as the purpose of God is revealed to us in this Book of truth.
Well, the Bible IS in the News, and will continue to be for those with ears to hear it.
Join us again next week here on www.bibleinthenews.com or www.biblemagazine.com for another edition, God willing.