by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – October 23, 2009
In Bereshit 6:13, G-d tells Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before me for the earth is filled with violence through them.” So, G-d commands Noah to construct an ark the size of a stadium to fit “Of every clean animal . . .seven each of male and female and of every unclean animal two, male and female (Bereshit 7:2)” besides himself, his wife and children and their wives, and food for all. Once Noah completes construction of the ark, G-d brings a fatal flood to the world – fatal to all remaining outside the ark that floats upon the waters. After some days and nights, the flood subsides, and G-d promises Noah, “There will no longer be a flood to destroy the earth” (Bereshit 9:15).
By the flood, G-d proved the ultimate dependence of all life on G-d and the ultimate futility in man’s hedonistic pursuits. After all, if man does not fulfill the purpose of his mortal existence, namely, the development of his immortal existence, then G-d can justifiably cease man’s mortal existence. Once He demonstrated this point, G-d saw no need for further demonstration of this.
Unfortunately, those who prefer to engage in hedonistic or materialistic pursuits, and, therefore, feel uncomfortable with the religious and spiritual implications of the story of the flood, have sought to deny the story’s authenticity – dismissing it as mere myth as they attempt to do regarding the whole Torah. However, many archaeological finds have, despite secularists’ wishes, served to confirm the story of the flood as well as many other Torah narratives.
In his Lehavin u-Lehaskil, E. Gevirtz notes concerning the flood, “Many different and far-flung nations – who did not have any way to communicate with each other – have handed down almost identical written accounts of a great flood long ago. Among these nations are the Babylonians . . ., the Chinese . . ., the Indians . . ., and the Mexicans . . . .It is absurd to say that all these peoples made up the very same story . . .if it did not actually happen. This is especially true in view of the fact that all the accounts place the flood at about the same time (some 4000 years ago), and that excavations have shown the local populations in the Middle East suddenly dropping drastically at this very time.”
In the story of the Tower of Babel, men tried but failed to build a tower to the heavens. This also conforms with remains found at what was once called Babylonia or Babel, namely, ziggurats, immense towers that at times rose to hundreds of feet, as the Torah account suggests. The Tower of Babel also marked the time G-d dispersed the people and they began speaking different languages, which indicates a prior universal language. This is strongly suggested in the similarities between many Greek, Roman, English, French and German words and their Hebrew counterparts.
Gevirtz also notes concerning the Torah’s information that our forefather Abraham was born in Ur Kasdim (i.e., Ur of the Chaldeans), that many “doubted that such a site ever existed. However, in the late 1920’s, Sir Charles Woolley led an expedition that excavated the ruins of Ur near the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia. They indicated that Ur was quite a well-developed city heavily involved in idol worship, agreeing with the Torah account.”
The Torah describes the cataclysmic destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Researchers have determined that the Dead Sea, which is in that area, is some 1200 feet below sea level and there is evidence that Siddim, where Sodom and Gomorrah were located, dropped abruptly and was submerged under water, possibly the Dead Sea.
The Torah tells us that by marrying Hagar, Abraham produced Ishmael, the father of Arab peoples. Arabs today still revere Abraham and Ishmael for that reason, pray at Abraham’s burial place in Hebron, and have had the custom of circumcising their sons at the age of thirteen – when, according to the Torah, Abraham circumcised Ishmael.
The Torah’s report of Joseph’s becoming chief assistant to Pharaoh is supported by the existence of an ancient canal on the Nile 80 miles south of Cairo by the name of Bahr Yusaf (Joseph’s Canal).
Later, the Torah states that, after Joseph’s death, the Egyptians enslaved the children of Israel, forced them to form bricks and compelled them to build the cities of Pithom and Raamses. Archaeologists have found that a rock tomb west of the Egyptian city of Thebes contained on its wall a series of paintings depicting the life of the vizier Rekhmire. One such painting showed him with a rod in hand overseeing the bricklaying done by foreigners, who are drawn with beards and lighter skins, signifying that they were the Semites. In addition, an inscription in Egyptian records tells us that Semites “hauled the stones for the great fortress of the city” of Raamses.
In the Cairo Museum, a monument can be found on which the inscription celebrates the victory of Pharaoh Merenptah over the Libyans. On this monument, the words “people of Israel” can be found. Pharaoh Merenptah ruled about 1230 BCE, about 50 years after the offspring of Jacob entered the Land of Israel under Joshua’s leadership. Thus, this monument testifies that the Israelites existed as a well-known nation then.
Egyptian records confirm the existence of the Philistine nation, which the Bible reports to have harassed the Israelites during the time of the Judges; and the discovery of Philistine crockery that traces their origin to Crete confirms the information in the Biblical book of Amos that the Philistines came from Kaphtor, also known as Crete.
Ruins of a fortress at Tell el Ful (i.e., Givah) have been traced back to the first Israelite king, Saul; and ruins of cities defeated by David have been discovered, as well as the pool of Givon, which the Bible describes as the place where the soldiers of Saul’s general, Avner, fought.
In I Melakhhim 9:15, the Bible mentions that King Solomon planned the construction of Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer, which would imply a similarity in the blueprint for construction of the three cities. Indeed, excavations led by Yigal Yadin in Israel have determined that the city gates at all three are the very same type.
Additional excavations have demonstrated the existence of many later Jewish kings. For example, the “Black Obelisk” found at Nineveh shows Yehu, king of Israel, bowing before the Assyrian King Shalmaneser III, and excavations at Tell-el-Mutesillim in the 1920’s uncovered a seal with the Hebrew inscription “Shema, servant of Jeroboam”, i.e. Jeroboam, king of Israel. The Moabite stone stated, “Omri, king of Israel, humbled Moab many years,” and an inscription from Esarhaddon at the ruins of Kuyundshik stating, “I gathered together the kings of Syria and the kings from across the sea, Ba’al the king of Tyre, Menashe the king of Judah . . .” confirms the Biblical story of Menashe being taken captive by the Assyrians. Also, the so-called Taylor Prism supports the Biblical claim that King Hezekiah did not accept Sennacherib’s authority leading to his attacking Judah; Sennacherib’s eventual defeat described by the Bible has also been recorded by the ancient historian Herodotus; and the bible’s statement that Sennacherib was killed by both his sons has been recorded on the Prism of Esarhaddon. Additionally, the Siloan Pool dug by Hezekiah during Sennacherib’s siege has been excavated, and its dimensions coincide precisely with those mentioned in the Bible.
Unfortunately, despite the preceding archaeological findings and other phenomena that conform with Biblical records, secularists continue to doubt Biblical history. They deny various Biblical statements as impossible, dismissing them as mythical exaggerations of natural phenomena. They do this because they cannot live with the idea that there is a G-d who, when He wishes, can circumvent natural law – a G-d who controls natural law. Such an idea and its religious implications would impinge upon their materialistic and hedonistic pursuits. Analysis, however, of the beginnings of the universe supports the existence of a G-d Who produced the universe, and Who could, therefore, produce the various miraculous events described in the Bible. When one adds an understanding of the utility and positive consequences of the Torah’s precepts to the aforementioned archaeological findings and plausibility of the Torah’s miraculous events, then the truth of the Torah becomes apparent. However, before we can perceive and appreciate the truth of the Torah, we must cease the mindless worship of materialism that can only yield benefits as long as the material body continues to exist. Then we will be able to reap the spiritual benefits of the Torah that will last with us, forever.