Archaeology Confirms Dates of Five Biblical Battles

Archaeology Confirms Dates of Five Biblical Battles February 6, 2023

Battles at Beth She’an (c. 926 BC), Beth Shemesh (c. 790 BC), Bethsaida & Kinneret (732 BC), and Lachish (701 BC)

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a peer reviewed journal of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), is one of the world’s most-cited and comprehensive multidisciplinary scientific journals. On 24 October 2022, it published the article, “Reconstructing biblical military campaigns using geomagnetic field data,” by Yoav Vaknin et al. It confirms some of the dates indicated in the Bible, according to the timeline of more traditional “maximalist” archaeologists.

Ariel David, in his article, “Archaeologists Reconstruct Biblical Conflicts Using Earth’s Magnetic Field” (Haaretz, 10-25-22), explains in laymen’s terms, the dazzling scientific methodology involved (a new form of dating):

The Earth’s magnetosphere, which protects living beings from dangerous solar radiation and high-energy particles, can fluctuate wildly in intensity and direction, for reasons that are not entirely clear. So if researchers can reconstruct the magnetic conditions for a certain time and region they can also use that information to date ancient ruins and artifacts.

They can do this because ceramic vessels and many ancient construction materials, such as sun-dried mud bricks, contain tiny ferromagnetic particles. When these particles are heated to high temperatures – for example, in a pottery kiln, or in a destructive fire – they behave like tiny compass needles: they align with the magnetic field of the Earth and become magnetized based on the direction and intensity of the field at the time.

David provides an example:

One puzzle concerns the remains of large structures destroyed by a massive fire at Tel Beth She’an. Based on the typology of the pottery remains, the site’s excavators have seesawed between attributing the destruction of the city either to Pharaoh Sheshonq I, the biblical Shishak who raided the Levant around 925 B.C.E., or to the Aramean forces of Hazael of Damascus, who conquered parts of the Holy Land about a century later. . . .

[T]he intensity and direction of the magnetic field recorded in Beth She’an suggests that the last time the ancient walls were heated to a high temperature was in the late tenth or early 9th century B.C.E., which is compatible with the Egyptian invasion led by Sheshonq, recounted both in the Bible (1 Kings 14:25-26) and on the walls of the pharaoh’s own temple at Karnak.

This lines up with the Bible:

1 Kings 14:25-26 (RSV) In the fifth year of King Rehobo’am, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem; [26] he took away the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king’s house; he took away everything. He also took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made;

Beth She’an is 18-19 miles due south of the Sea of Galilee and about 57 miles north of Jerusalem.

According to prominent archaeologists Gershon Galil and Kenneth Kitchen, the reign of King Rehoboam, who succeeded King Solomon, began in 931 BC and ended with his death in 915/914 BC. Encylopaedia Britannica informs us that Sheshonk I [“Shishak” in 1 Kgs 14:25] reigned from 945-924 BC. Rehoboam’s fifth year would have been 926 BC, which is within Sheshonk’s Egyptian reign. Science has now determined a sacking of Beth She’an in “the late tenth or early 9th century” BC.

Another verified battle occurred in Beth Shemesh: an ancient town just west of Jerusalem. The new magnetic evidence suggests that it was destroyed near the beginning of the 8th century BC. This fits quite nicely with both traditional and excavators’ understanding of a battle between the kingdoms of Israel and Judah in this city around 790 BC. The Bible states:

2 Kings 14:11-13 . . . So Jeho’ash king of Israel went up, and he and Amazi’ah king of Judah faced one another in battle at Beth-she’mesh, which belongs to Judah. [12] And Judah was defeated by Israel, and every man fled to his home. [13] And Jeho’ash king of Israel captured Amazi’ah king of Judah, the son of Jeho’ash, son of Ahazi’ah, at Beth-she’mesh, and came to Jerusalem, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem for four hundred cubits, from the E’phraim Gate to the Corner Gate.

The great archaeologist William F. Albright dated the reign of King Jehoash of Israel to 801–786 BC, which fits into the above timeframe. Expert on Old Testament chronology Edwin R. Thiele dated King Amaziah of Judah‘s reign from 797/796 to 768/767 BC, which also fits into the same chronology seen above.

Yoav Vaknin et al write:

In 733 to 732 BCE, Tiglath-Pileser III, King of Assyria, conquered the northern parts of the Kingdom of Israel, as described in biblical and Assyrian sources. The attribution of the destructions at Bethsaida and Tel Kinnerot [aka Kinneret or Chinneroth] to this period is widely accepted. The agreement between our archaeointensity results from these two sites reinforces their concurrent destruction .

The Bible observed, in complete harmony with this finding of modern science:

2 Kings 15:29 In the days of Pekah king of Israel Tig’lath-pile’ser king of Assyria came and captured I’jon, A’bel-beth-ma’acah, Jan-o’ah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naph’tali; and he carried the people captive to Assyria.

Bethsaida and Kinneret were both located on or very near the north or northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, in Galilee, and in the land of the tribe of Naphtali (see a map of its territory). Tiglath-pileser III, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, reigned from 745-727 BC. King Pekah of Israel is thought to have reigned from c. 740-737-732 BC.

As we can see, the dates once again line up with the brand new magnetic dating data. Tiglath-pileser III and King Pekah were both reigning at the time of the destruction of Bethsaida and Kinneret, precisely as indirectly indicated (through geography) in 2 Kings 15:29. I’m never surprised by the incredibly minute historical accuracy of the Bible, having observed it hundreds of times. But perhaps some readers will be.

Yoav Vaknin et al continue their analysis:

During another Assyrian campaign, led by King Sennacherib in 701 BCE, Tel Lachish Stratum III was destroyed. Unequivocal evidence of the siege, battle, and destruction by fire has been exposed at the site. The attack on Lachish is mentioned in 2 Kings 18–19; Isaiah 36–37; 2 Chronicles 32 and narrated in Assyrian reliefs. According to biblical and Assyrian sources, many other Judean sites were destroyed during the 701 BCE campaign but none are securely identified. Our archaeomagnetic data from Tel Beersheba, Tel Zayit Level XI, and Tell Beit Mirsim argue for their destruction during the 701 BCE campaign.

2 Chronicles 32:9 . . . Sennach’erib king of Assyria, who was besieging Lachish with all his forces . . .

Sennacherib reigned, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, from c. 705-681. The same source states about the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah: “The dates of his reign are often given as about 715 to about 686 BC.” Both fit perfectly into a destruction date of Lachish in 701 BC.

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Photo credit: Hanay, 6-2-12: ruins at Bethsaida [Wikipedia / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]

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Summary: Extraordinary new dating techniques utilizing the earth’s magnetosphere have dramatically verified the dates of five biblical battles, again confirming biblical accuracy.

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