"WHAT ARE THESE STONES?"
by Wayne S. Walker
When the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River into Canaan, Joshua instructed them to pick up twelve stones, one for each tribe, to be used in building a memorial. "Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: ‘When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, "What are these stones?" then you shall let your children know, saying, "…The LORD your God dried up the waters before you…"’" (Joshua 3.21-23). The stones would serve as evidence of God’s power among the Israelites. Although this monument no longer exists, to anyone’s knowledge, the Bible lands are filled with various ancient artifacts among the stones. As such discoveries are brought to light, we continue to ask, as did the Hebrew children, "What are these stones?"
At one time Bible critics ridiculed the idea that Moses was told to write a record of the events that happened to the people of Israel during their wilderness wanderings (Exodus 17.14). The critics believed that when Moses lived (c. 1500 B.C.) writing had not yet been perfected so Moses could have written nothing. However, in 1922 the Weld Blundel Expedition found, among the stones of Larsa, just a few miles north of Ur, the Weld Dynastic Prism, a written list of kings made around 2170 B.C. It is now in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. Also in 1902 a French expedition under M. J. de Morgan found, in the stones of Susa (Biblical Shushan) the written code of Hammurabi, made about 2000 B.C. So writing existed long before Moses’s day and was readily available to him.
One of Cain’s descendants, Tubal-Cain, is identified as an instructor of work in bronze and iron (Genesis 4.22). The best date that can be given for this time period is anywhere from 3000 to 4000 B.C. Until recently the use of iron was believed to have been unknown prior to 1000 B.C. However, in 1933 Dr. H. E. Frankfort, of the Oriental Institute, found in the stones of Asmar, about 100 miles northeast of Babylon, an iron blade which is thought to have been made around 2700 B.C. This pushed the known use of iron back some 1,500 years, very close to the assumed dates of Tubal-Cain.
The Bible affirms that Hezekiah "made a pool and a tunnel and brought water into the city" of Jerusalem (2 Kings 20.20). For many years the location of this tunnel was not known and its very existence was doubted by some. However, in 1880 a truant schoolboy, playing in the mouth of an old tunnel, saw some marks cut on the rock wall, 19 feet from the opening, which looked like writing. He spoke of it to his teacher, Dr. Schick, who found it to be an account, in the ancient Hebrew language, of the building of Hezekiah’s tunnel. Called the Siloam Inscription, it was cut out of the wall and sent to the Constantinople Museum.
Every Bible student knows that Jesus was born in Bethlehem because a census required Mary and Joseph to return to their ancestral home, and "this census first took place while Quirinius [Cyrenius, KJV] was governing Syria" (Luke 2.2). However, Roman historical records previously known put the beginning of Quirinius’s governorship at A.D. 7, several years after Jesus was born. This historical discrepancy was very troublesome to Bible scholars for a long time. But in recent years, among the stones of Syria, have been found ancient papyri which state that Quirinius was twice governor of Syria, one term earlier than previously known, and that there were two taxation enrollments during his terms. According to the American Standard Version, Luke states that "this was the first enrollment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria."
Certainly, not every person, place, and event mentioned in the Bible has been confirmed by the work of archaeology. However, the spades of archaeologists just keep on corroborating, one by one, sometimes even to the minutest detail, the historical accuracy of the Biblical records. It is safe to say that no archaeological finding has ever been made which flatly contradicts any Bible statement. If the Bible can be demonstrated to be true with regard to its historical information, then this adds to its trustworthiness. And if we can trust the Bible to be accurate in its relation of history, then we can reasonably trust it to be reliable in its claim to be the revelation of God’s will for the spiritual needs of mankind. (—taken from With All Boldness; October, 1995; Vol. 5, No. 10; p. 14)