The Old Testament has a different feel from the New Testament in that much of it
deals with national history. The protagonists are often kings and the actions include
matters that can leave evidence in the ground. The history of Israel in the Old Testament
is established over and over again from the time of Solomon onwards.
Some of the evidence from this period comes in the form of the cities and villages
which are left behind in the ground. Other evidence comes from the tombs of those
who died, or from inscriptions left to commemorate events. For example, by looking
at the different walls of Jerusalem one can see an early settlement which becomes
progressively larger and better fortified until the destruction in about 590BC. About
540BC the city was again inhabited but the wall that was built was built in haste
to a low standard. This is consistent with the history of Jerusalem in the Bible.
However, before the time of King David (who reigned in the 11th century BC) Israel
was a nomadic people. This means that they left little trace of their doings that
can be discovered by archaeologists. Archaeology is thus of much less help in looking
at the Bible before about 1000BC.
This chart shows the chronology of the whole Bible. Most of this is taken up with
the Old Testament. The history from the end of the reign of King David onwards is
thoroughly supported by archaeological finds. Before this time Israel was generally
nomadic and evidence is much harder to obtain.
Example - Evidence of Hezekiah’s Reign
Hezekiah was king of Judah at the time of the Assyrian invasion of the area. Early
on in his reign the northern kingdom of Israel was finally taken captive and later
on Judah was also invaded. The Assyrian invasion left a legacy of siege-works and
destruction layers which allow this time to be identified with confidence. The reign
of Hezekiah is described in 2 Kings 18-20, 2 Chronicles 29-32 and in some of the
books of the prophets such as Isaiah and Micah.
Early on in the reign of Hezekiah he ordered the removal of the high places - these
were religious sanctuaries outside Jerusalem. The period is marked by signs of the
destruction and removal of stone altars. The period also shows an increase in the
fortification of Jerusalem to resist the invading Assyrians, a process described
in the Bible. Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, besieged the fortress-city of Lachish
and captured; he left a set of reliefs on the walls of his palace which depict the
storming of the city. His campaign Judah is referred to in a set of cuneiform inscriptions
on clay prisms; two of these are in the British Museum. These record the conquest
of most of the region by the Assyrians but tellingly indicate that while Hezekiah
was “shut up” in Jerusalem it was not captured, exactly what the Bible tells us.
The Assyrians retreated from Judah because of a sudden plague which killed large
numbers of their troops. This is confirmed by the existence of mass graves of Assyrian
soldiers which have been discovered near Lachish where the main Assyrian camp was
This and many other examples show that the Old Testament has a remarkably accurate
description of the events that appear in its accounts.
for a pdf file which gives a summary of the Archaeology of the Old Testament.
One of the Lachish Letters, in which a contemporary witness records some of the events
that accompany the invasion of Judah by the Babylonians.. This campaign was a disaster
for ancient Judah, and is described in numerous places in the Old Testament.