• Hey, Skeptics: The Edomites? Looks Like the Bible Got This One Right Too

    Surge Summary: Archaeologists find evidence that the ancient Middle Eastern people of Edom (Edomites) existed pretty much as the Old Testament describes them – overturning the skepticism of the “experts” who had formerly dismissed the biblical account. Score another one for the accuracy of the Scriptures. So how ought this affect those who already trust the Bible — and those who scoff at its reliability?

    John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera ask a big, potentially existential question in a recent piece – and the whole thing starts with looking at a bunch of rocks.

    Read on, see what I mean …

    Of Moab, the Psalmist mentions in Psalm 60 — “Moab is my wash basin; upon Edom I cast my sandal” – which is only one of more than 100 references to that kingdom in the Old Testament. Edom is treated as an actual thing, a real people that existed during a particular period of history in what today we call the Middle East.

    The Edomites were descendants from Esau, Jacob’s older brother. The Genesis account of the troubled twins describes Esau as red all over when he was born. Esau, you might remember, sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of red stew. Edom means “red” in Hebrew; thus, Esau’s descendants came to be known as Edomites.

    Over the years, as is typical of so many of “specialists”, many a scholar has doubted the Edomites even existed — at least as represented in the Bible.

    Specifically, they regarded the depiction in the Pentateuch of the Edomite Kingdom to be largely mythical. The real Edomite Kingdom, they believed, emerged three or more centuries later, during the latter part of Israel’s divided monarchy, and was “read back” into the story of the Exodus.

    “Well,” ventures Stonestreet bluntly, “these scholars were mistaken.”

    Recently, a team excavating in Israel’s Timna Valley found evidence of a “thriving and wealthy society” dating back to the 12th century before Christ. What kind of evidence? An extensive network of ancient copper-smelting facilities were found in the parts of Israel and Jordan that the Bible associates with Edom.

    Speaking to the Jerusalem Post, team leader Ezra Ben-Yosef says, “copper-smelting was essentially the hi-tech of ancient times.”

    The process was especially complex, so any society which had mastered it would likely be technologically sophisticated and politically well-organized.

    Ben-Yosef continues, subtly dropping a bit of a pedantic bomb: “(These) new findings contradict the view of many archaeologists that [the region associated with biblical Edom] was populated by a loose alliance of tribes … they’re consistent with the biblical story that there was an Edomite kingdom here.”

    Hmmm… there it is again: “consistent with the biblical story.” That phrase seems to pop up a lot in the world of ancient archaeology these days. For example, the excavations at Ashkelon that confirm the biblical account of the Philistines; findings on Mount Zion confirming the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem—not just that it happened, but also when it happened; and on and on.

    Stonestreet observes the obvious: One would think the sheer frequency of findings over the past few decades that are “consistent with the biblical story” would prompt those embracing systemic scholarly skepticism toward the Bible to reconsider some of their conclusions.

    “It should,” he presses, “but it hasn’t.”

    One reason some scholars remain stubbornly skeptical is that most archaeologists and social scientists see Judaism and Christianity in the same way they see every other religion–an approach that obscures important distinctions.

    Unlike other religions, historical detail is central, even crucial, to biblical faith. The biblical story reports on events that took place in actual human history. Unlike other religions, the protagonist of the biblical story is a God who has acted in the human arena, not in a mythical past or in another universe, but in the same setting as you, I, and everyone else who has ever lived.

    Since historical memory, and the actual acts of God within human history, is so central to biblical faith, we ought not be surprised when we find evidence of His activity in the ground.

    Another factor are the moral and volitional biases of too many academics – a problem they share with regular, old laymen. Not a few “seekers” actually don’t want the Bible to be true. They’re settled into doing things their way, living their decisions according to their rules and precepts, such as they are. If the Old and New Testaments are historically dependable, perhaps they ought to be consulted for spiritual and life guidance as well? And lots of folks certainly don’t want to do that.

    So … we end up with the constant, smug and baseless dismissal of the Bible as a collection of unreliable fairy tales and fables. The truth is, as concluded G.K. Chesterton many years ago, that “the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

    Stonestreet/Rivera conclude with practical advice for authentic followers of the One who stands behind the words of the Holy Book:

    [W]e should be ready to communicate the connections between history and faith when appropriate and when asked. It’s a wonderful way to communicate to our skeptical friends, family members, and co-workers what we believe and why we believe it.

    The factual accuracy of the Scriptures might thrill our souls but it’s effect on us can’t stop there. Truth is meant to be shared with others and these recent findings provide Bible-believers with one more reason to make known its transformative message.

    The views here are those of the authors and not necessarily Daily Surge.

    H/T: John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera

    Image: By No machine-readable author provided. Uri~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=511523


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