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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI


Part IV: Remarkable Biblical Confirmations from Archaeology


Further Examples

     SEVERAL remarkable confirmations of exceptional events in the early chapters of Genesis have not been treated in the text which precedes, because there seemed no place for them without breaking the continuity of thought. Strictly speaking, these are not all archaeological confirmations.
     The following are just a few instances of comparatively recent discoveries which bear upon or shed light upon events in Scripture that have been a source either of misunderstanding or of downright disbelief. It will be noted that all these events are related directly or indirectly to the birth of the nation Israel.

      First, with respect to the time of the Oppression, the Israelites were forced to serve the Pharaohs by building "store cities", in particular the two cities named Pithom and Raamses (Exodus 1:11).  Much has been written regarding the circumstance of the finding by Edouard Naville, toward the end of the last century: a site supposedly to be identified with one of these cities, in which the lower courses of brick contained free straw, higher courses stubble, and the uppermost courses little or no straw whatever (cf. Exodus 5:7-18). (86) At
Tell el Maskhuta in the Delta of Egypt were found inscriptions containing the word Pi-tum, meaning "House of the god Tum". Archaeologists have since challenged Naville's identification, preferring to equate the site with Succoth (Exodus 13:20).
     Whatever may or may not have resulted from these discussions, the controversy at least brought out one piece of information which is clearly apropos. Dr. T. Eric Peet of Liverpool University, after reading in

86.  Naville, Edouard, The Store-City of Pithom and the Route of the Exodus, 4th edition, London 1903, pp.9ff.
87.  Garrow Duncan considered that the name Maskhuta is itself merely a variant form of the more similar Succoth; see The Exploration of Egypt and the Old Testament, Fleming H. Revell ,New York, 1908, p.79.

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Naville's account a statement made by a visitor to the site (a Mr. Villiers Stuart, who had expressed interest in the absence of straw in the upper course of brick), pointed out with evident pleasure that it was no surprise to himself at all. "For," Peet said, "it is almost inconceivable that any traveller in Egypt should make this statement with regard to the use of straw in bricks, for though straw has been used both in ancient and modern times, its use is somewhat rare, more particularly in ancient times." (88) He proceeded to point out that the Nile mud makes perfectly good brick without any binder, making the assumption (as most of us have done) that straw served this purpose only. In his over-confidence, Peet has since been proved to be quite wrong. Edward G. Acheson, in a paper presented in the Transactions of the American Ceramic Society in 1904, described certain experiments he made as the result of a chance discovery which led to a technique for greatly improving the strength and impact resistance of bricks. (89) He was surprised to discover on one occasion that certain German clays were far superior to local American clays for the making of pottery, with respect to both plasticity and tensile strength. His surprise sprang from the fact that they did not feel or look different nor did chemical analysis reveal anything unusual. However, being a novice and unaware of previous research work done in this field, he came to the subject with an entirely fresh mind and soon found that "residual" clay differed from water-laid or sedimentary clays, the latter being superior even though their compositions appeared to be identical. He hazarded a happy guess that the process of water-laying had introduced some component which had hitherto escaped recognition. To make a long story short, he discovered that gallo-tannic, when introduced into clay, had the unexpected effect of not only improving the tensile strength of the finished brick but considerably shortening the time for drying it, since less water was required to make it readily moldable. His conclusion was that gallo-tannic acid was being introduced into water-laid clays by the fact that the water itself had washed through vegetation and in doing so picked up the modifying chemicals. Thus Acheson concluded: (90)

     It was therefore possible perhaps for the Egyptians to produce a sun-dried brick of greater strength from the straw-treated clay than from the same clay untreated and burned.

88.  Peet, T. E., Egypt and the Old Testament, University of Liverpool, 1924, p.99.
89.  Acheson, Edward G., "Egyptianized Clay;" Transactions of the American Ceramic Society, New York, 6th Annual Meeting, Cincinnati, February, 1904, pp.31-64. pp. 34, 39.
90.  Ibid.

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      The addition of either tannin or straw emulsion to the clay diminished the amount of water that was necessary to produce a sufficiently plastic mass for molding.

     Thus, as Acheson observes, less water was required (important in a dry country), less shrinkage occurred, less cracking, less time to "temper", and fewer lumps: by contrast there resulted increased plasticity, greater density, greater tensile strength, and increased hardness.
     The ancient Egyptian technicians were wiser as technicians than Dr. Peet as a professor. And, by the way, it accounts for the fact that even stubble served a useful purpose -- which seemed much less likely to have been the case if it was to constitute as a binder only.

*      *     *

     The second incident for comment is the turning of the waters of the Nile into "blood", as recorded in Exodus 7:17ff. In 1947 there was reported by Gordon Gunter and others an instance of catastrophic mass death involving millions of fish off the Florida coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
(91) This occurred in the latter part of November, 1946, and the estimated number of animals killed was at least 50,000,000, apart from oysters, clams, crabs, shrimps, and other creatures. The cause of the death of these animals was found to have been micro-organisms of several species, with special emphasis upon gymnodinium, which had suddenly experienced an exceptionally rapid population growth rate. The effect was to turn the water a reddish-brown color, making it look to all intents and purposes rather like blood. More recently there have been other instances of such a "red tide" along Florida coasts.
     The Science Newsletter of June 6, 1942, had a similar report referring not only to recent similar instances occurring in different parts of the world, but even the appearance of bloody rain -- as reported by Homer. Furthermore, Andrew D. White, in a rather famous (or infamous) but very learned volume dealing with the conflict between science and faith, observed that "from various parts of Europe detailed statements had been sent to the Royal Academy of Science that water had been turned into blood. . . .  A miracle of this sort appearing in

91.  Gunter, Gordon, et al., "Mass Mortality of Marine Animals on the Lower West Coast of Florida, November, 1946 to January, 1947," Science, vol.105, 1947, p.256

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Sweden, Linnaeus looked into it carefully and found that the reddening of the water was caused by dense masses of minute insects." (92) When it was suggested that this is what may have happened in Exodus 7, the ecclesiastical authorities of the time argued very strongly against it and explained that probably the subsequent examples were instances in which Satan was endeavouring to deceive Christian people by demonstrating that it was no miracle at all. Unless we keep in mind what has been said about the time element in such instances, I fear we might find ourselves sometimes reduced to a rather similar expedient. At any rate, the consequences were the same in Egypt as they were in Florida: decaying fish made the country "stink" and attracted flies -- and other evils followed inevitably.

     In Exodus 5:23-25 we have the story of the bitter waters made sweet. While doing some research in surface chemistry, I had occasion to read an important work by Robert Kunin on the subject and came across the following statement on the first page: (93)

     A recent interpretation of the miracle supposedly [sic] performed by Moses, as he led the Israelites safely through the wilderness, suggests the possibility of the application of ion exchange. In order to make the "bitter" water at Marah drinkable during their journey, Moses found a tree "which when he had cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet". It has been suggested that the oxidized cellulose of the tree entered into an exchange reaction with the bitter electrolytes of the water, rendering the water drinkable.

     This would seem to provide a natural explanation of the event itself, but it does not in the least diminish the significance of the statement that it was the Lord who showed him the tree (Exodus 15:35).

*     *     *

92.  White, Andrew D., A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, Braziller, New York, 1955, p.60.
93.  Kunin, Robert, Ion Exchange Resins, Wiley, New York, 1958, p.1.

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     There is one more instance of a miracle which is clearly a case of timing: the provision of meat in the wilderness in the form of quails, as recorded in Numbers 11:31ff. Here it is said that there went forth a wind from the Lord and brought quails from the sea and it "spread them out" (Hebrew natash) beside the camp, as it were a day's journey on this side and as it were a day's journey on the other side round about the camp, and as it were three feet above the face of the earth. I say this is a miracle of timing, because it is now known that the appearance of quails like this is an annual event. (94) It may seem strange that creatures should fly so close to the ground, but this is apparently an accommodation on the part of the older birds to the many very young ones which are with them. It is not a question of lessening injuries in case of a fall, but rather that the reduced altitude provides greater buoyancy so that the young ones fly with less effort.
     In all fluid media, whether water or air, there is a natural sorting out of living forms which results from the fact that the density of any fluid -- and its buoyancy also -- is greater at the bottom. Thus fish sink to a depth suited to the density of their bodies, and birds fly with quite definitely established "ceilings" under normal conditions. This is true even of insects. In England, we used to trap wasps in cans with cider. If they escaped from the can, they were usually drunk in any case and had sufficient energy left only to fly slowly about eighteen inches above the ground, sometimes lower still. This shows how sensitive creatures are to variations in buoyancy. It was this fact rather than some special miraculous provision which brought the quails in around the camp so low above the ground that the Israelites had no difficulty in striking them down.
     On the other hand, there is a limit to such a migrating flock, and it obviously did not cover the whole peninsula. Thus it was the result of air currents directed by the Lord (Numbers 11:31) that this migrating host exactly intercepted the line of march of the Israelites at the opportune moment.


94.  Jarvis, C. S., "The Israelites in Sinai," Antiquity (England), December, 1932, p.436.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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