Archaeologists Uncover Evidence of Divine Judgment
We live in a golden age of science and technology, which has greatly enriched the lives of billions of people. It’s arguably also the best time in all human history for science coming out in support of the truth of Christianity, not only in mainstream sciences like chemistry, physics, and biology, but also in a variety of other interdisciplinary avenues of human inquiry, such as biblical archaeology, which is producing a veritable revolution in our knowledge of the Holy Land and of the historical interactions between the ancient Hebrews and the nations that once surrounded them.
This article will look at evidence derived from archaeological discoveries that strongly affirms the authenticity of two biblical narratives concerning divine judgment: the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the events of the Exodus.
A Smoking Gun for Sodom & Gomorrah?
The biblical account of Sodom and Gomorrah, found in Genesis 19, tells us that God destroyed these cities on account of the alarming increase in evildoing by their inhabitants, particularly with respect to sexual depravity, as seen when both young and old lusted after two angels sent by the Lord to enact his righteous judgment.
The biblical account of the destruction of these two cities has puzzled scholars for centuries, but in September 2021, an intriguing paper published in Nature, a prestigious international journal of science, presented considerable evidence that a real cataclysmic event occurred in the region about 3,600 years ago(1).
The team of scientists, including geologists, archaeologists, and geophysicists, headed by Allen West of the Comet Research Group in Prescott, Arizona, and James P. Kennett from the University of California–Santa Barbara, presented solid evidence that a cosmic airburst had destroyed Tall el-Hammam, a Middle-Bronze-Age city in the southern Jordan Valley northeast of the Dead Sea. The evidence presented showed that an approximately 22-megaton airburst had detonated, releasing energy equivalent to that of more than a thousand Hiroshima atomic bombs. The event super-heated the air to more than 2,000o C, destroying the city and its inhabitants, fusing quartz crystals, and melting metals into tiny spherules. The airburst also deposited huge quantities of salt from the nearby Dead Sea, preventing agriculture and causing a 300–600-years-long abandonment of settlements within a 25-kilometer radius.
These findings present the fascinating possibility that the Genesis narrative was likely an eyewitness account of this epochal event. The reference to salt is also intriguing, as the Genesis account relates that Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt after she had looked back on the destroyed city. “All the observations stated in Genesis are consistent with a cosmic airburst,” Kennett said, “but there’s no scientific proof that this destroyed city is indeed the Sodom of the Old Testament.” That said, the researchers did suggest that the event may have started an oral tradition that included the Sodom and Gomorrah narrative and was passed down to later generations(2). While the actual location of these cities has not been pinned down, the impact event would have destroyed many human settlements in the region, including Sodom and Gomorrah.
The Pharoah of Exodus Identified?
In the Book of Exodus, we learn that Pharaoh refused to let the children of Israel go, but that God sent a multitude of plagues on the Egyptians to demonstrate his divine power, after which Moses led God’s chosen people safely out of the land of Egypt, while Pharaoh’s whole army was destroyed when it followed the Israelites into the Red Sea.
Sceptics have long claimed that history is silent on such an event, but ongoing scholarship has now circumstantially identified the Pharaoh of Exodus as Amenhotep II and dated the events of the Exodus to around 1446 BC(3).
Considered one of the most boastful of kings, Amenhotep II recorded a campaign to Canaan, commemorated by the Elephantine Stele, dated to 1440 BC., where it is claimed that he brought back 101,128 slaves into Egypt(4). The large number of captives is suspicious, though, as typically such military campaigns resulted in just a few thousand slaves being captured. Some scholars think the number was a deliberate exaggeration owing to the calamity that beset his rule, but others have suggested it indicates a desperate attempt by Amenhotep II to replace the huge slave population after the Hebrews had departed. (While the Exodus narrative states that Pharoah pursued the Israelites, it does not specifically state that he died along with his army in the Red Sea.)
What’s most intriguing, however, is another papyrus known as the Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage, the earliest surviving copy of which dates from the 13th century BC. It records a series of calamitous events remarkably similar to those preserved in the Exodus account, including the Nile turning to blood, devastating plagues and pestilences, widespread destruction of grain crops, a disfiguring disease, a rebellion against Ra the Sun god, children dying, jewellery being seized by slaves, and the sounds of death and mourning throughout the land(5). The striking similarity to the Exodus account is obvious. And while the papyrus in question does not date to the time of the Exodus, many scholars believe that earlier copies certainly would have coincided with these events.
Yet another stele, erected between the paws of the Great Sphinx of Giza, from the reign of Thutmose IV, is the so-called Dream Stele(6). Standing eleven feet tall and carved in granite, it depicts the Pharaoh paying homage to the god of the Sphinx. An inscription beneath it recounts how, after hunting, Thutmose IV fell asleep and dreamed that the spirit of the Sphinx told him he would become king if he cleared away the sand from around the monument. This strongly suggests that Thutmose IV was not the natural heir to the Egyptian throne and thus had to concoct a story to solidify his legitimacy and appease the highly religious people of Egypt.
It turns out that Thutmose IV had an elder brother named Amenhotep, who had either disappeared or died. Thus, if Amenhotep II was the Pharaoh of the Exodus and had lost his first-born son in the final plague as recounted in the Bible, then his younger son, Thutmose, would have taken the throne. Seen in this light, the inscription on the Dream Stele was merely a statement of “divine propaganda” cementing his right to the throne of Egypt.
Sound Reasons for Belief
Thus, although the evidence for both the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the calamities that beset the Pharaoh of Exodus remains circumstantial, it nonetheless presents sound reasons for believing that both occurrences were real historical events and that the Bible is a reliable source of historical truth.
4. Titus Kennedy, Unearthing the Bible: 101 Archaeological Discoveries That Bring the Bible to Life (Harvest House Publishers, 2020), pp. 56–57.
5. Ibid., pp. 54
6. ibid, pp 58-59