New Date for Edom Fits Biblical Record
The critics were wrong, and the Bible was right, according to new dates established for the kingdom of Edom southeast of the Dead Sea. This is the gist of a report from UC San Diego that found evidence of extensive copper mining in the area much earlier than previously thought. The area studied had “been ignored by archaeologists because of the logistical difficulties of working in this hyper-arid region,” but the UCSD team, cooperating with the kingdom of Jordan, succeeded in getting more accurate radiocarbon dates and archaeological evidence from this challenging area.
The team found evidence of two extensive periods of copper production centuries earlier than the previous dates for the Edomite kingdom (8th to 6th century B.C.). Now, as far back as the 9th to 12th centuries B.C., a new picture emerges:
In this period evidence was found of construction of massive fortifications and industrial scale metal production activities, as well as over 100 building complexes.….
These results push back the beginnings of Edom 300 years earlier than the current scholarly consensus and show the presence of complex societies, perhaps a kingdom, much earlier than previously assumed. Previous investigations in Edom had been carried out in the Jordanian highland zone and had put the rise of the Edomite kingdom during the 8th to 6th centuries B.C. But the new work presents strong evidence for the involvement of Edom with neighboring ancient Israel as described in the Bible. (Emphasis added in all quotes.)
The results are published in the current issue of the British journal Antiquity. Another article about this discovery can be found on South Bend Tribune.
Prominent archaeologists like William Dever and Israel Finkelstein had claimed that the Biblical record was inaccurate because no such Edomite kingdom existed back in the times of David and Solomon. The Tribune article reminds us that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” But why should not the Bible be considered evidence? It has proven correct so many times and places, and proven critics wrong so often, the burden of proof should be on the critics who would deny its accuracy. Dever himself (a friendly but vociferous rival with Finkelstein over Palestinian chronology) finds this revelation revolutionary, and says it supports the Bible’s credibility about the kingdoms of David and Solomon. According to the Tribune, he still doubts the historicity of the Exodus, however. He needs to doubt his doubt.
This announcement is another blow to the “minimalist” school of archaeology (championed by Finkelstein) that considers the Bible just a religious text written much later, and not a reliable guide to the history of the Middle East. If archaeologists would use the Scriptures as a guide, they might find a lot more out there. Read the Old Testament for yourself and see: no other ancient book has such detail about events, names, and places. Unlike the Koran and other religious texts, the Bible is loaded with them – names and events we know thoroughly from independent sources and observation, and some that haven’t been discovered yet. These references can be considered on their own merits and put to the test of the spade, without making judgments about the spiritual lessons of the Bible. Over and over again, as here, the Bible passes the test. Its reliable historical record provides a foundation for the credibility of its other truth claims, because it was clearly written down by men with a high regard for accuracy.