The Trumpet (Link) - Brad Macdonald (July 19, 2011)
Around the world, people love to have their minds stirred by humanity’s ancient edifices. Be it the Parthenon in Greece, built 2,400 years ago for the goddess Athena, China’s Great Wall, Rome’s famous Coliseum, the Vatican’s Basilica of St. Peter or the Taj Mahal, these iconic structures capture imaginations and have become gateways into history.
In June, another imagination-stirring edifice was added to that list.
This structure is not only older, but more remarkable and more inspiring than any of the others. Situated just outside the Old City in Jerusalem, the Ophel City Wall site sits between the City of David and the southern wall of the Temple Mount. Now open to the public, the Ophel Wall features ancient artifacts dated to the 10th century B.C., a period during which the ancient kingdom of Israel experienced extraordinary expansion under King David and his son and heir, Solomon. Among the Ophel discoveries is an impressive edifice—a 70-meter-long and 6-meter-high wall—constructed during King Solomon’s reign.
Unfortunately, Solomon’s towering wall hasn’t captured enough imaginations. Not yet anyway.
Now Open to the Public!
Archeological digs on the Ophel have occurred on and off since the early 20th century. It wasn’t till January 2010 that the most spectacular discovery was made. Under the direction of Dr. Eilat Mazar, an esteemed archeologist who has a rich history of digging on the Ophel, the excavation was carried out with assistance from the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and volunteer students from Herbert W. Armstrong College in Edmond, Oklahoma. On June 21, after months of preparing the Ophel Wall site and its artifacts for tourists, Dr. Mazar, together with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, announced that it was officially open to the public.
“Beginning today, visitors will actually be able to walk through First Temple remains, touch the stones, enjoy and study about yet another period of the archeology of the city of Jerusalem,” announced Jacob Fisch, executive director of the Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The opening of the Ophel site was a big deal for Jerusalem. Though the city is packed with historic sites and incredible artifacts, tourists haven’t been able to explore the history of the First Temple period—until now.
The wall has been dated to the 10th century B.C., and all evidence indicates that it was built by King Solomon and is the one mentioned in 1 Kings 3:1. This scripture speaks of Solomon building his own palace, “and the house of the Lord, and the wall of Jerusalem round about.” It’s pretty incredible, when you think about it—being able to reach out and touch a wall that King Solomon himself strolled by daily three millenniums ago!
Importantly, this gigantic wall not only confirms the presence of Solomon in Jerusalem, it also confirms the biblical narrative of ancient Israel as a large and advanced kingdom. “The city wall that has been uncovered testifies to a ruling presence,” Mazar told the Trumpet soon after its discovery in 2010. “Its strength and form of construction indicate a high level of engineering.”
Speaking at the official unveiling ceremony, Dr. Mazar stated again that the “reality was that a very highly skilled fortification and sophisticated fortification was built by King Solomon.” The wall contains the largest hewn stones from the First Temple period ever found in Israel. Only a thousand years later, with the construction undertaken by Herod the Great, did greater-size building blocks appear in Jerusalem.
Bible critics take pleasure in ridiculing Scripture’s account of King David and King Solomon. They believe these men were mere chieftains of an obscure, primitive tribe of sheepherders tucked away in the hills of Judea. These critics need to visit Jerusalem and stand beneath Solomon’s towering edifice. As they gaze at its impressive size and sophisticated engineering, they ought to realize that such a wall couldn’t have been patched together by a few hillbilly sheepherders.
Visit the Ophel and you will see more than just Solomon’s wall. Dr. Mazar and her team have also discovered other artifacts, including pottery shards, many of which date to the First Temple period (10th to 6th centuries B.C.). Like Solomon’s wall, these finds confirm the biblical narrative of the presence of a major Israelite kingdom. The Ophel site includes a large gatehouse, royal edifices, a number of ritual baths (called mikvaot) and a dozen clay jars, called pithoi. Engraved on one of the remnants of the pithoi was a partial Hebrew inscription indicating that it belonged to a high-level government official.
The 6-meter-high gatehouse was a particularly stunning discovery. Constructed in a style typical of the First Temple period, and much like others uncovered in Megiddo, Beersheva and Ashdod, Dr. Mazar believes the gatehouse is actually the “water gate” mentioned in Nehemiah 3:25-26: “Pedaiah … and the temple servants living on Ophel repaired to a point opposite the water gate on the east and the projecting tower,” she points out.
More proof that archeology and the Bible, as Mazar states, “connect one to one.”
Another thrilling find, though slightly less imposing than the colossal wall or gatehouse, was a fragment of a 3,000-year-old clay tablet covered with cuneiform script. Discovered in the Ophel dig and currently on display at the Davidson Center in Jerusalem’s Old City, experts say the thumb-size splinter is the oldest written document ever found in Jerusalem.
Of course, the Ophel discoveries are only the latest in a long line of archeological finds proving accurate the biblical account of ancient Israel’s presence in the Holy City. In recent years, archeologists have made spectacular discoveries all over the city—bullae and coins, pottery, walls and gatehouses, tunnels—proving the Jews’ historic link to Jerusalem. Since 2005, Dr. Mazar has uncovered many fascinating items in and around the City of David, including King David’s palace, bullae (clay discs used to seal scrolls) inscribed with Hebrew names mentioned in the Bible and the wall around Jerusalem constructed by Nehemiah, recorded in the book of Nehemiah.
These archeological discoveries rank among the most important ever made. Not because they prove the Jews’ historic connection to Jerusalem, but rather, because they prove the Bible accurate!
But Where Is the Media Coverage?
Tragically, most people ignore or reject this inspiring reality. June’s official inauguration of the Ophel City Wall, for example, came with a regrettable, shameful side story: the virtual blackout in the Western media. Outside of a few Israeli outlets, the inauguration of one of the most remarkable archeological discoveries in recent history was met with shocking silence!
The reason, in large part, is that the discovery of a significant Jewish presence in Jerusalem as early as the 10th century B.C. undermines the popular leftist narrative that the biblical account of a Davidic monarchy is exaggerated or a fallacy. The Ophel discoveries, as Jonathan Tobin accurately pointed out in Commentary, are a “standing rebuke to those who refer to parts of Israel’s capital as ‘traditional Palestinian’ or ‘Arab East Jerusalem’” (June 21).
With this in mind it was telling that, at least from the articles I read and the footage I viewed, there was no indication that Israeli officials at the inauguration brandished the Ophel finds as a political instrument. This was an ideal opportunity for the Jews to politicize the archeology, to unsheathe these stunning artifacts and wield them as a weapon to dismember the left’s false narrative. They didn’t. Instead, Dr. Mazar, Mayor Barkat and the other Israeli officials who attended looked beyond the politics and concentrated on the lesson that is truly the most important: They celebrated the fact that these ancient edifices and artifacts prove the veracity of the Bible!
This site “shows that the Bible is real,” Mr. Barkat stated. “It shows that 2,000 to 3,000 years ago, Jerusalem was the center of the world. And we love to share that with the world.”
Dr. Mazar, a lady with an infectious passion for Jerusalem archeology, emphasized the same theme: “So many people in the world appreciate historical sources, from the Bible, including in the New Testament. The thing is, when it becomes tangible, it makes it easy to understand. People believe, in their ways, that which is written in the Bible, but they have no idea that sometimes, lots of it, can really be seen. And can be touched.” That’s a neat observation: When you walk through the Ophel Wall, it’s like you’re walking through the pages of the Bible.
Sadly, too many are blinded by prejudiced politics and are missing out on the inspiring truths embodied in this dig. Nevertheless, it is becoming increasingly difficult to reject the biblical account of a formidable Israelite kingdom during the 10th century B.C. reigns of King David and King Solomon. Not because of any elaborate Jewish spin campaign, or crafty maneuvering by Israeli politicians, or the work of prejudiced historians and archeologists.
Rather, rejecting this history is made more difficult by the continual surfacing of hard, quantifiable, even touchable, evidence proving the Bible true! †