Hide and seek: archaeological discoveries of 2018 shed light on the Bible
Just as 2018 was drawing to a close, an unsuspecting woman in Beit She’an, Israel, was taking a stroll after a particularly heavy downpour. Suddenly, she noticed some ancient sculptures (which later turned out to be from the late Roman period) sticking out of the mud, revealed after more than one and a half thousand years by the rain.1
Like a game of hide and seek, it’s almost comedic how often priceless archaeological treasures pop up in this ancient land! And very often they bring a message or insight of some kind.
Here’s a review of some of the most exciting archaeological findings from 2018:
The day after the Prime Minister of Pakistan declared that there is no historical evidence for Jesus,2 archaeologists from Hebrew University revealed that the ring of Pontius Pilate had been discovered near Bethlehem! This timely discovery adds further credence to the already substantial historical and archaeological evidence for Jesus, and what the New Testament has written about him. And what remarkable timing! The ring itself was found some 50 years ago along with many other artifacts, but only now have experts managed to decipher the name on the ring:
“The famous name on it was discerned after a thorough cleansing, when it was photographed with the use of a special camera at the Israel Antiquities Authority labs. The inscription on what was apparently a stamping ring included a picture of a wine vessel surrounded by Greek writing translated as saying “Pilatus.’”3
The name was very rare, the ring belonged to a man of high status who was in the cavalry, and the dating fits. They are confident that it did indeed belong to the Pontius Pilate of the New Testament. Did God orchestrate events to reveal this ring right after that ludicrous statement denying historical evidence for Jesus? We shouldn’t be surprised!
Seals of Hezekiah and Isaiah
Two important seals were discovered this year in Jerusalem, bearing the names of two important men: one was King Hezekiah, and the other was Isaiah. The seal of King Hezekiah was discovered close to Hezekiah’s tunnel in the City of David, and the other was found earlier in the year with what appeared to be the name of Isaiah the Prophet. However, the seal was missing a piece and it is not clear whether it in fact was Isaiah the Prophet or another Isaiah. However, we can say for sure that Isaiah was not only a contemporary of Hezekiah, but according to the Bible, the two men knew each other, met together, and Isaiah gave Hezekiah counsel. The discovery caused people to reflect on Isaiah and his prophecies, with one mainstream news source explaining why Isaiah 53 is seen as a prophecy about Jesus!
Temple tax silver shekel “beka” weight
A weight to measure silver for the temple tax was found this year.4 Exodus 38:25-26 tells us that God required half shekel temple tax due from each member of the community, regardless of whether they were rich or poor: “
The silver from those numbered from the congregation was 100 talents and 1,775 shekels, according to the Sanctuary shekel—that is, a beka, or half a shekel per head, according to the shekel of the Sanctuary, for everyone who was recorded, from 20 years old and upward, for 603,550 men.”
The tiny weight (5.5 grams / 0.2 ounces) was inscribed with the Hebrew letters spelling beka and was discovered in archaeological excavations near Robinson’s arch, where the temple once stood. This silver half shekel tax is significant for a number of reasons.
Silver represents redemption of a life (consider the lives of Joseph and Jesus were exchanged for silver coins). We can also see the significance in the Tabernacle where the bases upon which the poles rest are all made of silver. The poles are made of wood, overlaid in gold, and resting in silver. This is like us as corruptible humanity (wood), wrapped in God’s holiness (gold), and resting in the redemption that Jesus bought for us (silver).
Even though rich and poor paying the same amount might go against our sense of fair play, it speaks volumes about the equal value of each life before God. We were all redeemed for the same price: The blood of Yeshua the Messiah.
Oldest known inscription of Jerusalem
An ancient column, dated to 100 BC, was found, with the word Jerusalem inscribed in Hebrew. This exciting discovery is the oldest known example with the name “Jerusalem” fully spelled out in this manner. The artifact proves that Jewish people were indeed in the land at that time, and that there were Hebrew speakers living and working in Jerusalem. Along with an ancient Roman pillar found in 2016 marked with the word “Judea”, it’s getting harder and harder to say that the Jewish people have no connection to the land. They very evidently do, and archaeological discoveries are proving it again and again.
Figurine from time of ancient Israel
The perfectly preserved head of an ancient but tiny figurine from the ninth century BC was found earlier this year. “We’re guessing [it’s] probably a king, but we have no way of proving that,” said Robert Mullins, Ph.D., lead archaeologist at Abel Beth Maacah and chair and professor in Azusa Pacific’s Department of Biblical and Religious Studies.5 According to Mullins, radiocarbon dating suggests the sculpture was made some time between 902-806 B.C. “Given that the head was found in a city that sat on the border of three different ancient kingdoms, we do not know whether it depicts the likes of King Ahab of Israel, King Hazael of Aram-Damascus, or King Ethbaal of Tyre, rulers known from the Bible and other sources. The head represents a royal enigma.” The hunt will go on to find the identity of the mystery king from the days of ancient Israel!
Who knows what we’ll dig up in 2019?
- Israelnationalnews.com, Woman finds 1,700-year-old stone busts while taking walk, 30/12/18
- Times of Israel, Pakistani PM denigrates Jesus, wants world convention to prevent insult to Islam ‘There is no mention of Jesus in history,’ says Imran Khan, ‘but the entire life of Muhammad, who was Allah’s last prophet, is part of history’, 30/11/2018
- Haaretz, Ring of Roman Governor Pontius Pilate Who Crucified Jesus Found in Herodion Site in West Bank, Nir Hasson, 2nd December 2018
- City of David, New Discovery: A 3000 Year Old “Beka” Weight,
- A Royal Enigma: Ancient Head from Biblical City Displayed at Israel Museum
This article originally appeared on One For Israel and is reposted with permission.
ONE FOR ISRAEL strives to be the leading organization in sharing the Gospel of Yeshua the Messiah with Israeli Jews and Arabs in the Hebrew language. Our staff is comprised of both Jewish and Arab Israelis, with the shared belief that true peace in the Middle East can only come into existence under Yeshua.
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[Israeli Politics 101] Who’s Running and What it Means for Israeli Messianic Believers
Not that long ago, there were two main political parties in Israel – Likud (“Consolidation”) and (“Avoda” )Labor. Likud was the more conservative and Labor was more left leaning. As time went on, more centrist parties began to pop up, among them – the now defunct Kadima (“Move Ahead”) headed by the late Ariel Sharon, Shinui (“Change”) headed by the late Tommy Lapid, father of Yair Lapid who himself established Yesh Atid (There is a Future) just a few years ago. Another hopeful was Minister of Finance, Moshe Kahlon who, in 2014, established Kulanu (“All of us Together”). Other smaller parties, of which there are many, joined one of the two major political parties to provide enough mandates (voices) in order to become the ruling party, but, it’s notable to recognize that, in recent years, most of Israel’s Prime Minister were elected from either Likud or Labor.
Now, as the decision of early elections scheduled for April 9th, has been taken, there has been the emergence of two new political parties – one called Hosen L’Yisrael (“Resilience”) headed by Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and another called Yamin HeChadash (the New Right) co-headed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
What does all this mean for Messianic believers? Here’s what we already know. Under the Likud leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, Jewish believers attempting to immigrate to Israel have had to, for years, confront the ultra-orthodox party stronghold of the Interior Ministry who traditionally has been given control of that office of government. It has been unfriendly, antagonistic and unwelcoming to Messianics, blatantly and systematically denying them the right of return. That situation would likely not change under another Likud term.
The Labor party, whose views lean towards many positions which most believers would not share, is much more embracing and sympathetic towards Jewish believers who want to return to their homeland. Some Labor Knesset ministers have even personally, and through their party, tried to help a number of believers in their fight for citizenship.
It is anyone’s guess how the two new parties would respond towards Messianic Jews, but both Bennett and Shaked of Yamin HeChadash are of a more traditional and religious stripe and would likely offer governmental portfolios to their more religiously observant party friends who may not be any friendlier to believers than the Likud has been to the present day.
Yesh Atid, run by Yair Lapid takes a centrist position on most issues, bucking the present system of allowing military exemptions and stipends to the ultra-orthodox, and would seek to be more pluralistic to the secular majority of Israeli citizens, but also amongst their party members are those who have been vocally unfavorable to Messianic Jews. While they may seek to distribute governmental portfolios to more centrist leaning individuals, it’s not clear if they would remove the present collective body of ultra-orthodox zealots from the Interior Ministry, the very group which determines issues of birth registry, marriage, death and immigration rights.
Finally, Former IDF chief Benny Ganz, (Hosen L’Yisrael) has not yet stated his political positions nor does anyone seem to know who will be associated with his party. Gantz is said to hold moderate positions toward Palestinians which places him left of Netanyahu. Although the former paratrooper who rose to the prestigious rank of IDF chief of staff, is said to project a sense of integrity and security, he, nonetheless, represents an unknown commodity to the Israeli public who have yet to know his political leanings and aspirations.
One thing for sure is that many Israelis are tired of business as usual and looking for what they believe to be needed change. With looming threats that Bibi Netanyahu stands to be criminally indicted over charges of corruption, there, perhaps, has not been a better opportunity for aspiring candidates to jump into the political pool and do their best to appeal to the 70% of secular Israeli citizens who long for a more pluralistic, democratic atmosphere which breaks the stranglehold of the ultra-orthodox which have long supported the Likud party and continue to control their definition of who is a Jew, how today’s Judaism is defined and who, despite their birthright, does not fit into that category.
Messianic Jews and their gentile believing counterparts should certainly be concerned over the differing political positions of those seeking to run the country, questions of Israel’s security and any prospective peace deals, but, perhaps, the most important political factor that Israeli Jewish believers and those who regularly support and pray for Israel should concern themselves over is whether or not Jewish believers are welcomed to return to the land of their forefathers and also able to enjoy religious freedom as full and valued Israeli citizens.
Chava Stein, the granddaughter of Jewish European immigrants to the U.S., made Aliyah to Israel in 1993. Married to an Israeli, they live in the center of the country.
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Pro-life org lobbies Israeli govt over staggering abortion costs
An Israeli pro-life organization is urging the government to stop funding millions of dollars worth of abortions ahead of next year’s budget allocations — and is calling on believers to pray for a positive response to its campaign.
Be’ad Chaim (which means pro-life in Hebrew) sent a letter earlier this month to ministers and officials involved in allocating the Ministry of Health’s budget, probably coming to a final decision today or tomorrow.
“Since hearing the report about a 40 million shekel reduction in the Ministry of Health budget, I found it a good opportunity to call your attention to a subject that has been breaking (dear to) my heart for the last several years,” Be’ad Chaim Director Sandy Shoshani wrote in an official letter sent to government officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Approximately 20,000 legal abortions were performed in Israel this year at a cost of between 1,800 to 3,100 shekels each depending on the method of abortion. On average we are talking about a sum of 49 million shekels a year which is 11 percent of the Ministry of Health’s budget.”
And all of these are funded by taxpayers. The estimated cost is approximately 3,000 shekels for a surgical abortion and between 1,400-1,800 shekels for a pill that terminates the pregnancy. That come to almost $13 million on state-funded abortions every year.
“We know we cannot stop abortion in Israel, but what we are asking is that the government wouldn’t pay for every single one,” Karin Miller, Be’ad Chaim project manager, told KNI. “We are urging them to require women who want an abortion to, under certain circumstances, pay for it themselves so it doesn’t come from the Ministry of Health budget.”
If that were the case, Miller said, the number of abortions in Israel would likely go down.
By law, female soldiers serving in the IDF get up to two free abortions, and women under 18, over 40 and single women are also eligible. But more than half of the women who were approved for an abortion last year didn’t fall into those categories. In fact 56 percent were married.
“It’s not clear to us why the state would fund such a high percentage of married women,” Shoshani wrote. “We are not talking about minors or single mothers, but married women who simply find it inconvenient to have another child.”
In Israel, any woman who wants to get an abortion must present her case to a committee under the auspices of the Ministry of Health. Last year the committee approved 99 percent of those requesting to terminate their pregnancy, all of these then subsidized by the government.
In response, a social worker who sits on the committee, defended its decisions and told Be’ad Chaim they are not taken lightly.
Nevertheless, Be’ad Chaim is encouraging the government, if it won’t ban abortion outright, at least make it harder to get one.
“Look, if you want to buy a new smartphone, for example, let’s say it will cost you 2,000 shekels or more. You would do the maximum you need to in order to buy the one you want,” Miller said. “Likewise, If you really don’t want this child, let them do the maximum to get the money for an abortion and not rely on the government to pay for it.”
While Israel spends millions on abortions, Be’ad Chaim points out that the nation’s hospitals are overcrowded and people with complicated diseases don’t get approval from their insurance for their medical prescriptions.
Freeing up some money in the Ministry of Health’s budget could alleviate these other needs.
While Be’ad Chaim lobbies the government to consider making changes on this issue, the organization works hard to support women who decide to keep their babies. They provide mothers with financial assistance for a full year after the baby is born, baby equipment, formula, diapers and clothes.
The organization also offers free parenting and childcare courses and partners with shelters for pregnant women whose lives are in danger because they became pregnant.
The Israeli government gives the official number of abortions as one in every 10 births.
The Kehila News Staff is a team of Israeli believers in Yeshua.
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Life under fire in Sderot
Paul Calvert hears the stories of two residents, and visits an Israeli police station witnessing shelves of rockets that have been fired from Gaza.
Sderot is a very interesting city as it is on the border with Gaza. It has felt the full force of rocket attacks from Hamas terrorists inside the Gaza Strip. Recently in a 24 hour period, over 400 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel.
Imagine the fear you would feel when the siren goes off telling you that a rocket is heading your way. In Sderot the residents have 15 seconds to find a bomb shelter.
One thing that you notice when you travel around Sderot is that it is bomb shelter city. There are bomb shelters everywhere. We went to a children’s playground and in the playground was a bomb shelter. It was made to look like a giant caterpillar but it had a purpose and that was to protect children if a rocket was to come in.
When I visited Sderot, Noam Bedein from the Sderot Media Center was the tour guide. He explained the situation in the Gaza border area and we as journalists got to ask him questions.
Noam told us that every bus stop had a bomb shelter next to it.
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Netanyahu: Every individual is created in the image of God
A visibly moved Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saluted the organization Shalva for caring for and treating many of Israel’s disabled.
Netanyahu was speaking at the annual New Year’s Toast for foreign journalists sponsored by the Government Press Office. This year’s theme was honoring persons with disabilities. The prime minister had just listened to a rendition of “Hallelujah” by Shalva’s band. Both lead singers are blind and are the other six members face other physical or mental challenges.
After their performance, Netanyahu delivered an unscripted and passionate defense for the disabled. “This goes to the fundamental concept developed in this land, which was a complete departure from anything that existed in the ancient world and that is that all human beings are created in the image of God. There was an innate equality. This is the basic Jewish idea that promoted the birth and the growth of our civilization.”
Netanyahu added the soul is the heart of the matter.
“I would say that living creatures with cognitive abilities, the ability also to feel pain, sensation, grief, happiness, sadness this transcends human beings but it’s most encapsulated in human beings. It’s their soul.”
Yet Netanyahu said other forces in the world challenge that sanctity.
“It’s still contested. There are many forces that contest this idea and we have to contend with them and I can say that it’s not always obvious to our critics the fundamental role that Israel plays in this region and in the world and that is to hold the forces of radicalism and intolerance and fanaticism and those that don’t recognize the universal rights of men and women and children and girls and people of different faiths that they have fundamental rights that have to be safeguarded and to guard those rights you have to do one thing: you have to be prepared to defend them.”
He lauded Shalva. “We recognize that and we salute what Shalva is doing in Israel, which I think is a beacon to the entire world. Congratulations and thank you.”
Shalva is the Israel Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities. According to its website, it provides “transformative care for individuals with disabilities, empowering their families and promoting social inclusion.”
During his remarks at the event, he discussed a host of issues affecting Israel and the Middle East including the threat of Iran, the growing relationship with Sunni Arab nations and the amazing technological achievements. But the most emotional part of the evening belonged to the least among us.
This article originally appeared on CBN News, December 12, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Chris is CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief based in Jerusalem.