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The Historicity of the Patriarchs - Genesis Part 19

So What? / Lon Solomon
The Truth Network Radio
February 18, 2022 7:00 am

The Historicity of the Patriarchs - Genesis Part 19

So What? / Lon Solomon

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February 18, 2022 7:00 am

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Now today in our study of the book of Genesis, we enter into a whole new phase of God's dealing with the human race. Up to this point in the book of Genesis, God has been dealing with the human race as a whole.

But now, beginning in chapter 11, the end of 11 and 12, God changes his approach. And instead, God singles out one special man to establish a special race of people whom he will deal with in a special way based on a special series of covenants that he will make with them. Now of course, that special man is our friend Abraham and those special people are the Jewish people. And so from Genesis chapter 12 onwards, we find that the Jewish people become the central element in God's plan for the ages. And as a result, from Genesis chapter 12 on for the next 38 chapters of the book, we're going to be talking a lot about Abraham, his son Isaac, his son Jacob, his son Joseph, because they are now God's central focus in his plan for the ages. But today what we want to do is we want to talk about an issue even more fundamental than that, and that is we want to talk about the historicity of Abraham and the patriarchs. Now you go, what are the history, you know, don't let that scare you. By the patriarchs we mean Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.

And by historicity, all we mean is the historical accuracy, the historical truthfulness about what the Bible says in the book of Genesis about these people. And so we're going to approach this today by asking and answering four questions. So are you ready? Now buckle in. I got a lot for you today.

Buckle in. Here we go. Number one, question number one is, Lon, well what exactly is the real issue anyway? Well folks, the real issue here is the integrity and the trustworthiness of the Bible. As you know, the Bible claims to be the inspired, inerrant Word of God. So if someone can prove that the historical facts in the book of Genesis about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph are wrong, then all of a sudden the entire Bible is discredited as the inerrant Word of God.

As the great Catholic archaeologist Roland de Vaux said, he said, if the historical faith of Israel is not founded in real history, such faith is erroneous and therefore our faith is also. Harold Linzel in his epic book The Battle for the Bible said, when the Word of God speaks of its trustworthiness, at no point does it include any limitations, nor does it indicate that some parts of Scripture are to be trusted and other parts are not. Inerrancy, he says, must either include all of Scripture or none of it, which means that the inerrancy of the entire Bible is riding on this very issue, the historical factual accuracy of what the Bible says about the patriarchs.

And it is a grave and serious issue. Linzel again said, and I quote, I regard biblical inerrancy to be the most important theological topic of this age. Once inerrancy is abandoned, it always opens the door to further departures from the faith and always ends in apostasy. It is next to impossible, he says, to stop the process of theological deterioration once inerrancy is abandoned. I am saying that whether it takes five years or fifty years, any denomination, church, seminary, or parachurch group that forsakes inerrancy will end up shipwrecked. It cannot be prevented, end of quote. And so as we said a moment ago, the inerrancy of the Bible sinks and swims with this issue. Is the book of Genesis telling us the truth about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph? Is this factual history or not? Well if that is the issue, then it leads us to question number two, which is, all right, well then what's the problem? Well friends, the problem are people like Israel Finkelstein.

You go, who is he? Well he's a professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University and he, along with some other so-called scholars, claim that the stories in the book of Genesis about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, etc., are not factual history, but that their myths, that their legends, made up centuries later. Finkelstein in his book The Bible on Earth says, and I quote, the historical saga contained in the Bible from Abraham to Moses, the book of Genesis, is nothing more than a brilliant product of the human imagination.

We cannot talk about it as though it represents historical reality, end of quote. Well there's a lot of other scholars who say the evidence doesn't support that conclusion. For example, Dr. Kenneth Kitchen, professor emeritus of Egyptology and archaeology at the University of Liverpool in England, in his book on the reliability of the Old Testament, he says, and I quote, concerning Finkelstein's treatment of the patriarchal period, which he describes as pure fiction, he, Finkelstein, is utterly out of his depth, hopelessly misinformed, and totally misleading, end of quote. I don't think he agrees with Finkelstein. Do you?

No. And Dr. William F. Albright, the greatest archaeologist America's ever produced, taught for years at Johns Hopkins University in the Near Eastern Studies Department, he said, and I quote, this excessive skepticism shown towards the Bible has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details of the Bible and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a true source of history, end of quote. So what we want to do today is we want to look at some of these discoveries that Dr. Albright is referring to that back up, that support what the Bible is telling us in the book of Genesis as true factual history. And that leads us to question number three, which is, can we provide hard archaeological evidence to support the historical integrity of the patriarchal stories in the book of Genesis? And the answer to that is, absolutely, we certainly can.

And so that's what we're going to do now. I've got eight for you, eight pieces of evidence. There are a lot more, but I've limited it to eight.

You said, go on, God bless you for only eight. Okay, so you ready? All right, here we go.

We'll cover them quickly. Number one, first piece of evidence to support the historical integrity of the book of Genesis is Abraham's hometown, Ur of the Chaldeans. Genesis 11 verse 27 says, Terah became the father of Abram in the land of his birth in Ur of the Chaldeans. Critics once said, Ur of the Chaldeans never even existed at the time of Abraham. Or if it did, it was just a little fork in the road, certainly not the kind of prosperous place that Abraham should have had any problem leaving. Ah, but now we know from discoveries begun in 1922 by Leonard Woolley when he dug up the ancient city of Ur, now we know that in Abraham's time around 2100 BC, Ur was actually entering its zenith, the third dynasty of Ur under its greatest leader, a fellow named Ur Namu, and we know that this was a large city, the center of a huge Chaldean Empire, and that it had an enormously high standard of living, exactly the way the Bible describes it.

Keith Scoville in his book, Biblical Archaeology and Focus, says, I quote, it is evident that Abraham turned his back on a rich, sophisticated society in response to God's call. Number two, proof of the factual integrity of the book of Genesis, number two, is Abraham going through the city of Haran. Genesis 11 verse 31, Terah took Abraham his son and Lot and Sarah, Abram's wife, and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan, and they went as far as Haran where they stopped and where Terah died. And critics of the Bible used to say that this place called Haran never even existed, and if it did exist, we have no evidence whatsoever that Abraham and his family ever lived there. As a matter of fact, what the Bible tells us is that Terah, who was living down in Ur, had moved from Haran. Haran is really where the bulk of Abraham's family lived. Ah, but now we know that in the time of Abraham, Haran was an incredibly prosperous and flourishing city in northern Mesopotamia, and at Haran, we have found many, many clay tablets with people's personal names on them. You know, like Mary and James, you understand? And guess whose name we found on one of these tablets?

You'll never believe it. Guess who? Abraham!

Yes! And you know what? We also found on another tablet the name Nachor, which was Abraham's brother's name according to the book of Genesis chapter 11 verse 26.

And so, friends, here's the deal. You know, you don't name your children names that aren't current where you're living. I mean, nobody lives in America and names their child Rumpelstiltskin.

You name your child William or Susie, because these are the names we're using in America. And if these children, Abram, Nachor, were being named these names, then it indicates their family was living in a place where these names were normal, everyday names and we know that they were in the city of Haran. Albright, in his book From Stone Age to Christianity, said these latest discoveries of these names have strikingly confirmed the Israelite traditions according to which their Hebrew forefathers came to Palestine from the region of Haran in northwest Mesopotamia.

Number three. Want some proof? Then let's talk about Abraham's nomadic lifestyle once he reached Canaan. Genesis 12 verse 6. Abraham passed through the land of Canaan as far as Shechem. Now the Canaanites were in the land at that time. Then Abraham proceeded south from there to Bethel and then journeyed on farther south towards the Negev and there was a famine in the land of Canaan.

So Abraham went down to Egypt to sojourn there. Critics of the Bible once said that this kind of nomadic, almost Bedouin-like lifestyle living in tents that the Bible describes for Abraham, that this is not how people lived in the land of Canaan in the time of Abraham. That according to the Tel El Amarna documents found in Egypt, that this was a city-state environment there in Canaan, not a nomadic environment. Now these Tel El Amarna letters come from 1400 BC.

However what we've discovered today is that actually the exact opposite was true. Listen to Kenneth Kitchen on the reliability of the Old Testament. The evidence now gives us a quite clear indication that the land of Canaan at the time of Abram was not a city-state population.

It was a non-urban population of tribes and clans under their own rulers or sheiks. These clans lived in tents and wandered freely from Bethel and Shechem in the north to the Negev and even to Egypt in the south, which is, oh by the way, exactly what the Bible says that Abraham did. Number four, another proof the Bible's telling us the truth is the richness of the Jordan Valley around Sodom and Gomorrah in Abraham's time.

Genesis 13 verse 8, so Abram said a lot, please let there be no strife between you and me nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen for we are brothers. Behold the whole land is before you. Abraham says if you go to the right I'll go to the left.

If you go to the left I'll go to the right. And so Lot looked around and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the Garden of the Lord and Lot journeyed eastward and settled among the, what's the next word, say it out loud, cities, right, of the Jordan Valley moving his tents to Sodom. Critics of the Bible have said, hey, you know what, this whole story in Genesis chapter 13 about Lot moving down there, this is ridiculous. At the time of Abraham the southern Jordan Valley was an uninhabited wilderness. Now friends, you know what, if you ever go with me to Israel we go down to where Sodom and Gomorrah were and you know what, the critics are right.

It is an uninhabited wilderness. But between 1932 and 1947 renowned archaeologist and Jewish rabbi Nelson Gleek excavated in this area at the southern end of the Dead Sea and you know what he found? He found remnants of more than 70 cities that were there at the time of Abraham. What does the Bible say Lot did? He went down and lived around those cities. And we have also found indisputable proof that at the time of Abraham this southern Jordan Valley was well watered, it was lush, it was green, it was fertile and it was wealthy exactly the way the Bible says.

Friends, Lot was not an idiot. It wasn't that way in the time of Abraham just like the book of Genesis says. Number five, want some proof? Genesis is telling us the truth. Then let's talk about the Bible's mentioning domesticated camels during the time of the patriarchs. Genesis 12 verse 16, then Pharaoh gave Abram, what'd he give him? Camels, yeah. Abraham's servant, Genesis 24 10, took ten camels from his master's herd of camels. These were domesticated camels. Genesis 37 verse 25, you remember they sold Joseph into slavery. The Bible says Joseph brothers saw a caravan of Ishmaelites that they sold him to, coming with their camels. Critics of the Bible once said Paul Tobin, and here's the name of his article. I got to take a deep breath before I try to say this.

You ready? Mythological elements in the story of Abraham and the patriarchal narratives. Here's what he said. He said tame camels were simply unknown during Abraham's time, end of quote.

Really? Well in an article in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Dr. Joseph Freeh not long ago presented a piece of Egyptian pottery dated 3,150 BC. That's 1,100 years before Abraham. And guess what was on this piece of pottery painted on it?

Take a guess. Camels and Egyptians loading cargo onto these domesticated camels. And even in Wadi Rum, which is in modern-day Jordan, they found wall drawings in caves, this is from 2,500 BC, of camels. Now when this was first discovered, there was one scholar who actually said that what this was was a horse with a hump. I'm not lying to you.

Would I lie to you? He presented it as a horse with a hump. You ever heard of a horse with a hump? No. You ever seen a horse with a neck like that?

No. Why would he refuse to call it a camel? Well because if he calls it a camel, he recognizes that the Bible is telling the truth. What this tells us is you got to watch these guys.

They come to the evidence with their mind already made up. What person talks about a horse with a hump? Ridiculous.

All right. If you wanted a camel ride in the days of Abraham, you pluck your three shekels down, you get a camel ride. There were lots of camels around.

Number six, almost finished. Want some proof of the historical accuracy of the book of Genesis? Then let's talk about the Hittites. Then God said to Abram, Genesis 15 18, to your descendants I've given this land from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates including the land of the Hittites. Genesis 23 verse 10, Abraham bought the cave of Machpelah to bear Sarah from Ephron the Hittite. And finally Genesis 26 34, Esau married Judith the daughter of Biri the Hittite. Critics of the Bible used to say, you know, this is ridiculous. The Hittites never even existed. We've never found any evidence of them anywhere.

Oh yeah? Well that was until 1906 when Hugh Winkler unearthed Bagazkoy in central Turkey and found it to be the capital of a humongous Hittite empire at the time of Abraham and afterwards, just like the book of Genesis says. Number seven, historical. Is the book of Genesis, is it historical? Well then let's talk about shaving in Egypt during the patriarchs time. Genesis 41 14, then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph from the prison and when Joseph had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh. You know, we know today from archaeology that just as the book of Genesis says the Egyptians were the only culture, let me repeat that, the only culture in the ancient Near East in Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph's day who shaved regularly where the men did.

And they didn't just shave their face, they shaved their chests, their body hair as well. And you know what this proves, don't you? This proves that Pharaoh probably really did look just like Yul Brynner. It also proves that if you were writing centuries later you wouldn't have known this because centuries later things weren't that way. It proves that whoever wrote Genesis 41 about Joseph shaving before he went to Pharaoh lived at that time.

Those are accurate records and knew that that's the way it was in somewhere around 1800 BC. Finally, can you go one more with me? Okay, last one. If the daily customs, the daily habits of the patriarchs. Critics once said, you know, the customs, the habits that we see the patriarchs practicing here in the book of Genesis are totally foreign to the ancient Near Eastern culture of their day. Well, not so, Kemosabe.

No, no, no, no. In fact, the exact opposite is true. In 1925 Edward Chira from the Oriental Institute in Chicago began excavating at a place called Newsy. It's in northern Mesopotamia, not far from Haran where all of Abraham's family came from. And what we have found there is thousands of clay tablets inscribed dating back to the time of Abraham and in these tablets they record the social customs that were current around the city of Haran at the time of Abraham.

Now follow my logic. If all of Abraham's family was from Haran, wouldn't it make sense that the customs they practiced, even if they moved away, would still correlate with the customs they had grown up practicing? At least some of them. Doesn't that make sense?

Hey, if you're an American and suddenly you get reassigned to outer Mongolia, you're still going to practice a lot of the everyday social customs that you got used to living in America. Yes? Yeah, of course. Okay, so let's see if they actually line up what we found in Newsy and what the Bible says Abraham and Isaac and Jacob did.

And they line up remarkably. A few examples. Here we go. At Newsy, if a man's wife was barren, couldn't have children, she was allowed, it was legal for her to give her handmaiden to her husband for him to have children by her handmaiden.

Does that sound familiar? Well it should. Genesis chapter 16. Isn't that exactly what Sarah did, giving Hagar to Abraham when she couldn't have children and Hagar had Ishmael, remember? Now, at Newsy, if the original wife then was able at some future point to have children, it was illegal to throw out the handmaiden with her children that she had previously given her husband.

It was illegal to do that. Genesis 21 verse 10. After Sarah had Isaac, she said to Abraham, drive Hagar and her son away. And the matter distressed Abraham greatly.

Now, wait a minute. Why did this distress Abraham so much? I mean, I don't think he was all that in love with Hagar. And why didn't he just give Hagar a bunch of money and make sure she was properly taken care of and say, you know Hagar, I'd love to keep you around, but Sarah comes first and God bless you, have a nice life. Why didn't he do that? Why did this distress him, the idea of sending Hagar away? Friends, the reason it distressed him is because it was illegal to do that and he knew it was illegal.

And if you read that chapter, you will find out God had to personally appear to Abraham and tell him to do what Sarah was saying before Abraham was willing to do it. At Newsy, it was legal to sell your birthright to your brother. Does that sound familiar?

Huh? That's exactly what Esau did with Jacob, right? Genesis chapter 25. And at Newsy, a father's deathbed blessing on a son was irrevocable, unchangeable, and could not be reversed or rescinded.

Does that sound familiar? Remember when Jacob sneaked in and stole his brother Esau's blessing? Genesis 27 verse 35. Then Esau came in and Isaac realized the mistake he'd made. He gave the blessing to the wrong son and Isaac said to Esau, your brother came deceitfully and has taken away your blessing. You say, wait a minute, Lon, why didn't Isaac just say, err, mistake, recall?

I recall that email back. No, I'm taking the blessing back. It wasn't yours, Jacob, and I'm giving it to your brother who I intended to give it to in the first place. Isaac couldn't do that.

Why? Because it was illegal. He couldn't rescind it even though it was deceitfully gotten. He didn't have that authority. He gave Esau a blessing, but it wasn't the one he intended to give him.

Jacob had already taken that. Folks, I could go on and on and on like the Energizer Bunny. I'm telling you I could, but I think the point's clear. The point is that the everyday customs we find on these tablets at Newsy line up so perfectly with the customs that the book of Genesis describes Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob living out that it forced, it forced famous archaeologist Dr. H. H. Rowley of the University of Manchester in England to say this, and I quote. He said, the stories in Genesis so accurately reflect the social customs at 2000 BC in the ancient Near East that it is striking.

Dr. Albright said it is now becoming increasingly clear that the traditions of the patriarchal age preserved in the book of Genesis reflect with remarkable accuracy the actual conditions of the ancient Near East in the middle Bronze Age, that is at the time when the Bible says Abraham lived. And finally, back to Dr. Rowley, in one of the most amazing scholarly confessions I've ever heard or seen in print, here's what he said and I quote. He said it is not because scholars of today begin with more conservative presuppositions than their predecessors that they have a much greater respect for the patriarchal stories than was formerly common, but because the evidence warrants it, end of quote.

You understand what he's saying? He's saying these scholars around today, they're not more conservative than they used to be. They don't want to believe the Bible anymore than they used to believe the Bible. They still want to believe it's a horse with a hump, but they can't because the evidence is overwhelming and it forces them to at least admit that these things that the Bible is saying are true.

Or as we love to say here at McLean, the more they dig out of the ground, the more the Bible proves to be right. Now, you guys okay? Because now we're ready for our fourth and final question and this one you know. All right, here we go.

One, two, three. Oh, that was awesome. All right. You say, Lon, what are you talking about? Okay, look, we got to answer the question, so what? And you say, Lon, you know what, honestly, I don't want a camel ride. I don't want to shave my chest. I don't see what any of this has to do with me whatsoever.

Well, let's talk about that, all right? You know, I had the privilege of serving on the board of Jews for Jesus now for 25 years, but for 20 of those years I've served with a wonderful man named Russ Reed. Russ was a Jewish believer. He lived in Chicago. He was an actor, radio actor.

He played a lot of characters on Unshackled, if you know that old radio program, and he was just a wonderful godly man, a great witness for Christ. Anyway, when he was in his early 60s, he needed a very, very serious bypass surgery, and so he checked into the hospital the night before, and when they gave him the form to fill out and they asked for religious preference, he checked Jewish. He was a Jewish believer, so he checked Jewish. Well, later that night, a local rabbi stuck his head in the door and said, hey, would you like some company? I noticed you checked Jewish on your form, and I thought I'd see if you want any company, and Russ said, sure, come on in, and so the guy came in, and they got to talking about the weather and a few other things, and finally the rabbi said to him, he said, now, Mr. Reed, he said, do you understand what's going to happen to you tomorrow? And Russ said, yeah, I think I do. He said, no, sir, I mean, do you really understand what a dangerous and significant surgery this is tomorrow? And Russ said, yeah. He said, why do you keep asking me that? He said, well, because, you know, you just seem to be amazingly relaxed considering what's going to happen tomorrow, and Russ said, well, he said, let me just tell you how I see it, rabbi. He said, the way I see it is only one of two things can happen tomorrow. He said, I'll either tomorrow wake up in the arms of my wife who's loved me for 40 years, he said, or tomorrow I will wake up in the arms of Jesus, my Messiah, who's loved me from the foundation of the world. Well, that was pretty much the end of that clergy visit.

Yeah. Now, let me ask you a question as we close. Where did Russ Reed get the authority to make a comment like that, huh? Where did he get the confidence to make a statement about death and eternal life and what's on the other side of the grave like that? Well, friends, he got that authority from the B-I-B-L-E, and if you're here today and you're a follower of Jesus Christ, my friends, you have chosen to rest your entire eternal destiny on the very same authority, on the profound belief that the Bible is telling you and me the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, not just about the patriarchs but about the grave and what's on the other side of the grave and how to live this life. We've based our lives on the profound belief, as Peter said, that we have not followed 2 Peter 1 16 cunningly devised fables, but rather that this thing called the Bible is utterly inerrant in every statement it makes, utterly infallible in every claim it makes, and utterly trustworthy in every promise that it makes.

And listen to me, this world system is going to try to talk you out of that. It's going to try to convince you and shake your confidence in the Bible, and lots of professors like Finkelstein and all these other guys are going to try to rattle your belief in the Bible, telling you about horses with humps and all this other nonsense, and lots of your friends are going to try to destroy your trust in the Bible. And the Discovery Channel is going to try to convince you that the Bible is all a fraud, and these people have agendas. Don't you think they don't have agendas as to why they're trying to convince you of that? In many cases it's to assuage their own guilt because they're not living according to the Bible and they don't want to accept it as the Word of God, but for whatever their reason may be, don't you listen to them.

Don't you listen to them. Look, my friends, you stick with the Bible as the inspired, inerrant Word of God, and when the dust clears in eternity, I promise you, and what am I, Jesus promises you that you're going to be forever glad you stuck with the Word of God. Jesus said the Word of God is a rock, and everybody who builds their house on the rock, the rains come down, and the winds blow, and it beats against that house. Yeah, life's tough, but that house stands because it's built on the rock. My friends, heaven and earth will pass away.

Listen, heaven and earth will pass away, but Jesus said my word will never pass away. Don't build your life on the sand. Don't build your life on what these people say. What do they know?

They know they don't know anything. You build your life on the Word of the Eternal God. Let's pray together. Lord Jesus, thank you so much for reminding us today that we have an anchor for our soul, as Hebrews chapter 6 says, and that anchor for our soul are the promises and the assurances and the truth of the Word of God. And Lord Jesus, I pray you would make us like that man in Matthew chapter 7 who built his house on the rock, and nothing could knock that house over, nothing. May we be those people, and may we run our lives based on the Word of God. May we run our hope for eternity based on the Word of God. May every part of our being be based on the Word of God, because it is the rock upon which every house that's built will stand. Encourage our faith from today, Lord, all this evidence that we've presented. Encourage us that the more they dig out of the ground, the more the Bible does prove to be right. And increase our confidence as we walk out of here today in the inerrancy, the infallibility, and the utter trustworthiness of the B-I-B-L-E. Lord, change our lives because we were here today and sat under the teaching of your Word, and we pray these things in Jesus' name. What did God's people say? Amen. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-03 09:59:02 / 2023-06-03 10:11:23 / 12

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