The following archaeological discoveries have had a significant impact on understanding the world of the Bible and its message.

1. Dead Sea Scrolls: Discovered by shepherds searching for a stray goat in 1947, they contain either nearly complete copies or fragments of all Old Testament books except for Esther, as well as commentaries on several of them. In addition, the collection of scrolls include organizational and rule manuals and other sectarian documents composed by the Qumran community that lived in the Dead Sea area. The biblical scrolls demonstrate the accuracy of the copying of the biblical text through the centuries. They are a thousand years older than previously known biblical manuscripts. Many scholars regard the scrolls as the most important discovery in biblical archaeology.

2. Cyrus Cylinder: Found in the ruins of Babylon, it records a decree by the Persian king Cyrus allowing the people previously subjugated by the Babylonians to restore their temples and worship practices. The sixth-century Akkadian cuneiform text contains language paralleling the 539 BC decree in Ezra 1:1-4 that permitted the Jewish exiles to return to Israel and rebuild their temple.

3. Kefef Hinnom Amulets: An expedition supervised by Gabriel Barkay excavated them in a funerary cave at an area known as Ketif Hinnom near Jerusalem in 1979. Inscribed on the tiny silver leaves is the priestly or Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6:24-26. The inscription is four centuries earlier than the oldest Dead Sea scroll and contains the oldest mention of the name Yahweh outside the Bible. Again this text shows how carefully scribes preserved the biblical text.

4. Merenptah Stele: It records a military campaign that Pharaoh Merenptah carried out in Israel and has the earliest mention of Israel itself.

5. Mesha Stele/Moabite Stone: The Moabite text, found in 1868, records additional information about a rebellion by the Moabite king Mesha against Israel recorded in 2 Kings 3.

6. The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III: It depicts several Levant kings, including Jehu, king of Israel (841–814 BC), bringing tribute to the Assyrian ruler Shalmaneser. It is the earliest known representation of a biblical individual.

7. Sennacherib or Taylor Prism: The Assyrian ruler relates his military excursions into Palestine and mentions how he trapped Hezekiah in Jerusalem like a “caged bird.” Three biblical books record the invasion: 2 Kings 19, 2 Kings 32, and Isaiah 37.

8. Rosetta Stone: Unearthed by some of Napoleon Bonaparte soldiers in 1798, it had three identical inscriptions, one in Greek and the others in two forms of ancient Egyptian writing. By comparing them, French scholar Jean François Champollion was able to decipher hieroglyphic writing, thus opening up the history and life of the ancient Egyptians.

9. Nebuchadnezzar’s Chronicles V: Babylonian archival tablets record the king’s military campaigns in Syria and Palestine, his encounter with the Egyptians, and his capture of Jerusalem and appointing of a vassal king of his own choice in Judah.

10. Nabonidus Chronicle 7: Babylonian records of events in the empire beginning in 556 BC and ending sometime after the city of Babylon’s capture by Cyrus in 539 BC. It explains the relationships of the various rulers, including Belshazzar.

11. Tel Dan Inscription: Discovered in 1993 at Tel Dan, it mentions the “House of David,” supporting the king’s historicity. Some scholars had considered him as a fictional ruler created centuries after the time Scripture says that he lived.

12. Pontius Pilate Inscription: Although mentioned by Josephus and Philo, almost all that was known about Pilate came from the New Testament. Some even questioned whether he ever existed. But an archaeological excavation in Caesarea found a recycled stone bearing an inscription referring to “Pontius Pilatus” as “Praefectus Iudaeae,” thus confirming his historicity and rule.

13. The Hammurabi Code: The eight-foot-high diorite stele records a set of 282 case studies involving wages, taxes, business transactions, and other social issues of eighteenth-century BC. Many of them parallel similar biblical regulations and provide insight into how to interpret them.

14. Ugaritic Texts: A large collection of texts recovered from the ancient city of Ugarit, they contain many myths that offer insight into the religious world in which the Hebrews lived. They are especially important in understanding the Baal cult. In addition, they provide parallels to many Hebrew words, helping to translate and interpret the Bible more clearly.

15. Behistun Inscription: A trilingual text (Old Persian, Assyrian, and Elamite) on a limestone rockface above the town of Behistun in Persia (modern Iran) that recounts the victories and genealogy of Darius I. The three texts became the key to deciphering the cuneiform script which enabled the reading of the Akkadian language.

16. The Babylonian Epics (Enuma Elish; Gilgamesh; Atrahasis; etc.): These literary documents offer insights into the religious and intellectual world of the ancient Near East. They provide many clues to understanding how the ancients think, thus illuminating many things in the Bible.

17. Lachish Letters: Excavated in the 1930s, they are a series of messages written on ostraca (pieces of pottery) during the invasion by Nebuchadnezzar. Letter 16 mentioning a prophet demoralizing the people may refer either to Jeremiah or Uriah (only the last part of the name has survived).

18. Siloam Tunnel and Inscription: To prepare for a possible Assyrian invasion, Hezekiah had a tunnel dug to divert water from the more vulnerable Gihon Spring to a safer storage pool deeper within the city. An inscription chiseled on the tunnel wall records how the two teams of excavators met and broke through the rock.

19. Jehoiachin Ration Tablets: The Babylonians kept records of the food rations that they provided their political captives. One named recipient is Jehoiachin. Eventually, when Evil-Merodach became king of Babylon, he released Jehoiachin from prison (2 Kings 25:27-30).

20. Elephantine Papyri: Written by members of a colony of Jewish soldiers stationed on the Egyptian island of Elephantine in the Nile River, the fifth-century BC letters, contracts, and historical and literary texts depict not only their daily concerns but also their religious beliefs. First established during the Babylonian period, the colony had a temple and later corresponded with Persian leaders in Jerusalem about religious questions.

21. Amarna Letters: A collection of fourteenth-century BC international diplomatic correspondence found at the Egyptian site of Tell El-Amarna. They offer insight into the political situation of Canaan before the Israelite conquest and also mention a group known as the Hapiru that some have identified with the Hebrews. The Amarna Letters also help in understanding the ancient Canaanite language.

22. Tel Deir Alla Inscription: Originally written on a plaster wall, the Deir Alla Inscription tells of a vision the prophet Balaam had of the gods in council. Though the fragmented text is difficult to interpret, it indicates that even centuries after his encounter with the Israelites, people in the Jordan Valley still remembered Balaam as a major religious figure.

23. Pim Weights: Until the discovery of this weight from the Philistine area, translators just guessed the meaning of the word “pim” in 1 Samuel 13:21.

24. Ishtar Gate: The massive gate gives a hint of the magnificence of the ancient city of Babylon. The walls were decorated with glazed tiles to create reliefs of various animals, including winged lions reminiscent of one of the symbolic creatures in Daniel’s prophecy (Dan. 7:4).

25. Arch of Titus: Titus Flavius Vespasianus was the Roman general who captured and destroyed the city of Jerusalem and its temple. The Arch of Titus commemorates his victory and depicts Roman soldiers carrying off the temple’s seven-branched lampstand and the table of showbread.