John Bradshaw - Life In Ancient Israel
John Bradshaw: This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. As you read the Bible, you read some of the great stories of all of history. Accounts that God has placed into the Bible for us to learn not only their history, but to understand the heart of God, the love of God, and the plan of salvation. And as we read the Bible, we read simply some mundane information about everyday life. But, rightly understood, that mundane information shines a bright light onto the lives of Bible characters, the culture and the environments from which they sprang, and help us understand in greater depth the great themes of the Bible. Well, today to that end, I have come to the Lynn H. Wood Archaeological Museum on the campus of Southern Adventist University, and my special guest today is Dr. Michael Hasel, a professor of Near Eastern studies and archaeology. Dr. Hasel, thanks for joining me today.
Michael Hasel: It's great to be with you, John.
John Bradshaw: Now, I don't mean to be disparaging. And I talk about mundane details about everyday life. But we read about people who were shepherds. They herded sheep. We read about people who were farmers; perhaps they grew crops. What about some of these details can help us really understand the Bible in a greater way, and in a way that grows our faith in the Bible?
Michael Hasel: Well, to me this is what makes archaeology such a relevant thing for the Bible. We have these 66 books of the Bible that give us this grand scope of history going through from the beginning of earth's history all the way to the end. And yet, many times the details: the details of how people lived, what they ate, how they prepared their food, what kind of houses they lived in, all of those kinds of things, are mentioned in passing but they're not really the main focus of what the Bible writers are interested in. One of the things that we have to remind ourselves is: they lived in a very different kind of world than many of us do, at least in the western world. They were, they were agricultural people. Agriculture was a major part of, of their way of life.
John Bradshaw: Let me ask you something about the, the, the signs, the discipline of archaeology. You're an archaeologist. You, you dig in Israel, you've dug in other places, um, I'd like to think that most of your work is, is unearthing temples, gates, great streets, cities, but I think the reality for archaeologists is that a lot of the time you're finding scraps of pottery, and what sort of things might you find in the field that somebody like me wouldn't realize is actually of great use to an archaeologist?
Michael Hasel: Right.
John Bradshaw: What would some of those things be?
Michael Hasel: Well, we find, we find, like you said, we do find temples. We do find palaces. Those are always the highlights. Whenever we find a big building, it's, it's, it's a great thing. But we're also interested in household archaeology; how people lived in their everyday lives. And, and we excavate those houses. In the last several years I've been working at a site called Lachish, or Lachish, and we have been digging a row of houses right next to the palace, or the major, uh, building of that time. And, and, and the materials that we find in there give us an insight into how people lived. Let me give you a couple of examples.
John Bradshaw: Sure.
Michael Hasel: This is a very heavy, I'll let you hold it in a minute, a very heavy piece of basalt. This is a volcanic rock. It comes, actually, from the northern part of Israel, um, up near the Sea of Galilee, which was a very volcanic area. And this was what the ancients used, this heavy rock with this coarse area, to, um, to grind their grain with. And so, you know, you, you have a, you have, uh, an under part here, and you're moving back and forth, and this is what you use to make your flour so that you can make your bread every day. Um, just feel the weight of that. This is, this is not something that's...
John Bradshaw: Oh yeah. Yeah, that's real heavy.
Michael Hasel: ...that's light. But because of the porous nature, it really allows the grinding of those grains down to something that, that can be edible and can be put into bread.
John Bradshaw: So let me ask you a question. This seems to answer the question... well, really, this, this is an everyday stuff-of-life item...
Michael Hasel: Right.
John Bradshaw: ...that you might find. How do you know that that's what this was used for?
Michael Hasel: Well, you, you know this because of the shape of it. It's been shaped, it's been, it's been carved so that it nicely fits into a human hand like this. And then you can see the bottom of it is, is often very smooth from, from that grinding that has taken place over time. You see a rock like this and you know this is, this is manmade. This is something that they've taken and shaped. And that's when a rock, for an archaeologist, becomes an artifact.
John Bradshaw: Right.
Michael Hasel: Before that time, it's simply a rock, and geologists study those. But, but as soon as you have something that's been formed by human hands and used as a tool, which this was, then it's something much more significant.
John Bradshaw: In endeavoring to understand the culture, the life and the times of the people who lived way back then, it seems to me that, almost anything you find is valuable. I know that we've had discussions before and you've talked about how, how, how bones that have been found, just bones, discarded bones, told a lot and gave a lot of information...
Michael Hasel: Absolutely.
John Bradshaw: ...that became very useful.
Michael Hasel: Every bit of information that we can gather, much of it is left behind, much of it is garbage or things that people didn't want anymore. But they all give us a glimpse into what people did, how they lived back then. The bones can give us information about the diet of the ancients, uh, what kind of things they ate. Um...
John Bradshaw: And therefore who they were.
Michael Hasel: And who they were, exactly, because...
John Bradshaw: Jews would leave different bones behind than non-Jews, for instance.
Michael Hasel: That's right. We've, we've dug at a number of Judean sites where we have found not a single pig bone after digging for seven seasons, and, and digging 30 percent of the site. Whereas the Philistines had 15 to 30 percent of the remains that are found at Philistine sites are pig bones. We also know today that the pigs that are in Israel, there have been studies done of these ancient pigs and their, their species, that they were coming from Europe, and that fits very well with the Philistines, who are also coming from Greece and from that area. So they were introduced, not by the Israelites, not by locals, but they were brought from the outside in.
John Bradshaw: Now, is there a story in the Bible you think'd be great to look at? Maybe it continues something relatively everyday, sort of mundane, but, but, in archaeology we've been able to learn more about these cultural practices that shine a light on, our understanding of the Word of God. Where would we begin?
Michael Hasel: Well, there's many, many places we could go to, but as I think about rural lifestyle and especially agricultural lifestyle, I can't help about, think about the story of Ruth and Boaz.
John Bradshaw: Okay.
Michael Hasel: And, uh, that, that great little book of Ruth that's found, um, in the Old Testament is a, is a, is a glimpse into the ancient world and the period of the Judges, and it gives us an understanding of what life was like. Now, the setting is the city of Bethlehem, the town of Bethlehem. It's the same place, uh, that, that David would later be born. In fact, Ruth is David's great-grandmother. And then later on, of course, this is where Jesus would be born as well. So this, that's the setting, and it's still a rural community today. You can still see the shepherds out in the fields with their flocks, and you can still see agriculture taking place there today.
John Bradshaw: Ruth, chapter 2, I'm going to read a little passage. See if you can comment on this.
Michael Hasel: Sure.
John Bradshaw: Part of the book of Ruth, you know, for those of us who have been raised in a modern world and we've been raised in cities and so on, it, it, it's hard to even make it compute. You really must try to understand the cultural milieu.
Michael Hasel: Sure.
John Bradshaw: So let me read this. Ruth, chapter 2, starting in verse 2. "Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me go now to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her; Go, my daughter. And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers". Now, that's just an everyday sort of occurrence. What does archaeology help us understand about that?
Michael Hasel: Well, I think to understand the, the setting of all of this, and to go back to that setting again, um, we have, we have some, some grain here.
John Bradshaw: Now, that's not corn.
Michael Hasel: This is not corn, no.
John Bradshaw: And that's because?
Michael Hasel: Because the, the King James Version, of course, was translated in 1611 in Britain, and Britain, the term "corn" was the generic term that was used for "grain". That's, that's, uh, it, it means "grain". And if you know the Hebrew, it simply means "grain". So they used "corn". It's not maize, because maize is a New World product that, uh, that comes from the Aztecs and the Mayans and so forth.
John Bradshaw: So this was wheat.
Michael Hasel: So this was wheat. Barley and wheat, they would, they would take in the fields. And this is how it grew, as it grows today. And, uh, they would, they would harvest it, they would cut it. We find the sickles still in the field, uh, not in the field, sometimes in the homes. The sickles that were used for this, sometimes they're made, uh, from actual iron blades in later periods. In earlier periods they were actually made from stone blades that were found in that context. So they would cut them down, and then they would gather them up like this. And then the process at that point would be to separate, of course, the kernels from everything else, and they would then throw, throw these up in the air and allow the chaff, after, after they, they, uh, would go over it with, with, with a heavy, uh, piece of, of, uh, wood that had stone in it, to kind of separate all this stuff out. They would then throw it up in the air, and the chaff would fly away, and the kernels of grain would drop down, and they would have a nice pile of, of whole kernels, that then they would have to grind into flour.
John Bradshaw: Um, using one of those.
Michael Hasel: Using one of these grinders. And I've, I have another one here I want to show you that was found.
John Bradshaw: How old is this?
Michael Hasel: This is probably dating to the eighth century. Uh, this is the time period of Isaiah and, um, and Amos, who were also, Amos came from very close by, from Tekoa, very close by to Bethlehem. So in this case, this is a much smaller stone that was used to grind. Sometimes these smaller, uh, items were used for, not so much for grain, but for fruits and that kind of thing, to, to, uh, to use that. And you can see the beautiful decorations here. This is the same material. It's made out of basalt. It's not as coarse basalt as we had before. But it's still the same material and weighs a lot.
John Bradshaw: And once again, archaeology bringing into clearer focus the ordinary lives, the daily details of those people who lived so long ago, the people of whom we read, about whom we study in the Word of God, real people who lived real lives. Back with more in just a moment.
John Bradshaw: This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me today. Today my guest is Dr. Michael Hasel, an archaeologist. I'm at the Lynn H. Wood Archaeological Museum in Collegedale, Tennessee. Dr. Hasel, there's something I want to ask you about. Here in 1 Samuel, chapter 2, I'm going to read in verse, uh, 19: "Moreover, his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice". So Hannah was making Samuel a coat every year. As he grew, he'd need a new one. What was involved in that?
Michael Hasel: Well, it was, it was a very involved process, very different from us going to a store today and simply buying something, buying a piece of clothing. Uh, we have some interesting artifacts here. The first thing, of course, that they had to do was to get the wool from a sheep. And, um, of course, they didn't have to kill the sheep necessarily to do this. They could shear the sheep and, and, and get the wool, uh, in, in, in different times of the year. And they would take that wool, of course, and then once they had the wool, they would take an artifact like this. This is a, they could get any stick, and they would put what is called a spindle whirl on the bottom of it. Spindle whirl, this doesn't really fit very well, but normally it would fit very nicely. And then they would spin that spindle whirl. That the weight of this would allow them to spin it very nicely around, and they could take strands of that wool and make it into yarn, or make it into, uh, material that they could use for weaving. The next part of that process, after they were done making the strands, was they would use a loom that has, also, loom weights at the bottom. These, uh, would, would, these weights at the bottom would hold down the strands of cloth in the vertical position, and then they would bring the other cloth across and slowly, they would slowly begin to weave that back and forth. And in time this all would create either a nice new carpet, a part of a tent, or, uh, in the case of Samuel, his mother, uh, she could construct a very nice, or weave a very nice piece of clothing for him every year.
John Bradshaw: Now, from an archaeological perspective, I doubt very much that too many full looms have ever been, uh, excavated. So what do archaeologists find that talks of this?
Michael Hasel: In this, uh, particular case what we find in the heartland of Israel in not-so-dry regions is, uh, we find the actual loom weights. Uh, this last summer we were excavating a series of houses, and we found in one area, in one house, we found 58 of these loom weights. So we knew there was a loom there at some time. We didn't find any cloth. The, uh, the wood of the loom had already disintegrated over the last, uh, it was about the, the, the room dated to 2700 B.C. uh, about 2,700 years ago, about 700 B.C. And so you have, though, the remnants of what could survive. And these loom weights, uh, they're made out of, uh, clay, they would be baked, uh, in the destruction debris and would be preserved as a result of that.
John Bradshaw: So who would have made this? Would it have been Hannah herself? Would it have been a servant? Who would use a loom like that?
Michael Hasel: Well, it probably would have been Hannah herself from the context we have in the biblical passage. But we really don't know for certain. Um, the womenfolk were normally the ones that would do kind of the household activities of this type. And, uh, Hannah very well may have been the person to do that.
John Bradshaw: Which is interesting you say the women, because then we have the story of Joseph's coat, who it appears, uh, that was made by his father. And he would have used something much like this.
Michael Hasel: Oh, yes, he would have used something very similar to this. Of course, Joseph lived about 700 years before the time of Samuel, maybe 750 years. So again, this is a, a kind of lifestyle, a kind of way of life that would have gone for hundreds of years through the ancient Near East. And it's interesting, with Joseph, we have, uh, we have a, uh, tomb painting called the Beni Hasan tomb painting, which shows Asiatics coming to trade in Egypt. And they're dressed in, in, in very colorful clothing, which seems to mirror the kind of clothing that Joseph was given by his father. So it's another one of those corroborating facts that we have from, from history.
John Bradshaw: Magnificent. Thanks for that. The Bible, a living book, a dynamic book. Archaeology bringing to life the times, the daily lives, the personalities of the Word of God. Don't go away. We'll be back with more in just a moment.
John Bradshaw: Thanks for joining me today on It Is Written, where my guest is archaeologist Dr. Michael Hasel. Dr. Hasel, today we're talking about archaeology and everyday life in the times of the Bible. And if you'll allow me, there's a question I want to put to you, because this has intrigued me. I'll read the passage; you'll know why. 2 Kings, chapter 4, starting in verse 8: "And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in there to eat bread. And she said to her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passes us by continually. Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he comes to us, that he shall turn in there". What were houses like back then that this family could just decide to make him a chamber? Whether that's a room or a lean-to, I don't quite know. Tell me about what houses were like back in the time of the prophets.
Michael Hasel: It's very interesting. The way houses were built is a very typical style for Israelites. It's, uh, it's a different style than you have in other surrounding cultures. It's not a Canaanite house; it's not an Egyptian house; it's not a, the Israelite house was a very, very singular type of architecture. And there's been a lot of discussion in the scholarly community about why they had these kind of, what we call four-room houses or pillared houses. Uh, normally it would have four different rooms, often in the basement, or not the basement, but the first floor you would have cattle or sheep and goats. It would be kind of like a barn. Um, in the back areas you would have storage areas, uh, and so forth. And then you'd have an upper floor as well. So whether this was something that was added as an upper floor, um, or whether this was added onto, I, I think maybe what the Bible's talking about, knowing the architecture of that time, is that maybe they added a room above, perhaps, for him. Uh, these houses were occupied by, a nuclear family but also by extended family.
John Bradshaw: So how many people would you have typically in a home?
Michael Hasel: It depended, but you could have as many as 10 to 15 people in a home of 900 to 1,000, maybe 1,200 square feet.
John Bradshaw: That's not real big to have 10 or 15 people.
Michael Hasel: No, it's not.
John Bradshaw: Now, let me ask you this, then: Did, was there a, did these homes differ based on the standing of the individual? Was it common to find humble dwelling for the humble folks, much larger place, did it work like that?
Michael Hasel: There was some of that as well, yes. And depending on also where in the city it was located, if it was a city house or if it was out in the country. But the style was very much the same, many times, in terms of those four rooms. Um, and some of the rooms were simply divided by pillars. It wasn't really divided by a wall, let's say. The material that was used for them was quite, quite extensive.
John Bradshaw: Yeah, what, what were they, what were they built from?
Michael Hasel: They were built from stone primarily, that were then plastered on the outside, or even, um, either with mud, or with actual plaster lime from, from, uh, from limestone, limestone plaster. And to construct a house that had those four rooms at the bottom, plus a roof area with perhaps rooms above, you're talking about a construction that would involve 470 tons of material.
John Bradshaw: That's a heavy house.
Michael Hasel: This is a heavy house. This is not the kind of houses we build here in North America. We're just framing up 2x4s or 2x6s, and then putting drywall on it. This was solid, solid houses. And we find stairs going up to what presumably would be a second floor. Many times we only find the, the, um, the foundations of these homes. Uh, but we find the staircases that go up to them. We find collapsed ceilings, and we find the materials that were, that were there. So we have huge storage jars, many times they're lined up in these houses, that would have had olive oil in them, or, or perhaps, uh, uh, grape juice or wine or something of that nature. So we have, we have, again, uh, done a lot of analysis and, and looked at the way people lived, and they had, they had comfortable homes.
John Bradshaw: Now, these jars that are discovered in archaeological ruins, I understand you found some of those, and these are genuine ancient, what were they used for?
Michael Hasel: Well, they were used to, uh, contain all kinds of things, uh, often water or oil. Olive oil, of course, was produced very extensively in the Mediterranean world, still is today.
John Bradshaw: This one here, how old is this, and what is this?
Michael Hasel: This, this is dating to about the eighth century, about 750 B.C. or so. So this would date to the time of Isaiah and Amos and, and Hezekiah the king, during Sennacherib's famous campaign that he took, the Assyrian king. And I love this, this particular artifact, because it has a spout over here on this side. This is a spout where you can actually pour out material. Uh, and it has, it's designed in such a way where you can put a little tiny dipper juglet like this inside the spout, and just kind of, it hangs out there as kind of a little resting place for it. This is a little measuring cup. So if you have a large jar, sometimes there's jars even larger than this, rather than picking up the whole thing and accidentally spilling olive oil in your fire and creating, burning the whole city down, or something like that, you can just take your little dipper jar dip it in, maybe on a string or something, dip it in, bring out a little bit, and this just take it, take it, a little bit, this little dipper juglet, and do that. So this is a very typical Israelite artifact that we find from that time period. And it, it just is an amazing piece. We find the dipper juglet separately. Uh, two summers ago we actually found them together, very much like this. They were crushed, but perfectly restorable, uh, on the level that Sennacherib destroyed.
John Bradshaw: When you find something like this, for me, for the non-archaeologist, it just kind of lights me up and brings the Bible to life. This is really real, and these were real people living real lives. What did it do for you after you've been digging in the Middle East for years and years?
Michael Hasel: I still get excited. I still get excited. Somebody made this 2,700 years ago. Somebody, uh, cooked with it, prepared for their families. Um, there were children running around in the house. Uh, you know, it, it, it really to me brings the Bible to life in an incredible way, in, in a sense that, you know, these were, like you said, real people, and, uh, we can touch and taste and feel the material that they lived with.
John Bradshaw: Archaeology bringing to life the Bible. My encouragement to you is that the Bible comes alive in your life. Archaeology isn't given to us simply so that we can see how people lived 2,800 or more or less years ago, but so that the Bible can come to life, be real, be accessible. And it's real when it's read and believed and leaned upon. There were Bible figures or people living among them, handling these very artifacts. Today, we can handle the Word of God, and it can be alive and real for us.
John Bradshaw: Dr. Michael Hasel, thank you so much for joining me today on It Is Written.
Michael Hasel: It's a privilege.
John Bradshaw: It's a joy to see the Bible come to life. It really is. Let's pray together. Our Father in heaven, we thank You today that Your word is living, it's dynamic, it, it is alive. And I pray that it would be alive in our lives. There is somebody right now participating in this prayer who needs the touch of God in her or his life, who needs the power of Your Word to flow through that life and that experience. We thank You for a Savior who lived, who breathed, who died, and who is soon to return to this earth and take us home. Let that day come soon, we pray, in Jesus' name, amen.