Jeremiah 52 and 2 Kings 25 describe the siege and conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonians on the ninth day of Av, 587 BC. This event and other catastrophes that occurred on the same date in subsequent years are commemorated annually with prayers, mourning and fasting.
In 2017, the ninth of Av falls on Aug. 1 and just days before this mournful day on the Jewish calendar, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced new discoveries from the time of Nebuchadnezzar II that definitively confirm the biblical accounts of that fateful calamity in Israel’s history.
In the 1960s, while this part of Jerusalem was under Jordanian control, the site was excavated by Kathleen Kenyon, a British archaeologist. In the seven seasons of digging, the teams under her supervision found a little evidence proving the existence of the First Temple, but there wasn’t enough to say the biblical account was accurate. In the 1970s, it was hypothesized that, if proof was to be found at all, perhaps excavations were not in the right place and should be carried out on the slope further east than where they had dug in the previous decade.
Over the last four months, Jerusalem’s City of David National Park has been host to an archaeological dig on the aforementioned slope, outside of the boundaries that were previously believed to be Jerusalem’s limits at that time. It led to discoveries and the much sought-after evidence from 2,600 years ago for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) to declare with certainty that the Bible’s description of the incursion and destruction of Israel’s capital was highly detailed and accurate.
The Bible says that Nebuchadnezzar vanquished the Judean King Zedekiah and razed his capital, Jerusalem, and “burned the house of the Lord, and the king’s house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, even every great man’s house, he burned with fire.” In the excavations, archaeologists found walls and collapsed rooms destroyed and covered in layers of ash. The burnt layers are evidence of a fierce fire that started suddenly and intentionally as the Bible states.
The IAA said that in excavating the collapsed rooms, they discovered rare artifacts including pottery with the royal seal from the decade before the First Temple, a carved ivory statue, and evidence of numerous food items typical in the diet of that time. The seals and stamps in the form of a rosette are the most important discovery as they provide absolute proof of the end of the Judean dynasty administration. The stamps and seals were used as the king’s mark on all goods that were traded.
“Now on the seventh day of the fifth month, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; even every great house he burned with fire. So all the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem.” 2 Kings 25:8-10