Epic sieges. Military conquests. Devastating invasions. Ancient ruins help recount the stories of the Bible. Now scientists studying Israel’s battlegrounds piece together historical happenings using an unusual dating method—and observe the accuracy of scripture.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are analyzing ancient geomagnetic fields. They’re hoping to establish the dates of early biblical conquests. Their method depends on digging at sites that were burned—a common demolition tactic in ancient warfare. They look for artifacts that survived, though charred.
How can a thousand-year-old charred brick reveal when a battle took place?
Here’s how geomagnetic dating works:
Scientists search sites destroyed by fire. They locate artifacts such as pottery or bricks that contain certain naturally magnetic minerals and run tests on them.
Since Earth’s magnetic field changes over time, magnetic north (the way a compass points) slowly moves too. Electrons inside ancient artifacts can reveal the location of magnetic north at the time of the heating or burning.
Scientists “can come along thousands of years later and reconstruct the direction and the intensity of [Earth’s] magnetic field at the time of the fire,” says Yoav Vaknin, lead author of the study.
Israeli researchers examined artifacts from 17 sites. They analyzed how Earth’s magnetic field changed over time. By comparing magnetic recordings from various layers to claims made in the Old Testament, researchers confirmed that certain military actions took place in the timeline that the Bible mentions.
For example, Hazael, King of Aram-Damascus, appears in 2 Kings 8-13. Historians know that Hazael attacked Jerusalem and Gath as he fought Israel and Judah. The geomagnetic study revealed that Hazael also destroyed several other cities around the same time, including Tel Rehov, Tel Zayit, and Horvat Tevet.
“Since we have a very large database, we can compare many different sites according to the magnetic signal, and this way reach a very accurate dating method,” says Vaknin.
Vaknin says the magnetic field and its activity is one of the biggest mysteries facing scientists.
Scientists may not fully understand exactly how electrons “know” where north is or grasp the complexities of magnetism. But the Creator does.
For now, scientists can use geomagnetic data to develop reliable tools for dating archaeological sites.
But Vaknin believes the technology could someday predict how Earth’s magnetic field will change and behave in the future. And that could help humans make good stewardship choices for the Earth and its residents.
Why? The Bible’s accuracy and scientific discoveries involving geomagnetism rightly fill us with wonder. But they shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus says that if humans don’t glorify Him, “The very stones would cry out”! (Luke 19:40)