There are around sixty people in the Old Testament who have been identified in archaeological inscriptions, images or writings. Each are named and described below. Many of the descriptions contain links to photographs of archaeological items which are described elsewhere on this website. There is a similar list of people in the New Testament confirmed by archaeology.
Much of this information is based on research by Lawrence Mykytiuk, who uses three criteria to determine the identification of a biblical character in history. The first is that the name must match the name on an authentic archaeological inscription, with no possibility of forgery. The second is that the setting and time period of the name in the Bible and in archaeology must match. He also looks for three specific details to identify the person, including his name, his father's name, and his title or position.
I have also included some other OT people who have possibly been identified in archaeological records, but whose identity is less certain.
Each person is grouped into different categories and is listed below, which forms a link to the more detailed explanation.
|Kings of Judah
|Governors under Persians
Priests and officials of Judah
Shaphan and Gemariah,
Shelemiah and Jehucal,
Pashhur and Gedaliah,
|Kings of Israel
Shadrach Meshach and Abednego
|Pharoahs of Egypt
|Kings of Moab
|Kings of Syria
|Kings of Assyria
|Kings of Babylon
Nergal-sharezer and Nebuzaradan
|Kings of Persia
Kings of Judah (southern kingdom)
Until relatively recently no record of a king of Judah called David had been found in the archaeological record. Because of this, many scholars believed David merely to be a mythical figure, or a literary creation by the authors of the Bible. In 1993 an inscription on a basalt stone naming David was discovered during excavations at Tel-Dan in northern Israel. It was found in the lower part of a wall, where it had been reused in building works in later centuries. It is from the 9th century BC and written in early Hebrew. It formed part of a victory stele written by a Syrian military commander describing the military victory by a king of Syria over the king of Israel and the house of David. The inscription not only names David, but also recognises him as the founder of a dynasty of kings. It is now displayed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
King Uzziah, or Azariah, of Judah (767 -740 BC) was struck down with leprosy because he attempted to offer incense to God, which he was forbidden to do because he was not a priest (2 Chr 26:16-21). This event is also described by Josephus.
The lid of the tomb of King Uzziah is displayed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. When he died, he could not be buried in the royal tombs because he was a leper. In the first century BC, because the city of Jerusalem had expanded, Uzziah's tomb had to be moved outside the new city limits. The Aramaic epitaph was erected to mark the king's new burial place, with this inscription, "Hither were brought, the bones of Uzziah, King of Judah. Do not open!". Because he was a leper, it would have been potentially dangerous for anyone to open the tomb.
Ahaz, or Jehoahaz, son of Jotham was king of Judah (742/741 - 726 BC) (2 Kg 16:1). He was
king during the Syro-Ephraimite war with the coalition of Syria and Israel, who was
confronted by the prophet Isaiah (Is 7:1-25)
An impression of a seal, a bulla, of Ahaz has been discovered, inscribed, "Belonging to Ahaz (son of) Yehotam, King of Judah". It may even show the fingerprint of Ahaz on the side of the bulla. It is now held in a private collection.
Ahaz is named as the father of Hezekiah on the seal of Hezekiah (below).
Hezekiah was one of the two very good kings of Judah. It was Hezekiah who built the tunnel still named after him to bring a water supply into the city of Jerusalem, so the city would be better equipped to withstand a siege (2 Kg 20:20).
An inscription about the building of the tunnel was found, and is now held in the Istanbul Museum. There is a copy in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Hezekiah is also named in Assyrian records, particularly in their account of the siege of Jerusalem in 701 BC, where Sennacherib claims to have shut Hezekiah up in Jerusalem "like a bird in a cage". This is recorded on the Taylor Prism in the British Museum, and the Jerusalem Prism in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Several seal impressions or bullas naming Hezekiah have been found, including one on display in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Another bulla belonging to Hezekah inscribed, "Hezekiah [son of] Ahaz king of Judah" was discovered during excavations of the Ophel in Jerusalem in 2015. It was found about three metres away from another bulla inscribed with the name of Isaiah, possibly the prophet Isaiah.
Manasseh was the longest reigning, but probably the worst king of Judah (687 - 643 BC). He is mentioned on the Victory Stele of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who lists him as one of the kings who had brought him gifts and aided his conquest of Egypt and victory over Pharaoh Taharqa. The stela is held in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
"I called up the kings of the country Hatti and (of the region) on the other side of the river Euphrates: Ba'al, king of Tyre; Manasseh, king of Judah; Qawsgabar, king of Edom; Musuri, king of Moab; Sil-Bel, king of Gaza; Metinti, king of Ashkelon; Ikausu, king of Ekron; Milkiashapa, king of Byblos; Matanba’al, king of Arvad; Abiba'al, king of Samisimuruna; Puduil, king of Beth-Ammon; Ahimilki, king of Ashdod twelve kings from the seacoast."
Jehoiachin was the last king in the line of David to rule over Judah. He is also named Jeconiah and Coniah in the Old Testament. After only ruling for three months, he was taken as an exile to Babylon in 598 BC by Nebuchadnezzar and replaced by his uncle Zedekiah (2 Kg 24:13-17). He was later released from prison, allowed to dine regularly in the king’s presence, and given a regular allowance of food (2 Kg 25:27-30).
Jehoiachin of Judah is named on fragments of a Babylonian tablet from 592 BC which lists food rations given to prisoners and foreigners. He is named, "Ya'ukin sar Yaudaya" in Babylonian. The tablet is held in the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin.
Governors under Persian rule
Sanballat the Horonite was a Persian official who was governor of Samaria, and one of the two major opponents of Nehemiah. "When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official hear this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel". (Neh 2:10).
An impression of a seal, or bulla, inscribed "... yahu, son of (San)ballat, governor of Samaria" is displayed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Tattenai, or Tatnai, or Sisinnes, was the Persian governor under Darius I (520 - 486 BC) of the province Beyond the River (Ezra 5:3). From the Persian perspective, the river was the Euphrates, so the area beyond the river was to the west, including Judea. According to the Book of Ezra, Tattenai wrote to Darius concerning the rebuilding of temple by the returning exiles of Judah (Ezra 5:6-17), and received a reply from the king telling him to let the Jews rebuild the temple (Ezra 6:6-12).
"At the same time Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and their associates came to them and spoke to them thus, 'Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?'" (Ezra 5:3)
Several cuneiform tablets have been discovered containing the name Tattenai. One is a promissory note dated on the 20th year of Darius I, which can be dated to the 5th June 502 BC exactly. One of the witnesses is a servant of "Tattannu, governor of Across-the-River"
Priests and officials of Judah
Shebna, the royal steward of King Hezekiah and his senior minister, was a foreigner who was rebuked by Isaiah for carving himself a tomb in the hillside near Jerusalem (Is 22:15-19).
The lintel of a tomb was discovered near Jerusalem in 1870, but not deciphered until 1953. It has this inscription, "This is the sepulchre of Shebna Yahu (name is defaced) who is over the House (ie. the royal steward). There is no silver or gold here, only his bones and the bones of his maidservant, cursing anyone who opens it". It is now displayed in the British Museum
Azariah was the son of Hilkiah, and was the chief priest under King Hezekiah. He was in charge of receiving the tithes brought by the people and kept in the store-chambers. "When Hezekiah and the officials came and saw the heaps, they blessed the LORD and his people Israel. Hezekiah questioned the priests and the Levites about the heaps. The chief priest Azariah, who was of the house of Zadok, answered him, 'Since they began to bring the contributions into the house of the LORD, we have had enough to eat and have plenty to spare ...'" (2 Chr 31:8-10).
Azariah is listed with the priests in the genealogy in 1 Chronicles, "Of the priests: ... and
Azariah son of Hilkiah, son of Meshullam, son of Zadok, ... " (1 Chr 9:10-11). This Hilkiah should be distinguished from a later high priest Hilkiah who discovered the book of the law in the temple during Josiah’s reforms (2 Kg 22:8).
Excavations in a house in Jerusalem from the time of the Babylonian invasion uncovered 53 clay seal impressions, or bullae. Two of these have names of people named in the Old Testament, these are Gemariah, son of Shaphan described below, and Azariah, son of Hilkiah. Both are held in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
The inscription on the bulla of Azariah son of Hilkiah is, "(Belonging) to 'Azaryahu son of Hilqiyahu".
Nathan-Melech was an official under King Josiah, who had a chamber by the entrance to the temple. During the account of Josiah’s reforms, "He (Josiah) removed the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun, at the entrance of the house of the LORD, by the chamber of the eunuch Nathan-melech, which was in the precincts; then he burned the chariots of the sun with fire" (2 Kg 23:11).
A seal impression, or bulla, was discovered during excavations in Jerusalem in 2018 inscribed with the name "Nathan-melech, Servant of the King". This name is rarely found in historical records, and occurs only once in the Bible, so it is likely to belong to the Biblical Nathan-Melech.
Shaphan and Gemariah
Seal impressions, or bullae, of several priests and officials named in the Book of Jeremiah have been discovered in recent years.
Shaphan (2 Kg 22:3) and his son Gemariah were officials under kings Josiah and Jehoiakim, who supported the prophet Jeremiah. Baruch, Jeremiah’s scribe, read the words of Jeremiah in the house of Gemariah, "Then, in the hearing of all the people, Baruch read the words of Jeremiah from the scroll, in the house of the LORD, in the chamber of Gemariah son of Shaphan the secretary, which was in the upper court, at the entry of the New Gate of the LORD’s house" (Jer 36:10).
An impression of the bulla of Gamariah son of Shapan is inscribed, "(belonging) to Gamaryhu (s)on of Shaphan".
Shelemiah and Jehucal
Shelemiah was the father of Jehucal, who was an official under king Zedekiah (597-586), the final king of Judah.
During the early years of the reign of king Zedekiah, before Jeremiah was imprisoned, Zedekiah still looked to Jeremiah for support and prayer. "King Zedekiah sent Jehucal son of Shelemiah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah to the prophet Jeremiah saying, ‘Please pray for us to the LORD our God.'" (Jer 37:3)
A bulla with these names was discovered in during excavations of what was thought to be David’s palace in Jerusalem in 2005. The inscription is, "Yehuchal (or Jehucal) ben Shelemyahu (Shelemiah)"
Pashhur and Gedaliah
Gedaliah, son of Pashhur, was one of the officials under Zedekiah (597 - 586 BC) who were opposed to Jeremiah. "Now Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedialha son of Pashhur, Jucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malchiah heard the words the Jeremiah was saying to all the people ... Then the officials said to the king, ‘This man ought to be put to death, because he discouraging the soldiers who are left in the city, and all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking the welfare of the people, but their harm'" (Jer 38:1-4).
During repairs of a tower believed to be the northern tower of Nehemiah in 2008, a bulla was discovered with this inscription, "Gedalyahu (Gedaliah) ben Pashur."
Baruch, son of Neriah, was Jeremiah’s scribe, who wrote down the words of Jeremiah, and read them to king Jehoiakim (Jer 36). He received a special word of blessing from Jeremiah (Jer 45).
A seal impression, or bulla, is held in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, which is inscribed, "Belonging to Berekhyahu, son of Neriyahu, the Scribe".
Kings of Israel (northern kingdom)
Omri was one of the most powerful kings of Israel. He is only briefly described in the Book of Kings, and dismissed as being evil in the sight of the Lord (1 Kg 16:21-28). Assyrian records regularly referred to the northern kingdom of Israel as the Land of Omri, even after his death and changes in dynasty.
Omri is named on the Moabite Stone, also known as the Mesha Stele, as one of the kings defeated by Mesha of Moab.
Ahab (873 - 852 BC) was one of the worst kings of the northern kingdom. He and his wife, Jezebel, were the great opponents of the prophet Elijah. Elijah called him, “the troubler of Israel” (1 Kg 18:17).
The Kurkh Stela in the British Museum describes the Battle of Qarqar in 853 BC, when a coalition of nations, including Syria and Israel stood against the advancing armies of Assyria led by Shalmaneser III. The inscription reads, ”I departed to Qarqar, I drew near. Qarqar, his royal city I destroyed, I devoured, I burned with fire....(and then a list of several kings and peoples including Hadadezer of Syria) ... and 2000 chariots and 10,000 men of Ahab king of Israel ..."
A royal seal and its imprint, or bulla, possibly belonging to Queen Jezebel is displayed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It is inscribed: "l’yzbl", meaning 'belongs to Jezebel'. The large size of the seal would indicate it belonged to royalty.
There is an image of Jehu, king of Israel on the Black Obelisk in the British Museum, offering tribute to Shalmaneser III of Assyria.
Joash, or Jehoash, was the twelfth king of Israel (805 - 790 BC), but is dismissed in only a few lines in the Book of Kings as an evil king (2 Kg 14:10-13).
During excavation at Tell al-Rimah near Nineveh a stela of Adad-nirari III of Assyria (811 - 783 BC) was discovered. The inscription mentions that he received tribute from several nations, including Jehoash the Samarian. This is the first mention of the city of Samaria in cuneiform inscriptions, showing that the northern kingdom of Israel was under control of the Assyrians during his reign. The stela is held in the Iraq Museum in Baghdad.
The inscription states, "I received 2000 talents of silver, 1000 talents of copper, 2000 talents of iron, 3000 linen garments with multicolored trim—the tribute of Mari—of the land of Damascus. I received the tribute of Jehoash the Samarian, of the Tyrian ruler and of the Sidonian ruler".
Jeroboam II (790 - 750/749 BC) was one of the most powerful kings of the northern kingdom. During his reign the borders were expanded (2 Kg 14:23-29).
In the Israel Museum in Jerusalem is a copy of a seal portraying a roaring lion, inscribed, "belonging to Shema, servant of Jeroboam". Shema was apparently a high official of king Jeroboam of Israel, probably the second Jeroboam. The original seal has been lost.
Menahem king of Israel (749-738) is named in an inscription on a stela of Tiglath-pileser III in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem listing 17 kings paying tribute to Tiglath-pileser III. Tiglath-Pilesar III boasts, “As for Menahem I overwhelmed him like a snowstorm and he ... fled like a bird, alone, and bowed to my feet”
The payment of tribute by Menahem is described in the Book of Kings, "King Pul of Assyria came against the land; Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, so that he might help him confirm his hold on the royal power. Menahem exacted the money from Israel, that is, from all the wealthy, fifty shekels of silver from each one, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back, and did not stay there in the land." (2 Kg 15:19-20)
Pekah, king of Israel (750 - 732/731 BC) is mentioned in Assyrian annals describing the conquests of Tiglath-pileser. Pekah joined with Rezin of Aram in an attempt to oust Ahaz of Judah in the Syro-Ephraimite war (2 Kg 15:37, also Is 7 - 8).
The annals of Tiglath-pileser say this, "[I/they] killed Peqah, their king, and I placed Hoshea [as king o]ver them. I received from them ten talents of gold, ... talents of silver, [together with] their [proper]ty, and [I brou]ght them [to Assyria]". (Text 42:17b)
In the Book of Kings, the replacement of Pekah by Hoshea is described, "In the days of King Pekah of Israel, King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria came and captured Ijon, Abel-beth-maachah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali; and he carried the people captive to Assyria. Then Hoshea son of Elah made a conspiracy against Pekah son of Remaliah, attacked him, and killed him; he reigned in place of him, in the twentieth year of Jotham son of Uzziah" (2 Kg 15:29-30).
Hoshea was the final king of Israel (732/731 - 722 BC). He is also mentioned in Assyrian annals describing their conquests. During his reign Samaria fell to the Assyrians (2 Kg 17)
The following names have also been found on inscriptions.
Ahisamach was the father of Oholiab, the second person who was appointed by Moses as the builder of the tabernacle. Moreover, I have appointed with him (Bezalel) Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have given skill to all the skillful, so that they make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of the covenant ..." (Ex 31:1-7).
A tablet (Sinai 375a) held by the Harvard Semitic Museum, now renamed as the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East records the name of Ahisamach, as the overseer of minerals in the Egyptian turquoise mines. The name Ahisamach is only found once in the Bible, and only once in archaeology on this tablet. Although identification cannot be completely certain, the chronology would be correct, as the tablet is dated around 1400 BC.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
Daniel's three friends who were thrown into the fiery furnace after they refused to worship the golden statue (Dan 3:12) are possibly named on the Nebuchadnezzar II prism (ES 7834) held in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. This lists government officials in Babylon, including three names very similar to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Arbenebo, an official of the Royal Prince, Hannunu, the commander of the King’s Merchants, and Meshaku, an official to Nebuchadnezzar.
Several Pharaohs of Egypt are mentioned in the OT. Each are known from wider Egyptian history.
Shishak, or Shoshenq I, was Pharaoh of Egypt around 925 BC, in the 22nd dynasty. Jeroboam was one of the adversaries raised up by God after Solomon began to worship other gods. "Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam; but Jeroboam promptly fled to Egypt, to King Shishak of Egypt, and remained in Egypt until the death of Solomon." (1 Kg 11:40).
So, or Osorkon IV, was Pharaoh of Egypt around 730 BC in the 22nd dynasty, during the reign of Hoshea of Israel. Shalmaneser of Assyria punished Hoshea for withholding tribute, and seeking help from So of Egypt. "The king of Assyria (Shalmaneser) found treachery in Hoshea; for he had sent messengers to King So of Egypt, and offered no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year; therefore the king of Assyria confined him and imprisoned him." (2 Kg 17:4).
Tirhakah, or Taharqa, was the Pharaoh of Egypt (690-664) in the 25th dynasty, who came to the aid of Hezekiah of Judah during the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib in 701 BC, "When the king (Sennacherib) had heard concerning King Tirhakah of Ethiopia, ‘See, he has set out to fight against you,’ he sent messengers again to Hezekiah ..." (2 Kg 19:9)".
Isaiah rebuked the people of Judah for trusting that Tarhakah of Egypt could help them, instead of trusting in Yahweh for their salvation: "Oh, rebellious children ..., who set out to go down to Egypt without asking for my counsel, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh (Tirhakah) and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt" (Is 30:1-2)
In the British Museum is a statue of Pharoah Tarhaqa being protected by a ram, the god Amum.
Necho II, or Neco II, was Pharaoh of Egypt (610 - 595 BC), in the 26th dynasty, who fought against Babylon at the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC, leading to the death of King Josiah of Judah. "After all this, when Josiah had set the temple in order, King Neco of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out against him." (2 Chr 35:20).
Hophra, or Apries, was Pharaoh of Egypt (589 - 570 BC), also in the 26th dynasty. Jeremiah’s final word of prophecy was to Pharaoh Hophra, "Thus says the LORD, I am going to give Pharaoh Hophra, king of Egypt, into the hands of his enemies, those who seek his life, just as I gave King Zedekiah of Judah into the hand of King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, he enemy who sought his life." (Jer 44:30)
Kings of Moab
Mesha was king of Moab in the 9th century BC. King Jehoram of Israel, son of Ahab, suppressed a rebellion by the Moabites which is described in detail in the Book of 2 Kings (2 Kg 3:4-28). "Now King Mesha of Moab was a sheep breeder who used to deliver to the king of Israel 100,000 lambs, and the wool of 100,000 rams. But when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel" (2 Kg 3:5).
Mesha’s account of Moab’s rebellion against rule by Israel is described on the Moabite Stone, displayed in the Louvre in Paris.
Kings of Aram / Syria
Several kings of Aram, or Syria, are named in the Old Testament.
Hadadezer of Syria (11th century BC) was originally the master of one of the opponents of Solomon. "God raised up another adversary against Solomon, Rezon son of Eliada, who had fled from his master, King Hadadezer of Zobah" (1 Kg 11:23).
The Kurkh Stela in the British Museum, describes the Battle of Qarqar in 853 BC, when a coalition of nations, including Syria and Israel stood against the advancing armies of Assyria led by Shalmaneser III. The inscription reads, ”I departed to Qarqar, I drew near. Qarqar, his royal city I destroyed, I devoured, I burned with fire....(and then a list of several kings and peoples including Hadadezer of Syria) ... and 2000 chariots and 10,000 men of Ahab king of Israel...."
Ben-hadad I (& II?)
There were one, or possibly two kings called Benhadad who ruled Syria (Aram). Benhadad I (900 - 860 BC), and Benhadad II (860 - 843 BC). Ben-hadad led his army against Israel several times and laid siege to the city of Samaria (1 Kg 20:1-34, 2 Kg 6:24). When he was ill, he was visited by the prophet Elisha, after which he was murdered by Hazael (2 Kg 8:7-15).
Hazael ruled Syria from 844/842 to around 800 BC. Elijah was told by God to anoint him king of Syria. "Then the LORD said to him (Elijah), ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram (Syria)'" (1 Kg 19:15).
Some ivories from the palace of Hazael, including one containing his name, are on display in the Louvre in Paris. These were discovered at Arslan Tash, ancient Hadatu.
Another Ben-hadad, son of Hazael, ruled Syria in the 8th century. During the reign of Jehoahaz, son of Jehu, because of the sin of Jehoahaz, God gave Israel into the hands of two kings of Aram, Hazael, and Ben-hadad. "The anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, so that he gave them repeatedly into the hand of King Hazael of Aram, then into the hand of Ben-hadad son of Hazael" (2 Kg 13:3)
Ben-hadad son of Hazael is named on the Zakkur Stele discovered in 1903 near Aleppo, Syria, and now held in the Louvre in Paris. The inscription is, "I am Zakkur, king of Hamath and Luash . . . Bar-Hadad, son of Hazael, king of Aram, united against me seventeen kings . . .all these kings laid siege to Hazrach . . . Baalshamayn said to me, "Do not be afraid! . . .I will save you from all [these kings who] have besieged you".
Rezin was king of Syria in the 8th century, during the Syro-Ephraimite war, when Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Syria joined together against Ahaz of Judah. "In those days the LORD began to send King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah against Judah" (2 Kg 15:37, also Is 7 - 8).
The capture of Damascus and victory over Rezin is desribed in the annals of Tiglath-pileser III, " Rahianu (Rezin) of the land Damascus ... I carried off his heavy booty. ... With the blood of his warriors I dyed the River, a raging torrent, red like a flower. ... I broke their weapons. I captured ... their horses, their mules, his warriors, archers, (as well as his) shield bearers (and) lancers, and I dispersed their battle array. In order to save his life, he (Rahianu) fled alone and entered the gate of his city like a mongoose. I impaled his foremost men alive while making the people of his land watch. For forty-five days I set up my camp around his city and confined him (there) like a bird in a cage. I cut down his plantations, ... and orchards, which were without number; I did not leave a single one standing. I surrounded and captured the city ..., the ancestral home of Rahianu (Rezin) of the land Damascus, the place where he was born. I carried off 800 people, with their possessions, their oxen, and their sheep and goats. I carried off 750 captives from the cities Kurussâ and Samaya, as well as 550 captives from the city Metuna. Like tell(s) after the Deluge, I destroyed 591 cities of 16 districts of the land Damascus. (Text 21:1,8b,13,14)
Kings of Assyria
Several kings of Assyria are named in the OT. Most are well-known from history, and evidence for each from Assyrian annals, carvings and inscriptions.
Pul was general in the Assyrian army who seized the throne and took the name Tiglath-pileser (744 - 727 BC). He attacked and took tribute from Israel during the reign of Menahem, "King Pul of Assyria came against the land; Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, so that he might help him confirm his hold on the royal power." (2 Kg 15:19).
The British Museum displays an image of Tiglath-pileser.
A stela with an image of Tiglath-pileser worshipping his gods with an inscription describing him taking tribute from Menahem is displayed in the Israel Museum.
Shalmaneser III was the Assyrian king (726 - 722 BC) who began the capture of Samaria which was completed by Sargon III. "King Shalmaneser of Assyria came up against him; Hoshea became his vassal, and paid him tribute" (2 Kg 17:3).
An Assyrian paving brick from a ziggurat in Calah, tel Nimrud, with an inscription of Salmaneser III is displayed in the Israel Museum.
Shalmaneser was one of the kings of Assyria to mention the nation of Israel in his annals. He took tribute from Jehu of Israel, as depicted on the Black Obelisk in the British Museum.
The Kurkh Stela in the British Museum describes the Battle of Qarqar in 853 BC, when a coalition of nations, including Syria and Israel stood against the advancing armies of Assyria led by Shalmaneser III. The inscription reads, ”I departed to Qarqar, I drew near. Qarqar, his royal city I destroyed, I devoured, I burned with fire....(and then a list of several kings and peoples including Hadadezer of Syria) ... and 2000 chariots and 10,000 men of Ahab king of Israel....
Sargon II, king of Assyria (726 - 722 BC) is mentioned by the prophet Isaiah, "In the year
that the commander-in-chief, who was sent by King Sargon of Assyria, came to Ashdod and fought against it and took it ..." (Is 20:1). The conquest of Israel in 722 BC was begun by Shalmaneser, and completed by Sargon. (2 Kg 17:1-6)
Sargon's annals say this, "At the beginning of my rule, in my first year I (Sargon) captured Samaria, I surrounded and carried away as prisoners 27,290 of its inhabitants, together with their chariots ... and the gods in whom they trusted. From them I equipped 200 chariots for my army units, while the rest I made to take up their lot within Assyria. I restored the city of Samaria and made it more habitable then before. I brought into it people from the countries conquered by my own hands. My official I set over them as district governor and reckoned them as people of Assyria itself." (Nimrud Prism IV 25-41)
An image of Sargon and his chief official is displayed in the British Museum. A foundation cylinder of Sargon II is displayed in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Sennacherib, king of Assyria (704 - 681 BC) conducted the siege of Jerusalem in 701 BC, shortly after taking the city of Lachish.
There is an image ofSennacherib displayed in the British Museum showing him outside the city of Lachish, inscribed, "Sennacherib, king of the world, king of Assyria sat on his throne of state and the spoil of the city of Lachish passed before him. His face has been obliterated by a blow from an ax, which happened on the night Sennacherib was assassinated by his sons in 681 BC, "As he was worshipping in the house of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with the sword" (2 Kg 19:37, Is 37:38).
Sennacherib describes the events of the siege of Jerusalem 701 BC where he describes of shutting up Hezekiah in the city like a bird in the cage on the Taylor Prism in the British Museum, and the Jerusalem Prism.
Adrammelech was the son and assassin of Sennacherib in 681 BC, described above. In Assyrian writings, he is referred to as Arda-Mulissu. He was removed as crown prince by Sennacherib in 684 BC, and replaced by Esarhaddon. Together with his brother he plotted against Sennacherib and murdered him in 681 BC, after which he fled into exile. The murder of Sennacherib caused great shock throughout the Assyria Empire, as well as rejoicing in Judah.
His name appears in an Assyrian letter to Esarhaddon, where he is called 'Arda-Mulissi'.
Esarhaddon was king of Assyria (680 - 669 BC), who succeeded Sennacherib following his assassination by his son (2 Kg 19:37).
Kings of Babylon
The most significant king of Babylon was Nebuchadnezzar. There is much evidence of him and other Babylonian rulers from history.
Merodach-baladan II was king of Babylon (721 - 710 BC). The Book of Kings, and Isaiah, contain an account of him sending envoys to Hezekiah following his recovery from sickness. Hezekiah rather foolishly showed these envoys his treasures, earning a rebuke from Isaiah. "At that time King Merodach-baladan son of Babadan of Babylon sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he had heard that Hezekiah had been sick. Hezekiah welcomed them; he showed them all his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armory, all that was found in his storehouses; there was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show him. ... (2 Kg 20:12-19, Is 39:1-7).
The annals of Sennacherib describe his campaign against Merodach-baladan of Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar, or Nebuchadrezzar, was the powerful king of Babylon (604 - 562 BC) whose actions are described in several significant events in the OT. These include the siege of Jerusalem in 598 BC, and final capture and destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC and the exile of the Jews (2 Kg 24 - 25). He also is a prominent figure in the Book of Daniel (Dan 1 - 4).
He constructed many palaces in the city of Babylon. Many records of this famous Babylonian king exist, including foundation tablets, and one of the millions of bricks inscribed with his name to construct the city of Babylon.
Evil-merodach, or Amel-Marduk in Babylonian, briefly succeeded Nebuchadnezzar as king of Babylon (561 - 560 BC). He released King Jehoiachin from prison in Babylon, giving him a regular allowance of food. "In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of King Jehoiachin of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventy day of the month, King Evil-merodach of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, released King Jehoiachin of Judah from prison ..." (2 Kg 25:27-30).
Belshazzar is well-known in the Bible for his feast, when the writing on the wall appeared (Dan 5:1). For many years, no historical record of Belshazzar existed, so many scholars denied that Belshazzar was a name of a real historical king, as Nabonidus was known to be the last king of Babylon, when Cyrus the Persian took the city. It is now known that Nabonidus was the king at that time, but he was away for much of his reign, leaving Belshazzar to rule in his place as co-regent.
In the British Museum is a foundation cylinder which marked the restoration of the temple of the moon-god at Ur, by King Nabonidus. It ends with a prayer for himself and his son Belshazzar.
Nebo-sareskim was a Babylonian official of Nebuchadnezzar. He is named by Jeremiah as one of the officials accompanying Nebuchadnezzar when he besieged Jerusalem in 586 BC, when King Zedekiah was blinded and taken to Babylon. "In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army and laid siege to it; and on the ninth day of the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year, the city wall was broken through. Then all the officials of the king of Babylon came and took seats in the Middle Gate: Nergal-Sharezer of Samgar,
Nebo-Sarsekim a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officials of the King of Babylon." (Jer 39:1-3)
A previously unstudied tablet naming Nabu-sharrusu-ukin (Nebo-Sarsekim), the chief eunuch of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was found in the British Museum in 2007. It is a record of him paying tax to the temple of Esagila in Babylon in 595 BC.
Nergal-sharezer and Nebuzaradan
These are both high officials of Nebuchadnezzar who were took charge of Jerusalem following the Babylonian conquest in 586 BC.
The first is Nergal-sharezer, who had the title of the Shamgar, or Rab-mag (Jer 39:3, 13). This
is based on the Hebrew translation of the Babylonian Akkadian, Nergal-sharusur the Sin-magir.
The second is Nebuzaradan who is described in the Book of Jeremiah as the captain of the guard, or Rab-saris. His name is based on the Hebrew translation of the Babylonian, Nabuzeriddinam. In the Septuagint, his title is translated as the chief cook. It was him who destroyed the temple, the palace and most of Jerusalem. "Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, 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; every great house he burned down" (2 Kg 25:8-12).
He was in charge of taking the inhabitants of Jerusalem into exile. Perhaps he was in charge of feeding the exiles and their guards on the long march back to Babylon. "Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard exiled to Babylon the rest of the people who were left in the city, those who had deserted to him, and the people who remained. Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left in the land of Judah some of the poor people who owned nothing, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time." (Jer 39:9-10)
Both men also took charge of the prophet Jeremiah, "King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon gave command concerning Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, saying, 'Take him, look after him well and do him no harm, but deal with him as he may ask you.' So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, Nebushazban the Rab-saris, Nergal-sharezer the Rab-mag, and all the chief officers of the king of Babylon sent and took Jeremiah from the court of the guard. They entrusted him to Gedaliah son of Ahakam son of Shaphan to be brought home. So he stayed with his own people.” (Jer 39:11-14)
Both officials are listed in a Babylonian cuneiform inscription on the Nebuchadnezzar II prism (ES 7834) held in the Istanbul Museum, that lists the courtiers of Nebuchadnezzar, , "I gave orders to the following officials of my court to carry out their duties; as royal officers: Nebuzeriddinam the chief guardsman (or executioner, butcher (cook), . . . the officials of the land of Akkad (Babylon); Eadaian, the governor of the lands along the Sea, Nergalsharusur (listed along with other governors)"
Kings of Persia
Several rulers of Persia are named in the Old Testament. Each are well-known from history and appear in inscriptions and other historical records.
King Cyrus II the Great of Persia (559 - 530 BC) is remembered as the king who allowed the Israelite exiles to return to their land, "In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in fulfilment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom and also declared in a written edict, ‘Thus says King Cyrus of Persia; The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him! Let him go up." (2 Chr 36:22-34, Ezra 1:1).
The Cyrus Cylinder displayed in the British Museum gives the Persian version of this, giving credit to Marduk, rather than Yahweh.
Darius I (The Great)
Darius I is mentioned in the Book of Ezra, "Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and made them afraid to build, and they bribed officials to frustrate their plan throughout the reign of King Cyrus of Persia and until the reign of King Darius of Persia" (Ezra 4:5). Ezra chapters 5-6 describe that the governor of Jerusalem wrote to Darius in 520 BC, about building the wall of Jerusalem, and received a reply from him.
Darius became ruler of the empire of the Medes and Persians in 522 BC. He had two capital cities, Ecbatana and Susa (as in the Book of Esther). He is the author of the Behistun Inscription, the multi-lingual inscription in Persia, which as the key to interpreting cuneiform.
An official cylinder seal belonging to Darius is displayed in the British Museum. The seal shows the king hunting a lion from his chariot, inscribed, "Darius the great king", in Old Persian, Elamite and Babylonian cuneiform, the three official languages of the Persian empire.
Xerxes or Ahasuerus, ruled Persia (486-465 BC). He was the king ruling during the account of the Book of Esther. "This happened in the days of Ahasuerus, the same Ahasuerus who ruled over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces from India to Ethiopia" (Est 1:1).
Artaxerxes I Longimanus
Artaxerxes was king of the Persians (465 - 425/424 BC). The Book of Ezra records the writing of a letter to King Artaxerxes by opponents of the returning exiles complaining that they were rebuilding the ruins of Jerusalem. The king’s reply caused the rebuilding to be stopped (Ezra 4:7-24).
Darius II Nothus
Darius II was king of the Persians (425/424 - 405/404 BC). His reign is mentioned several times in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, mostly to date particular events (Ezra 4:24, Neh 12:22), although these may refer to the rule of Darius I.
These are other non-Israelite people mentioned in the OT, including soothsayers and wise men.
Balaam was the soothsayer employed by King Balak of Moab to curse the Israelites (Num 22-24). The Deir Alla Inscription from the ninth or eighth century BC, discovered in Western Jordan in 1967, and now held in the Jordan Archaeological Museum is about a prophet named Balaam son of Peor. It is assumed that he should be identified as the Balaam in the OT.
The Book of Ezekiel mentions a wise man named Danel, together with Job and Noah (Ezek 14:14,20, 28:3). It is often assumed this refers to Daniel the prophet. This is questioned as the Hebrew for Daniel is different from Danel. Many English translations have 'Danel' in a footnote.
The Tale of Aqhat held in the Louvre in Paris, is a Canaanite epic about Aqhat, the son of Danel.