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Unveiling the Kings of Israel: Revealing the Bible’s Archaeological History by David Down gives an archaeological and historical perspective on the historical time period from Noah’s Flood through the time of Christ. Though the title suggests that the focus would be on the time period from King Saul through the Babylonian captivity, the book’s focus actually starts with Exodus, the trip through the wilderness, and the settlement of Canaan.
Christian book publishers have released several similar titles over the previous fifty years, but two things set this book apart. First, the illustrations are extensive, with several per page on most pages. Despite having read several predecessors, this book contained pictures of a number of historical and archaeological sites I had never seen depicted previously. Second, the author’s scholarship is both vast and deep. Down is conversant with numerous academic attacks on the integrity of the Bible’s chronology and the accuracy of its history, and he deftly dispatches each. Particularly intriguing is his case that the academic timeline presently in vogue for the kingdoms of Egypt is off by several centuries.
Three cautions must also be noted. First, several illustrations include artistic depictions of partially unclothed men and women. Second, the author holds to the critical view of Biblical textual studies, stating as fact that a recently discovered verse in Psalm 145 was authentic and would be included in future printings of the Bible. (The Psalm was one letter short of an acrostic without the verse, so he assumes that the verse found in a Dead Sea Scroll manuscript was in the original. He doesn’t even entertain the possibility that a first-century-BC scribe could have noticed that Psalm 145 is one letter short of an acrostic and created the verse to fill the gap.)
Finally, I take issue with the book’s opening sentence: “The authority of the Bible faces a crisis.” Down used it to grab the reader’s attention before discussing modern theological, archaeological, and historical controversies over the Bible’s accuracy, but its claims are too sweeping. The authority of God’s Word stands completely independent of charges made by skeptics and scoffers; its authority is inherent and eternal, whomever may doubt it.
Despite these cautions, the book contains much of value, and can be an excellent introduction to evidence for the reliability of the Bible’s historical statements.