The sacred Christian text describes a period of history in which Jerusalem was besieged repeatedly by the Babylonians.
In 586/587 BC they destroyed the First Temple, the legendary home of the Ark of the Covenant which supposedly contains the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments.
A leading archaeologist has now uncovered evidence which supports the biblical account of the siege.
A team led by Dr Shimon Gibson of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte made the find in the heart of the ancient city on the slopes of Mount Zion.
Dr Gibson said: “The discovery itself is of a layer of ashes with bits of pottery, arrowheads and a very beautiful piece of jewellery, made of gold and silver.
“Because of the date of the pottery, we can certainly attribute all of this to the sixth century BC, and the battle we know of that took place then was the siege and destruction of Jerusalem in 586/587 BC.”
He continued: “This [layer] is clearly the result of the looting and destruction that took place once the Babylonians had managed to break through into the city itself.
“They broke through the walls of the city, gained access and then started looting and burning and doing all the terrible things that soldiers tend to do, and that’s what we’re finding.
“What we find in this layer are all these arrowheads – now arrowheads are not just left around, you don’t find them in burnt ashes unless of course they’ve been used.
“The soldiers have gone in, they’ve clearly killed the occupants of the houses using bows and arrows, and then they’ve started looting and plundering.”
“The soldiers have gone in, they’ve clearly killed the occupants of the houses”
Dr Shimon Gibson
A detailed account of this siege is given in the Bible, in Chapter 25 of the second book of Kings.
It describes how the siege had led to a famine in Jerusalem, how King Zedekiah was captured and had his eyes put out, and how the city and temple were burnt and extensively looted.
The account also recounts how the people of Jerusalem were carried away to Babylon as captives.
It’s a description that the archaeology supports, Dr Gibson says.
He said: “If you take that account and the destruction which is spoken about and the fact that all the houses, even the great houses, were destroyed, then this fits in very well with the archaeological record that we have.
“We also have evidence of this siege that was found in two other locations in Jerusalem in the past four decades, so based on that evidence I think we can speak about the veracity of the Biblical account.
“A lot of people are wary about using the bible as a historical basis, the reason being that the books of the bible were written for theological purposes.
“But that doesn’t mean they do not include vast amounts of historical data. One has to eke out the bits of information relating to the history of Jerusalem and compare this information with the archaeological account.
“And I have to say everything does live up to our expectations.”
Of particular interest is the item of jewellery uncovered by the Mount Zion Archaeological Project.
The Bible describes how “every great man’s house” was burnt by the Babylonians and Dr Gibson thinks this item of jewellery might indicate that they’re excavating one such house.
He added: “When a battle takes place or a city is besieged, the reality is it’s mayhem, it’s confusion, it’s smoke and debris, and people shouting and screaming, people getting killed and maimed, and women getting raped – it’s not a pretty picture.
“In that chaos things can get lost.”