Many archaeological wonders have been put forward over the years in an attempt to prove the Bible’s accounts are true. One such wonder is the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, king of Assyria between 859 and 824 BC. The obelisk, which is more than 2,800-years-old, depicts a number of reliefs and inscriptions hailing Shalmaneser III’s reign.
Not only is it the most complete Assyrian obelisk ever discovered, but some experts believe it contains the earliest-known depiction of a biblical figure, the Israelite king Jehu.
Tom Meyer, a professor of Bible studies at Shasta Bible College and Graduate School in California, US, is certain the obelisk is an extra-biblical source validating the accuracy of scripture.
He told Express.co.uk: “Found deep under the sands of the ancient Assyrian city of Calah (Nimrud), the Black Obelisk contains the only known picture of an ancient Israelite king.
“This world-famous object wasn’t found. In 1845, the dig leader Henry Layard resisted the petitions of his workers to stop excavating the site and instead continued digging for one more day; that day they found the Black Obelisk which is now on display at the British Museum (object 118885).
“The impressive four-sided obelisk is a polished black stone measuring 6ft 6 inches high with five panels of small pictures on each side.”
A total of 190 lines of cuneiform – an ancient script used in the Ancient Near East – describing the triumphs of Shalmaneser III.
The limestone obelisk has been dated to the year 825 BC and its cuneiform inscriptions were penned in the Akkadian language.
According to Professor Meyer, Shalmaneser III also makes an appearance in the Bible and is mentioned in the Old Testament’s Book of Kings.
And the scripts are accompanied by scenes depicting people and animals given to the king in tribute, including elephants, monkeys and camels.
But one of the panels is of particular interest as it has been interpreted to depict the Israelite King Jehu.
The panel appears to show Jehu kneeling before the Assyrian King in tribute.
And an inscription above the panel reads: “I received the tribute of Iaua (Jehu) son of (the people of the land of) Omri: silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king [and] spears.”
Professor Meyer said: “One of the panels depicts a man prostrating himself, a symbolic representation of the complete subjugation of himself and his kingdom.
“Behind him is a group of servants offering tribute to Shalmaneser III.
“The text written above this panel identifies this defeated dignitary as none other than the famous king of the northern kingdom of Israel: ‘Jehu, the son of Omri.’
“Thanks to the ancient Assyrian stone carvers and the chance find of this object, we have the only known image of an Israelite king.
“Jehu was not of royal lineage, but a commander of the Israelite army.
“After being anointed king by Elisha the Prophet, Jehu waged a coordinated attack and killed Joram king of Israel, Ahaziah king of Judah, and Jezebel the queen, along with all of Ahab’s family. Thus, Jehu effectively eradicated Baal worship from Israel.
“He then seized the throne of the northern kingdom of Israel in the capital city of Samaria and, likely in order to make his throne more secure, he submitted himself to the superpower of the time, the Assyrian kingdom and its leader Shalmaneser; this submission is so wonderfully illustrated on the Black Obelisk.
“This extra-biblical discovery mentioning and portraying Jehu once again demonstrates that the historical accuracy of the Bible stands up to the keenest scrutiny.”
Some historians, however, have contested this interpretation of the obelisk’s script.
Old Testament scholar Peter Kyle McCarter proposed in 1974 the inscription could be a reference to King Jehoram of Israel, who ruled between 850 and 840 BC.
He wrote in the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research: “As long as the identification of ia-u-a/ia-a-u with Jehu is regarded as certain, these difficulties are little more than nuisances.
“On the other hand, they become of fundamental importance if serious doubt is cast upon the assumed identification.
“The evidence collected below suggests that ia-u-a or ia-a-u is at best an ambiguous reference to Jehu and can refer to Jehoram equally well.”