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Tell el-Amarna Letters

The Amarna letters provide an excellent example of the manner in which archaeological discoveries enrich our understanding of certain things in the Bible. The letters consist of a number of baked-clay tablets written about 1350 B.C. A tell is an artificial mound accumulated through centuries of building, destruction, and rebuilding, in which layers of archaeological items are found. Amarna was a city up the Nile in Upper Egypt, where Pharaoh Akhenaton was headquartered. The letters are a correspondence from feudal-type city governors in Palestine, asking the Pharaoh at Amarna for military support against invaders. Hence the name “Tell el-Amarna Letters.” The letters give good insight into the state of Palestine about a century before the Israelites came into it. In particular they tell of the walled cities of Palestine and of certain invaders (not the Israelites) who were coming into the land.

The letters confirm the report of the spies in Num. 13:28 who were sent into Canaan by Moses to gather intelligence about the land (see Num. 13). The report specifically mentions the walled cities of Palestine, which subject is elaborated upon in the Amarna letters. The letters were discovered in 1887 by a peasant woman. They are now in the British Museum in London. See also Writing.