A team of researchers from four Israeli universities say they have validated an often-disputed event in the biblical book of 2 Kings using a new scientific method they call a “breakthrough.

The biblical event, as described in 2 Kings 12:17, involves a battle in Gath: “About this time Hazael king of Aram went up and attacked Gath and captured it. Then he turned to attack Jerusalem.” The biblical city is now modern-day Tell es-Safi, Israel.

Researchers at four Israeli universities — Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Bar-Ilan University, and Ariel University — say their new method proves that the bricks that archaeologists found at the site were destroyed in a fire that would have been set by King Hazael’s army. Skeptics of the biblical account had theorized that “the building had not burned down but rather collapsed over decades, and that the fired bricks found in the structure had been fired in a kiln prior to construction,” a news release said.

Their findings were published in the scientific journal Plos One.

The researchers’ method involves measuring Earth’s magnetic field that is “recorded” in the burnt bricks.

“Applying their method to findings from ancient Gath … the researchers validated the Biblical account,” the news release said.

“Our findings are very important for deciphering the intensity of the fire and scope of destruction at Gath, the largest and most powerful city in the Land of Israel at the time, as well as understanding the building methods prevailing in that era,” said professor Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University.

Professor Yoav Vaknin of Tel Aviv University said burnt bricks from ancient times have different magnetic fields depending on how they are cooled and used.

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“When a brick is fired in a kiln before construction, it records the direction of the earth’s magnetic field at that specific time and place. In Israel, this means north and downward. But when builders take bricks from a kiln and build a wall, they lay them in random orientations, thus randomizing the recorded signals,” Vaknin said. “On the other hand, when a wall is burned in-situ, as might happen when it is destroyed by an enemy, the magnetic fields of all bricks are locked in the same orientation.”

The burnt bricks at Gath, he said, indicate a fire from a battle.

“Our findings signify that the bricks burned and cooled down in-situ, right where they were found, namely in a conflagration in the structure itself, which collapsed within a few hours,” Vaknin said. “Had the bricks been fired in a kiln and then laid in the wall, their magnetic orientations would have been random. Moreover, had the structure collapsed over time, not in a single fire event, the collapsed debris would have displayed random magnetic orientations.”

The new method, the release said, “scientifically corroborates” the biblical event.

Photo Courtesy: Dr. Yoav Vaknin

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