Evil Meant for Good
When Joseph's brothers tell him their father's dying wish was for him to forgive them, one amazing part of Joseph's response is saying, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good" (Genesis 50:20). While this shows the maturity of Joseph, it's also quite clear that, in many places, Scripture reveals how God uses human evil to accomplish His divine purpose.
But God's ability to turn human evil into His good happens outside of the pages of the Bible. Christians experience God's providential goodness all the time.
In fact, there are two incredible records of human evil that are exceedingly good for Christians to know about within the realm of archeology.
The Merneptah Stele
One of my favorite teachers in Bible college would sometimes tell his students, “I thank God every day for the Merneptah Stele.” Let me explain why this ‘finding is so important.
In 1 Kings 6:1, it states that Solomon began working on the temple, "in the four hundred and eightieth year after the sons of Israel came out of the land of Egypt." During the times of the Israelite kings, the Assyrians kept meticulous records of their kings, many of whom interacted with Israel. By synchronizing their records with the Bible's chronological listing of kings, it is found that Solomon began this work at approximately 966 BC.
This means that 480 years prior, in 1446 BC, the Israelites left Egypt.
If you asked the average non-Christian if they believe that, I doubt you'd get much agreement. You certainly wouldn't get much agreement from secular historians.
But what they probably don't know is that, from 1213-1203 BC, there was an Egyptian Pharoah who went on a campaign through the region where most of the Old Testament took place, known as the Levant. When he did this, he interacted with the Israelites in the Canaanite region. Not only did he write this, he bragged that he wiped them out completely!
In a large stone monument found among the ruins of the ancient Egyptian capital city, Thebes, Merneptah wrote, "The princes are prostrate saying: 'Shalom!' Not one of the Nine Bows lifts his head: Tjehenu is vanquished, Khatti at peace, Canaan is captive with all woe. Ashkelon is conquered, Gezer seized, Yanoam made nonexistent; Israel is wasted, bare of seed, Khor is become a widow for Egypt. All who roamed have been subdued."
Notice the mention of "Nine Bows". This refers to 9 major powers in the region of Canaan. In addition to other cities named in the Bible (Ashkelon, Canaan, and Gezer), Merneptah claims to have "wasted" Israel. He brags that Israel is now "bare of seed". That word "seed" should ring a bell for anyone familiar with the book of Genesis. God promises to always preserve the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Now the way Merneptah refers to Israel in hieroglyphics uses a symbol referring to "people" rather than a "city", like the other places named here. This indicates that they were still a nomadic group who hadn't built and fortified their own capital city with their own king. For those familiar with the Bible, we know the period from 1400-1030 as the period of the Judges. There was no king until Saul was anointed by Samuel and there was no capital until King David took Jerusalem.
Everything Merneptah said to boast about his destruction of the Israelite people is harmonious with the Bible: there was a nomadic people group who left Egypt several decades, if not centuries, before Merneptah, named "Israel", they established a presence in Canaan soon after, and they lived without a capital or king through the 1200s BC.
One of the most fantastic stories in the Old Testament is the record of God's protection of Jerusalem during the attack of the Assyrian king Sennacherib in 701 BC. This event was so significant in biblical history that it's recorded in three places in the Old Testament: 2 Kings 18-19, Isaiah 36-37, and 2 Chronicles 32. Prior to reaching Jerusalem, the Bible says that the Assyrian king attacked many cities in Israel "After Hezekiah’s faithful deeds, King Sennacherib of Assyria came and entered Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities and intended to break into them."
When Jerusalem was besieged by Sennacherib, Hezekiah and Isaiah humbled themselves and appealed to God to protect Jerusalem, God granted their request. 2 Kings 19:35 states "That night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians."
In 1830 AD, an explorer found a large cylindrical hexagon made from clay boasting of the exploits of Sennacherib. Some time in-between his defeat and his assassination, Sennacherib had written his own record of this battle.
He wrote, "As for Hezekiah, the Jew, who did not submit to my yoke, 46 of his strong, walled cities, as well as the small cities in their neighborhood, which were without number,-by leveling with battering-rams and by bringing up siege-engines, by attacking and storming on foot, by mines, tunnels and breaches, I besieged and took 200,150 people, great and small, male and female, horses, mules, asses, camels, cattle and sheep, without number, I brought away from them and counted as spoil. Himself, like a caged bird I shut up in Jerusalem his royal city. Earthworks I threw up against him, the one coming out of the city-gate, I turned back to his misery. The cities of his, which I had despoiled, I cut off from his land and to Mitinti, king of Ashdod, Padi, king of Ekron, and Silli-bel king of Gaza, I gave. And (thus) I diminished his land. "
A number of similarities are worth noting: 1) both accounts harmonize as a record of massive losses and the resulting spoils taken from Israelites cities, 2) both speak of a siege on Jerusalem, 3) both refer to Hezekiah as the king, 4) both acknowledge Hezekiah's massive payment of tribute (2 Kings 18:14-15), and 5) both acknowledge that the siege was ultimately unsuccessful since Sennacherib didn't conquer this city nor depose Hezekiah as he had others.
After this, 2 Kings goes on to describe the downfall of Sennacherib due to this massive defeat, "One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword and escaped to the land of Ararat. Then his son Esar-haddon became king in his place." (19:37).
Stunningly, no less than four ancient Assyrian documents have been found which record that Sennacherib was indeed assassinated by sons, one of whom was named Arda-Mulissi, the Akkadian name for Adrammelech (to read more: https://creation.com/hezekiah-archaeology-3). The Bible is no mythic book of tales; it is God's error-free record on His involvement in human history.
These are just two instances of how God uses evil events, recorded as propaganda by a pagan king, to show the truth of His word. There are more. But I hope you will join me in thanking God for these two incredible stories being passed down through God's word and through artifacts that corroborate the truth of Scripture. Let's recognize the truth of what the Psalmist wrote, "The sum of Your word is truth and every one of Your righteous judgments is everlasting." (Psalm 119:160)