Jerusalem and the Empires of David and Solomon | King Solomon to the Israel-Judah Separation | The Assyrians Conquer | Fall of the Assyrians | Hebrew captives freed | Jerusalem under Persians and Judah's Priesthood
Israel and Judah to 733 BCE
In 2005, the Israeli archaeologist Eilat Mazar announced that she had discovered what may have been the palace of King David. This led to her international prominence. Mazar's archaeological colleagues, Israel Finkelstein and other archaeologists from Tel Aviv University, described Mazar's dating her finds to the 900s BCE as done with too much confidence. Mazar was also criticized by some of her colleagues as a "biblical archeologist." She said that the Bible is unquestionably the most important historical source for her work because it contains a "genuine historical account of the past." Others argue that science is supposed to reach conclusions without presumption.
In scripture, David and Solomon are described as great and wealthy rulers over vast territory in scripture, but secular archaeologists consider the stories in scripture as a product of oral storytelling before they were put into writing, and oral storytelling over time is subject to embellishment. So these archaeologists approach their work without assuming the veracity of the stories in scripture and look for picture of what had existed in physical evidence.
In his book, The Quest for the Historic Israel, Finkelstein describes David as ruling the Jerusalem area when it was still sparsely populated. Finkelstein writes of "bandits and rebels" having been attracted to marginal mountainous environments. David, he suggests, may have been a bandit rebel, dominating towns as a protector, as bandit rebels often tried to do. Finkelstein writes:
The evidence clearly suggests that tenth-century Jerusalem was a small highland village that controlled a sparsely settled hinterland. (David and Solomon, p. 95)
The population remained low and the villages modest and few in number throughout the tenth century BCE. (p. 96)
Finkelstein contends that here there is no clear archaeological evidence for Jerusalem's emergence at that time as the capital of a powerful empire with elaborate administrative institutions and a scribal tradition capable of composing such an elaborate chronicle of events. (p. 97)
In The Quest for the Historical Israel Finkelstein writes of one school of archaeologists who have dug in search of support of biblical narrative. He writes of their having "promoted historical and archaeological reconstructions" that had no actual support in the finds, or were trapped in circular argumentation. Finkelstein writes of a minimalist school, "which rejected altogether the value of biblical history for the study of Canaan/Israel in the Iron Age" and joined the debate in the 1990s. Finkelstein describes himself as "the voice of the center" between these two.
Were David and Solomon, as some scholars contend, legendary figures with no more historical substance than King Arthur or Helen of Troy? Finkelstein has found evidence that David and Solomon are historical figures. Looking for evidence of a great and prosperous empire in the time of David and Solomon, Finkelstein has looked outside the Jerusalem area for what has not been found in Jerusalem itself, namely to Megiddo, in the Jezreel Valley. He writes of the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute excavation at Megiddo as "the most comprehensive dig in the history of biblical archaeology," and he concludes that findings there do not justify a declaration that what was being examined existed in Solomon's time.
He writes of a variety of states having arisen in the 800s BCE, among them Aram-Damascus, Moab, Ammon, and northern Israel. "It is," he writes, "extremely difficult to envision a great empire ruled from a marginal region of the southern highlands a century before this process." He writes that "The beautiful Megiddo palaces – until recently the symbol of Solomonic splendor – date to the time of the Omride dynasty of the Northern Kingdom, almost a century later than Solomon. Finkelstein, as late as February 2009 is described as holding to the view that stratum 5a/4b at the Mediddo dig is not a city of Solomon's time but more properly that of King Ahab's time.
Copyright © 2009-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.