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David and Solomon

I've just finished David and Solomon by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, authors of The Bible Unearthed on how poorly archaeology supports the Bible. This book is on what archaeology has to say about the David and Solomon stories. I'll summarize their reconstructed version:

David would probably have been a bandit chieftain in a rather poor and unpopulated 10th century BC Judah. Think the Appalachians, or the hill country of Afghanistan. Jerusalem was a small village, sometimes the seat of Egypt-backed overseers. Israel was the fertile country to the north, the first Iron Age entity in the highlands; there was a wave of settlements and then abandonment of one area, probably coinciding with invasion by Pharaoh Shishak, and mapping to what is said Biblically about Saul's reign. Judah wasn't important enough to invade.

In the 9th century the kingdom of David continues, elaborating the stories about its founder, and beefing them up to match the real accomplishments of Israel, under the House of Omri -- which is the first biblical entity to be attested to outside of the Bible; the House of David has later written evidence. The "unified kingdom" such as it was would have been the House of Omri's domination by marriage and economics of the House of David.

In the 8th century Israel annoys Assyria and falls, while Judah becomes an Assyrian ally, the last "autonomous" state in the region. Judah becomes a literate and bureaucratic state under Hezekiah, half of whose population might have been refugees from Judah. The tales of David get written down but have to deal with the conflicting tales about Saul from the northern refugees, thus a more human apologia for David that we see in the Bible, vs. the usual idealiziation of the King.

Early 7th: Judah annoys Assyria and Senneracherib takes away the breadbasket on the western slopes, along with destroying many towns and imposing heavy tribute on Jerusalem. Manasseh manages to lead an economic recovery by integrating into Assyrian world trade. Solomon gets written up in the style of an Assyrian king, with lots of building and trade, for which there is no 10th century evidence in Judah.

Late 7th, reign of Josiah, "finding" of an extra book of the Law, writing of the Deuteronomistic History. All that foreign influence disgusts the priests, and the wealth doesn't trickle down to the Judahite masses ordered around in the forced recovery. Manasseh gets written as an evil apostate king, and the spiritual side to David and Solomon is greatly inflated. Solomon as Temple builder, not Solomon as world power. Goliath of Gath, a Philistine city which hasn't existed since the 9th century, is described not in the Philistine armament depicted in Egyptian art by as a Greek hoplite mercenary, of which there are a lot more now, though none in the 10th century. (The authors also note that 2 Samuel 21:19 has Elhanan killing Goliath, not David. The KJV writers interpolated "the brother of Goliath".)
Josiah is described as the purest and most pious king since David, and maybe more so, under whom all will be well. He then gets killed at Megiddo (Armageddon) by the Pharaoh.

6th-4th centuries. In an end run around falsifiability, the priests declare that past sins, especially Manasseh's, were so great that the Judahites were still paying them off, and that's why even Josiah got killed. Babylon deports the elites. David and Solmon become even more of religious icons, in Chronicles. The Persians let them return but an alleged descendant of David disappears from the record after rebuilding the temple and the Davidic dynasty is dead; Davidism passes to the spiritual side, culminating in a rash of 1st century would-be prophets and finally Jesus.



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jul. 4th, 2007 12:11 pm (UTC)
biblical stories
In my opinion the moral of the biblical history is what really matters because whoever the prophet is, the important thing is what he inspires people to do.
Monica Nickoles
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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