Did King David - And His Kingdom - Actually Exist?
Updated: Aug 21
Over the last number of years, major international news outlets have featured articles which question the existence of King David and/or his kingdom. Last week the New Yorker added itself to the list. It was an exceptionally written piece - as anything in the famous magazine generally is - and yet it was also a hack job.
First of all - something as a tour guide of Israel I will almost undoubtedly mention - just because evidence does not exist for an ancient story or personality does not mean that it did not happen or that the person did not exist. Did you really expect to find evidence for Abraham? The guy lived in a tent and was a shepherd. David however, I understand is a different story - as he was a king. Kings rule, have palaces, administrative systems, etc. - you would expect to find some remains of their realm. And yet, the author spends almost no time actually discussing what has been found, with the actual archaeologists in question, but instead focuses on a particular personality: Israel Finkelstein.
In tour guide school we spent a considerable amount of time discussing the positions of the maximalist and minimalist archaeological schools. It's a fascinating debate to which, unless prompted, I would never subject my clients. Finkelstein is the head of the minimalist school which seeks to question the existence of the United Monarchy - the kings of all 12 tribes - Saul, David and Solomon - or at least their importance.
While for years we had something referred to as the "missing 10th century BCE," over the last 25-30 years or so a number of key discoveries have been made from that period - which conveniently get ignored or minimalized in this article. For example, there is the stela in Aramaic, from about 100 years after David, which actually mentions David by name! The only archaeological evidence of his named existence somehow gets a cursory mention and fails to say the context: it was a victory monument by the kingdom of Aram over their enemies - including the kings of Israel and Judah - of the House of David. Yeah, it wasn't built by a random David the stone cutter.
King David's palace in Jerusalem has also likely been found and while we haven't found a welcome mat saying "David's Dwelling-Place," all the text from the Bible fits what we are seeing. Trouble is, the author doesn't examine the written Biblical evidence. Not once. It doesn't even provide a map.
Did David rule all the way to the Euphrates River where according to 1 Chronicles he placed a monument? Much more likely is that while he may have made it there with his army at some point, effective power and control was likely just where the 12 tribes of Israel were living. Other kingdoms he defeated however may have been vassal states, paying homage to him. We see that for example with the Phoenician leader Hiram of Tyre. While David did not war against the Phoenicians, they paid tribute to him. We can see a weakening of the kingdom in the next generation as Solomon needed to purchase materials for the Temple - they were not given freely. Again, none of this is discussed in the article.
If you'd like to read the article click here:
If you would like to read an excellent critique of the article - which also shows how it adheres to a certain patterned formula, click here:
If you want to see the actual Biblical texts which refer to David's kingdom, click here: https://www.bible-history.com/map-davids-kingdom/map-davids-kingdom_near_east.html
For pictures of the stela which references King David, a diagram of the his palace and the step-stoned structure which held up the citadel, and a map of the supposed extent of David's kingdom see below.
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