Kings David and Solomon: from 10th Century B.C.E. to Present Day Controversy
Kings David and Solomon: From 10th Century B.C.E.
to present day Controversy Introduction Perhaps the most famous Old Testament Kings, as well as two of the most famous Hebrew heroes of all time were, King Solomon and his father King David. Their stories have been told time and time again throughout the ages: passed down orally for centuries, then later reproduced and shared all over the globe as intricate portions of many historical religious texts including the Torah, the Koran and the Holy Bible. Biblical sources include: I Chronicles, I Kings, Ecclesiastes, as well as the accounts of many prophets.
Furthermore, King David and King Solomon have been attributed to writing several Old Testament books including: the Song of Solomon, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and various Psalms. Historically, David is known for uniting the Kingdom of Israel, replacing Hebron and making Jerusalem its capitol, as well as establishing a dynasty that was held sacred in the hearts and hopes of the Jews for centuries after its demise. His son and successor Solomon is most noted for advancing David’s kingdom and for building the First Temple.
In fact, according to Abba Eban (1999), author of over half a dozen historical reference books on Jewish history as well as the PBS television series “Civilization and the Jews,” “Solomon’s Temple was the crowning glory of a building program that rivaled those of the Pharaohs” (p. 50). Archaeologists claim to have found remnants of Solomon’s Temple as well in the form of a tablet dated tenth century B. C. E. (Carpenter, 2003, p. 46). However, not all historians and archaeologists agree to the authenticity of the tablet or even to the extent of King David and King Solomon’s rule.
Recently, controversy has erupted concerning whether or not, King David and King Solomon, of the Old Testament (also known as the Jewish Bible) were actually the “grand builders of the united north-south monarchy in Ancient Palestine” attributed to them through the Bible and said to unravel after their demise (Halken, 2006, p. 41). The Legacies of David and Solomon According to Rogerson (1999): It is no surprise that David should be one of the most important figures in the bible. As printed in the tradition his achievements were outstanding.
Before his reign Israel was a defeated vassal people. Within a few years David made Israel free, and even extended his control over some small neighbouring peoples. Before his reign there was no one dominant political or religious centre in Israel. Within a few years Jerusalem had obtained a centrality that it never subsequently lost (p. 82). David was born around 1040 B. C. E. in Bethlehem, Judah (Castel, 1985, p. 87). He grew up the youngest of eight sons of Jesse, and has been linked with the Ammonite royal family (Rogerson, 1999, p. 78; 2 Samuel, 10: 1-2; 17:25-7).
As a teenager David joined the entourage of Israeli King Saul as a minstrel and harpsichord player. It was during this time period that he first gained notoriety when he defeated the ominous giant Goliath armed with a mere slingshot. In 1 Samuel 18:20-30 it states that with a dowry of 200 Philistine foreskins he married King Saul’s daughter Michal. Unfortunately, David’s marital bliss was cut short by the jealousy of his new father-in-law. Already a seasoned warrior David was praised as a military force with songs proclaiming “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (Rogerson, 1999, p. 78).
While fleeing Saul’s armies to the south, David accomplished a great many military victories alongside his former enemies the Philistines, as described in 1 Samuel. Though his military reign started as an almost nomadic band with him a “robin-hood like bandit-chief,” his strategic prowess was realized by the Judean elders and he was proclaimed King of Judah in Hebron, c. a. 1010 (although some texts have him proclaiming himself King of Judah) (Castel, 1985, p. 89; Halkin, 2006, p. 41). He unified the Israeli tribes to the north and Judah to south and became the ruler of all of Israel seven years later following the death of King Saul c. a. 000 B. C. E. (Castel, 1985, pp. 87-89; Grant, 1984, pp. 75-78; Learsi, 1949, pp. 49-51; Rogerson, 1999, pp. 79-80; 2 Samuel, c. a. 1100-1010 B. C. E. , pp. 505-555). In a brilliant political move David took over the Jebusite city of Jerusalem and made it the capitol of the new United Kingdom of Israel “thenceforward to be honored as the City of David” (2 Samuel, 1997, pp. 505-555; Eban, 1999, p. 47). Moving the capitol to Jerusalem was an ingenious move on David’s part since it placed him geographically between the northern tribes of Israel and the former Judah. This also unified the Hebrew nation politically since Jerusalem was a fresh tart, not being formerly of Israel or Judah. In order to unify the nation religiously David (with the help of King Hiram of Tyre) built a palace on Mount Zion where he housed the Ark of the Covenant (Castel, 1985, p. 90; Eban, 1999, p. 49; Halkin, 2006, p. 43; Learsi, 1949, p. 55; Rogerson, 1999, pp. 81-82). He then set out to expand his kingdom taking over and taxing all of Canaan (Rogerson, 1999, p. 82). King David ruled Israel for the next 33 years (Castel, 1985, p. 89; Harkin, 2006, p. 41). Unfortunately the house of David, like many great monarchs (especially those who practiced polygamy) faced great diplomatic personal odds.
Among them was internal dissent including a great deal of “palace intrigue” that was coupled with David’s personal struggles involving subduing his strong passionate nature (1 Samuel, 1997, pp. 439-504; 2 Samuel, 1997, pp. 505-555). As for Solomon, his controversial legacy began before his birth with the scandalous circumstances surrounding his parents union. His mother, Bathsheba, had been married to another man when David saw her, had her, and then had her husband put to death by placing him on the front lines of battle (Rogerson, 1999, p. 85). Since Bathsheba was a favorite of David’s he promised her that her son would be his successor.
It took some clever maneuvering but Solomon was proclaimed King of Israel in c. a. 960 (Harkin, 2006, p. 43). Solomon’s reign was characterized by his diplomatic matrimonial choices, made in order to enhance his trade routes and expand his Kingdom. His first betrothal was to one of King Hiram’s daughters, solidifying his kinship with Tyre. This provided him with the materials necessary to build his father’s Temple. Another strategic marriage was to an Egyptian pharoah’s daughter. As a dowry the pharaoh burnt down the city Gezer and gave it to Solomon.
All in all Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (Eban, 1984, p. 49-50). Historical and Archaeological Controversy In the last several years there has been an abundance of historical and archaeological debate over the reigns of King David and King Solomon. According to Harkin (2006) archaeologist Israel Finkelstein and author Neil Asher Silberman state that, kings David and Solomon, though “genuine historical figures” were but “bandit chiefs” (p. 41). Finkelstein believes that Israel could not have reached its peak during the reigns of David and Solomon in the 10th century, but rather in the 8th or 9th.
Finkelstein’s account relies wholly on the lack of archaeological evidence to prove the existence of the monumental architecture described in the biblical accounts of David and Solomon (Harkin, 2006, pp. 41-48). However, their opinion is countered by several archaeological discoveries that have occurred over the last several years, resulting in their evidence being described as “…tendentious…like a conspiracy theory…” (Harkin, 2006, p. 48). According to Blakely (2002) two maps of tenth century BC. E. ere uncovered providing archaeological evidence of King David and King Solomon’s kingdom (p. 49). Then in 2003 a possible breakthrough discovery was made: a piece of sandstone was unearthed said to be the first documented archaeological evidence of Solomon’s temple. Researchers at the Geological Survey of Israel examined the tablets and found them to be “almost certainly genuine” (Carpenter, 2003, p. 46). According to Bar-llan University archaeologist Gabrial Barkai, these tablets “could be the most significant archaeological finding in yet in the land of Israel” (Carpenter, 2003, p. 6). Further proof of the existence of King David and King Solomon’s kingdom was the amazing find of a 3000 plus structure by archaeologist Eilat Mazar which debunks Finkelstein’s claim that David and Solomon were nothing but “bandit chiefs” (Halkin, 2006, pp. 41-48). Conclusion The tedious process of gathering archaeological information certainly takes time. Not just time but a great deal of clever maneuvering, as well as ready manpower and abundant monetary resources. Even if you do have permission to dig, there is modern day architecture to be worked around.
One just cannot go around up heaving present day civilizations in order to prove the existence of past civilizations. However, in the case of kings David and Solomon their existence has been proven time and time again. Backing up the biblical account is the “Tel Dan Stele” an Aramaic text uncovered in 1993 dated 835 B. C. E. which boasts of Hazael King of Damascus’ victory over northern Israel’s king Jehoram son of Ahab and southern Judah’s Ahaziahu of the house of David (Halkin, 2006, p. 48).