Why There is So Little Archaeological Evidence of David

Mesha Stele Moab

Mesha Stele Moab: Louvre Image Credit in Copyright

There are anti-Semitic and anti-Bible arguments out there that David did not exist, as no archaeological evidence has been found of him. This has slowly changed. We have tablets from Moab which mention the House of David and the City of David has been found exactly where the books of Samuel locate it. Aside from a refusal to allow the Temple Mount to be excavated by archaeologists, there are practical reasons why more hasn’t been discovered.

  • David’s era (around 1000 BC) is classed as “pre-history” due to the lack of written records which recorded events. Even though we have many artefacts from this time and before that, they only provide glimpses and hints as to what happened, and many crucial facts which would give us a clear picture of life in that era are missing for all the cultures in the Near East.
  • The Laws handed down through Moses produced a dramatically different culture than that of the surrounding nations. Whereas pagan Kings built victory and commemorative steles which heralded their achievements and displayed their devotion to their gods, the Lord’s command to not make graven images (idols) would have stopped righteous Israeli Kings from following the same practice. Pagan Kings associated their success, and justified their actions and right to rule by their close association with their gods. Stele’s often show the Kings with a god in very close proximity to them, blessing their actions. Israel absolutely could not do this without breaking the Law’s given by their God, Yahweh. Archaeologists who do not consider the impact of the Laws in the Torah may deny the existence of David if they are expecting to find artefacts such as steles.
  • David was a humble King who attributed his successes to the Lord, therefore it is doubtful that he would have built his own version of a stele, sans a god image. However, if his military victories had been recorded in any fashion, humble or otherwise, the evidence would have been destroyed by the sacking of Jerusalem and the palaces by Babylon when Judah was taken into captivity in 587 B.C. The only evidence we have of subsequent kings such as Hezekiah, comes from other nations because of this.
  • Isra’el’s records may have been recorded on hide scrolls rather than clay tablets, which mean they would not have survived time (3000 years).
  • After the Late Bronze Age Collapse, all the nations from Cyprus in the Mediterranean through to Egypt, Assyrian, Tyre, and Babylon were thrown into disarray and forced into a long term survival mode. This collapse occurred during the era of the Book of Judges (1200 BC) and the effects lasted into and past David’s time. Some nations took 300 years to recover. Before and during the collapse, there were many diplomatic letters send back and forth between Kings, such as between the Kings of Egypt and Ugarit, which provide useful accounts of what occurred in the Near East during this time. These letters were well preserved on baked clay tablets, but in the dark age that followed the collapse, this ceased. Thus that kind of evidence was not generated in David’s time, or not generated the same way. Again, if hide had been used rather than clay, it’s rotted away to nothing.

Who knows, there could be much more evidence of David out there waiting to come to light…

To stay in the loop, I recommend the Biblical Archaeological Society web site, which I am thoroughly enjoying. However, note that this is a secular site which does not support a Biblical worldview and can be antagonistic towards it. I use it to find cold, clinical discovery facts.

http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org        (This is neither a requested or sponsored post.)


Evidence of David:

  1. Tel Dan Stele Image Credit יעל י

    Tel Dan Stele Image Credit יעל י

    Tel Dan Stele

    It is worth noting that David’s name means beloved, so that would fit the criticism regardless.
    “‘David’ Found at Dan,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 1994.
Philip R. Davies, “‘House of David’ Built on Sand: The Sins of the Biblical Maximizers,” Biblical
    Archaeology Review, July/August 1994.
David Noel Freedman and Jeffrey C. Geoghegan, “‘House of David’ Is There!” Biblical
    Archaeology Review, March/April 1995.
Ryan Byrne, “Archaeological Views: Letting David Go,” Biblical Archaeology Review,
    July/August 2008.
    “Strata: A House Divided: Davies and Maeir on the Tel Dan Stela,” Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2013.
    Avraham Biran, “Dan,” in Ephraim Stern, ed., The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 5 (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society and Biblical Archaeology Society, 2008).

  2. Mesha Stele: Housed at the Louvre Museum


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