Khirbet Qeiyafa: Further Archaeological Evidence Found for the Time of David

ostraconFrom http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org “excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa have had an enormous impact on our understanding of the formation of the Kingdom of Israel. The only known Judahite fortified city dating to the time of Saul and David, Khirbet Qeiyafa has reshaped debates on urbanism during the early Israelite monarchy. The 2008 discovery of the Qeiyafa Ostracon has captivated the attention of epigraphers and archaeologists alike…”

After reading the articles and the videos, my first impression on this is that the location of the site would be critical to both David and Saul, because of the proximity to the Philistine border. It will be very interesting to see what else comes to light in future years.


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Related Resources:


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The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

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How David Compares to Other Near Eastern Kings

Sumerian King List

Sumerian King List

God changes everything in people’s lives. He always has, He always will. Last year I began to dig back through ancient history to find out what the kings in David’s era and part of the world were like. I wanted to know where the corruption that comes with royalty stemmed from. The search took me back far further than I had anticipated and I was stunned to know so much of the culture was still relevant and active in David’s lifetime.

The roots of kingship go back to the first city states which sprung up in Mesopotamia, where people decided to group together and organise to make survival easier: and of course, someone grabbed power. We don’t know who the first “king” was. They could have been a reputed warrior, a respected priest or someone who was simply savvy enough to take the opportunity to be the guy in charge. You know the deal. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of years have gone past, (estimated to be six thousand by historians,) it’s still a man in a fancier hat with a better house, servants and loads more money than everyone else. Kingship has been synonymous with excess and abuses of power since the beginning not because people tend to be a little jealous, but because that is the way things really are.

When kings first came in society changed. The power stopped being in the hands of the people, or a democratic committee of people. Women started to be treated as lesser beings and the class system was “invented” where some had more and some had less, rather than everyone working towards survival. God gave His people a command from the beginning of time: “go forth and multiply.”[Ref. Genesis 9:7] We were never meant to be clustered together in unhealthy cities with a class and sexist divide which shoves God out of the picture. For the sake of an easier life, our ancestors gave that up and nothing has really changed. We are still suspicious of the number 13, we still exalt people into insane positions of wealth and power, and humanity leans away from the freedom that God wanted for us, creating social problems, mental illness and all manner of physical sickness.

By the time I got to David, three thousand years later, I was mortified to see the same system being maintained and concerned at the similarities between paganism and How Israel functioned. For example, the kings were always placed in power by their deity, the altars had horns, and the priests needs were catered for the same way. There were a lot of parallels where the base culture that had produced Abraham had stuck in people’s minds and had gone through very little modification; the gods were basically the same; no one had grown. The whole structure of society was essentially a corruption of what God had intended.

As I said above, God changes everything in people’s lives. He always has, He always will and He did that with David. Saul bought straight into the culturally accepted, corrupt mode of kingship, and David did follow that to a significant degree, but he was different. David had been bought up strong in the faith and he doggedly stayed on that path, despite being exiled from fellowship and access to Israel’s worship practices by Saul. [Ref. 1 Samuel 26:19-20] He followed the laws in the Torah which God had handed down through Moses, and this made him distinct from any other king. He was so distinct that it’s given historians a reason to doubt he ever existed, as he didn’t leave the usual marks of kingship behind for us to find.

The biggest thing a king did in the ancient Near East was build a temple. Now David did that, but not in the same way. Normally when a Near Eastern king came into power, they set up their own capital city regardless of what already existed (he did that); named it after them (he didn’t do that); then build yet another temple to their god to show what a devout, god-chosen leader they were. No temple existed in Israel until David decided that his living large while God dwelled in a tent was just not right. Why? Saul was not a man of religious fervour, to put it mildly. It is doubtful he would have weighed up the difference between his home and God’s and decided to put the situation right. God had asked Moses to build the tabernacle, which was a nice tent situation, so that would do. It takes a different heart to choose not to live in greater splendour than the One to whom you owe you life, your success and your future. David had that humble heart that cared about His creator.

David’s humility also kept him from following in some of the other time-worn customs of kings. Yes, he did accumulate wives like other kings, which was against the law and had consequences which he regretted deeply. He did grab the King of Rabbah’s elaborate crown for himself… but he did not sing his own praises from the palace roof. Yes, of course he would have succumbed to ego on occasion. When even your wives bow and scrape before you, the human brain is going to go places it should not venture, and you’ll have a tough time staying humble. But David was undeniably modest compared to a typical king. [Ref. Rabbah 2 Samuel 12:29-30]

Lion-men; orthostat relief from Herald's wall, Carchemish ; 850-750 BC; Late Hittite style under Aramaean influence. Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey

Lion-men; orthostat relief from Herald’s wall, Carchemish ; 850-750 BC; Late Hittite style under Aramaean influence. Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey

Other kings had elaborate stele (victory memorials), and/or commemorative orthostats (carved scenes on the walls) in their palace, telling everyone who visited how they had won wars, taken slaves and been the best of the best: a powerful man that you don’t mess with. David did none of this. Stele’s nearly always had their god carved into the picture in close proximity to the king to reinforce the idea that the king was chosen, blessed and victorious because of their god. It is the kind of idol imagery which is forbidden in the ten commandments and that may have been one reason why David didn’t do it. He recorded his life events through Psalms, some of which are like victory steles, others which are cries for help, but nothing else has been discovered. We have ancient Babylonian and Assyrian statues and orthostats which pre-date David, but nothing has been found of his as it appears, it just wasn’t his thing. Yes, it could have been destroyed when Jerusalem was sacked by Babylon; but there is no Biblical account of any such objects being made, even though we know which of his great-grandsons thought it would be fashionable to paint the palace walls red.

Read the Psalms: “I will tell of the marvellous things You have done.” Psalm 9:1b and “I will exalt You Lord, because You have rescued me.” Psalm 30 David never takes the glory for himself, he always gives it to God. It would be completely incongruent to his character to build memorials to himself for what God had done.

David was also humble in the empire department. When kings traditionally went on campaign each spring to expand their control, we find David staying at home in Jerusalem while Joab gets on with the security-related tasks. [Ref. 2 Samuel 11:1, Joab was dealing with the aftermath of 2 Samuel 10.] He dealt with the enemies of Israel, but he didn’t get ambitious beyond that. It was common for kings to start expanding their territory just because they could. David didn’t. It’s that simple. The Lord had said, “I gave you your master’s house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more.” 2 Samuel 12:8  It looks like David simply did not ask God for me. He was satisfied with a secure nation and the blessing he had. Psalm 34:14 …. says “seek peace and work to maintain it.” Taking this general attitude and his habit of not joining Joab on the battlefield unless it was absolutely necessary, it appears David was simply not a war-mongering conquerer.

He didn’t give himself a grandiose title or nickname either. King Lugal-zaggisi of Sumer claimed that he ruled the four quarters of the world, even though he was only the ruler of the neighbouring regions of Sumer and Akkad. Etana, King of Kish, called himself “the shepherd, who ascended to heaven and consolidated all the foreign countries.” En-me-barage-si, also of Kish, referred to himself as the one: “who made the land of Elam submit,” and Kubaba, the only female king, called herself: “the woman tavern-keeper, who made firm the foundations of Kish.” David once referred to himself as the “sweet singer of Israel,” but it was it.

I have often called David the anti-king because of his humility, but the glory doesn’t even go to him for achieving that. While it was his choice to be open to the leading and correction of the Holy Spirit, at the end of the day, it was God’s work in David which turned him into the awesome man he became. As many have said, David was the start of an era and the end of that era… and that era was planned and put into place by his God, YHWH, who did this not just for David, He did it for all of His people. God changes everything in people’s lives. He always has, He always will.


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Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

Studying Ancient History to Understand the Bible

The Oriental Institute's Youtube Page

The Oriental Institute’s Youtube Page

As I have studied King David, questions have come up which can’t be answered by my Bible. For example, where did the first kings appear from and what were they like? Why wasn’t Egypt a problem in David’s life time? What kind of trade ran through Isra’el in the Old Testament and many, many more.

Not only has studying ancient history answered those questions, I have found that it has helped me to correctly understand and portray Isra’el and her neighbouring cultures. The influences I read Moses warning the people against, now have faces, a story, and details attached to them; and I can understand God’s point of view and the struggles the Hebrew people had, clearly. With this kind of knowledge, the Old Testament is far less confusing.

Articles that have directly come out of this research include: What You Need to Know About Isra’el in David’s TimeThe Poison of Old Testament Idol Worship and How It Compares to Occult Worship Today .

So keeping in mind the humbling fact that that dates are highly debatable and that new discoveries are still to be made, which will change timelines and our interpretation of these ancient cultures, may I recommend these two resources which are my staples.

berkThe Center for Middle Eastern Studies, from the University of California Berkeley, approaches history from a non-religious, non-political standpoint which is very helpful. Their Near East Studies lecture series on iTunes has pulled more pieces of the Old Testament puzzle together for me, than anywhere else. It stretches back from before Abraham and Noah, then goes into later history which is far more familiar, such as the Roman Empire. If you have ever wanted to know what studying archaeology is like, this is the course for you!

Web site: http://cmes.berkeley.edu/category/videos/
Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL-XXv-cvA_iBIm79tkbWrFKg9rwMVDytI

orinst

The Oriental Institute, which is attached to the University of Chicago, has brilliant lectures which cover topics such as ancient economics, record keeping and “lost” civilisations, as well as the general history you would expect to discover. I believe they fund archaeological enterprises and the talks are professional, fascinating and well worth your time.

Web site: http://oi.uchicago.edu
Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/JamesHenryBreasted/videos

podcast-logo

Podcasts

The Maritime History Podcast
This great series covers useful topics such as 001 Boating with the Ubaid People (earliest discovered ancestors of Israel); 003 Trade and Turmoil in Ancient Mesopotamia (Noah to Abraham’s time); 004 Mesopotamian Merchants; 005 Meanwhile, in Egypt (Moses); 020 The Sea Peoples Sail South (early Philistines); and 022 Rise of the Phoenicians (trading partners and palace builders of King David.)

The Hidden History of Business Podcast
Believe it or not, in Mesopotamia and many parts of the Near East (Israel’s area), beer was a staple food because it didn’t spoil. Discover how it’s so closely related to bread, the Egyptians called it bread too, the surprising birth of the tavern and more. Episode 9b: Beer in Mesopotamia and 29: Minicast Beer in Israel and Egypt.

Naked Archaeology has a radio-like mix of topics, many of which pertain to the Old Testament time period. I am still working my way through them, but am fascinated that horses were first domesticated for war purposes, not transport. See 18 March 2009 for that one.

itunesuI am still discovering Theology in the Raw and Theology Nerd Throwdown, as part of my formal studies on Old Testament Theology. There are dozens of Christian podcasts and specialists topics on any area you can think of. Tweet me and let me know what goodies you found. @octopusreinked

Don’t forget to try the iTunes University app for formal lectures from many Universities and professional people, which may also be a great help to you. I have found dozens of Bible Colleges through that app, plus Berkeley’s Near East Studies is on there too.
REBLOGS WELCOMED

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.)

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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
    http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/mesha-stele
    http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-artifacts/artifacts-and-the-bible/moabite-stone-mesha-stele/


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Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Special Note: the image of the Mesha Stele has come from the Louvre Museum web site.

Photographs credited © Musée du Louvre / [etc.] are the exclusive property of the Musée du Louvre and are used by the Musée du Louvre with the permission of their authors or rightsholders.
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