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Index To Archaeology And The Bible

 

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THE KINGDOM OF DAVID AND SOLOMON AND THEIR SUCCESSORS.

Table Of Contents

King David

King Solomon

The Divided Kingdom

The Assyrian Siege of Jerusalem.

The Babylonian Captivity

Mizpah

Jezebel, The Ivory Palace & Elijah’s Prophecy.

The ‘Lord’ On Whose Hand The King Leaned

The Battle with The King Of Moab

The Result Of The Battle (The ‘Mesha Stele’)

The Battles With The Assyrians

Sargon

 

King David:
No figure in the Hebrew Bible is more central to Israel's heritage than King David, the shepherd-warrior who forged the disparate Israelite tribes into a mighty monarchy with Jerusalem as its capital. The reigns of David and his son, Solomon, from roughly 1000 to 920 B.C., are described in the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles as Israel's golden age–an era of dazzling military and economic achievements.

With respect to David, until recently no historical, archaeological evidence has been available to deny or confirm if he lived. But in 1993, the discovery by excavator Avraham Biran of a stone slab (and two additional fragments of same) at the ancient Tel Dan near Mt. Hermon contains an extra-biblical reference to  David. The specific words are "Beth David," or, "House of David." This is a formulaic term frequently used, not just by Israel, but by all peoples throughout the Levant to describe a particular dynasty--their own, or other  States (political entities). A small group of archaeologists have rejected it  out of hand, and some have even suggested that it is probably a forgery planted by Avraham Biran himself! In reality, the inscription was found, in situ, in secondary use, that is, reused and inserted into the  outer wall of a gate that was destroyed in the eighth century B.C. by the  Assyrians. Paleographically, experts date it to the ninth century B.C.

The discovery of this artifact presents a terrible problem for the archaeologists because this is a non-Israelite source, outside the Bible, that refers to the dynasty, or "House" of David.

There are two other possible indications (not yet conclusive) which mention  David. Kenneth Kitchen (University of Liverpool) makes a strong case for a mention of David by pharaoh Sheshonq I in the tenth century B.C. It is in the  temple of Amun at Karnak. This pharaoh is mentioned in I Kings 14:25 (Hebrew: Shishak). The exact letters are dvt. In the transliteration of  words from one Semitic language to another, d and t are often used  interchangeably. We have a clear example of this from the sixth century B.C. in a victory inscription of an Ethiopic ruler who is celebrating his triumphs. He quotes two of David's Psalms (19 and 65), and the reference is unmistakably to the Biblical king David. Here too the t is used rather than the d. Granted, this is sixth century, but it shows an Ethiopic king was aware of and refers to David as a real person and two of his literary efforts.

An additional reference comes from the Moabite Stone (which is not yet completely deciphered). It is also called the Mesha Stele, which is  contemporaneous with the Tel Dan inscription (ninth century B.C.) Andre Lemaire, the eminent French paleographer, believes he has detected a reference to the  House of David on the Mesha Stele. (Mesha of Moab). The Merneptah Stela is a seven-and-a-half-foot-high stone inscription discovered in the temple of Pharaoh Merneptah at Thebes in Egypt. Scholars determined that Pharaoh Merneptah ruled Egypt from 1213 to 1203 B.C. and confirmed that he launched an invasion into the area of the modern-day West Bank in Canaan, defeating the Jewish inhabitants of the land. The second line from the bottom of this inscriptions boasts, "Israel is laid waste; his seed is not."
 

King Solomon
With respect to Solomon, we can pretty well document when he ruled (and) died  by comparing the King lists of the Assyrians and the Egyptians with each other  as well as with various kings of Judah, of Israel, of Egypt, and Assyria  mentioned in Kings, Chronicles, and the Prophets of the O.T.

Astronomy helps us here. The Assyrians recorded a solar eclipse during the reign of Assur-dan III, and modern astronomers have calculated a firm date that it occurred in 763 B.C. We have from Assyria a record of 261 continuous years, with names and dates of kings as well as the noting of any important events which occurred during each year. We thus have a "peg" for a long line of  Assyrian rulers from 910 to 649 B.C.

According to the Bible, Solomon's building campaign included new fortifications at strategic cities throughout the kingdom, the construction of "store cities" to stockpile goods, and the building of numerous military bases. Archaeologists have found what many consider dramatic evidence of Solomon's handiwork at several sites mentioned in 1 Kings 9:15. Fortifications of almost identical design and material have been discovered at Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer, reportedly dating to the middle of the 10th century B.C.–precisely the time of Solomon's reign. Yigael Yadin, an Israeli archaeologist who worked at Hazor in the 1950s, was convinced that the gates of all three cities "were in fact built by Solomon's architects from identical blueprints."

But Finkelstein, who recently excavated at Megiddo, argues that Yadin leaned too heavily on the Bible. Citing "renewed analysis of the architectural styles and pottery forms" found at the site, Finkelstein concludes that the structures date to the early ninth century B.C., decades after the death of Solomon. "The whole idea . . . of Solomon's architects and of the grandeur of the Solomonic palaces," says Finkelstein, rests not on archaeology but "on the interpretation of a single biblical verse."

Finkelstein's revisionist views are hotly contested by other leading archaeologists. The current excavator at Hazor, Amnon Ben Tor of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and the University of Arizona's Dever, who excavated Gezer, remain convinced that pottery and other evidence point to 10th-century B.C., and presumably Solomonic, construction at all three cities. That judgment, says Dever, is based "on commonly accepted ceramic grounds–not on naive acceptance of the Bible's stories." Even one of Finkelstein's colleagues at Megiddo, Penn State's Halpern, disagrees with the revised dating. "In history, the issue is probability, not absolute proof," says Halpern, "and probability is overwhelmingly on the side of the traditional dating."

Also see Archeological Evidence for Solomon's Temple

 

The Divided Kingdom
There is no controversy about the Divided kingdom. At some historical time (Solomon's death--930 B.C.) the United Kingdom split, with Reheboam,  Solomon's son, ruling as king of Judah in the south, and simultaneously,  Jeroboam I assumed rule of northern Palestine and became the first king of Israel.

Solomon's son, Rehoboam (his reign: 931-913 B.C.) is not mentioned by name in  Egyptian or Assyrian records (like Ahab Jehu, and Jereboam, etc), but we have a  very clear and accurate Egyptian chronology of the ten kings of the XXII  Dynasty, beginning with Shoshenq I (Shisack in Hebrew)'s invasion of Israel  (926,925 B.C.) during the time of Reheboam's reign. (Cf. I Kings 14:35,36; II Chronicles 12:1-9 where this king and this event are recorded.) Both Egyptian and Bible chronologies mirror one another!

We are talking history here. The Bible records this invasion during  Rehoboam's reign. Shoshenq chronology confirms the event. And if we can point  with accuracy to an event which occurred at the very time the Bible designates  Reheboam and his reign, what assumptions should we come to about the history  immediately preceding it?   If Rehoboam is an historical figure, why do we assume arbitrarily that his father (Solomon) is a fictitious/mythical character just because we haven't yet been fortunate enough to find archaeological  confirmation? Until recently we have said the same thing for a time about many of the items/people/places mentioned above. Again, lack of evidence does not equal "myth."

In the ninth century B.C., Shalmaneser III (859-824 B.C.) mentions two kings of Israel: Ahab (872-853 B.C.) in 853 B.C.and Jehu (841-818 B.C.) in 841 B.C. Using the Assyrian dates, we can count back the years from 853 B.C. 78 years and arrive at the year of Solomon's death and the beginning of the reigns of both  Reheboam and and Jeroboam I (931/930 B.C.) The Biblical chronology mirrors these dates. Now, without written records of some kind, how could  this clever author(s) of the fifth century B.C., who purportedly conjured up all  of this, create such a detailed chronology with such accuracy?

Hot  debates involve for example Megiddo, Gezer, and Hazor which the Bible attributes to Solomon with their impressive renovations  during this century. We are told in the Bible that Solomon married pharaoh's  daughter and gave Gezer to him as her dowry (1 Kings 3:1; 7:8; 9:16,24; 11:1).  This Pharaoh was probably Siamun (979-960 B.C.).

In summary, all indications are that Solomon's life took place in the middle of the tenth century B.C. (970-930). Using the Egyptian and Assyrian king lists, which agree with the Biblical royal chronologies, we can pinpoint Solomon's  death: 930/931 B.C. We find at this time that the pharaohs were marrying their daughters to various foreign rulers. There is no reason to reject the premise  that mini-empires such as David's and Solomon's could flourish in the centuries  between 1200-900 B.C. when the power of the two great empires (Egypt and  Assyria) began to and did wane.

I do not think one can make a good case that some Hellenistic writer from 300  B.C. would possess the resources/information at that late date to write with such accuracy of the United Kingdom as we find from the Biblical sources.

Some Of The Other Kings: King Omri's name appears on the rock inscriptions of three kings of Assyria, the annals of both Tiglath-Pileser III and Sargon II, and the Black Obelisk of King Shalmaneser III, who wrote, "I conquered . . . all of the Land of Omri (Israel)." Other Assyrian inscriptions found in Nineveh confirm the Bible's records about these kings of Israel: Ahab, Jehu, Joash, Menehem, Pekah, and Hoshea. In addition, the names of many of the kings of the southern kingdom of Judah are also recorded on inscriptions of the nations that fought against the Jews. The inscriptions found by archeologists also confirm the names of these kings of Judah: Ahaziah, Uzziah, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Jehoiachin. Scholars found ration records of the army of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (606 to 562 B.C.) that state, "ten sila of oil to Jehoiachin, king of Judah. . . ."

The fact that foreign nations listed the kings of Israel and Judah is pretty strong evidence for the accuracy of the Bible.


The Assyrian Siege of Jerusalem.
Among the most interesting finds is Sennacherib’s record of the siege of Jerusalem. Thousands of his men died and the rest scattered when he attempted to take the city and, as Isaiah has foretold, he was unable to conquer it. Since he could not boast of his great victory here, Sennacherib found a way to make himself sound good without admitting defeat:

As to Hezekiah the Jew, he did not submit to my yoke. I laid seige to 46 of his strong cities, walled forts, and to the countless small villages in their vicinty ... I drove out of them 22,150 people, young and old, male and female, horses, mules, donkeys, camels, big and small cattle beyond counting and considered (them) booty. Himself I made a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence like a bird in a cage. [Pritchard, 288]. See Hezekiah’s Tunnel
 

The Babylonian Captivity
Various facets of the Old Testament history regarding the captivity have been confirmed. Records found in Babylon’s famous Hanging Garden have shown that Jehoiachin and his five sons were being given a monthly ration and place to live and were treated well (2 Kings 25:27-30). The name of Belshazzar caused problems because there was not only no mention of him, but no room for him in list of Babylonian kings; however, Nabodonius left a record that he appointed his son, Belshazzar (Daniel 5), to reign for a few years in his absence. Hence, Nabodonius was still king, but Belshazzar ruled in the capital. Also, the edict of Cyrus as recorded by Ezra seemd to fit the picture of Isaiah’s prophecies too well to be real, until a cylinder was found that confirmed the decree and all the important details.


Mizpah

    “And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days” (1 Kings 14:30)

    “And there was war between Asa and Baasha King of Israel all their days” (1 Kings 15:16)

    “…and King Asa built with them Geba of Benjamin and Mizpah” (1 Kings 15:22)

Mizpah was the final frontier as an expedition from 1927 to 1935 showed they discovered the remains of the old fortress of Mizpah, seven miles north of Jerusalem at Tell en-Nasbe. The tremendous wall was 26 feet and showed how bitter the civil war had been between Israel and Judah.
 

Jezebel, The Ivory Palace & Elijah’s Prophecy.

    “…that he took as wife Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, King of the Sidonians…” (1 Kings 16:31)

    “Now the rest of the acts of Ahab and all that he did, the ivory house which he built and all that cities that he built…” (1 Kings 22:39).

    “And Elijah the Tishbite…said to Ahab, “as the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand there shall not be due or rain these years except at my word” (1 Kings 17:1).

The ivory house of Ahab was dismissed as legend until the excavation of and old ruined mound in Samaria, which brought to light the royal palace of Israel. In Palestine, there is nothing unusual in finding ivory at excavation sites, but it is almost always found in isolated places. However, In Samaria the ground was literally covered with them. At every step, they found yellowish-brown chips, some of which still showed the marvelous craftsmanship of elegant relief’s.

Menander of Ephesus was a Phoenician historian. The Ethbaal of the Bible was called Ittobaal by the Phoenicians and was King of the port of Tyre in Ahab’s day. Menander records a catastrophic drought throughout Palestine and Syria during the reign of Ittobaal. The drought lasted a whole year.
 

The ‘Lord’ On Whose Hand The King Leaned
“So an officer on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God and said, “Look, if the Lord would make windows in Heaven, could this thing be…” (2 Kings 7:2) (He obviously doubted the prophecy of Elijah).

The term ‘officer’ gave rise to many discussions as nothing was ever recorded about an office of this kind until philologists found a slight clue. The Hebrew word ‘Shalish’ which has been translated ‘officer’ comes from the word for three. But there was never a third-class officer. However, close examination of Assyrian relief’s gave the true explanation. Every chariot was manned by three men; the driver, the fighter, and a third man who stood behind them. With outstretched arms he held onto two short straps, which were fastened to the right and left sides of the chariot. This protected the warrior and the driver in the rear and prevented them from being thrown out of the chariot during fierce battles. This then was the third man. The unexplained ‘Lord’ on whose hand the king leaned; the strap-hanger in King Jehoram’s chariot.
 

The Battle with The King Of Moab
‘For thus says the Lord “You shall not see wind, nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, so that you, your cattle, and your animals may drink.”’ 2Kings 3:17

“… That suddenly water came by way of Edom and the land was filled with water” 2Kings 3:20

“… And the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood” 2Kings 3:22

When the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel a coalition of Israel, Judah and Edom attacked Moab from the South, which meant going around the Dead Sea, a truly desolate country. If trenches are dug in the Tufa beside the Dead Sea, they fill up with water at once, which seeps through from the high plateau and owes its reddish color to the character of the soil. To this day shepherds in Trans-Jordan manufacture water holes in exactly the same manner.
 

The Result Of The Battle (The ‘Mesha Stele’)
“Then they destroyed the cities … they stopped up all the springs of water and cut down all the good trees, except that they left intact the stones of Kir Haraseth …” 2Kings 3:25. The Biblical account of the battle ends on a very odd note “… So they departed from him and returned to their own land” 2:Kings 3:27

In 1868 a missionary from Alsace stumbled on a three-foot high heavy basalt stone, which had 34 lines of writing on it. When the writing was finally deciphered it was found to be in the Moabite dialect, which is closely related to Biblical Hebrew and was dated about 840 B.C. It said “I am Mesha, son of Chamosh, King of Moab … my father was king of Moab for 30 years and I became king after my father; And I built this sanctuary to Chamosh in Querihoh, a sanctuary of refuge; For he saved me from all my oppressors and gave me dominion over all my enemies. Omri was king of Israel and oppressed Moab many days for Chamosh was angry with his land. And his son succeeded him and he also said “I will oppress Moab”. In my days he said this; but I got the upper hand of him and his house; and Israel perished forever … I have had the ditches of Querihoh dug by Israelite prisoners.”

The Biblical description and the Mesha Stele supplement each other and agree on the decisive point … the campaign ended with the defeat of the Israelite king, which is only hinted at in the Bible.
 

The Battles With The Assyrians
Cuneiform tablets were found over 600 miles from where the events took place. The military developments were officially recorded and lay in the magnificent palaces on the Tigris for more than 2 ½ millennia.

The Biblical Account

“The king of Assyria went up against Damascus, and took it, and carried the people of it captive to Kir, and slew Rezin” 2 Kings 16:9

“In the days of Pekah, King of Israel, came Tiglath-Pileser, King of Assyria, and took … Hazor and Gilead and Galilee and all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria” 2Kings 15:29

“And Hoshea … made a conspiracy against Pekah … and slew him and reigned in his stead” 2Kings 15:30

Cuneiform Text of Tiglath-Pileser III.

“His noble men are impaled alive and displayed this exhibition to his land. All his gardens and fruit orchards I destroyed. I besieged and captured the native city of Reson (Rezin) of Damascus. 800 people with their belongings I lead away. Towns in 16 districts of Damascus I laid waste like mounds after the flood.” (From Western Campaign 734 – 733 B.C.).

“ Bet-Omri (Israel) all of whose cities I had added to my territories on my former campaigns, and had left out only the city of Samaria … the whole of Naphtali I took for Assyria. I put my officials over them as governors. The land of Bet-Omri, all its people, and their possessions I took away to Assyria.” (From Western Campaign and Gaza/Damascus Campaign 734 – 733 B.C).

“They overthrew Pekah, their king, and I made Hoshea to be king over them” (From Gaza/Damascus campaign 734 – 733 B.C.)

Sargon

Even thought Sargon was unknown for some time, when his palaces was found and excavated, there was a wall painting of the battle mentioned in Isaiah 20. The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser adds to our knowledge of Biblical history by showing Jehu (or his emissary) bowing down to the king of Assyria.

Archaeology And The Bible

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Copyright American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise.
Reprinted with Permission