Where Was David’s Palace?
From time to time, I’ll take a break here from writing about current events in and about Israel. History and culture are interesting topics, as well. So it is I want to talk about another archaeological topic this week.
It’s in the news, anyway.
Only in the last several years have the Israelis been serious about excavating a section just across the street from Jerusalem’s Old City walls. The site goes all the way down a long hill and winds up in the Palestinian village of Silwan. Archeologists believe this site is the famous palace of King David, 3,000 years ago.
It’s quite an impressive place, although you really have to let your mind’s eye even begin to understand what you’re looking at. Incidentally, the area is also across a small street and a temporary white privacy fence, enclosing the fortress of Antiochus Epiphanes—also just recently discovered…under a parking lot!
David’s palace is now a major tourist attraction, named “The City of David.” I have the green ballcap to prove it. I was there a few weeks ago, as many of you know. Annually now, 400,000 people tour the ancient site. By the way, it’s very easy to see, at the summit, how David could have looked down the hill at Bathsheba.
All the way down the hill is the Gihon Spring (looks like a big ol’ mudhole!) and Hezekiah’s tunnel, created to bring water in during the Assyrian siege in the 8th century B.C.
There has been a lot of speculation for decades as to whether David existed or not (what could be called an extreme “minimalist” position), and if he did, where was the great kingdom we read about in the Bible?
I recently read an article by an archaeologist that had a very good answer to this question. Of late, archaeologists like Israel Finkelstein have taken quasi-minimalist positions by saying yes, such a figure probably existed. He just wasn’t the glorious leader we think he was. Often, the “evidence” for such a position is that we don’t in fact find massive ancient structures around Israel.
But the article I mentioned explains that nicely. He basically said that a kingdom in that region, in that time period, would not have had such gigantic structures. At least not like we see in Egypt or even Babylon. Instead, King David could certainly have been everything the Bible says he was, and ruled from less-than-impressive buildings. The culture of the ancient Israelites was simply not ostentatious. Interestingly, Israelis today are famous for their lack of pretension. Even in the Knesset, it’s fairly rare to see a suit. Mostly open-collar attire.
In any event, the City of David is impressive. It commands a high view of the surrounding area below, and the extensive stone walls are anything but small.
I’m almost surprised that Christianity Today magazine has given a fairly positive view of David as a real king, in a June article. A very interesting comment comes near the end of the article:
“’If you don’t have David, you don’t have a lot of things,’ [Michael, of Southern Adventist University] Hasel said. David is mentioned around 1,000 times in the Bible. He’s credited as the author of 73 psalms. His history is tied with Jerusalem becoming Israel’s capital and the site of the temple. And through the line of David, the Messiah is promised.
“’Without David, that is all put into question,’ Hasel said. ‘He is a very significant figure not only for Israel but for the history of Christianity and Judaism. They all draw their identity back to that one person.’”
Herein lies a problem for the Church, specifically the American Church. Did you catch what Hasel said? In effect, he’s saying that if biblical figures like David were not real, then that calls into question the Messiah Himself, since He is from the line of David. On a broader scale, people well understand that if, say, Genesis is not real history, then why are you talking to me about Jesus? Did He exist? What about the Resurrection? The Atonement?
Hasel is exactly correct.
Meanwhile, a Popular Mechanics article had this gem:
“According to a new report from archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel, the biblical King David had a true kingdom. But not everyone agrees that was the case, as bickering continues over a debate that has become part politics, part theology, and part archaeology.
“In a new peer-reviewed article published in the Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology, the Hebrew University professor writes that ‘the earliest fortified sites in the kingdom of Judah in the early 10th century BCE feature a casemate city wall lined with abutting belt of houses.’ Urban planning seen across multiple sites connected by roads shows that five cities were connected to Jerusalem, all dated by Garfinkel to the time of King David.
“’If you take all these sites, they have the same urban concept, they are all sitting on the border of the kingdom and sitting where you have a main road leading to the kingdom,’ he tells the Times of Israel. ‘These cities aren’t located in the middle of nowhere, it’s a pattern of urbanism with the same urban concept.’”
In other words, if a person has a bias that says the Bible is largely myth, he or she will overlook certain evidences. If one is at least open-minded, compelling evidence springs forth.
I believe David existed. I believe every detail about him in the Bible. An objective person will see that the Bible confirms his existence, as well as archaeological evidence.