Are the stories of David, Solomon, and the kings of Judah, mere legends? Did they really exist? That’s what some archaeologists are starting to allege. Since most of us are not trained archaeologists, what are we to believe?
That was the problem a pastor friend of mine was having as he was going to lead his first trip to Israel. He asked me to come along because, as he said it, “I don’t which rocks are important and which rocks are just . . . rocks.” That’s the challenge of archaeology—it takes a well trained eye to see the significance of rocks exposed from thousands of years ago. And then, if the rocks don’t match some archaeologists’ presuppositions, they will dispute the evidence found in the rocks. That is just what is happening today—there are some clear archaeological supports for the biblical record of David, Solomon, and the kings of the Davidic line. Now some archaeological critics of the Bible, called minimalists, have come along and disputed this evidence. No matter, the evidence is strong and here are three examples of archaeological evidence for the Davidic dynasty as revealed in the Bible.
The first example is archaeologist Eilat Mazar’s work in the original city of David, the Jebusite stronghold captured by David and made his capital. It is the original Jerusalem and today it lies just south of the 16th century southern walls of the ancient city. Mazar theorized that since David built a palace with materials from King Hiram of Tyre (2Sm 5:11) and that the text says that he went down from there into the stronghold (2Sm 5:17), the palace of David would have stood just above the original fortress of the Jebusites. After excavating there, Mazar found a large, multi-room stone structure, appearing much like a public building or, better, a large palace. She also discovered 11th century B.C. pottery at the same level of the stone structure, dating the building at the very time of King David. She concluded, that using 2Sm 5 as her guide, she had found David’s palace. Of course minimalists object that since Mazar had not found a nameplate saying “King David’s Palace” that it couldn’t be so. Yet all the evidence supports the idea that an 11th century B.C. figure had built a royal palace just above the Jebusite stronghold—just as the Bible clearly indicates.
Another example is derived from 1Kg 9:15 which states that Solomon fortified the walls of three important cities of Israel: namely Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer. And what did archaeologists find at these three sites? In each they discovered a distinctive four entry way gate, all dated by pottery shards as being from the 10th century B.C., just at the time of Solomon. Since the Bible says Solomon fortified these cities, it is not surprising that they all have the same characteristic gate structure. Of course minimalists dispute this because no inscription was found saying “Solomon built this.” They even contend that the excavating archaeologists fabricated the evidence for a 10th century B.C. gate, an allegation that has no support and is deeply offensive to the excavators of these sites. Nevertheless, archaeologist William Dever, no Bible believer himself, concludes that if Solomon did not construct these city walls and gates, “then we would have to invent a similar king by another name.”
The third significant archaeological discovery is an inscription found in the north of Israel at Tel Dan. It is a victory stela of Hazael, king of Aram, dated at about 847-42 B.C. It describes his victories, including his defeat of the “House of David” and also “the king of Israel.” This discovery confirms, with extra-biblical evidence, the existence of David, merely 120 years after his reign ended. Moreover, it affirms the continued existence of his royal line, the house of David, and the splitting of the ancient kingdom of Israel, since the stela speaks of both kings, one from Judah and one from Israel. What do minimalists do with this evidence? They simply reject it on the grounds that it does not fit their presuppositions, one going so far as to categorize the “house of David” inscription as a forgery, despite having no basis to make that allegation! But the evidence is clear, there was an Israelite king named David and his dynasty continued after him.
One of the great benefits of going to Israel is not just seeing a bunch of old rocks. It’s seeing rocks that confirm the stories written in the Bible, as not mere legends and myths, but God’s inspired history from which we derive great spiritual truth.