Beginning next week I am going to turn my attention to the New Testament for a while. But before I do, I want to make a final note regarding what I have read and thought about over the last few months. In my head, I have been in the late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age.
Although I was not on board with the approach taken by Jacob L. Wright in David, King of Israel, and Caleb in Biblical Memory, who allows for too much invention by post-exilic scribes, I found his skepticism about the era of David and Solomon fruitful. It caused me to consider that when the Bible portrays Jerusalem as the political capital of a united kingdom it reads a later situation into the times of David and Solomon.
I am tending toward the idea that Hebron, rather than Jerusalem, remained the political capital through the reign of Solomon.
Here are some specific reasons for this that I don’t think I made clear before.
First, it is odd that Shoshenq I, the Libyian Pharaoh of Egypt who invaded in about -925, did not mention Jerusalem as a target of his advance. In biblical memory, he “came up against Jerusalem” (1 Kings 14:25). But in his own detailed itinerary for this invasion, he strikes at the southern Judean hills and then advances against northern Israel.
In the Karnak inscription detailing this campaign, one early target of his advance was “the heights of David” (Kenneth Kitchen’s translation, see here). We cannot be sure that this translation is correct. The name, Hebron, is only used in the Bible. The “heights of David” occurs in close association with attacks against Arad and other sites in the Negev and southern Judah.
It seems to me that the “heights of David” is a very likely way for the Egyptians to have referred to Hebron and vicinity.
Second, the Bible’s memory that David had two high priests at the same time has always bothered me. How would that have worked if they were both serving the same shrine? There are a lot of what seem to be sanctuary traditions about the patriarchs that come out of Hebron. There must have been an important place of worship there even before David. It is likely that Zadok and the Zadokite priesthood originated there.
The northern priests of Shiloh were displaced by the Philistines and perhaps by Saul. It would make sense that David might have provided a secure shrine for them at the Jerusalem fortress.. Probably, he restored to them their lost Ark of the Covenant. So, during the time of David, Zadok would have presided at the shrine in Hebron and Abiathar at the shrine in Jerusalem.
Something changed with the palace intrigue that put Solomon on the throne. Solomon centralized everything more. He was into building projects. Zadok ended up being his sole high priest, for whom Solomon may have built a more lavish sanctuary at Jerusalem.
Abiathar and his family were exiled to nearby Anathoth, where it seems there continued a conservative religious tradition that bore fruit centuries later in Josiah’s reform and the work of Jeremiah of Anathoth.
Solomon and Zadok may have encouraged pilgrimages to Jerusalem by northerners who had been used to going up to Shiloh. So Jerusalem became a religious center before it became a political center.
In my scenario; Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, fled from Hebron to the Jerusalem fortress and hid out there from Shoshenq. The kingdom of Judah was not much of a power again until the time of Asa, when Egyptian power waned and an alliance with Damascus came about. I do not know if Asa tried to reestablish a capital at Hebron.
Jeroboam, in the north, had power as a vassal of Egypt. He took steps to establish Bethel as a religious pilgrimage destination and further isolate Rehoboam in Jerusalem.
This is an attractive scenario for me because the attempt of minimalists and even Israel Finkelstein to downplay the united kingdom are looking less and less successful. And yet. they had a point when they questioned the early political importance of Jerusalem.
It seems to me quite understandable that the story as it came down to us in the Bible sees Jerusalem from the standpoint of its importance in the times of Hezekiah and Josiah. It was during their reigns that the prophetic visions of Isaiah and, especially, Jeremiah, began to define Jewish religion. Yet we can still trace older traditions.