A couple of things cause me to return to the topic of the archeological dig at Khirbet Qeiyafa in Israel’s Elah valley. One is this article on What archaeology tells us about the Bible in the Christian Science Monitor. The other is a new article in Biblical Archeology Review by Yosef Garfinkel and some colleagues. In the new BAR article the folks who have been digging at Qeiyafa announce that they are about finished and are going to move on to Lachish. At Lachish they are going to look for 10th century B.C.E. remains.
The Christian Science Monitor article puts Garfinkel’s interpretation of his finds in the context of a dispute over the potency of the United Kingdom (David and Solomon) with Israel Finkelstein, another Israeli archeologist. Finkelstein reduced David and Solomon to minor warlords, the chiefs of a few rustic tribes.
Garfinkel is passionate in his belief that the finds at Qeiyafa overthrow that theory and show that Judah was a powerful state in the 10th century, just as 1 and 2 Samuel portray it.
However, while the fortress at Qeiyafa does seem to speak to the power of some–probably Israel related–state in the 10th century, I am bothered by some of Garfinkel’s claims. He seems to me to overstate his case.
For instance, he identifies Qeiyafa with Shaaraim near where David fought Goliath (1 Samuel 17:52). He thinks Shaaraim was a fortress and administrative center controlling the road from Gath to Jerusalem. I do not know how literally he takes the David-Goliath story, but 1 Samuel 17 would put the fortress earlier than David’s Judah. It would be a fortress of Saul’s northern tribal coalition. And Garfinkel’s implication that it guarded the way to Jerusalem would make no sense, because Jerusalem was a Jebusite city at the time.
But Garfinkel insists that he has found a city that proves a powerful state of Judah was ruled by David from Jerusalem in the 10th century.
Such a kingdom arose, according to 2 Samuel, but quite a bit later than the war with Gath. David was an outlaw for a while. David served the king of Gath for a while. Then David ruled from Hebron for seven and a half years. Only much later than 1 Samuel 17 did David rule from Jerusalem and his relations with Gath at that time do not seem hostile.
So I am not sure that Garfinkel’s identification of Qeiyafa with the 1 Samuel 17 scenario helps his case. On the face of it, he seems to have found a fortress that may have been built during David’s later reign. Perhaps there was a reason to fortify the road from Gath. Perhaps Ekron had deposed the king of Gath that David knew. Perhaps that is why a whole bunch of Gittite soldiers seem to have defected to David (2 Samuel 15:18). This is wild speculation on my part, but it would be a better scenario than provided by 1 Samuel 17.
Yosef Garfinkel may have answers to all this, because he surely knows the biblical story as well as I do. I just haven’t seen his answers to these questions. I think what he has found at Qeiyafa is important and does cut against Finkelstein’s views. But I would like to sit him down and get some straight answers about Saul, David and Judah. And wish him luck at Lachish.