Mazar-21st century discoveries and the 10th century BCE

One interesting way that archeology has impinged upon our understanding of the Bible has been the recent discovery that there were massive Bronze Age fortifications near the access to the Jerusalem water system.  This casts doubt on the Massoritic text of 1 Samuel 5:8 which seems to say that David (or Joab, 1 Chronicles 11:8) took Jerusalem by a surprise attack through the water shaft.  The way the Jebusites seem to have fortified that area means that a surprise attack through the water system was unlikely.   The Greek translation (LXX) says that David’s troops attacked with daggers instead of through the water shaft.  Perhaps this corrects a mistake in the Hebrew text.

Amihai Mazar says that these “fortifications are among the mightiest ever found in any Bronze or Iron Age site in the southern Levant, and thus they are evidence for a central powerful authority and the outstanding status of Jerusalem during the Middle Bronze Age (Archaeology and the Biblical Narrative: The Case of the United Monarchy, p. 48).

He talks about some other recent discoveries.

One is Khirbet Qeiyafa.  This is the fortified settlement in the Elah Valley that has been excavated by Yosef Garfinkel.  Mazar’s opinion is guarded.  He does believe it is probably a 10th century site.  He says it seems to indicate that there was an “Israelite urban system” at that time that we did not know about before, and that this may link up with the idea of a united monarchy.

Another is the discovery of a more extensive copper industry in Edom than we had known before.  At Khirbet en-Nahas, T. Levy has found a large mining and refining center with a citadel and administrative buildings.  Carbon 14 dates the site to the 9th and 10th centuries.  It may be even older.  Mazar does not draw a lot of conclusions from this, but thinks it does support the possibility that the biblical references to relations between David and Solomon and Edom were based on real memories.

He sees all the evidence confirming his views on the united kingdom, which I summarize as follows:

1.  Many of the stories about David and Solomon probably have no historical basis.

2.  Still the text may preserve valuable historical information.

3.  By carefully using what archeology is discovering, we may extract real historical data.

4.  Thus kings David and Solomon probably existed and ruled a united kingdom.

5.  This kingdom was not as grand as it has seemed to many readers of the Bible. David was probably a upstart king similar to Labayu, the king of Shechem in the Amarna correspondence–except Egypt was no longer dominating or intervening in Palestine, so David had a more successful and enduring kingdom.

This is not too far from my theory of David’s rise.  I think it is significant that David seems to have allied himself with enemies of Saul’s kingdom such as Gath and, for a while, Ammon.  This means David likely imposed his authority on the not-very-willing northern tribes.  There was a united kingdom, but it was never all that united.

About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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