There are many great men throughout the records of the Bible, men such as Moses, Paul, Joshua, Job. But of course, one of them that we will never forget is David, the second king of Israel. David inherited the kingdom from Saul who had went berserk after David several times towards the end of his reign, but was repeatedly unable to defeat David. David became king after Saul, and had in all his life followed the ways of the LORD but once, where we are told that David had murdered a man to acquire his wife. God sent one of His prophets to confront him, and David was forced to bear his sins against God and paid dearly for it with one of his sons. Aside from this one action, David was favored by God and was guided by God since an early age, and God gave David kingship over Israel for forty years, and proceeded to greatly bless Solomon, David’s son with a powerful kingship over Israel that also lasted forty years. Archaeologists have already figured out that the historical reign of Solomon lasted between 970 – 930 BC, meaning David’s reign took place between 1010 – 970 BC (further meaning Saul who was king before David ruled from 1052 BC – 1010 BC).
But did King David even exist? The so-called minimalists answered no, and even if King David did exist, David did not have anything near the enormous kingdom ascribed to him in the Bible. Before the year 1990, there was no record of David outside the Bible, and so minimalist historians viewed David as a fictional figure made up centuries later. This all changed when the Tel Dan Inscription was found. The Tel Dan Stela bore an inscription that dated to the 9th century BC and was found in northern Israel, with about thirteen lines of preserved text that reads the following;
- […] and cut […]
- […] my father went up [against him when] he fought at […]
- And my father lay down, he went to his [ancestors] and the king of I[s-]
- rael entered previously in my father’s land. [And] Hadad made me king.
- And Hadad went in front of me, [and] I departed from [the] seven […-]
- s of my kingdom, and I slew [seve]nty kin[gs], who harnessed thou[sands of cha-]
- riots and thousands of horsemen. [I killed Jo]ram son of [Ahab]
- king of Israel, and [I] killed [Ahaz]iahu son of [Jehoram kin-]
- g of the House of David. And I set [their towns into ruins and turned]
- their land into [desolation …]
- other [… and Jehu ru-]
- led over Is[rael … and I laid]
- siege upon […]
Take a look at the 9th line. It references the “House of David”, or in other words, the Davidic dynasty. The Tel Dan Inscription was discovered in the 1990’s, in other words making it a relatively recent archaeological finding, and established attestation of David in the records of Israel, even outside the Bible.
The minimalists still had many ways to attack the historicity of the Bible, though. After King David had been found in the Tel Dan Inscription, David had been proven to exist. If the accusers could not claim David did not exist, they would claim that his power was small and that he did not maintain the enormous kingdom ascribed to him in the Bible. A scholar named Israel Finkelstein tried to date David into an era where he would be considered a regional chieftain, with authority over a small tribe of people in a relatively tiny and poor area at best. According to Finkelstein’s theory, David would hardly control the land just outside of Jerusalem, event though the Bible said he ruled a large and powerful kingdom. This would be insane to a Bible-believer. At the time though, there were no excavations that had found anything dating to David’s time that would show he ruled over a great empire, allowing these accusers to maintain their views for the moment.
Several years ago, archaeological excavations begun at a site that had not undergone much digging before, and this city was named Khirbet Qeiyafa. Now, Khirbet Qeiyafa turned out not to be just any regular city in the region of Israel in the time of David, it ended up being found to be part of the ancient Israelite kingdom. It was also probably the Biblical city of Sharaaim. Shaaraim has a few mentions throughout the Bible, including Joshua 15:36, 1 Samuel 17:52, and 1 Chronicles 4:31. Even if it wasn’t Shaaraim in specific, it had been proven to be a Judahite city, in other words, part of the Davidic empire.
Carbon dating tests found Khirbet Qeiyafa dated to the reign of David (1010 – 970 BC). Findings in this Biblical city would give us knowledge regarding the extent of David’s kingdom, and whether or not he was just the chieftain of an agrarian society or a mighty king who ruled across an empire as the Bible records. Seven seasons of excavations in Khirbet Qeiyafa revealed two enormous finds in specific. One, a second gate was found at Khirbet Qeiyafa, whereas all previous sites in the entire world in David’s time and before only had one gate, which would be enormously significant to any archaeologist. The second major finding was an extensive centralized administration that stretched over 10,000 square feet requiring an overwhelming 200,000 tons of stone to construct. The archaeological evidence in Khirbet Qeiyafa showed that David ruled over nothing less than a kingdom, and a kingdom required a king to lead it. In a report titled Qeiyafa’s Unlikely Second Gat, Yosef Garfinkel, Sa’ar Ganor, and Joseph Baruch Silver concluded the following;
“Some scholars view King David’s kingdom as a simple agrarian society, sparsely inhabited, with no fortified cities, no administration and no writing… These scholars find it very hard to accept the new discoveries at Qeiyafa, which have completely dismantled these hypotheses.” (41)
A potentially Hebrew ostracon was found in Khirbet Qeiyafa, which also showed that literacy did exist in the time of David in his enormous kingdom.
A truly unprecedented discovery was made just in 2016, which found foreign linen fabrics that date to the reign of King Solomon, perhaps David, in southern Israel. This is one of those fabrics:
Foreign fabrics dating to the time of Solomon were found in the form of bags, clothing, tents, ropes and cords. According to Vanessa Workman from the Tel Aviv University regarding this discovery, this reveals that Israel at the time had various complex trade network systems. Workman says the following;
“We found linen, which was not produced locally. It was most likely from the Jordan Valley or Northern Israel. The majority of the fabrics were made of sheep’s wool, a cloth that is seldom found in this ancient period… This tells us how developed and sophisticated both their textile craft and trade networks must have been.”
Foreign fabrics found in all these forms in Israel reveal that Israel had a complex trade network system at the time, which shows David’s kingdom was indeed quite advanced, and it maintained complex trading systems with other civilizations at the time, literacy, a great land hold and very powerful cities. Perhaps one of David’s own Psalms can educate us on how we should face attacks against the LORD and His Word.
[Psalm 3] Lord, how my foes increase! There are many who attack me. Many say about me, “There is no help for him in God.” Selah. But You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the Lord, and He answers me from His holy mountain. Selah. I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me. I am not afraid of the thousands of people who have taken their stand against me on every side. Rise up, Lord! Save me, my God! You strike all my enemies on the cheek; You break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the Lord; may Your blessing be on Your people. Selah.