King David: Fact or Fiction?

David.  Son of Jesse.  Runt of the litter.  Bethlehem’s local boy made good.  Killer of Goliath.  Enemy of Saul, but also closest friend of Saul’s son, Jonathon.  Author of a goodly share of the book of Psalms.  A man after God’s own heart, per God Himself.  Musician and poet.  Warrior king.

David was the one king who managed to unite all of Israel for the first time.  He made Jerusalem its capitol after conquering it.  He is considered Israel’s greatest king if not its best husband and father.

Before coming to the throne, he managed to remain loyal to the king who was trying to kill him.  Through genius, friends, and faith, he escaped Saul’s clutches time after time.  After Saul’s death in battle, David ascended the throne.  His success in numerous battles was notable, whether outdoing neighboring kings or his own sons.

Oh, yeah.  All that effort spent governing the country and making war to protect her left him little time to be a dad.  David was an absent father.  And despite having a stable of wives and concubines, he got the hots for Bathsheba, took her, and had her husband murdered, sealing his own miserable fate.  God told him his personal life was going to be filled with sadness, beginning with the death of his first-born with Bathsheba.

This broad outline of King David is likely familiar to most of us.  The story of David and Goliath is probably the best known.  Everything we know about him comes from the Old Testament books of Samuel, I Kings, and I Chronicles.  That’s it.  Some secular historians find that gives them leeway to describe him as a myth, a legend, and likely an amalgamation of several people.

However, in 1993 and 1994, the Tel Dan stele “was discovered by Avraham Biran at Tel Dan in the northern part of modern Israel (fragment A in July 1993 and fragments B1 and B2 in June 1994). The fragments were published by Biran and his colleague Joseph Naveh in 1993 and 1995.[4]… The inscription tells of a war waged by the author (hereafter called Hazael) against his enemies, the kings of Israel and the “House of David”. The names of the two enemy kings are only partially legible. Biran and Naveh reconstructed them as Joram, son of Ahab, King of Israel, and Ahaziah, son of Joram of the House of David. Scholars seem to be evenly divided on these identifications.[7]

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David#Tel_Dan_Stele_and_Mesha_Stele

A portion of this article is pasted in at the end of this blog for your convenience.

UCLA published a 16 page article essentially supporting the authenticity of the Tel Dan stele and confirming the discoverers’ interpretation that the stele does indeed reference Israel’s kings and their descent from “The House of David.”  See especially 1st page, 2nd column ½ way down.  http://www.nelc.ucla.edu/Faculty/Schniedewind_files/Schniedewind_Tel_Dan_Stela.pdf

In addition, archeologists say they have now found one of King David’s palaces in the city where he’s said to have battled with Goliath.  Again, while the Old Testament is the only source for his life and story, independent and secular archeologists and scholars are affirming his existence, which is a nice advance after other secular scholars have tried to paint him as a myth or amalgamation  of characters.  Read more:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2370190/Archaeologists-claim-unearthed-King-Davids-palace-city-battled-Goliath-biblical-tale.html#ixzz2ZXTQqS2h

and

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2370190/Archaeologists-claim-unearthed-King-Davids-palace-city-battled-Goliath-biblical-tale.html

I always find these sorts of articles extremely interesting.  With modern discoveries and research, it’s ever more possible to see the Bible and the people described in it as a part of world history, not just “somethin’ in the Bible.”

Additional sources I found en route to the above items:

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/David.html

(c.1040 – c.970 BCE)

Old Testament vs. Secular Historical Timeline:

http://www.millingtonumconthefox.org/oldtest_files/oldtest.html

 

Below are excerpts from the Tel Dan stele article for your convenience:

The Books of Samuel, 1 Kings, and 1 Chronicles are the only sources of information on David, although the Tel Dan stele (dated c. 850–835 BCE) contains the phrase ביתדוד (bytdwd), read as “House of David”, which most scholars take as confirmation of the existence in the mid-9th century BCE of a Judean royal dynasty called the House of David.[2]

Tel Dan stele:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tel_Dan_stele

The Tel Dan Stele is a broken stele (inscribed stone) discovered in 1993-94 during excavations at Tel Dan in northern Israel. It consists of several fragments making up part of a triumphal inscription in Aramaic, left most probably by Hazael of Aram-Damascus, an important regional figure in the late 9th-century BCE. Hazael (or more accurately, the unnamed king) boasts of his victories over the king of Israel and his ally the king of the “House of David” (bytdwd), the first time the name David had been found outside of the Bible.[1]

The Tel Dan inscription generated considerable debate and a flurry of articles, debating its age, authorship, and even some accusations of forgery, “but it is now widely regarded (a) as genuine and (b) as referring to the Davidic dynasty and the Aramaic kingdom of Damascus.”[2] It is currently on display in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.[3]

The stele was discovered by Avraham Biran at Tel Dan in the northern part of modern Israel (fragment A in July 1993 and fragments B1 and B2 in June 1994). The fragments were published by Biran and his colleague Joseph Naveh in 1993 and 1995.[4]

The following line-by-line translation by Lawrence J. Mykytiuk (published 2004) largely follows Biran and Naveh. Missing and damaged text is represented by empty square brackets “[ ]”, and words and letters inside square brackets have been reconstructed. (The “Hadad” mentioned in the first few lines is a god):

1′. [ ]…[ ] and cut [ ]

2′. [ ] my father went up [ ] he fought at […]

3′. And my father lay down; he went to his [fathers]. Now the king of I[s]/rael had penetrated

4′. into my father’s land before. [But then] Hadad made me king,

5′. And Hadad marched before me. So I went forth from [the] seven[…]/s

6′. of my rule, and I killed [seve]nty kin[gs] who had harnessed thou[sands of cha]/riots

7′. and thousands of cavalry. [And I killed …]ram son of […]

8′. the king of Israel, and I killed […]yahu son of [… the ki]/ng of

9′. the House of David. And I made [their towns into ruins and turned]

10′. their land into [a desolation …]

11′. others and […Then…became ki]/ng

12′. over Is[rael…And I laid]

13′. siege against […][5]

 

In the second half of the 9th century BCE (the most widely accepted date for the stele) the kingdom of Aram, under its ruler Hazael, was a major power in the Levant. Dan, just 70 miles from Hazael’s capital of Damascus, would almost certainly have come under its sway. This is born out by the archaeological evidence: Israelite remains do not appear until the 8th century BCE, and it appears that Dan was already in the orbit of Damascus even before Hazael became king in c.843 BCE.[6]

The inscription tells of a war waged by the author (hereafter called Hazael) against his enemies, the kings of Israel and the “House of David”. The names of the two enemy kings are only partially legible. Biran and Naveh reconstructed them as Joram, son of Ahab, King of Israel, and Ahaziah, son of Joram of the House of David. Scholars seem to be evenly divided on these identifications.[7]

Hazael tells how Israel had invaded his country in his father’s day, and how the god Hadad then made him king and marched with him against Israel. Hazael reports that he defeated seventy kings with thousands of chariots and horses. In the very last line there is a suggestion of a siege, possibly of Samaria, the capital of the kings of Israel.[7]

The language of the inscription is a dialect of Aramaic.[9] Most scholars identify Hazael of Damascus (c.842–806 BCE) as the author, although his name is not mentioned. Other proposals regarding the author have been made: George Athas argues for Hazael’s son Ben-Hadad III, which would date the inscription to around 796 BCE, and J-W Wesselius has argued for Jehu of Israel (reigned c.845–818 BCE).

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2 thoughts on “King David: Fact or Fiction?

  1. Amazing what we can find to prove the Bible as truth. Sad, most people don’t care to or just do not dig for the real facts and just rack it all up to myth or “just a nice story”. God is so in the details and so awesome to cover it all …now we need to appreciate it and grow from it and cerainly share it. Thanks for your work! Blessings, Barbara Riley

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