History: Archaeologists Uncover New Evidence of the Existence of King David

Article excerpt

THE FIRST ancient reference to King David - apart from those in the Bible - has been unearthed by archaeologists in northern Israel.

The discovery will add to the fierce debate between traditional Biblical scholars, who view much of the Old Testament as a historical document, and the Biblican revisionists who regard the first 10 books of the Bible as a virtual work of fiction.

While excavating the site of the ancient Israelite city of Dan, a team led by the veteran Israeli archaeologist Professor Avraham Biran has found part of a 9th century BC inscription referring to the "House of David". It is the first time that King David's existence - known until now solely from the Bible - has been tentatively confirmed by archaeology. Earlier this year one leading Biblican revisionist - the American archaeologist Professor Thomas Thompson - had suggested King David did not exist at all and was a product of later invention. The inscription fragment appears to have formed part of a commemorative stone erected to mark a victory by the Syrians over the Kingdom of Israel, possibly in 885BC.

Parts of 13 lines of the text survive. The words and phrases, all written in the Aramaic language and in Phoenician-Aramaic script, include the name of the Syrian god "Hadad", the words for "killed", "horseman", "chariots", the title "King of Israel" and the word "bytdwd" meaning "beitdavid" - "the House of David". A letter before "bytdwd" suggests that the preceding word was "king".

Although the letters "byt" actually mean "house", in this context they mean "dynasty" or "dynastic territory" and are thought to refer to the territory of David's dynasty - the Kingdom of Judah, one of the two Hebrew states which, according to the Bible, were formed after the break- up of Solomon's kingdom.

The "bytdwd" monarch referred to in the inscription was probably King David's great-grandson, King Asa of Judah, or one of his immediate successors. One possible political background to the inscription is described in the Bible's First Book of Kings. According to I Kings xv, Asa removed all the treasure from the temple in Jerusalem and used it to induce the Syrians to attack their ally - the Kingdom of Israel.

"Behold I have sent unto thee a present of silver and gold; come and break thy league {alliance} with Basha, King of Israel. …