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Did King David Ever Exist?

By James Donahue

While the archaeological evidence does not support it, the story of the life of King David is portrayed in three books of the Old Testament, described in the Quran and mentioned in the Kitab-i-Iqan of the Baha’I faith.

The Old Testament books of Samuel, 1 Kings and 1 Chronicles are the basic sources of information about David. David is credited with writing some of not all of the poetry in the Book of Psalms and the New Testament Books of Matthew and Luke list David in the ancestry of Jesus.

No other book in the surviving library of ancient text mentions King David and archaeologists have had to stretch their imaginations to find any carved names or documents that appear to be a reference to David. If David was the important Hebrew figure described in Old Testament text, the Second King of the Hebrew People and the father of Solomon, the non-existence of stone monuments honoring him in the ruins of the ancient cities where David allegedly lived seem improbable.

Other ancient text describing great heroic deeds and events of that period also should have mentioned David. But his name is not found in them.

in 2001 Israel Finkelstein, chairman of Tel Aviv University's Archaeology Department, and historian journalist Neil Asher Silberman upset both the Jewish and Christian world when they published The Bible Unearthed: Archaeologys New Version of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Text. 

Yet another Tel Aviv archaeologist, Ze'ev Herzog, beat them to the punch when he published a magazine and newspaper article in 1999 that also blew the whistle on the twisted Bible stories. 

In essence, they are all saying that archaeological research shows that the Israelites were never in Egypt, they never wandered in the desert, they never conquered the land of Canaan in a military campaign and the land was never passed on to the twelve tribes of Israel. 

Also, the walls of Jericho never came crashing down, and there was never an empire of Israel under the reign of Kings David and Solomon. If they existed at all, David and Solomon headed modest chiefdoms.

The detailed stories about both David and his son, Solomon appear in the Books of Samuel and Chronicles. And Chronicles appears to simply retell the story in the Books of Samuel but from a different theological point of view. Thus the foundation of the stories we have about these two great kings of Israel all come from a single book in the Old Testament.

In his book, Finkelstein theorizes that the Israelites were among the many nomadic shepherd tribes that existed among the Canaanites. If so, it means they came from the same genetic origins as the other people in the Middle East, including the Palestinians, and that the grand national myth of a people chosen by God to rule the "Promised Land" is just that, a myth without basic for fact.

Professor Amihai Mazar, of the Institute of Archaeology from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has suggested that Samuel's account of David "seems to have undergone two separate acts of editorial slanting."

The famous battle of Jericho, as told in the Book of Joshua, also is debunked by archaeological evidence. It turns out that the city of Jericho didn't exist at the time this event was supposed to have happened. Once it did exist, the city had no walls.

The story of David, whose army captured Jerusalem and established a vast united empire, and his son, Solomon, who reportedly acquired great wealth and built the first temple, is perhaps the core of the Israeli myth of ownership and superiority over the Palestinians who occupied the land until the Jews were driven to the area during World War II.

Authors Finkelstein and Silberman suggest in their book that it was Josiah, a descending king over a more developed Jerusalem who lived over 300 years after David, who ordered the transcription of the Old Testament stories. Josiah apparently believed, as have many great rulers since, that a national scripture was needed to cement a monotheistic religious orthodoxy. The Old Testament stories have continued to generate a national identity for the new Israel even today.

Amy Dockser Marcus, author of The View From Nebo: How Archaeology Is Rewriting the Bible and Reshaping the Middle East, notes that certain things like monumental structures, royal documents, or national scripture like the Old Testament, are almost always "a sign of state formation, in which power is centralized in national institutions like an official cult or monarchy."