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
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
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."