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Apr 4 10 7:48 AM

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David inscription from Dan. Near East Archaeology photo.The House of David Inscription from recent Archaeological Discoveries 

More than a quarter of a century of excavations at Tel Dan in the north of Israel at the foot of Mount Hermon produced little in the way of written material. The excavations have been directed through the years since 1966 by Dr. Avraham Biran, distinguised Israeli archaeologist. Then on July 21, 1993, while work crews were preparing the site for visitors, a broken fragment of basalt stone was uncovered in secondary use in a wall. Surveyor Gila Cook glanced at the stone in the rays of the afternoon sun and saw what looked like alphabetic letters. On closer examination it turned out that, indeed, they had found an inscribed stone.. The discovery was of a fragment of a large monumental inscription, measuring about 32 cm. high and 22 cm. at its greatest width. Apparently the stone had been purposely broken in antiquity. It turned out that the stele fragment mentions King David's dynasty, "the House of David." As the preparatory work for tourism proceeded, two additional fragments of the stele were recovered in two separate, disparate locations in June of 1994. The partially reconstructed text reads as follows:
1. [ ... ...] and cut [ ... ]
2. [ ... ] my father went up [against him when] he fought at [ ... ]
3. And my father lay down, he went to his [ancestors]. And the king of I [s-]
4. rael entered previously in my father's land. [And] Hadad made me king.
5. And Hadad went in front of me, [and] I departed from [the] seven [ ...-]
6. s of my kingdom, and I slew [seve]nty kin[gs], who harnessed thou[sands of cha-]
7. Riots and thousands of horsemen (or: horses). [I killed Jeho]ram son of [Ahab]
8. king of Israel, and [I] killed [Ahaz]iahu son of [Jehoram kin-]
9. g of the House of David. And I set [their towns into ruins and turned]
0. their land into [desolation ... ]
11. other [ ... and Jehu ru-]
12. led over Is[rael ... and I laid ]
13. siege upon [ ... ] [6]

The pavement and the wall where the fragments were found was laid at the end of the 9th or beginning of the 8th century BC, according to pottery fragments recovered in probes beneath the flagstone pavement. Since the fragment and the entire pavement was covered by the debris of the Assyrian destruction of Tiglath Pileser III, in 732 BC, it could not have been laid latter than that year.
The surmise is that Jehoash (798-782), grandson of Jehu, or Jehoash's son, Jeroboam II (793, co-regent 782-753), and more likely Jehoash, was the monarch who had this reminder of Aramaean domination smashed (2 Kgs 13:25). It is further assumed that Hazael (844/42-798?) was then king of Aram- Damascus, because Hazael fought against Jehoram of Israel and Ahaziah of Judah ( 2 Kgs 8:7-15, 28; 2 Chr 22:5). Hazael was followed by his son and successor, Ben-hadad III, early in the 8th century BC
The discovery provides an archaeological connection to the biblical references to the ruling dynasty established by King David approximately two centuries before the events that are mentioned in the inscription. It is the first mention of King David and the earliest mention of a biblical figure outside of the Bible. The discovery is of particular importance in the face of those scholars who were either skeptical or denied the historical existence of King David [7]


Amulet scroll. Israel Museum.In 1979 Israeli archaeologist Gabriel Barkay, working with a group of students from the Institute of Holy Land Studies (now Jerusalem University College), excavated several tombs in Jerusalem on the "Shoulder of Hinnom," on the southwestern slope of the Hinnom Valley adjacent to the Scottish Presbyterian Church of St. Andrew. In one burial cave a repository for grave goods was found, containing approximately 700 items, including burial gifts of pottery vessels, over 100 pieces of silver jewelry, arrowheads, bone and ivory artifacts, alabaster vessels, 150 beads and a rare, early coin. Among the silver items was a rolled-up amulet bearing the tetragrammaton, the name of God (the consonantal letters yod, he, waw, he), YHWH.
The tomb dates to the end of the Davidic dynasty, approximately the seventh century BC. The silver amulet thus dates to the end of the seventh or early sixth century. The prayer-like inscription containing the divine name provides the oldest extra-biblical evidence for the name of God thus far archaeologically recovered in Jerusalem. The scripture passage on the amulet is from the Aaronic or priestly blessing found in Num 6:24-25. The owner apparently wore the inscribed, rolled-up silver amulet during his/her lifetime, and people felt it appropriate that such objects should accompany the owner in death as in life.
Of secondary interest is the fact that the evidence from the Shoulder of Hinnom tombs indicates a population in the Jerusalem area in the aftermath of the Babylonian destruction of the city. The evidence also indicates a certain level of wealth on the part of those buried in the tombs.

By: Keith N. Schoville
Professor Emeritus of Hebrew and Semitic Studies
University of Wisconsin-Madison


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Sep 26 11 1:13 PM

Update on archaeological evidence of king David's existence and authenticity of the Bible


IN OCTOBER 1999,an article by this title appeared in the "U.S. News and World Report," which had obtained permission to publish portions of a newly issued book with same title. The article began as follows:

"The workday was nearly over for the team of archaeologist excavating the ruins of the ancient Israelite city of Dan in upper Galille. Led by Abraham Biran of Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, the group had been toiling since early morning, sifting debris in a stone-paved plaza outside what had been the city's main gate.

"Now the fierce afternoon sun was turning the stoneworks into a reflective oven. Gila Cook, the team's surveyor, was about to take a break when something caught her eye-an unusual shadow in a portion of recently exposed wall along the east side of the plaza. Moving closer, she discovered a flattened basalt stone protruding from the ground with what appeared to be Aramaic letters etched into its smooth surface. She called Biran over for a look. As the veteran archaeologist knelt to examine the stone, his eyes widened, "oh, my Lord!" he exclaimed. "We have an inscription!"

"In an instant, Biran knew that they had stumbled upon a rare treasure. The basalt stone was quickly identified as part of a shattered monument, or stele, from the ninth century B.C., apparently commemorating a military victory of the king of Damascus over two ancient enemies. One foe the fragment identified as the 'king of Israel.' The other was 'the House of David.'"
The reference to David was a historical bombshell. Never before had the familiar name of Judah's ancient warrior king, a central figure of the Hebrew Bible and according to Christian scriptures, an ancestor of Jesus, been found in the records of antiquity outside the pages of the Bible. Skeptics had long seized upon that fact to argue that David was a mere legend, invented by Hebrew scribes during, or shortly after, Israel's Babylonian exile, roughly 500 years before the birth of Christ. Now, at last, there was material evidence: an inscription written not by Hebrew scribes but by an enemy of the Israelites a little more than a century after David's presumptive lifetime. It seemed to be a clear corroboration of the existence of King David's dynasty and by implication, of David himself.

The article told of other archaeological discoveries that shed new light on both Old and New Testament, corroborating key portions of the stories of Israel's patriarchs, the Exodus, the Davidic monarchy, and the life and times of Jesus. Among the examples given was the fact that Joseph was sold for twenty silver shekels (GENESIS 37:28), which matches exactly the going price in the region during the 19th and 18th centuries B.C. This was affirmed by documents recovered from the region that is now Syria. By the eighth century B.C., the price for slaves according to Assyrian records had risen steadily to 50 or 60 shekels. At the time the Persian empire, in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., it reached 90 to 100 shekels.

Skepticism concering the Bible has been rife in modern times. Higher Critics have assigned incredulity to Biblical records and claimed that certain persons mentioned such as Abraham, Joseph, and David were all imaginary. Hence, tying the Genesis account of 20 shekels as the price of slaves with the period of time when Joseph was young is an important corroboration of the Bible

There also is another inscription on the Mesha Stele which mentions the house of David, though not as clearly as the inscription found in Dan in 1993. Archaeological evidence, likewise, has been found as to the existence of the Philistines and their possible origin. These people appeared to have migrated from the island of Crete, and other islands in the Agean Sea. Modern archaeology has uncovered a wealth of information regarding the Philistines, 'sea people,' which is consistent with Biblical records, confirming that they were not the figment of imagination of some priestly scribes.

Why is it necessary to establish that David actually existed? The answer is, because so many prophecies invlolve David and his offspring. The name David, appears in the scriptures 1273 times (either as David or David's). For example, the geneaology of Jesus is given at the beginning of the Gospel according to Matthew, saying, "The book of generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." (MATTHEW 1:1) The Matthew geneaology is that of Joseph, and proceeds through Solomon. Both Joseph and Mary were of the house of David, and Mary's is given in LUKE 3:23-38 through Nathan, son of David . Since Mary was used by the father to provide human organism for the Messiah, our Lord Jesus, he could properly be called the Son of David.

When Jesus began his ministry, many in Israel called him "Son of David." For example two blind men followed him saying, "Son of David, have mercy on us." (MATTHEW 9:27) Jesus had just raised Jairus' daughter from death (MATTHEW 9:23-26), and his "fame hereof went abroad into all that land." (vs. 26) When he perfomed more miracles, again they asked, "Is not this the son of David?." (MATTHEW 15:22) The angel who was sent to tell Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus said of him, "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David."-LUKE 1:32. David being Jesus father here on earth, his ancestor.

Much more from the original article:


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Aug 15 12 7:40 PM

Most people will be familiar with the Old Testament story related in 1 Samuel, chapter 17, in which a shepherd boy, David, armed only with a slingshot, slays the giant, Goliath.

The background to this story is that Goliath of Gath, a hero of the Philistine army, standing some six cubits1 and a span in height (299cm; nearly ten feet), challenged the Israelite army to provide a man to fight him. Despite Goliath's vast size and the fact his armour consisted of a bronze helmet, bronze mail armour weighing 5000 shekels (or 80kg - compare this with 14th Century full-body plate armour which weighed a mere 36kg) and a shield, David was able to kill him with single stone directed at his forehead.
The David of this story was a shepherd and skilful minstrel and, indeed, by the time of this event he was a musician at the court of Saul, the first king of Israel. In his book The Bible as History, Hodder and Stoughton (1956), Werner Keller says:

For his poetry alone a modern David would have been a Nobel Prize winner. Yet like the mediaeval troubadours he was poet, composer and musician rolled into one.

Following this triumph, Saul took David on as commander of his troops.
David was the son of Jesse, a farmer of Bethlehem, and eventually became the first king to rule a united Israel in Palestine. According to the genealogies given in Matthew and Luke, David was an ancestor of Christ and so is of vast significance theologically. Christ was the son of Joseph the carpenter and Mary, and Joseph was a descendant of David. But theologically, Christ is considered to be the son of God himself, thus making Joseph Christ's foster father.

The question is, were David and Goliath real people, or is this story merely a myth written centuries after it was supposed to have occurred, as some scholars claim? Is there any evidence that this event could really have occurred?

Recent archaeological discoveries in Israel provide the faintest glimmers that this story could have some basis in fact.


Despite the accounts of David's life and exploits as recorded in the Bible, many scholars have doubted that King David actually existed.

However, in 1868 an inscribed basalt stone, dating from the 9th Century BC - known as the Moabite Stone2 or the Mesha Stela - was discovered at Dibon, Jordan; an ancient city east of the Dead Sea, by FA Klein, a German missionary. The stone was 1.1m high and 0.6m in breadth and in thickness, rounded at the top. It consisted of thirty-four lines, written in the ancient Hebrew alphabet, a script closely related to Phoenician, and was set up by Mesha3 at Dan as a record and memorial of his victories.

The stone was, unfortunately, much fragmented but in 1993 a French scholar, Andre Lemaire, who had spent seven years piecing it all together, discovered the words 'House of David'. Line 31 of the Moabite Stone contains the words '...the sheep of the land. And the house (of Da)vid dwelt in Horonen'. This was reported in Biblical Archaeology Review, May-June, 1994. and created such a sensation that it was also reported on the front page of The New York Times. This inscription showed that Israel and Judah were important kingdoms in the 9th Century BC, and refuted the positions of those scholars who claimed that these were never nations of any significance, and even disputed that David had ever been at the head of a united monarchy.
A report in Biblical Archaeology Review, March-April 1994, states:

Avraham Biran and his team of archaeologists found a remarkable inscription from the 9th Century BC that refers to the 'House of David' and to the 'King of Israel'. This is the first time that the name David has been found in any inscription outside the Bible. That the inscription refers not simply to David but to the 'House of David', the dynasty of the great Israelite king, is even more remarkable.


It is thought that the name 'Goliath' was an Israelite phonetic translation of the Philistinian name, Aylattes.
Goliath himself was a member of the Anakim4, a race of giant people who inhabited the Philistine cities in the neighbourhood of Hebron. The Anakim appear to have been an aggressive, warmongering people who terrified the Israelites.

The Philistines

The Philistines were a people who, from the 12th Century BC, occupied the coastal lowlands of Palestine; and who gave their name to that country. They were organised under five lords who ruled at the five chief Philistinian cities: Gaza, Ashdod, Askalon, Gath and Ekron. Gath, the home of Goliath, was situated on the frontiers of Judah and, nowadays is identified with Tell-es-Safi, where crusaders built the castle of Blanche Garde.

The Philistines are believed to have invaded Israel in the 11th Century BC. They were highly civilised, skilled in agriculture and commerce; and brought in their own culture and language. Apart from this, not much is known about their language and writing.

Furthermore, the Philistines were technologically advanced, and possessed iron weaponry5, this being much harder and more durable than bronze and copper, used by the more primitive Israelites.

Archaeological Findings at Tell-es-Safi

Tell-es-Safi (known as Tel Tsafit in Hebrew) is a mound, some 100 acres in size, which occupies a commanding position on the border between the Judean foothills (known as the Shephelah) and the coastal plain, approximately halfway between Jerusalem and Ashkelon. It was continuously inhabited from the Chalcolithic6 period (4th millennium BC) until 1948 and, nowadays, is one of the largest and most important pre-Classical period archaeological sites in Israel.

In 2005, archaeologists from the Bar-Ilan University in Israel, while digging at Tell-es-Safi, uncovered a shard of pottery bearing the inscription ALWT and WLT, written in the archaic proto-Canaanite language dating back some 3,000 years to 950BC. This uses a different script from the Roman alphabet used in modern Western languages. The shard, measuring 6cm in length, is thought to come from a bowl of 15 to 20cm diameter. The dating puts it within 50 to 100 years of when standard Biblical chronology suggests that David met Goliath and also makes it the oldest Philistine inscription ever discovered. Professor Aren Maeir of the Bar-Ilan University says that the words ALWT and WLT are non-Semitic and are similar to the word 'Goliath'. Certainly, the inscription appears to be written in script which is closely related to Phoenecian. Phoenecian is written from right to left, and the A, W and T in the inscription are Phoenician, whereas the 'L' appears to be a sort of spiral like a G or a 6. (A Phoenician 'L' looks more like our Roman 'L', but with the two lines forming an acute angle. Hence, the entire script is not exactly Phoenician, but is closely related to it).

Although this finding at Tell-es-Safi does indicate that 'Goliath' was a name used in this area at that time; it would be extremely unlikely to have any connection with the person of the David and Goliath legend. It certainly does not prove that a ten-feet-tall giant actually existed. Note that other sources, for example Josephus, (Antiquities 6.171) and a Dead Sea Scroll fragment known as 4QSama both give Goliath's height as 'four cubits and a span', as do certain other editions of the Septuagint, or Greek translation of the Old Testament (285 - 246BC). Therefore, it is possible that Goliath was, in fact, closer to six feet nine inches tall, which might still have been considered to be 'giant' in those days.


Although the archaeological evidence leaves no doubt that King David of Israel was a real historical figure; and that Goliath was a name extant in the region at the same time, there is as yet no proof that a giant named Goliath fought with the future King David and was slain.

For those interested in 'the Bible as history', it is interesting to note the extent to which modern archaeology is able to uphold even the most ancient of biblical texts.

1A note about measurements used would be appropriate here. The cubit is a unit of linear measurement, from the elbow to the tip of the longest finger of a man. This unit is commonly converted to 0.46 metres or 18 inches, although this varies according to the proportions of the man doing the measurement. A span is the length from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger when the hand is stretched out (about 23 cm), and a shekel is a measure of weight approximately equal to 16 grams.
2It is interesting to note that the Moabite Stone contains the earliest known extra-Biblical occurrence of the tetragrammaton.3Mesha was ruler of the small kingdom of Moab, east of the Dead Sea, in the mid-9th Century BC. Everything known about the Biblical Mesha is recorded in 2 Kings, chapter 3.4Mentioned in the Old Testament at Numbers 13:22, 28, 33; Deuteronomy 1:28; 2:21; and Joshua 11:21.5The Iron Age commenced in Israel during the days of the Judges. The book of Judges is believed to have been written by the prophet Samuel around 1050 to 1000BC.6A prehistoric age spanning approximately the years 4500 - 3500 BC, between the Neolithic and Bronze ages. It was characterised by the human use of copper and stone tools. The word is derived from the Greek words for copper (chalcos) and stone (lithos).

Created May 30, 2006 | Updated May 30, 2011



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