King David and Archaeology
by Rick Dack, Founder and Director of Defending the Bible Int’l.

(All images and text are owned/purchased by Defending the Bible Int'l. and cannot be used without permission)
Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherds bag, in a pouch he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near the Philistine. - 1 Samuel 17:40 (
Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in the forehead, so that the stone sunk deep in his forehead, and fell on his face to the earth. - 1 Samuel 17:49 (
At one of the proposed sites of biblical Ai (Khirbet El-Maqatir), sling stones were recovered by the Bryant Wood excavation team. In most Churches, it is assumed that the sling stones that David used were mere pebbles in a stream that he placed into his sling to kill Goliath, but the Maqatir stones that were discovered were between the size of a softball and a baseball. Since David fought off lions and bears that went after his flocks (1 Sam. 17:34-37), it seems logical that the projectile had to be larger than a marble or a small golf ball. A good slinger can hurl stones up to a quarter mile (440 yards) at about 60 miles an hour and the best slingers, according to Grace Kellner, Artifacts Registrar at Maqatir, were left-handed Benjamites (see Judges 20 and 1 Chronicles 12:2) (Bible and Spade, Winter 1998, 2, 3). mmE. M. Blaiklock writes that the first slings were probably made of stag antlers that were carved into the shape of a horse's head. The stone was placed within the jaws of the head and discharged with an over-arm jerk. At the site of Tell Halaf, a relief was discovered that depicts a slinger with the leather-pouched weapon in which the stone was placed inside the pouch, which was pulled tight to form a bag, and at the proper moment, one of the leather straps was released to throw the projectile (Blaiklock, 1983, 418).
A Modern Giant
Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Socoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Socoh and Azekah. Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them. A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver's rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him. - 1 Samuel 17: 1-7 (
Assigned to the fabled stories of The Brothers Grimm, giants took on mythical status until the stunning medical abnormality known as Robert Wadlow who, at his tallest, reached 8'11". Mr. Wadlow was at a normal height and weight at birth, but pituitary problems led to his outsized growth. By the age of eight, he was six feet tall; by the age of 16, he stood nearly 7'10" and weighed over 370 pounds ( Born in Alton, Illinois in 1918, Robert Pershing Wadlow tried to maintain a normal life but was unsuccessful. At age 18, he was named the tallest Boy Scout at seven feet, four inches and later in life was hired by a shoe company to advertise its products. Wadlow, as with most individuals of abnormal stature, was plagued with Acromegaly (a pituitary eye disease) that stayed with Wadlow until his death in 1940 at the age of 22 ( Acromegaly, according to an Israeli neurologist, may have assisted David in his confrontation with Goliath.
Acromegaly and Armor
Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. - 1 Samuel 17:48-51 (
Goliath's words were a bit too hasty according to Dr. Vladimir Berginer, Israeli Neurologist, who believes that Goliath suffered from a hormonal disease that not only contributed to his enormous size and strength but also diminished his eyesight. This pituitary disease known as acromegaly presses on the optic nerve thus causing vision problems. Berginer's theory is that David hit Goliath with the stone, knocking him out, and then using the sword, he killed the giant (Artifax, According to E.M. Blaiklock, Goliath's helmet (of Aegaen origin) may have also limited the giants ability to get a proper view of David, son of Jesse. With this type of armor, it is best to keep your head down and use the visor, but this failure to do so gave David an opportunity to strike with accuracy (Blaiklock, 1983, 218).
Ancient Giants (The Anakim and Pelasgian's)
Hear, O Israel. You are now about to cross the Jordan to go in and dispossess nations greater and stronger than you, with large cities that have walls up to the sky. The people are strong and tall-Anakites! You know about them and have heard it said: "Who can stand up against the Anakites?" But be assured today that the LORD your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the LORD has promised you. - Deuteronomy 9:1-3 (
Eight hundred years before King Saul, the descendants of Anak (Anakim) were mentioned on Egyptian Execration Texts. These contemporaries of Joseph are mentioned as the rulers of the Anakim Giants and their names were Eram, Obbe Ya'meeyu, Akiram, and "all of their men." It is believed that the Anakim, some four hundred years later, joined with the Philistines who eventually became a scourge to the Israelis.
Next we turned and went up along the road toward Bashan, and Og king of Bashan with his whole army marched out to meet us in battle at Edrei. The LORD said to me, "Do not be afraid of him, for I have handed him over to you with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon." (Only Og king of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaites. His bed was made of iron and was more than thirteen feet long and six feet wide. It is still in Rabbah of the Ammonites). - Deuteronomy 3: 1, 2, 11 (
The giant known as King Og was defeated by the Israelites in Bashan at the Battle of Edrei. Bashan's earliest occupation was between 3000 and 2000 B.C. An Egyptian document from the time of Thutmosis III and the Amarna letters reveals a strong agricultural settlement which was eventually taken over by the Israelites (Blaiklock, 1983, 93). It is believed that the King's bed was made in Raboth-Ammon (modern day Amman, Jordan) and that he was a descendant of the Zamzummim (Rephaim) who were also giants. Another group, known as the Pelasgians were quite possibly the Philistines or at least a close relation. Greek legend says that the Pelasgians had giants that lived among them (Old Testament Archaeology video, Northwestern College, 2000).
Philistine Origins
Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Socoh in Judah. - 1 Samuel 17:1 (
Recently, there has been some question as to the origin of the Philistines. Is there evidence for their existence? Is it possible that they came from the Greek world? According to Joseph Free, the Philistines entered Palestine in the twelfth century and attacked the Egyptians during the reign of Ramses III. Dr. Charles Aling (Northwestern College, St. Paul MN) believes that the Philistines came from Caphtor (Crete) and settled on the coast of Palestine, but there is no indication that Caphtor was the definitive location of their true origin (Aling, 1981, 120). mm Dr. Aling states that there are many indicators that point to the Philistines (Sea Peoples) as having an Aegean origin. These proofs include pottery similarities (geometric patterns, double axe patterns), the words of the Philistines (Teren = Lord of the Philistines and Helmet = Kobah), a possible relationship to a day's battle in which one man fights another as representatives of each side of the conflict (related to Homer's Iliad), a plate that depicts a Greek warrior with armor similar to what Goliath wore, Philistine Temple architecture that is strikingly similar to Greek design, and the famous Phaistos Disk, discovered in 1903 on Crete, that shows the plumed headdress of the Philistines multiple times. At Medinet Habu (Thebes, Egypt), the plumed helmet of the Philistines can be seen in a carving that was uncovered by the Chicago Oriental Institute in the 1930's ((Old Testament Archaeology video, Northwestern College, 2000. Aling, 1981, 119). mm The Philistine city of Ekron (Tell Miqne) has also yielded a connection to the Greek world in its Mycanaean pottery which contains Aegean motifs (the first phase of Philistine occupation). Tell Miqne's 1996 excavation led to the discoveries of a golden cobra headdress, which had its origin as part of an Egyptian deity statuette, an inscription that positively identifies the site as Ekron, and the name of one of its kings (Padi), uncovered in the summer of 1997 (Price, 1997, 222-227. Bible and Spade, Winter 1998, 26).
King David Inscriptions
And they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign - 2 Samuel 5: 3, 4 (
Since the death of Kathleen Kenyon in the late 1970's, conservative scholars have desired to know whether Kenyon was correct in her belief that "…David and Solomon still remain unknown outside the Old Testament or literary sources ..." Even more puzzling to me is the artifact known as the Moabite Stone and its date of translation because many believe that the Tel Dan inscription (discovered in 1993) was the first reference to David outside the Old Testament. How can this be if the Moabite Stone was discovered first? As will be seen, the Tel Dan Inscription is probably the first complete inscription of King David that was discovered, not the first unearthed. mm The first excavation at Tel Dan was conducted by Avraham Biran in 1966. Since that time, Biran has uncovered a bowl inscription that read "of the butchers," a probable reference to the cooks of the butchers from the Dan Royal Family. Another inscription reads, "belonging to Amotz (Amos)," not the biblical Amos. In addition to the excavation of a seventh-century B.C. building, an inscription relating to Baal, a "God who is in Dan" inscription verifying the site as Dan, an inscription directly related to the Israeli King Zechariah, and a city-gate complex were all unearthed. The Tel Dan inscription was discovered near this city-gate complex close to a recently discovered wall on the east side. This artifact was discovered by Gila Cook, who saw it protruding up from the ground and would have missed it if the sun had not highlighted the script which reads on line 8, "the king of Israel. And (I) slew (…the kin-) and on line 9 "g of the House of David. And I put…" obviously refers to the The House of David and the Kingship. (Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 1994, 26-39). The Tel Dan Inscription is dated to the time of Hazael, an Aramean usurper (Price 1997, 169).
The story of the Moabite (Mesha) Stone reads like a novel of adventure. The stone tells the story of King Mesha of Moab and how his country had been oppressed by the Israelites for forty years from the time of Omri (ca. 876-869 B.C.) to Jehoram (ca. 849-842 B.C.), his insurrection against Israel and his war against the Edomites. The Moabite Stone was discovered in 1868 at Dibon, Jordan by a missionary named F.A. Klein. It was considered to be a good-luck amulet by the locals, and the stone was broken apart and sold. Fortunately, an impression was made of the artifact before its destruction and Clermont-Ganneau collected the remaining pieces and reconstructed it in 1873. The Moabite Stone's final resting place is in the Louvre in Paris (Schoville, 1978, 485). The portion that speaks of King David reads, "House of D…." The French scholar Andre LeMaire, who has provided further support in identifying the Tel Dan Inscription, believes that the Moabite Stone does contain the name David on line 31, a partially destroyed part of the inscription. Other biblical figures mentioned on the stone are Ahab, Omri and, of course, Mesha (Price, 1997, 171-172). mm The "Heights of David" inscription, found in Egypt, may be a third reference to the Israeli King. Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen of the University of Liverpool believes that the biblical Pharaoh Shishak (Sheshonq) may have carved David's name into the wall of the Amun Temple at Karnak, a practice that was developed by Thutmosis III during his reign to show his dominion over what he had conquered. Shishak's success over his many enemies, including Israel, is represented by over one hundred place-names on the Amun Temple wall. The name David is similar to an Ethiopian ruler's inscription from Axum that cites Psalms 19 and 65 in which the word Davit is used. The Davit of the Ethiopian inscription is the same as on the Temple of Amun wall, says Kitchen (Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 1999, 34 - 35).
Jerusalem Archaeology
The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, "You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off." They thought, "David cannot get in here." Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, the City of David. On that day, David said, "Anyone who conquers the Jebusites will have to use the water shaft to reach those 'lame and blind' who are David's enemies." That is why they say, "The 'blind and lame' will not enter the palace." David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the supporting terraces inward. And he became more and more powerful, because the LORD God Almighty was with him. - 2 Samuel 5:6-10 (
The Walls of Jerusalem and the Stone Stepped Structure
Excavations by Kathleen Kenyon (1961-1967) revealed that Jerusalem was an elongated triangle enclosing an area of about nine acres. Kenyon also states that there is no indication that David ever expanded his city but simply repaired it. The expansion of the city would resume later during the time of Solomon where he would expand the north to include the Temple (Bible and Spade Autumn 1972, 99-105). A fifty-foot stack of rocks discovered in Jerusalem could be where David built his Fortress of Zion. Archaeologist Eilat Mazar believes that David's Royal Palace may lie just north of this stone structure (Price, 1997, 165).
Warren's Shaft
All Israel came together to David at Hebron and said, "We are your own flesh and blood. In the past, even while Saul was king, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the Lord your God said to you, 'You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.' "When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, he made a compact with them at Hebron before the Lord , and they anointed David king over Israel, as the Lord had promised through Samuel. David and all the Israelites marched to Jerusalem (that is, Jebus). The Jebusites who lived there said to David, "You will not get in here." Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, the City of David. David had said, "Whoever leads the attack on the Jebusites will become commander-in-chief." Joab son of Zeruiah went up first, and so he received the command. David then took up residence in the fortress, and so it was called the City of David. He built up the city around it, from the supporting terraces to the surrounding wall, while Joab restored the rest of the city. And David became more and more powerful, because the Lord Almighty was with him. - 1 Chronicles 11: 1-7 (
"Whoever climbs up by the way of the water shaft and defeats the Jebusites…he shall be chief and captain." - 2 Samuel 5:8 (
For years, scholars have debated these passages trying to figure out how Joab entered the city of Jerusalem. In 1867, Captain Charles Warren discovered a shaft that was not a man-made creation but a sink hole or an erosion shaft caused by water percolating through limestone and this one of two ways that entrance to city was possible. The first entrance would've been via the Gihon Spring and up Warrens Shaft and the second would have been through a tunnel on the eastern slope (Brantley, 1995, 125). Though the shaft is a naturally occurring opening, it is believed that the Jebusites used this as a means to acquire clean water and one can assume they did not know about the opening that Joab entered to take the city.
David's Defensive Tower
Once David became King, he built up defensive towers in order to protect his city. One of these towers was discovered in 1997 by Ronnie Reich who uncovered a large stone structure in the southern part of Jerusalem (Price, 1997, 165). King David's Political Cabinet 15 David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people. - 2 Samuel 8:15 (
In 1973, a Ph'D candidate by the name of Tryvgge N.D. Mettinger gave his dissertation on the names of King David and Solomon's cabinet members. The method known as Prosopography was used to uncover the meanings and duties of David's and Solomon's high state officials. Dr Mettinger's used the writings of 2 Samuel 8, 15, 29; 1 Kings 4, 5, 9, 19 and 1 Chronicles 27 to complete his lengthy project. Mazhkir was the first title that he chose to tackle. Mazhkir or the Recorder (Secretary of State) was responsible for handling communications between the King and his subjects. He was also responsible for the ceremonial at royal audiences and received vassals as well as foreign envoys to the Kings court (Chief of the Protocol). The second title investigated was the Sopher or Scribe/Royal Secretary. The Sopher was responsible for foreign and domestic correspondence and keeping the Royal annals. David's royal secretary, Seraiah, might have been an Egyptian. His name means "Royal letter writer of Pharaoh." The Scribe kept the archives in the State Secretariate (Scribes chambers) which was located in the Kings Palace. The third title was an addition by King David (2 Samuel 29:23-26) and it was called Al-Hammas meaning "Over the Tribute" (In charge of the forced levy). This third office was created by David after he defeated the Canaanites which probably had its origin with the Canaanites. The forced levy was of two types in which the Canaanites were conscripted to permanent levy (1 Kings 9:20,21) while the northern Israelites were conscripted to periodic/temporary levy's (1 Kings 5: 13-16) (Bible and Spade, Autumn 1973, 115-118).
Solomon's additions to his cabinet
Not meaning to jump ahead of myself, it may be appropriate at this time to briefly explain Solomon's contribution to his administration. Solomon created three new offices (al-hannitstsabim, reeh hammelek, and the al-habbaith) in which to govern duty, create an advisory position as well as appoint a property overseer. The al-hannitstsabim or "Over the Officers" (Superintendent of Regional Governors) was created by Solomon once he created the 12 administrative districts to govern taxes. The Superintendent was the head over these 12 districts. (I Kings 4:22-27). The reeh hammelek or "Principal Officer and the King's Friend" was a counselor to the King and the al-habbaith meaning "Over the Household" (Comptroller of the Household) was an Administer of the Royal Estate like Joseph. The steward of David's property was responsible for the Royal trade (1 Kings 10:28) and for mining activities (Bible and Spade, Autumn 1973, 115-118).
The Pool of Gibeon and Archaeology
Joab son of Zeruiah and David's men went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. One group sat down on one side of the pool and one group on the other side. - 2 Samuel 2:13 (
The site of Gibeon was excavated by James Pritchard of the University of Pennsylvania in cooperation with the Church Divinity School between 1956 and 1962. The site known as Gibeon (Al-Jib) is approximately 9 miles north of Jerusalem and its earliest record of habitation is about 3100 B.C. that encapsulated the entire Bronze Age up to 1200 B.C. The name Gibeon was uncovered at the site twenty five times. Also discovered were imported wares, a royal seal and storage jar handles (lllustrated Bible Dictionary, 1998, 559). The Pool of Gibeon, where David was victorious, measures 36 feet in diameter and 30 feet deep (Blaiklock, 1983, 214).
David's Palace at Jerusalem
2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. - 2 Samuel 11:2 (
It is believed that David's Palace consisted of a series of terraces filled with stones which faced eastward. Though no architectural remains firmly attributed to David's Palace have yet been found, approximately thirty-four ancient Capitals have been found in Israel amongst other public buildings so why would David's residence be any different? At Shiloh's area G, excavators have uncovered square hewn stones probably cut by Phoenicians that are similar to the ones found by Kathleen Kenyon at David's proposed dwelling. In Kenyon's excavation of area H, a casemate wall was found, a casemate wall is a divider with square compartments built into it. This wall is dated to the general time period (tenth century B.C.) in which David lived. The wall protected the Palace from the north (Bible and Spade, Winter 1997,
The width and breadth of David's Kingdom
Moreover, David fought Hadadezer king of Zobah, as far as Hamath, when he went to establish his control along the Euphrates River...He put garrisons in the Aramean kingdom of Damascus, and the Arameans became subject to him and brought tribute. The LORD gave David victory everywhere he went. - 1 Chronicles 18: 3, 6 (
Critics such as Hermann Guthe and Hugo Winckler have attempted in years past to say that David's kingdom, as described in the Bible, was smaller that what is written but archaeology has once again proven the critics wrong. The area of criticism revolves around 1 Chronicles 18:3, 6 in which the Bible says that David's empire included the area north of Damascus and Zobah (the land of King Hadadezer) as part of his kingdom. Archaeology has shown that Zobah lies north and not south of Damascus which is what the critics asserted. William F Albright supports this conclusion in saying that "It follows that the biblical narrative is perfectly reasonable geographically…David's empire then extended from the Gulf of Aqaba in the south to the regions of Hums in the north, and it remained, at least nominally, in Solomon's hands until his death or shortly afterward" (Free, 1992, 136).
King David's Tomb?
Then David rested with his fathers and was buried in the City of David. 11 He had reigned forty years over Israel- seven years in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. - 1 Kings 2:10, 11 (
The tombs known as T1-T8 were excavated by Raymond Weill between 1913 and 1914. In 1924, the last tomb (T9) was discovered and it is believed by Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review, that David's tomb location may have been discovered. The tomb that Shanks believes may be the tomb of David is T1. The attributes of the tomb include a long tunnel (52 ½ feet long, 8 feet wide and 13 feet high) with a lower level, a back wall with a deep impression (similar to later 1st temple tombs that were discovered) where a body, sarcophagus/burial container could be placed (4 ft wide, 6 ft long) and steps leading down to another entrance where presumably an additional person wanted to be laid to rest. T1 rests on a mound that is surrounded by the lesser tombs (T2-T9). Mr. Shanks goes on to lay out his argument for this tomb being the burial spot of David with many interesting arguments. He says that The City of David was located on the east-ridge of the city, south of the present Temple Mount, (10-11 acres was the size of the City at the time of David) of which no one will argue, that royalty was buried inside the city unlike many in the ancient world who had the beliefs that a dead corpse would contaminate a large population. Shanks cites scripture in his defense of the tomb in that the Kings of Judah (David to Ahaz) were buried within the city of David (1 Kings 2, 11, 14, 15, 22. 2 Kings 9, 12. 2 Chronicles 9, 12) and that Nehemiah states that the Davidic tombs were in the southern part of the city (Neh. 3:16) where these tombs are located but the critics have also voiced their opinions regarding Shanks' theory. The skeptical minimalist camp states that T1-T9 are not tombs and that they do not date to the time of the giant killer. David Ussishkin disagrees that it's David's tombs because of its crudity but confessed to Shanks that some Kings tombs (at Byblos and Tunis) were crude outside but that the burial artifacts were impressive. Kenyon called it (T1) a cistern but said that if it was it used this way it was unusual and she could not explain how it could be used as one. Gabriel Barkay said that T1 was used for wine in the Roman period but didn't know what its earlier use was for. Shanks defends his claims in that little is known about First and Second Temple tombs, that T1 is not characteristic of any tombs found in Israel except those near it (T2-T9) and that not a single tomb that has been found in Jerusalem that can be dated to the time of David and we don't know what a tomb from David's time looked like (Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 1995, 62-67).
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