Tuesday, August 02, 2016

David and Solomon by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman (Book Review #34 of 2016)



David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible's Kings and the Roots of Western Tradition


The maps in this book (kindle edition) are inadequate. I recommend investing in a better map to keep handy on your table or better yet on your wall. (That is true if you're just reading through the Bible anyway.)

If you want a brief summary of this book's contents, read Israel Finkelstein's "A Low Chronology Update: Archaeology, History and Bible", in T. E. Levy – T. Higham (eds.), The Bible and Radiocarbon Dating: Archaeology, Text and Science (London: Equinox, 2005) 31-42, available for free download at academia.edu. I recommend that with a word of caution to the reader: Finkelstein addresses valid criticisms (naming them as valid) to his hypothesis in this article, including a criticism by Eilat Mazar, which the authors do not do in the book. There is constantly new archaeology being uncovered in the Levant that both support and undermine various hypotheses, and new hypotheses are always being generated. As the authors admit, there are many competing claims, even among archeologists working on the same digs. The authors don't assign probabilities. Again, a weakness of the book is that the authors do not lay out counterarguments to their preferred hypotheses in this book. There have since been recent discoveries that may alter the hypothesis (from 2006) a bit, or make it less probable, see below.

The basic hypothesis of the authors is this: There was never a united monarchy under David and Solomon, the idea was developed two centuries later to legitimize Judah's rule over Israeli refugees after the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians. 1-2 Samuel represents a blending of Northern Kingdom and Judahite history, in which Judah comes out on top and Judah's rule is legitimized because of Saul's sinful follies; David is shown as merciful to Saul's lineage as well as married to it in order to quell any resentment. David was an actual 10th century highland chieftan/bandit, and the evidence for his actual existence include the fact that the Scripture uses Hebrew language and geography that can only be dated to the 10th century, and would have been unknown if scribes were making it up in the 6th century or later. The Tel Dan stelle confirms his historic existence and importance remaining centuries later. But there are "clues" in the text that the final redaction of 1-2 Samuel reflects 8th and 7th century realities. Goliath, for example, resembles a Greek hoplite and looks nothing as Philistine warriors are depicted in Egyptian sketches. Likewise, the character of David in 2 Samuel seems patterned after Hezekiah. Solomon is patterned either after the wise Assyrian and Persian kings and reflect an economy that could only have existed in the 8th and 7th centuries when Judah grew rich as an Assyrian vassal state, or Solomon is patterned after Manasseh who led an economic revival after Sennacherib had beseiged and appropriated some of Judah. There is no archaeological evidence for a growing Jerusalem or Judah in the 10th-9th centuries. Structures previously believed to be Solomon's stables and other large works comporting with 1 Kings have since been widely dated later. Villages in Judah become much more populated, according to carbon dating and other methods, in the 8th century after refugees move from the Northern Kingdom. You need a "low chronology," move the traditional dates of Judahite expansion up at least a century, to explain the differences.

The authors contend that most of the archaeological work in Israel in the 19th and 20th centuries use the Bible as their starting point, which leads to circular logic about dates for the sights found. By ignoring the biblical chronology and finding corresponding events in Egyptian and Assyrian history, along with carbon dating and what is physically available from digs, you can date the growth of Judah's kingdom a couple centuries later. Their views roughly line up with biblical commentator Kyle McCarter, Jr. who sees 1-2 Samuel as mainly a political history. But their own exegesis is lacking a bit; another weakness of the book is that, interestingly, the authors do not mention the origins or the nature of the Deuteronomistic History recorded in Scripture. 1-2 Samuel is a notoriously difficult book to translate because the Masoretic text is missing several elements included in the Septuagint, which came much later, and not all of the Dead Sea Scrolls containing portions of the books have been released or studied yet. (I found this out by reading some excellent commentaries dealing with textual difficulties of certain chapters and Hebrew words. 1 Samuel 13:1, for example, is notoriously incomplete and untranslatable).

Why this is important:
Historical David is just as important to Christology as Historical Adam. The covenant God makes with David in 2 Samuel 7 is a "revelation for mankind" about the "distant future," fulfilled in Jesus--the branch from the root of Jesse--who is called "Son of David" (Matthew 1:1, 9:27, etc.). It is a continuation of the Adamic-Noahic-Abrahamic-Mosaic covenant which all point to a coming Messiah who will reign forever. Jesus also becomes the fulfillment of Solomon's temple, he is the "tabernacle" (John 1:14, John 2:19), and Christians (the Church) today are the same fulfillment as the Holy Spirit fills us just as it did the tabernacle of Exodus and Solomon's temple of 1 Kings (1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19-20, 2 Cor. 6:16, 1 Peter 2, etc.).

Recent discoveries that might affect the authors' (2006) work:
1. Literacy in Israel may have been more widespread earlier than previously thought, from new analysis (2016) by Tel Aviv University on the Arad ostraca. (http://www.timesofisrael.com/new-look-at-ancient-shards-suggests-bible-even-older-than-thought/).
While the authors maintain that "there is no sign of extensive literacy or writing in Judah until the end of the eighth century BCE" (p. 88),
"we can now say that the tale could not possibly have been put in writing until more than two hundred years after the death of David" (p. 36)- this does not appear to be necessarily true in light of recent evidence. I believe these recent discoveries undermine their hypothesis that Judah re-wrote the 10th century history of Judah and Israel during the 7th century as it would simply be harder to get away with with a population that was somewhat literate-- it's more plausible in light of new evidence that there surely would have been both oral AND written memories by which Israelites would know that David had never been a ruler over a united Northern and Southern Kingdom if that were indeed the case. In other words, even with a Low Chronology, you can move literacy up a century or so.

2. Another reviewer cites evidence by Barry Strauss of 13th and 12th century BC Egyptian paintings of Greek warriors possible akin to Goliath. The authors claim that Goliath's armor could only be described as that of a Greek hoplite not present in 10th century Jewish thinking. Apparently, Egyptian paintings of the "Sea People" Philistines do not look as Goliath is described. Hence, one could conclude that perhaps such warriors did exist, or that Goliath's description could have been a preserved description of an exotic Heroic Age Greek warrior.

3. Dr. Eilat Mazar discovered structures from 2005-2010 that she dates to the 10th century that would indicate both widespread literacy and the ability to do large-scale construction in Jerusalem at a time the authors say would have been impossible. Her discoveries of a large wall structure and pottery in 2010 came after this book was published. (http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Jlem-city-wall-dates-back-to-King-Solomon) Part of her work uncovered the largest jars yet recovered in Jerusalem, whereas when this book was written there were scarce any shards from the 10th century known to be found, according to the authors. In the book, Finkelstein contests the Large Stone Structure that Mazar found in 2005. But Mazar continues to get university funding and be considered credible; in 2015, Mazar's team uncovered a seal impression of King Hezekiah in an ancient refuse dump. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151202132519.htm
So, while the authors debate Mazar's claims, she at least appears to be uncovering interesting things and is still unapologetic about the dates she gives matching a biblical timeline. Finkelstein's "Low Chronology Update" article addresses Mazar, but also does not disparage her work as commenters on Amazon do and also includes hers in his list of "valid" criticisms. 

However, the authors are rather conservative in their view on when it was written. As cited above, they do NOT say the entire Saul-David-Solomon story was made up whole-cloth after the exile by scribes who fooled an illiterate population. They deny more critical claims that the Deuteronomistic History was written entirely after the Babylonian exile because of the geography and the Hebrew used:
"First of all, the evidence of literacy and extensive scribal activity in Jerusalem in the Persian and early Hellenistic periods was hardly greater—in fact much smaller—than that relating to the eighth (century)...To assume, as the minimalists do, that in the fifth or fourth or even second century BCE, the scribes of a small, out-of-the-way temple town in the Judean mountains compiled an extraordinarily long and detailed composition about the history, personalities, and events of an imaginary Iron Age “Israel” without using ancient sources was itself taking an enormous leap of faith" (p. 254). 
The geographical background of the stories of David in 1 Samuel matches the 10th century, not the 8th or later (p. 41).
"This combination of peoples and areas on both sides of the Jordan River does not correspond to any later territorial unit in the history of Israel. Indeed the biblical description of Saul’s territorial legacy does not apply the geographic terms used for these regions in late monarchic times" (p. 70)

The Tel Dan stele of David discovered in 1996 fatally damaged the whole-cloth "minimalist" hypotheses.

The borders of Judah-Israel do indeed match the historical/archaeologic record in the mid ninth century, contrary to the claims of the minimalist school (p. 112).

Onto David:
David's life during his flight from Saul seems to match that of the 10th century "Apiru" people mentioned in the Egyptian "Amarna letters," which describe isolated herders and highlander bandit-kings who operated apart from Egyptian control. ("This term, sometimes transliterated as Habiru, was once thought to be related to the term 'Hebrews,' but the Egyptian texts make it clear that it does not refer to a specific ethnic group so much as a problematic socioeconomic class," p.48). 1 Samuel 30:26-31 records that David shared his captured Philistine booty with local highland elders, and describes his marriage relationship with their daughters as well. So, the authors rate this aspect of David's life as "plausible."

Northern Kingdom expansion:
"From only about twenty-five recorded sites in the area between Jerusalem and the Jezreel Valley in the preceding Late Bronze Age, the number skyrockets to more than 230 in the late Iron I period. Their estimated population was just over forty thousand, compared to less than five thousand in the entire hill country of Judah. A similarly dramatic settlement expansion took place across the Jordan, in the northern part of the Transjordanian plateau. There, too, the number of settled sites vastly expanded, from about thirty in the Late Bronze Age to about 220 in the Early Iron Age" (p. 70-71). The authors don't mention it, but it roughly matches the census numbers given in the battles of the Book of Judges; Judah's military offering was petty compared to the rest of Israel.

Shehonq I / Shishak- pharoah of 22nd Dynasty who ruled in the 10th century. The Bible puts Shishak's battle against Israel around 926 BCE during Rehoboam's reign, but Egypt's list of conquered cities only records the Northern Kingdom sites and nothing in Jerusalem and Judah. If Judah had risen to prominence under Solomon, why aren't its cities even mentioned in the Egyptian history?

"The archaeological evidence suggests that (Sishak's invasion) actually happened: the places just to the north of Jerusalem that appear on the Karnak list (and that the biblical tradition describes as the core of Saul’s activity) were the scene of a significant wave of abandonment in the tenth century BCE. The conclusion seems clear: Sheshonq and his forces marched into the hill country and attacked the early north Israelite entity. He also conquered the most important lowland cities like Megiddo and regained control of the southern trade routes" (p. 83).

"new analyses of the archaeological data from Jerusalem have shown that the settlement of the tenth century BCE was no more than a small, poor highland village, with no evidence for monumental construction of any kind" (p. 82).

"Over a century of excavations in the City of David (within the confines of Jerusalem) have produced surprisingly meager remains from the late sixteenth to mid–eighth centuries BCE" (p. 95).

"As far as we know from the silence of historical sources and archaeological evidence, Judah—with only limited resources and set off from the major trade routes—remained a remote and primitive highland kingdom throughout the ninth and early eighth centuries BCE. It evaded even indirect Assyrian control," (p. 124).

But the Amalekites and Philistines, not the Egyptians, are the chief biblical enemy during Saul and David's day. How does one explain this?
"The coastal Sea Peoples, including Philistines, had long served as Egyptian mercenary forces, and their role as Egyptian allies in this campaign and its aftermath seems quite plausible. It is possible that the Bible’s reference to the Philistines attacking the hill country and establishing garrisons at Geba (1 Samuel 13:3) and Bethlehem (2 Samuel 23:14), and to the great Philistine-Israelite battle at Beth-shean, may, in fact, preserve a memory of the Egypto-Philistine alliance" (p. 86).

Here's the key:
"David and Judah may have benefited from the fall of the northern polity and expanded to control some of the highland territories that Saul once led" (p. 86).

"The wave of destruction that had previously been dated to around 1000 BCE and attributed to the expansion of the united monarchy in the days of King David actually came later, by almost a century. Such a transformation can indeed be traced in the archaeological record, but as we will suggest, it occurred first in the northern highlands rather than Judah—and only with the passage of several generations after the presumed reigns of both David and Solomon" (p. 98-99).

The authors' hypothesis is that the united monarchy occured under the Omride dynasty of the North, after historical David and Solomon; its capital was Samaria. The history was later revised after the fall of the Northern Kingdom (721 BC), as Judah's King Hezekiah benefited by being a vassle state to Assyria.

"The 'Court History' of David thus offers a whole series of historical retrojections in which the founder of the dynasty of Judah in the tenth century is credited with the victories and the acquisitions of territory that were in fact accomplished by the ninth-century Omrides" (p. 113).
The intrigue and even positions of "scribes" and "recorders" recorded in 2 Samuel were too sophisticated to have existed until a generation or two after Solomon, in the 9th century. Hence, it is retelling Omride history. The Philistine's attributes as described in 2 Samuel resemble more the time of Josiah, centuries later, than the 10th century (p. 184). The list of cities that David distributes booty to in 1 Samuel 30 "were especially prominent in the time of Josiah" (p. 188).

After the sack of Samaria, Judah's King Ahaz swore allegiance to Assyria (2 Kings 16:5-9). Sargon II finished the job of plundering Assyria and deporting many inhabitants. The authors record that Judah swelled at this time, likely taking on Israeli refugees. Ahaz was succeeded by Hezekiah, and Sargon II by Sennacherib during this period. The authors note that the history of Israel and Judah had to be altered at this time to explain and justify Judah's continual rule over the populous Northern tribes. Hezekiah took on the building projects ascribed to David and Solomon. "Jerusalem grew from a modest hill country town of about ten to fifteen acres to a large, fortified city of almost 150 acres. Jerusalem’s population skyrocketed from around one thousand inhabitants to approximately twelve thousand" (p. 128).
"The archaeological picture of Judah in the closing decades of the eighth century is of a populous, prosperous, and literate kingdom. Jerusalem had become a heavily fortified city with a large population and a special class of royal officials, scribes, and administrators, who could conscript workmen for public projects and private memorials...the biblical account of David’s rise and Solomon’s succession could not have been written earlier than the late eighth century BCE" (p. 132).

Archaeology confirms an abandoning of many of the settlements in the Northern Kingdom during this time. The evidence suggests that the area around Bethel, near Judah, was where the migration was heaviest. The Northern refugees brought their Saul stories with them. "Perhaps as much as half of the Judahite population in the late eighth to early seventh century BCE was of north Israelite origin" (p. 136). "The finds at Arad, Beer-sheba, and Lachish seem to point to a similar picture: all three present evidence for the existence of sanctuaries in the eighth century BCE, but in all three, the sanctuaries fell into disuse before the end of the eighth century. It is noteworthy that none of the many seventh-and early-sixth-century BCE sites excavated in Judah produced evidence for the existence of a sanctuary" (p. 138).

2 Kings 18:4-5 (not 1 Kings, typo in the book) suggest to the authors that Hezekiah was taking his reforms to consolidate power in Jerusalem, making it the locus of legitimate worship. "In short, the cult 'reform' in the days of Hezekiah, rather then representing puritan religious fervor, was actually a domestic political endeavor. It was an important step in the remaking of Judah in a time of a demographic upheaval" (p. 139). The re-writing of history to make it sound like they had once been united under David-- who God had chosen to supplant Saul-- took place around this time. "the earliest version of the biblical story of Saul, David, and the accession of Solomon—and possibly also his construction of the Temple—was created not solely or even primarily for religious purposes, but for a now-forgotten political necessity—of establishing Temple and Dynasty as the twin foundation stones for the new idea" (p. 143).

One "clue" given as support of the authors' hypothesis is in the confusing seige of Assyria against Jerusalem in 701 BC. The Bible records that Hezekiah both payed a tribute to relieve the seige, but then the Bible states that Jerusalem was miraculously delivered; these texts are difficult to reconcile, some scholars assume two different seiges. But the Assyrian prism that records the battle (701 BC), in propoganda form, recalls the seige, but not loss, simply saying that Sennacherib returns to Ninevah and receives tribute. (It is plausible that mass disease or something ravaged his camp as the Bible suggests as the prism does not record a successful conquering of Jerusalem as other cities). But Assyrian records also record that Hezekiah had lost some of the most fertile lands in the Shephelah, further crippling Judah (p. 146). Assyrian records do record the death of Sennacherib at the hands of his sons (681 BC), as the prophets had forecast.

Following Hezekiah is Manasseh (698-642 BC) and "if any historical character resembles the biblical Solomon, it is he" (p. 152). Manasseh had the role of reviving Judah from its occupation and burdensome tribute payments. "There are archaeological indications that Manasseh met the challenge. The sweeping changes and economic revival that took place in early-seventh-century BCE Judah—evident in the archaeological record—uncannily mirror the descriptions of planned royal colonization and administration that the story of Solomon so enthusiastically celebrates" (p. 153).
"(The) monarchy under Solomon is thus an expression of seventh-century political, economic, and social objectives, reinforced by memories of the great administrative and political sophistication of the north. It was the ultimate expression of seventh-century BCE Judahite statism" (p. 158). "Solomon’s legend, first put into writing in the seventh century BCE, asserts Judah’s greatness—and the essential skill of its monarch—in the brave new world of trade and cross-cultural communication of the Assyrian empire" (p. 171).

Being on major trade routes with Assyria benefited both the Northern and Southern kingdoms, confirmed by archaeological finds of goods from Arabia, Egypt, etc. This is what likely leads to the Queen of Sheba story in 1 Kings. "Assyrian records of the late eighth and early seventh centuries BCE (untilc. 690 BCE) attest to the phenomenon of Arabian queens" (p. 167). Writing a Solomon story from centuries before was a way to justify the 7th century trade. "The best (and perhaps only) support for a Solomonic origin of the Temple is the centrality of the Temple in Solomon’s later image (being so promimently associated with it)" (p. 169). "The text describing the construction of the Temple and palace in Jerusalem is full of references to copper items, another seventh-century BCE connection" (p. 170-- note, there is a lot of gold and silver also mentioned in those passages).

Nonetheless, Manasseh is later recorded in 2 Kings negatively, as setting a precedent of evil followed by future kings that hastened Judah's downfall and exile. Hence, all these texts were somehow compiled along with the Psalms and others during the reign of Josiah: "During the reign of Josiah, all the preexisting traditions, poems, chronicles, and ballads about the first two kings of Judah were combined, producing the passionate and uncompromising tale of sin and redemption that remains a central message of the biblical story today" (p. 177). Josiah, according to the authors, then becomes the locus of focus as the new David and is even aware of playing that role (p. 196, unlikely in my opinion as this does not seem to make sense with how the authors claim these texts were written). This is where the old David legends became dynastic legends (or did that happen sooner, I'm confused by the authors' timeline?). By 630 BC, when Josiah was 17, Assyria was in rapid decline. Egypt largely left Judah alone as Assyria began to withdraw from administration of the former Northern Kingdom. "Archaeological evidence suggests that the kingdom of Judah took advantage of the new conditions by expanding both north and west" (p. 182). Goliath was hypothetically modeled after Greek mercenaries who began to appear from the coasts of Asia Minor in the late seventh century (p. 191-194):
"To the Judahites of that era, with their awareness of the threatening Greek presence, the implications of the story were clear and simple: the new David, Josiah, would defeat the elite Greek troops of the Egyptian army in the same way that his famous ancestor overcame the mighty, seemingly invincible Goliath, by fighting 'in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel'" (1 Samuel 17:45).

All the priestly hopes for Judah were found in Josiah, who razed the northern kingdom's temple shrine at Bethel and maintained Jerusalem as the center of proper worship. Their hopes were shattered in Josiah's sudden death in battle and Jerusalem's destruction 23 years later, practically extinguishing the Davidic dynasty. "A revision of the Deuteronomistic History was needed. This expanded version, written during the exile, has been called by Cross and other scholars Dtr2...The overall message of the Deuteronomistic History was thereby reshaped. In place of the expectations of Josiah as the long-awaited successor of David, the destruction of the kingdom and the Babylonian exile now assumed an essential place in the history of Israel" (p. 207-208). The later prophets link Zerubbabel with the rebuilding of the Temple and connect him to the Davidic line. As Zechariah seems to ascribe messianic qualities to Zerubbabel, he disappears from history after 516 BC (p. 214). Chronicles was likely written after exile but before the death of Zebrubabel; it does not show any influence by Greek language or cuture, so it must come before the Hellenistic period (p. 215).

Chronicles puts such great emphasis on the Temple because looking back all the aspirations for its rulers came to naught, the Davidic line was now extinguished while the previous hopes for them were still in written form (1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings). To the Jewish diaspora "long-awaited redemption should be sought not in dynastic restoration but in the rituals and laws of the Temple of Jerusalem" (p. 218). That is why David takes an active role in building the Temple in Chronicles that he does not in 1 Kings. Meanwhile, Babylon administered what was left of the Northern Kingdom whose mixed-race inhabitants were now called Samaritans and maintained Jewish traditions and built their own fifth century temple (p. 222). Meanwhile, "the Jerusalem Temple community of the time of Chronicles is presented as the only legitimate successor of the ideal, great Israel of the time of David and Solomon" (p. 223).

It is here that the authors make further leaps and assumptions about the authors' or redactors' intent. Again, with new discoveries pushing literacy further up in time than when the authors wrote the book, these claims seem unlikely. But it is from this intent that Judaism arose-- which put an emphasis on Jerusalem Temple worship and law-keeping. An issue I raise with this is that you have songs like Psalm 51 which put an emphasis not on Deuteronomistic law-keeping, but on a grace-giving God:
You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it;
You are not pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit.
God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart. (v. 16-17).

That seems (to me at least) to be the opposite of the spirit of Judaism. Biblical theology looks at the entire arc of Scripture and how it points to a coming Messiah, particularly through the covenants beginning with Adam. The authors do not address the text itself in this aspect and they do not delve far enough back to bring out anything other than what they want to say in their hypothesis-- that the books of History are a revised political history rather than a completely theological one.

My questions for the authors:
How are geographically-accurate David memories to be re-written with a story of a united monarchy only a generation or so after it would have been known it didn't exist? If the building projects took place during the reign of Hezekiah or Mannaseh or Josiah, would they not want credit? They argue that Josiah lives the fulfillment of David somehow without actually wanting to be recognized as his own man? Who among the Northern Israelites wouldn't notice and reject the re-written history? How is it that even when praising David and Solomon to make someone like Josiah connected with greatness that the history clearly is critical of David and Solomon who violated the legal tenets? 

Even with my questions, I learned much, but still have much to learn. The authors have selected several works on biblical archaeology for their list of recommended reading.

In all, I give this book 3 stars out of 5. If it had better maps and included more criticisms of their work, then it would be much better.

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