Photo by Sky View courtesy of Hebrew University

In recent news coming out of Israel, a team of archaeologists led by Professor Yossi Garfinkel of the Hebrew University has uncovered the ruins of “two royal public buildings” at a site called Khirbet Qeiyafa, about 20 miles outside of Jerusalem in the foothills of Judah.  Professor Garfinkel believes the two buildings to be King David’s palace and a royal storeroom.  These discoveries, according to Garfinkel, are proof of the existence of an Israelite kingdom during the reign of King David (which, you may not realize, some people doubt).

From the Israel Antiquities Authority press release:

The palace and storerooms are evidence of state sponsored construction and an administrative organization during King David’s reign. “This is unequivocal evidence of a kingdom’s existence, which knew to establish administrative centers at strategic points”, the archaeologists say. “To date no palaces have been found that can clearly be ascribed to the early tenth century BCE as we can do now. Khirbet Qeiyafa was probably destroyed in one of the battles that were fought against the Philistines circa 980 BCE. The palace that is now being revealed and the fortified city that was uncovered in recent years are another tier in understanding the beginning of the Kingdom of Judah”.

If this find has been identified correctly, this is, of course, a big deal. We have very little archaeological evidence of the Kingdom of Israel under David and Solomon as it is described in the Bible.

The announcement of this find has been met, as would be expected, by both excitement and also skepticism. The following are some of the news pieces and blog posts that have been written in response.

  • The Jerusalem Post had a positive story yesterday announcing the find and noting that area and its surroundings had now been declared a national park.
  • Israel National News (Arutz 7) likewise has a completely positive report.
  • The Times of Israel has a positive and more extensive piece that looks at some inscriptions that have been found at the site and other finds
  • HaAretz has a somewhat more skeptical story: “Some archaeologists claim that three rows of stones found in Khirbet Qeiyafa prove the existence of a kingdom shared by two biblical kings – David and Solomon; other scholars beg to differ” (you must be a subscriber to read the full story).
  • Jim West at Zwinglius Redivivus posts an evaluation of the finds by Israel Finkelstein, who points out “the methodological shortcomings in both field work and interpretation of the finds.”
  • On the Foundation Stone website, David Willner, who appears to be very familiar with Garfinkel and his work, sharply criticizes Garfinkel’s interpretation of the find, points out his tendency towards sensationalism, and accuses him of making this announcement for the purpose of gaining media attention and fundraising.
With Willner’s accusation of Garfinkel’s repeated use of hyperbole to grab headlines for his finds, it is hard to know what to think of this announcement. I don’t have the expertise in this field to judge for myself, for sure.  There is definitely something, however, to these findings that does deserve attention.  Scholars agree that the site dates to the 10th century B.C. and there are a number of buildings, inscriptions, and artifacts that have been found. Whether these finds are directly related to David or not, they provide invaluable insights into how people lived in Israel/Judah during that time period.

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