Evidence for kings David and Solomon

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“King David and King Solomon lived merry, merry lives,

With many, many concubines and many, many wives.

But when old age crept after them, with many, many qualms,

King Solomon wrote the Proverbs and King David wrote the Psalms.”

There are several versions of this anonymous rhyme, but the problem, some biblical archaeologists argue, is that there is little evidence that either king existed: archaeological remains have been assigned to their reigns on the basis of cryptic verses in the Old Testament, and then used to “prove” the date of similar buildings at other sites.

Until 15 years ago, Professor Eric Cline notes in a new book, there was no extra-biblical documentary mention of even the House of David as ruling in Judea. The fragmentary Tel Dan Stele, found reused as building material at a site in what is now northern Israel in 1993-94, provided the first evidence outside the First Book of Kings.

Dating to about 842BC, the Tel Dan inscription describes the defeat of Joram, king of Israel, and Ahaziyahu, king of Judah, by a ruler of Aram-Damascus earlier in the 9th century BC. The Israelites had invaded his territory, located somewhere in Lebanon or southern Syria, but he “slew seventy kings, who harnessed thousands of chariots and thousands of horsemen. And I killed Joram son of Ahab, king of Israel, and I killed Ahaziyahu, son of Joram, king of the House of David.”

“However, we are still lacking any contemporary or near-contemporary inscriptions that mention Solomon: at the moment we do not have a single one,” Professor Cline says. “Moreover, there is still very little archaeological evidence for the existence of David.”

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