Israel Finkelstein on David debunked

The idea that David was a mere tribal chieftain largely rests on Israel Finkelstein’s idiosyncratic Low Chronology, rejected by the vast majority of actual archaeologists. The following serves as a sufficient explanation of why this theory falls flat:

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Thanks for sharing the article. Here is a New Yorker article I came across on the same topic which definitely affirms that outside of his little group, basically, nobody accepts his theory:

I think these topics are really interesting, with arguably a lot at stake that goes beyond just simply discussing what archaelogical evidence do we have and what conclusions can you draw from that. So you have people who come to the discussion with a particular belief that comes from a particular way of reading the Old Testament and then people who come to the discussion with a bias against the Bible.

I think I read that article at some point. In any case, the discussions concerning Finkelstein’s chronology are one of those topics where no one on the internet seems to know anything about beyond the basics. It took an intense amount of research but I’ve finally been able to pump out an article that gives enough of the details to satisfy basically anyone. I plan a fuller article on the future that moves on from the topic of chronology to the actual status of Jerusalem and the Davidic kingdom in the 10th century.

Well, according to the Bible, Solomon made silver as common as stones 2 Chron 1:15. If that were true, it would have a huge archeological footprint because a society that is wealthy like that wouild result in people acquiring things, building things, fortifications to ensure nobody steals their things, etc. is there archeological evidence of this? If Solomons achievements are exaggerated why would David’s achievements be truthfully retold?

“Made silver as common as stones”

Come on mate, this is obviously an exaggeration. This is not “untruthful”, as you insinuate with your later question “why would David’s achievements be truthfully retold?” It is straight up hyperbole. “That guy is the size of an elephant!” falls into the same hyperbolic category. In any case, Solomon is depicted as hyper wealthy in general as a form of common monarchical exaggeration of the time, although other reports balance out the narrative from the clear literary texts hyper-inflating Solomon’s wealth:

Both monarchs and their later heirs often make such claims, but they mostly reveal the desire of these rulers to magnify their rule, legitimacy, and glory. In Solomon’s case, the claims for his vast reign are contradicte by particulars that show him active in a very restricted area. The claims for his vast army are balanced by reports of his inability to suppress raids from Aram and the Transjordan. The claims for his vast chariotry are balanced by his loss of control of Damascus and inability to suppress raids from Aram and Edom. And the claims of his vast wealth contrast with Hiram’s assessment of the pitiful state of the towns that Solomon had given him in exchange for construction help and/or a large payment of gold (1 Kgs 9:11–14). (David Carr, Formation of the Hebrew Bible, Oxford 2011, pg. 372)

It appears that the depiction of Solomon’s extreme wisdom and importer of exotic goods and animals follows a general Assyrian depiction of their own monarchs between the 12th-9th centuries BC (see Baruch Halpern, David’s Secret Demons, pp. 114-23). Case in point: these literary exaggerations are not invisible and we can often distinguish them. Furthermore, archaeology provides a good dose of reality check for us. The archaeology shows that David operated a centralized kingdom. Archaeology doesn’t have a biblical or non-biblical bias and so is a good determinant here. Soon enough, I will write an additional article that moves past the sheer question of chronology and into what is archaeologically verifiable about the period.

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When not using hyperbole, the account gives some specific numbers for income. While large, they are not unusual in comparison with other similar kingdoms. Also note that shortly after Shishak’s raid on Rehoboam and Jeroboam, Egypt had quite a lot of gold. If, unlike a depressingly large chunk of the internet and others, we dismiss Finklestein’s dating as unsupported and implausible archaeologically, then there are a lot of impressive buildings dating from Solomon’s day. 14C dating, for example, indicates an extensive destruction layer about 930 BC in many cities. The stuff destroyed dates to the United Monarchy, not to the Omrides, and the date corresponds to Shishak’s raid, well-documented by Shishak himself in an inscription (which highlights the fact that he raided his erstwhile protegee Jeroboam, an aspect not mentioned in the Bible).
We do not have significant reference to the United Monarchy from outside sources, but we do not have any outside sources that would reference it. To most ancient Near Eastern official records, foreigners exist only as 1. Someone to defeat in battle 2. Slaves 3. Sources of goods. Before Herodotus, we have no accounts of what other people were doing simply for information, and the Bible and the Babylonian Chronicle are the only early sources to admit defeats (you might mention that you defeated the foe the previous king lost to, but not your own losses). Part of what allowed the United Monarchy to exist was the lack of strong empires in the surrounding areas. The Hittite empire had disintegrated, though occasional remnants would have some success. Egypt was quiet militarily. Assyria and Babylon were not yet looking very far west. So no one bothered to note that a local upstart dynasty was having some success near the east end of the Mediterranean- after all, those were mere foreigners.

Of course, the fact that many of the key sites for the United Monarchy have had extensive subsequent habitation, often including the present, also limits the amount of archaeological data available. Of course, absence of evidence is not proof, but nor is it disproof - we must have a reasonable expectation of what evidence is likely to exist and assess in light of that.

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