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David and Solomon


Heimdall

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Did David and Solomon really exist?

 

In Jewish Sacred Literature that was later included in the Old Testament of the Christians, we are introduced to King David of the United Kingdoms of Israel and Judah and his successor and son, King Solomon. For millennia these individuals have been accepted as historical figures of great import, yet more and more their actual existence (at least as portrayed) is being questioned. We can name all of the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, we have monuments that they had created, documents of their actions, treaties they signed, mention of them by other nations and their tombs (sometimes their corpses too). We know the names of the Kings of Persia (the King of Kings), as with the Egyptians we have the monuments, documents, etc. We can repeat this with every ancient state in that area, even small city states such as Ugarit and Tyre, but when it comes to the illustrious King David and his even more venerated son Solomon, not a single shred of evidence. Not one monument, not one egotistical carving declaring that either King defeated an enemy or dedicated something to YHWH, not one document (Israelite, Babylonian, Egyptian, Assyrian, Hittite or other nation) mentions either King. Even Hiram of Tyre, supposedly a good buddy of Solomon, never mentions ol’ Sol at all. When it comes to evidence of either King, as the saying goes, the silence is deafening! It’s almost as if they never existed!

Christians scurry around attempting to prove the existence of these individuals with such things as the Bytdwd inscription and the Dawat inscription of Egypt. There are several problems with the authenticity of the Bytdwd inscription, that I will not address here, that tend to be epigraphist and translation problems and then there is the problem that the last letter before a break is continued down the side of the break, indicative of a forgery. The last I heard on that was that it was being investigated. The problem with the Dawat inscription is that even creative translation can not make the inscription h(y)dbtdwt read as the heights of David as the Christians would want it to. Christians love to state that lack of evidence is not evidence of lack, a rather ridiculous saying at best. Actually lack of evidence is nearly always lack of existence, especially after an exhaustive search for evidence of existence.

The very existence of the United Kingdom now seems to be on very shaky ground also. All archaeological and contemporary historical evidence shows the state of Israel came into being around the early 9th century BCE followed by the formation of the state of Judah in the mid 8th century BCE. There is mention anywhere (except in the Bible) of Kingdom of Israel, be it an independent state or part of a United Kingdom, prior to the 9th century BCE. Many Christians will wildly wave their hands at this and start babbling about the Merneptah Stele. There are two scholarly debates going on about this stela. The first concerns whether or not Merneptah actually campaigned in Canaan; the existence of a stela by his predecessor Ramesses II, about the Battle of Qadesh, indicates firm control of the Levant. This calls into question why Merneptah would have to campaign there. The second debate surrounds “Israel”. As the stela mentions just one line about Israel it is difficult for scholars to draw any information at all about Israel. The stela does point out that Israel, at this stage, refers to a people since a determinative for "country" is absent regarding Israel (whereas the other areas had a determinative for "country" applied to them). There is the thought also that at the time of Merneptah, the “Israelites” would still be wandering in the desert, not yet entering the “Promised Land”.

To summarize, there is a singular lack of evidence, archaeological and historical for David, Solomon or the United Kingdom. A lack that is highlighted by the myriad of evidence available for kings and nations that were supposedly less famous and the myriad of evidence for the individuals of the “king lists” of Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria, Persia, Tyre, etc and for the very nations and city states that they ruled. As with nations today, these various states of the ancient world maintained a diplomatic service that communicated with their counterparts of other nations. The dry climate of Egypt preserved the archives of the Egyptian diplomatic corps and the use of clay as a medium for inscription (baked afterwards into stone-like consistency) preserved the archives of the other ancient nations. In none of the archives excavated in all of the ancient sites, not one missive to or from David or Solomon, men that supposedly controlled an empire to rival that of their western, southern, and eastern neighbors, nor was there any addressed to (nor from) any ruler of Israel until the 9th century BCE. There is a faint possibility that the OT is glamorizing and enhancing the legend of a “Robber Baron” of a small hill country city state (possibly centered on Jerusalem), just as the Robin Hood legend of the Danelaw glamorized a robber of ancient England. Solomon seems to actually have been an Assyrian King. King Shalmaneser V (the name actually means Solomon) who sacked Samaria and sent the Israelites into captivity. Shalmaneser V is known as a great warrior and a very wise king. Evidentially the post-exilic priests of YHWH borrowed this Assyrian king as their model for the biblical Solomon. Until there is more than mere coincidental evidence of either David, Solomon or the United Kingdom, they must remain denizens of the Jewish post-exilic mythology.

 

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