‘And the king and his men went to Jerusalem unto the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land: which spake unto David, saying, Except thou take away the blind the lame, thou shalt not come in hither: thinking, David cannot come in hither. Nevertheless David took the strong hold of Zion: the same is the city of David.’ (2 Samuel 5:6-7)
According to the Old Testament, King David took the city of Jerusalem from its inhabitants called Jebusites, not in a peaceful way but by resorting to force as the quote above suggests. The Holy Scripture also says that David reigned in Hebron for seven years and six months and ‘in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah’ (2 Samuel 5:5). As it was already argued before, Knight pointed out that David reigned from 1055 to 1015 B. C. according to what he calls the usual chronology. (Knight, 2009)
Although such accounts seem to be somewhat reliable and legitimate, in the context of the real history, things that could be confirmed as historical truth are rather limited. Following is a summary from an article written from a historian’s point of view, which can be found in the web site run by the Government of modern Israel:
Gavron sums up his argument in the opening of the article, by referring to one of modern topics – ‘for the 3,000th anniversary of the conquest of Jerusalem by King David.’ Then he points out that the chronological presumption of this topic is based on nothing but the biblical account quoted above and concludes the case as following: ‘When all the available information has been assembled, the most that can be said is that there was probably an Israelite ruler called David, who made Jerusalem his capital sometime in the tenth century bce. However, the precise date cannot be determined’ (Gavron, 2003).
Then he begins to examine so-called all the available information apart from the Bible. He suggests that by the end of the twentieth century, there was no archaeological evidence for the existence of King David, because ‘There are no references to him in Egyptian, Syrian or Assyrian documents of the time, and the many archaeological digs in the City of David failed to turn up so much as a mention of his name’ (ibid). Although a finding of ‘a triangular piece of basalt rock, measuring 23 x 36 cm. inscribed in Aramaic’ (ibid) in 1993 gave a formidable evidence for breaking through the circumstance, since the inscription in Aramaic included ‘the words Beit David (“House” or “Dynasty” of David”)’ and it was estimated to date back ‘to the ninth century bce, that is to say, about a century after David was thought to have ruled Israel’ (ibid), Gavron assesses the value of finding is ‘not conclusive; but it does strongly indicate that a king called David established a dynasty in Israel during the relevant period’ (ibid).
Adding to this first archaeological discovery in Tel Dan, northern Galilee, by Prof. Avraham Biran, Gavron refers to the importance of an archaeological survey conducted by Dr. Avi Ofer in the following years. According to this survey called Rank Size Index, it was found that ‘in the 11th-10th centuries bce, the population of Judah almost doubled compared to the preceding period’ and ‘during this period… a strong centre of population existed at the edge of the region. Jerusalem is the most likely candidate for this centre’ (ibid).
Provisionally, Gavron sums up his argument that far as following: ‘in the tenth century bce, a dynasty was established by David; the population doubled in the hill country of Judah, which acquired a strong central point, probably Jerusalem’ (ibid).
Subsequently, Gavron begins to focus on examining the value of the Old Testament as a historical document. To cut a long story short, it goes like this:
‘In the 19th century ce, the “Age of Reason,” scholars began subjecting the biblical texts to linguistic, textual, and literary analysis, noting inconsistencies and interrupted rhythms, comparing styles, and placing the text within the archaeological, historical and geographical background. There are still many differing opinions regarding the origin of the Bible… but it is fair to say that… modern consensus suggests that the assembling and editing of the documents that were to constitute the Bible began in the seventh century bce…
By the seventh century, David’s kingdom had split into two. The northern kingdom of Israel was invaded… (by the Babylonians, in 586 bce, who) captured Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and exiled the major part of the population of Judah. The Babylonians in their turn were conquered by the Persians, who between 538 and 520 permitted some Judaeans (i.e. Jews), under Ezra and Nehemiah, to return to Judah and revive their nation. The early biblical materials were compiled during… (the period of Ezra and Nehemiah, who were allowed returning to Jerusalem from the state of captivities in Babylonia) by an author-editor known as the “Deuteronomist.” This writer – or more probably a team of writers – made use of numerous earlier documents, including the Book of Deuteronomy… (therefore), the saga of the Israelites, as told in the Bible, was designed as a morality tale to prove the importance of faith in the One God.
The archaeological surveys conducted over the past two decades… indicate that the origin and development of the Israelite entity was somewhat different from either of the rival accounts in the Bible.
(These surveys conclude that ) The story of Abraham’s journey from Ur of the Chaldees, the Patriarchs, the Exodus, Sinai, and the conquest of Canaan, all these were apparently based on legends that the various elements brought with them from their countries of origin. The consolidation of the Israelites into a nation was not the result of wanderings in the desert and divine revelation, but came from the need to defend themselves against the Philistines, who settled in the Canaanite coastal plain more or less at the same time the Israelites were establishing themselves in the hills.
Thus the founders of Israel were not Abraham and Moses; but Saul and David. It was apparently Saul who consolidated the hill farmers under his rule and created fighting units capable of confronting the Philistines. It was David who defeated the Philistines and united the hill farmers with the people of the Canaanite plains, thus establishing the Kingdom of Israel and its capital city’ (ibid).
Ivy Books (1991), The Holy Bible, King James Version
Published by Ballantine Books, New York
Gavron, Daniel (2003), King David and Jerusalem: Myth and Reality, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs – The Israel Review of Arts and Letters -1996/102 – King David (electrically accessed 11/10/2011)
Knight, Kevin (2009), King David, Catholic Encyclopedia (electrically accessed 29/08/2011)