Thursday, November 03, 2022

Apologetics: The Davidic Kingdom - History & Archaeology

- In the past, many archaeologists and historians argued from gaps in the record that there was no organized central government in 11th/1oth-century BC Israel (the time of the supposed Davidic kingdom). None of the monumental architecture which you might expect had been found, so David was regarded as a merely legendary figure, like King Arthur.

- One of the problems with this position should be obvious at the outset: it's an argument based on gaps, representing the fallacy of an argument from silence. Building an argument on gaps is dangerous because those gaps might later be filled, as is exactly what has been happening.

- Two further considerations that might explain the gaps:
      - First, our expectations are outsized--the Davidic kingdom was a relatively small monarchy in the ancient world, made up almost entirely of rural farmers and shepherds in the hills. Israel was not building major cities at this time. Jerusalem itself was a previous settlement built by Canaanites. The city was small (you can easily stroll all the way across the Old City in just a modest walk, and David's Jerusalem was smaller still). Thus, biblical references to a "palace" for David or Solomon ought not to conjure in our minds visions of Buckingham Palace, but something more on the scale of a normal-sized home by modern standards.
     - Second, many of the areas in which the best evidence from David and Solomon's day would lie are in areas where archaeological digs are currently prohibited. 

- The gaps have now begun to be filled by important archaeological evidence, starting with a famous ancient inscription referring to the Israelite royal dynasty as the "house of David," thus proving that David was not just a literary invention by later generations of biblical writers. 
- Personal references to King Saul's sons (and possibly one to David as well) have been discovered, the clearest reference being to Ish-Bosheth.
- The Hebrew used in David's Psalms can be linguistically dated as representing a very early period.
- Very tall skeletons from this period have been discovered in Palestine (7 feet tall+), many showing the associated genetic trait of polydactylism (6 fingers and 6 toes on each hand and foot), thus matching the biblical description of the clan from which Goliath was thought to come.
- At the south end of the Temple Mount, a massive retaining wall from Solomon's time has been unearthed, pointing to monumental construction.
- Small shrine replicas, which are empty of the usually-present god statures in the ancient world have been discovered from the period, appearing to depict Solomon's temple (the empty nature of the shrine marks them as matching the biblical theology, which would not have made use of idols).
- Massive copper works from Solomon's time have been unearthed at Timna in southern Israel.
- Evidence from the later period of the kings multiplies even more, to the extent that no serious scholar disputes the historically-grounded nature of the Bible's depiction of the Jewish monarchy in the 8th and 7th centuries.
- We even have bullae (clay seals) bearing the exact names of the very characters mentioned as administrative officers in the biblical books of Chronicles and Jeremiah. These biblical accounts are indisputably based in historical fact.