David and Solomon : In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition

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Format: Hardcover
Pub. Date: 2006-01-31
Publisher(s): Free Press
List Price: $20.80

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The exploding number of discoveries of biblical archaeology -- artifacts and texts found at hundreds of sites populated in the ancient Near East -- have shed powerful beams of light on the characters and peoples in the Bible. Most of the resulting public controversies have focused on whether or not the history in the Bible is true. Yet ultimately, there are two larger questions that matter more: exactly how did the Bible evolve into its final form, over the centuries-long process of its compilation, and what does that history tell us about the traditions we have inherited and that still stamp our memories? In David and Solomon, Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, leading archaeologists and authors who have done a great deal to uncover and understand the breathtaking findings of their field, focus on the first two great kings of the Bible as a lens through which we can see the evolution of the entire biblical era. The Bible's chapters and verses on David and his son were written in stages, over many hundreds of years, by authors living in very different circumstances. Thanks to a combination of textual analysis and archaeology, we now know a great deal about which parts of the story were written in which era, and why those particular societies might have added to the legend precisely as they did. In short, David and Solomon offers a guide to a thousand years of ancient civilization and the evolution of a tradition of kingly leadership that held sway throughout the West for much of our history. The earliest folklore and verses about David depict a bandit leader, hiding in the mountains, leading a small gang of traveling raiders (which fits what we know of the ninth century B.C.E.). That bandit may well be the "true" David. In later periods, authors added images of David as a poet, as the founder of a great dynasty, as a political in-fighter, and (perhaps most famously) as a sinner. All of these images made sense for the authors who created them, and a similar evolution of Solomon from the builder of the Temple, to expander of his empire, to wise sage, to rich trader similarly reflects the successive stages of history up to the time of Jesus. Ultimately, David and Solomon came to embody a tradition of divinely inspired kings and even messiahs, the forerunners of Jesus and of the great kings of Europe throughout the Middle Ages. David and Solomon shows how the stories built around two men reflect the very roots of the western tradition and explains a great deal of why the Bible appears as it does.

Author Biography

Israel Finkelstein is a professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University.

Table of Contents

Prologue: The Shepherd and the Slingstonep. 1
Introduction: David, Solomon, and the Western Traditionp. 5
Recovering History
Tales of the Banditp. 31
The Madness of Saulp. 61
Murder, Lust, and Betrayalp. 91
The Evolution of a Legend
Temple and Dynastyp. 121
Solomon's Wisdom?p. 151
Challenging Goliathp. 179
How the Legend Shaped History
Patron Saints of the Templep. 211
Messianic Visionsp. 233
Epilogue: Symbols of Authorityp. 253
Did David Exist?p. 261
The Search for David and Solomon's Jerusalemp. 267
Solomon's Fabled Kingdomp. 275
King Solomon's Copper Industry?p. 282
Dismantling the Shrinesp. 285
Tyrants, City Leagues, and Mercenary Bodyguardsp. 289
Deportees, Returnees, and the Borders of Yehudp. 293
Bibliography and Suggested Readingp. 297
Acknowledgmentsp. 325
Indexp. 327
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


Introduction David, Solomon, and the Western Tradition Ancient Legends, the Bible, and Archaeology From the soaring cathedrals and elegant palaces of medieval Europe, to the hushed galleries of world famous art museums, to America's backwoods pulpits and Hollywood epics, the story of ancient Israel's sacred kings, David and Solomon, is one of western civilization's most enduring legacies. The figures of David -- shepherd, warrior, and divinely protected king -- and of his son Solomon -- great builder, wise judge, and serene ruler of a vast empire -- have become timeless models of righteous leadership under God's sanction. They have shaped western images of kingship and served as models of royal piety, messianic expectation, and national destiny. Thanks to archaeology, we now -- for the first time -- can dissect the main elements of the biblical story to see when and how each one emerged. The results of our search may be surprising, for the archaeological discoveries of recent decades have clearly shown how far from the glamorous scriptural portraits the actual world of David and Solomon was. Yet the legend was not merely a romantic fiction of imaginary personalities and events. It evolved over centuries from a core of authentic memories into a complex and timeless literary creation. In its unforgettable images and dramatic scenes -- the battle against Goliath, the rise of David from outlaw to king, the splendor of Solomon's court -- the legend of David and Solomon expresses a universal message of national independence and transcendent religious values that people all over the world have come to regard as their own. Yet as we will see, its origins are traceable in the archaeology and history of a single small Iron Age kingdom as it grew from a village society into a complex state. THE BIBLICAL STORY IN BRIEF The most elaborate version of the David and Solomon story, contained in a narrative that extends from 1 Samuel to 1 Kings, describes how the people of Israel achieved independence and enjoyed a period of unprecedented prosperity. Attacked and oppressed in their highland villages by the brutal Philistine conquerors from the lowlands, the elders of Israel cried out for a leader who could protect them against their enemies. Until then, the Israelites had been governed in their separate tribes by spirit-filled "judges." At this time of crisis, the venerable prophet Samuel, following God's instructions despite his own misgivings, anointed Saul, a handsome youth of the tribe of Benjamin, to be the first king over all Israel. Saul was a daring military leader, yet he proved to be unstable, subject to deep bouts of depression, impetuous violence, and repeated violations of religious law. God's second choice thus secretly fell to David, son of Jesse, a young shepherd from Judah, who had been summoned to soothe Saul's fits of madness with the music of his lyre. As the narrative develops, David's grand destiny unfolds, even as Saul continues to reign. On the field of battle against the massed Philistine armies, David topples the mighty Goliath and earns the acclaim of the nation, enraging King Saul. In a desperate flight into the wilderness to escape from Saul's murderous jealousy, David further proves his leadership, bravery, and skill. As the chief of a roaming band of mighty men, he settles scores, fends off enemy attacks, exacts God's vengeance, and distributes captured booty to the oppressed and poor. When Saul dies on the battlefield, David is proclaimed king of Judah and eventually of all Israel as God's true anointed one, or "messiah." It is a classic tale of the rise of the young hero, a warrior for the true faith and a man of extraordinary charisma, who assumes the mantle of a failed leader and becomes the embodiment of his people's hopes and dreams.

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