A big name in Israeli archaeology has claimed he’s found a web of ancient cities that were part of King David’s empire, suggesting this biblical figure was not just a humble shepherd, but a mighty leader. However, his newly published theory is not convincing everyone in the field.
Writing in an open-access and peer-reviewed journal, Professor Yosef Garfinkel argues that a network of five fortified cities around Jerusalem actually dates to the early 10th century BCE, some 200 years earlier than previously thought. If his interpretation of the cities is correct, it would suggest the sprawling settlements were part of the kingdom of Judah and built under the reign of King David.
As per the study, the five cities appear to have a similar design, notably two parallel walls encompassing the inner portion of the city, suggesting they were part of a unified network. They’re also linked by a series of organized roads, further implying they were deeply connected as part of a kingdom.
Historically speaking, next to nothing is known about David and scholars fiercely debate whether his supposed reign was reality or largely myth.
Biblically speaking, King David was a young shepherd who rose to fame after slaying the giant Goliath. He went on to become king of the tribe of Judah and eventually all the tribes of Israel. The new research by Garfinkel more closely aligns with the biblical interpretation of King David as a powerful ruler who controlled a bustling ancient empire, including Jerusalem.
“The minimalists want to say that David ruled over a small village and there is no kingdom, and I am saying there was a kingdom with fortified cities a day’s walk from Jerusalem,” Garfinkel, a Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology and of Archaeology of the Biblical Period at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
“I’m not such a big maximalist. What I’m saying is the kingdom of David included Jerusalem, Hebron, and a few cities around them: that’s the urban core of the kingdom of David. I think it’s realistic,” added Garfinkel.
However, some experts have chucked cold water on this bright idea. While Garfinkel denies that this work actively tries to prove the Bible is historically accurate – a notoriously troublesome task – other archaeologists believe the conclusions in his latest work are reductive and mark an attempt to affirm the narrative of the Hebrew Bible.
After all, this isn’t the first time someone has claimed they’d discovered bold evidence of King David’s reign.
“I think it’s an oversimplification and he is flattening the details. There’s a lot of small details I don’t agree with, and there are generalizations over a wide period that are problematic,” Professor Aren Maeir, an archaeologist from Bar Ilan University, told The Times of Israel.
“It’s like when a fisherman tells you about the type of fish he caught and with each story, his arms get wider and wider,” said Professor Maeir. “Is it a sardine, a mackerel, or a blue whale? If you read the biblical text and take it literally, then it’s a blue whale. I think that probably there was a small kingdom in Jerusalem, but we don’t know the influence that this kingdom had.”
The new study is published in the Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology [PDF].