Archaeological discoveries tell us a great deal about our ancestors. And now, in light of some recent discoveries in Israel, they may also provide corroboratory evidence for descriptions presented in the Old Testament. For quite some time, Biblical historians have been working diligently to better understand the city of Judah during the time of King David.
Interestingly, Professor Yosef Garfinkel of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and other archeologists have been digging in the ancient city of Khirbet Qeiyafa (Elah Valley, Israel), where they recently unearthed some fascinating findings. The researchers there uncovered three cultic shrines that date back to the time of King David, The Atlantic reports.
In addition to the shrines, the site also offered up stone and metal tools, pottery, art and other items that purportedly belonged to a cult during the time of King David’s reign. But what has the archeologists most intrigued is that the cult’s practices, based on expert analysis, match what is outlined in the Old Testament — or so they say. Naturally, this is a captivating find.
The Atlantic has more regarding just how important — and unprecedented — it may be:
“This is the first time that archaeologists uncovered a fortified city in Judah from the time of King David. Even in Jerusalem we do not have a clear fortified city from his period. Thus, various suggestions that completely deny the biblical tradition regarding King David and argue that he was a mythological figure, or just a leader of a small tribe, are now shown to be wrong,” Garfinkel told Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He explained that radiometric measurements performed at Oxford dated the artifacts to around 1020 to 980 BC, 30 to 40 years before the construction of King Soloman’s temple. “Over the years, thousands of animal bones were found, including sheep, goats and cattle, but no pigs. Now we uncovered three cultic rooms, with various cultic paraphernalia, but not even one human or animal figurine was found. This suggests that the population of Khirbet Qeiyafa observed two biblical bans – on pork and on graven images – and thus practiced a different cult than that of the Canaanites or the Philistines.”
“For the first time in history we have actual objects from the time of David, which can be related to monuments described in the Bible,” the archeologist continued in a press release announcing the find.
This discovery is extraordinary as it is the first time that shrines from the time of early biblical kings were uncovered. Because these shrines pre-date the construction of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem by 30 to 40 years, they provide the first physical evidence of a cult in the time of King David, with significant implications for the fields of archaeology, history, biblical and religion studies. […]
The biblical tradition presents the people of Israel as conducting a cult different from all other nations of the ancient Near East by being monotheistic and an-iconic (banning human or animal figures). However, it is not clear when these practices were formulated, if indeed during the time of the monarchy (10-6th centuries BC), or only later, in the Persian or Hellenistic eras.
The absence of cultic images of humans or animals in the three shrines provides evidence that the inhabitants of the place practiced a different cult than that of the Canaanites or the Philistines, observing a ban on graven images.
While Garfinkel speaks with certainty, not everyone is convinced. Some, like Hershel Shanks of The Biblical Archeology Review, want to see more evidence before arriving at such definitive conclusions. That being said, he is openly intrigued by the research and archeological discoveries. Despite his healthy skepticism, in an interview with The Christian Post, Shanks offered Garfinkel “warm, good wishes for the spectacular things he’s uncovering.”
“The unfortunate thing is we don’t have enough information … to be all confident of the conclusions that Yosef Garfinkel is drawing,” he proclaimed. “This may well have been Davidic, but it’s hard to come down hard on it. But within that range, yes … we have a lot of confidence in the date of it.”
So, it seems the jury is still out and that more research and explanatory efforts will help to fill in the gaps. Read more about these findings on Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s web site.
(H/T: The Atlantic)