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The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies Provides a comprehensive survey of Biblical scholarship in a variety of disciplines.

Revision of Biblical History: Solomon's Kingdom and the Monarchic Period

Archaeology has also impacted heavily on the biblical picture of David and Solomon and the early history of Israel and Judah. The Bible presents David as a king who defeated the Philistines, the Syrians, the Ammonites, the Moabites, and the Edomites, so preparing the ground for the kingdom of Solomon, whose power was respected from Egypt to Syria, and whose buildings included not only a great temple, a palace, government buildings, the millo, and a wall in Jerusalem (1 Kings 6–8, 9: 15) but also the cities of Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer and other sites, and cities for stores, for chariots, and for horsemen (1 Kgs. 9: 15–18). Repeated excavation has found virtually nothing definitely ascribable to either David or Solomon at Jerusalem, but a reference to the ‘house of David’ on a stele of the Aramaean king Hazael at Tel Dan (Biran and Naveh 1993: 81–98; Lemaire 1998) (and perhaps a similar reference on the Mesha Stele a little earlier; Lemaire 1994: 30–7) at least confirmed the existence and reputation of the Davidic dynasty in the late ninth century BCE. Excavations at Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer revealed similar six-chambered gates and associated casemate city walls which were dated to the tenth century BCE and credited to Solomon (Yadin 1977: 853–4), thus confirming the accepted picture of Solomon's power; at Megiddo there were also two ashlar-built palaces originally credited to Solomon (cf. Ussishkin 1973). Dever (2001: 132) argues firmly from the pottery evidence for a tenth-century Solomonic date for the Gezer gateway (and so by implication for the other gates). However, this dating for the Gezer gateway is based on the unsustainable assumption that it was destroyed by Shoshenq I of Egypt c.925 BCE (see James 2002: 177), and the dating of the gateways, walls, and palaces of Megiddo and Hazor has recently been revised downward to the Omride period of the ninth century by comparison with the structures and pottery evidence of Jezreel and Samaria (Finkelstein and Silberman 2001: 186–90, 340–4). If correct, these findings seriously challenge the biblical picture of a powerful Solomonic kingdom, and strongly support the Assyrian evidence for the political importance of the house of Omri in Israel.

However, archaeology has expanded the biblical picture as well as challenged it. For example, 2 Kgs. 18: 14 notes the presence of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, at Lachish, but pointedly ignores the destruction of Lachish in 701 BCE after a siege dramatically revealed both by Assyrian reliefs at Nineveh and by Ussishkin's excavations at Tell ed-Duweir (Ussishkin 1982: 1997). Excavation has certainly done much to illuminate the life of the Iron Age kingdoms of Israel and Judah, revealing military forts, small villages, city walls and gates, siege warfare, water systems, palaces, houses, tombs, temples, shrines, and their contents—pottery, metal ware, farming tools, weapons, official and personal seals, weights, ostraca and inscriptions, figurines, cultic objects, textiles, jewellery and ornaments, food-stuffs, and so on (see King and Stager 2001). Dever has demonstrated (2001: 144–57) that the details of the Solomonic temple presented in 2 Kings 6–8 can be illustrated and corroborated from excavated realia (though not from the temple site itself), and has similarly illustrated other cultic activity and popular religion in Israel and Judah from archaeological data (2001: 174–9; cf. also King and Stager 2001: 319–81). The view that the Israelites were strongly monotheistic has been challenged by archaeological evidence suggesting that Israel's religion was to some extent pluralistic, notably the inscriptions from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud and Khirbet el-Qom, which Dever (1990: 144–5) interprets as meaning that Yahweh had the Canaanite goddess Asherah as consort (contra Mayes 1997: 61–4; on the cult of Asherah in Israel see Hadley 2000). Important evidence for Iron Age cult in ancient Israel comes from the Iron II strata at Tel Dan (cf. 1 Kgs. 12: 25–31), with a bamah (high place, sanctuary), masseboth (standing stones), a room with an altar and a sceptre head buried below it, incense shovels, and a jar for ashes.

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