Coming Soon to MapQuest: A Palace of King David
Eric Metaxas, Breakpoint, July 30, 2013
According to 1 Samuel 17, after David slew Goliath, the men of Israel pursued the Philistines, who eventually were killed on the road to Shaarayim. Shaarayim, which means “two gates” in Hebrew, also appears in the book of Joshua and is listed as one of David’s cities in 1 Chronicles.
Where it doesn’t appear is on a map. Until now.
Two Israeli archeologists, Yossi Garfinkel of the Hebrew University and Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority, recently announced that they had not only found Shaarayim but had also found the remains of one of David’s palaces and royal storehouse.
For a personage whose existence, as recently as two decades ago, was doubted by some secular historians, King David seems to have left a lot of his stuff lying around for us to find.
This find was the result of a seven-year exploration of a site southwest of Jerusalem called Khirbet Qeiyafa. At the site, Garfinkel and Ganor discovered the two gates and a lot more. They uncovered the “southern part of a large palace that extended across an area of [approximately] 1,000 [square meters],” nearly 11,000 square feet.
As Ganor told the Times of Israel, when David came to visit what was apparently an important regional center, “he definitely didn’t live in a simple home.”
In addition to their size, “the location of the buildings fit the requirements of an Iron Age palace.” From the site, one can see “as far as the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Hebron Mountains and Jerusalem in the east,” making it “an ideal location from which to send messages by means of fire signals.”
That importance was underscored by the archeologists’ other finds: “a pillared building,” about 50 feet long by 20 feet wide. According to the archeologists, this building was where “the kingdom stored taxes it received in the form of agricultural produce collected from the residents of the different villages …” Evidence of its use is in the form of “hundreds of large stone jars … whose handles were stamped with an official seal as was customary in the Kingdom of Judah for centuries.”
This finding is “unequivocal evidence of a kingdom’s existence, which knew to establish administrative centers at strategic points.”
But these discoveries are only the latest in a series of findings that have overturned a long-held scholarly consensus on David and his dynasty. That consensus held that David likely never existed. And even if he did, he was little more than an Iron Age warlord whose modest accomplishments were exaggerated by the biblical authors for political and religious purposes.
But the discovery back in the 1990s of an ancient monument, known as a stele, with the inscriptions “King of Israel” and “House of David” took care of the first notion. And now the findings at Khirbet Qeiyafa promise to do the same for the second.
As Time magazine put it shortly after the discoveries at Tel Dan, “believers around the world are attuned … to the significance of archeological finds … [that establish] the reality of the events underlying their faith.”
That’s because biblical faith—from the Fall to the calling of Abraham and Israel and the incarnation, passion and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ—takes place within history. We are not being saved from history; we are being saved within history. And this salvation leaves stuff lying around for us to find. And believe.