By Thomas L. Thompson, Professor Emeritus University of Copenhagen
The Bible and Interpretation – April 4, 2019
Although King David is one of the richest and most varied literary figures of the Bible, we have no direct historical evidence that he ever existed. Neither archaeology nor any contemporary written inscriptions proves the existence of such a king, ruling in Hebron or Jerusalem during the 10th century BCE. Archaeological evidence for ancient settlements of the Judean highlands hardly support the existence of even a small kingdom in this region, let alone a multi-regional state and monarchy. Archaeology has not yet found any settlement in Jerusalem, significant enough to be the capital of a small patronage kingdom, let alone an empire. Nor has archaeology found any widespread agricultural settlement in the southern highlands, which could have supported a functioning kingdom during the period that the Bible gives to David. There is also no known historical kingdom of Judah before the late-9th century, BCE. The David we know from the Bible as a literary figure, on the other hand, embraces, as we will see, a considerable range of themes, and is, perhaps, the richest figure in biblical literature.
All the historical evidence we have that might be linked to the biblical figure of David comes from three fragments of a late 9th century, Aramaic inscription, found during the excavations of Tall al-Qadi in the Jordan rift, which both mentions a king of Israel and, the name bytdwd (continua).