Saturday, October 29, 2005

King David's palace?

An article by David Hazony in the new edition of Azure helps to answer a question which has been niggling at me for some time, ever since the foundations of a building from the 10th century bce were uncovered in east Jerusalem by archaeologist Eilat Mazar a few months ago. What makes her so bold about asserting that the building might be King David's palace?
Hazony explains:
According to the book of Samuel, when David conquered the Jebusite city of Jerusalem around the year 1000 b.c.e., he did not destroy it, but instead left it standing, including its great citadel to defend the city along its northern approach. In this city, today known as the City of David, a neighborhood just to the south of Jerusalem’s Old City, he added a few things as well–most notably a palace, built by master craftsmen sent by the Phoenician king Hiram of Tyre, who had concluded an alliance with David against their mutual enemy, the Philistines...
Based on this evidence, coupled with textual clues as to the topography–as described in the book of II Samuel (5:17), when the Philistines mustered in Emek Refaim, David “descended to the citadel,” implying that the palace was higher up on the mountain than the citadel itself–Mazar formulated her proposal as to the location of the palace in a 1997 article in Biblical Archaeology Review. “If some regard as too speculative the hypothesis I shall put forth in this article,” she wrote, “my reply is simply this: Let us put it to the test in the way archaeologists always try to test their theories–by excavation”...
Indicators for the palace would include monumental structures dating to the late-eleventh or early-tenth centuries b.c.e.; distinctive Phoenician-style building, which would have been out of place in the Judean mountains; and a new building created just to the north of the borders of the older Jebusite city–resting on new land, rather than on destruction layers. Of course, any additional archaeological markers, such as inscriptions, pottery shards, or interior architecture, would further confirm such a find.
The find answers these requirements and more -- which still doesn't prove anything, but which does explain Mazar's thinking.

*Incidentally, another fascinating article in the current Azure is this one, about the afterlife in the Hebrew Bible. A proper critique would have to go through all the references to nefesh, ruach, neshama etc. to see if they all fit with his thesis -- I look forward to reading this critique elsewhere....
UPDATE: I see that Biur Chametz is also linking to this article, and says: "If you read only one essay this decade on biblical interpretation (pshat), this should be it."

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