Mystery of King David

King David Stained Glass

King David Stained Glass

The Old Testament of the Bible is our only source of information about David. No ancient inscription mentions him. No archaeological discovery can be securely linked to him. The quest to find archaeological evidence that proves David was a person remains an interpretation of the Biblical text.   There are no ancient inscriptions that can be linked to David, outside of his depiction in the Bible, until recently.  One of the latest in possible discoveries was a piece of an inscribed monument or “stele.”  It was found by accident at an archaeological dig in the ruin (“tel”) of the ancient city of Dan in northern Israel. It was made of basalt, which was a very expensive stone in antiquity.  A monument made by basalt would have been costly to produce, so it it is most likely the work of a King or government.

There were thirteen lines of writing preserved on the fragment in an early form of the alphabet. The letters were clear and elegantly inscribed. The language was instantly recognized as Aramaic, the mother tongue of ancient Syria.  As with Hebrew, the writing went from right to left. It was the ninth line that caught the collective eye of the first readers. There were the consonants that spelled out the name of David: DWD.

The name did not stand alone. It was part of a larger word rendered “House of David.” This was one source of the controversy generated by the inscription in the first year after its discovery. The occurrence of David’s name was not as obvious as it had appeared at first. The same letters used to write his name could have other meanings as well, especially since Aramaic, like ancient Hebrew, was written without vowels. One common proposal was that the phrase actually meant “temple of (a god named) Dod.” The broken piece did not preserve enough of the original context to make an accurate interpretation of the translation.   Other pieces found at the archaeological site suggest that the translation would have been “The House of David,” which was a title for the nation of Judah or its ruling dynasty.  This means it might not have referenced a single King David, rather the entire kingdom of Judah.  Therefore, it was not conclusive evidence or the type that would support swaying the opinions of skeptics.

This statement may seem surprising. You would think that a person as famous and active as David is in the Bible would have left plenty of indications of his historical existence for archaeologists to dig up. You would also expect to find him mentioned frequently in the records of the ancient countries he conquered or had dealings with.  We will keep researching the latest on new finds, hoping that there might be some definitive statement that explains the true history.

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