David - Historicity - The Biblical Account

The Biblical Account

The biblical account about David comes from the Books of Samuel and the Books of Chronicles. David's life is traditionally assigned to the 11th-10th century BCE. Some scholars have dated the earliest psalms to the fifth century BCE, although these theories are debated. See article on Psalms.

Chronicles merely retells Samuel from a different theological vantage point, and contains little (if any) information not available there, and the biblical evidence for David is therefore dependent almost exclusively on the material contained in the chapters from 1 Samuel 16 to 1 Kings 2.

Since Martin Noth put forward his analysis of the Deuteronomistic history, biblical scholars have accepted that these two books form part of a continuous history of Israel, compiled no earlier than the late 7th century BCE, but incorporating earlier works and fragments. Samuel's account of David "seems to have undergone two separate acts of editorial slanting." The original writers show a strong bias against Saul, and in favour of David and Solomon. Many years later the Deuteronomists edited the material in a manner that conveyed their religious message, inserting reports and anecdotes that strengthened their monotheistic doctrine. Some of the materials in Samuel I and II — notably the boundary, allotment and administrative lists — are believed to be very early, since they correspond closely to what we know of the territorial conditions of the late Davidic-early Solomonic period.

Beyond this, the full range of possible interpretations is available. The late John Bright, in his History of Israel (which went through four editions from 1959 to 2000), takes Samuel at face value. Donald B. Redford, however, thinks all reconstructions from Biblical sources for the United Monarchy period are examples of "academic wishful thinking". Thomas L. Thompson rejects the historicity of the biblical narrative, "The history of Palestine and of its peoples is very different from the Bible's narratives, whatever political claims to the contrary may be. An independent history of Judea during the Iron I and Iron II periods has little room for historicizing readings of the stories of I-II Samuel and I Kings."Amihai Mazar however, concludes that based on recent archeological findings, like those in City of David, Khirbet Qeiyafa, Tel Dan, Tel Rehov, Khirbet en-Nahas and others "the deconstruction of United Monarchy and the devaluation of Judah as a state in 9th century is unacceptable interpretation of available historic data". According to Mazar, based on archeological evidences, United Monarchy can be described as a "state in development"

Some interesting studies of David have been written: Baruch Halpern has pictured David as a lifelong vassal of Achish, the Philistine king of Gath; Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman have identified as the oldest and most reliable section of Samuel those chapters which describe David as the charismatic leader of a band of outlaws who captures Jerusalem and makes it his capital. Steven McKenzie, Associate Professor of the Hebrew Bible at Rhodes College and author of King David: A Biography, states the belief that David actually came from a wealthy family, was "ambitious and ruthless" and a tyrant who murdered his opponents, including his own sons.

The Babylonian Exilarchs are referred to as part of the "Davidic line." According to Jeremiah 22; an individual that comes from the Davidic line may not acquire leadership of Israel unless it is done through peace.

Read more about this topic:  David, Historicity

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