|Was there such a King as Solomon?|
Tutankhamun||Solomon in Egypt - Visit King Solomon's Zoo and Arboretum - Solomon in Baalbek|
Because of widespread misconceptions on the historicity of the early Israelite kings we endeavor here to make a comparison study to show how things fit together. Especially the very existence of King Solomon has come under criticism because of the apparent lack of corroborating evidence from excavations in Israel itself. How can we explain that? Shouldn't there be at least some evidence attributable to King Solomon or David by way of inscriptions? To be sure small items have been found, i.e. a Solomonic seal for instance, but we are looking more for larger items. Egypt's kings left inscriptions on buildings, statues, stela - why is there such a lack of the same in Israel from any king?|
|This is a fair question to ask and we must address this issue. On the outset we would like to say that the lack of inscriptions, carvings, ornate stone reliefs in Israel and Judah must have a definite reason and that it does we shall try to explain. Of course they were very much aware of the richness of||
Recorder ........... Jehoshaphat, son of Ahilud
to dance around and worship - something they could see. But the faith they were taught about of the very God who had led them out of slavery was directed at worshipping Him in faith and deeds rather than by representations.|
Self glorification of rulers also was not in accord with their believes. Only God deserved veneration and being written about. If Solomon would have left inscriptions in his cities the Jewish people themselves would have defaced and done away with them not to leave any trace. This may be not good for us today who are trying to understand those times from the remains, but it is why we should not even expect such artifacts. Those who want to make comparisons to Egypt and argue because of the lack of artifacts in Israel that these kings did not really live and reign as we are told just don't seem to take into account the times they lived in and the Jewish mind. We cannot impose Egyptian conventions on the Jewish people.
However, other scholars note that there are other blank spots in Jerusalem's archaeological record during periods when the city is known to have been occupied, and they caution against reading too much into a lack of evidence. Ronny Reich, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority, notes, for example, that excavations near the Gihon spring outside the present Old City have turned up "no pottery, nothing" from the Byzantine era–roughly A.D. 330-1450. "Does that mean there were no people in Jerusalem?" Reich asks. "Of course not. How do you explain it? You can't." [J.L. Sheler, `News from the Holy Land']
In fact the lack of such personal records carved on stone is evidence in itself that we are at the right place of Jewish habitation. But a few reminders of the early Israelite monarchy are being found often in the form of the stone masons skill to produce smooth stones, with no chisel marks for constructions. All other cultures in the ancient Near East were much closer to Egyptian conventions with respect to artifacts, the Jewish lands are quite singular on the lack of such. But we must not forget that the kinds of artifacts like idols, ushabtis, scarabs and the like found in Palestine are probably those used and on occasion hidden or kept by Israelites who employed them in trade or, in the case of idols perhaps, had become unfaithful to their God.
Laws pertaining to royalty - "When you enter the land...and you say: `Let us set a king over us like the nations around us' be sure to appoint over you the king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your own brethren. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite. The king...must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, `You are not to go back that way again.' He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold." Deuteronomy 17:14-17.
Critics also often doubt the existence of the early Israelite accounts of constructions and achievements because during excavations they are unable to locate any of these supposed palaces, city gates, walls or dwellings. The cities of Hazor, Gezer and Megiddo have been excavated to a great extend. A stratum containing remains of palaces, temples and fortifications was found in each of these cities but strangely enough the name of Solomon was not found but that of Pharaoh Amenhotep III was. How can that be? In conventional thinking Pharaoh Amenhotep III reigned from about 1405-1367 BC, long before Solomon. No wonder critics are baffled and discount the scriptural account of history. But let us see what happens when we apply revised chronology.
In revised view Pharaoh Amenhotep III reigned from about 878-870 as coruler with Amenhotep II, and sole from 870-843 BC, right in the middle of the El Amarna Age. That is just 60 years after the death of King Solomon. He, like Solomon, inherited a vast, glorious and rich empire with connections from the Nile to the Euphrates river. He left a wealth of evidence of his existence in his many constructions of palaces, temples, monuments, documents, art unparalleled and numerous except perhaps that of Ramses II. It was during the reign of Amenhotep III that cities like Gezer were refortified and Egyptian garrisons were set up in strategic locations. Why? Because of the many incursions into Palestine by restless rulers from Damascus, Syria, the great deserts and Assyria. For the Egyptians Palestine was a buffer zone. Stop any would-be-enemies before they reach the border of Egypt. We just need to read about the troubles involving Palestine in the days of Jehoshaphat, Ahab and their sons to understand how desperate the situation sometimes could become. So when we mentioned the palaces of Gezer, Hazor and Megiddo - we must be blind not to realize that they are the ones we had been looking for as belonging to the time of the early Israelite kings. What has been hiding their presence from us is not sand and dirt, but a false, conventional, Egyptian chronology, for Amenhotep III did not live 400 years before Solomon but 60 years after him.
In 2000 archaeologists excavated Area L at Megiddo, the location of the so-called Palace 6000 decribed as a beautiful ashlar structure partially excavated by Yadin. The building was constructed in the `bit-hilani' manner, an architectural style which according to the records of the Assyrian king Sargon/Sennacherib hailed from northern Syrian architecture. But in Syria, according to Finkelstein (disputed by Ussishkin), all Iron Age `bit hilani' are of the 9th-8th centuries BC. Finkelstein then asks, how can these Syrian `bit hilani' be regarded as prototypes of a 10th century BC `bit hilani' at Megiddo? Because of the Assyrian statement, no one seemed to ask the question if the Megiddo building could be the prototype for the Syrian examples. Certainly we would not expect Assyrian kings from the end of the 8th century BC, make a reference to Solomonic era constructions.
Similarly, others claim "The Hittites developed the bit- hilani, an ambulatory gallery hall built with a stairway approach with pillars on either side. Another characteristic of Hittite architecture was the double gateway with corbeled arch found in the main gates of Hattusa, decorated with friezes and protected on either side by a threatening beast figure. Interior wall paintings were evidently a sophisticated art, though only a few fragments of this work remain, principally at Boghazköy and Atchana in Northern Syria." [http://www.angelfire.com/de/poetry/Writings/Hittites.html]
Perhaps among the best sites helping us to understand what an Israelite city might have looked like in the days of the early kings is Ramat Rahel located about halfway between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. A description can be found Here.
Solomonic ashlars of the Jerusalem retaining wall, characterized by irregular, rough bosses and margins of irregular width around all four edges, are best seen to the right of the `straight joint' while those ashlars to the left exhibit smooth bosses and even margins, a characteristic of Herodian masons. While archaeologists like M.Maurice Dunand have shown that temple podiums at Eshmun, near Sidon, and Byblos exhibit the same type of margins and bosses found in Jerusalem. The similarity also includes the height (45 inches) of the Eshmun Temple at Byblos. Both of these structures date to the Persian period (Sheshbazzar, 538-520 BC). [M.Dunand, `Byblos, Sidon, Jerusalem. Monuments apparentes des temps achemenides', in Congess Volume, Rome 1968, Vetus Testamentum Supplement 17 (Leiden: Brill, 1969), pp. 64-70.] While Herod's ashlars look more finished they also vary in stone types used, size and margins width and depth at various locations. These Persian period ashlars then could be ascribed to the rebuilding efforts mainly as those of Zerubbabel [Haggai 1:4, 9, 2: 1-9; Zecharaiah 1:16, 6:12-13, 8:9 See also E. Laperrousaz, `King Solomon's Wall Still Supports the Temple Mount', BAR, May/June 1987, pp. 34-44; accompanied by numerous illustrative pictures.].
But the author's main contention that the eastern retaining wall build right on the edge of the steep Kedron Valley was placed there originally by the contractors of Solomon and no subsequent destruction attempted to destroy this wall for had they done so, the fill it contains would have collapsed and it would have been nearly impossible to repair given their technology. The right side of the straight joint then marks the edge of the older Solomonic retaining wall, while the left marks the enlargement of the Temple complex during the time of King Herod. Additional Solomonic constructions must therefore be located well below the present structures build on top of it.
How does this all stack up in the revised view? First of all we probably should consider some limiting factors, i.e. the dating of `bit hilani' type structures at Hattusa. Do they appear in a very ancient area, or one from more recent times? Similarly for Megiddo, when talking about layers, how thick were the various layers were critical discoveries were made, how well delineated were they? Finding just the base of a bronze statue in 1934, should we assume it was brought there by some caravan for sale? Does the location of its discovery indicate a discarded object or one placed for safe keeping? A bronze base may be a valuable work table for an artisan of any age until a day when the city's fortune might turn again for the better.
The problem was that this bronze base of Ramses VI was found in Stratum VIIB, room 1832, considered to be of the 19th to the early 20th Dynasty. Ramses VI belongs to late XX. Dynasty in conventional view.
It appears that Amenhotep III patterned his life after that of Solomon. But he was not hampered by religious oriented restrictions like Solomon, he could freely create idols, images of himself and vain glorious monuments to his greatness. But as the reader may recall we claim that Solomon most likely was Senenmut, the most trusted noble of Queen-Pharaoh Hatshepsut. It appears that in time Solomon, after having married an Egyptian princess, may have felt himself too restricted in his own kingdom and during the second half of his 40 year reign his gaze was directed toward Egypt. Being a cozy friend with the Egyptian king, he became the highest official and closest adviser to Hatshepsut. What he could not do in Israel he could do in Egypt - leave inscriptions, representations and monuments with his name on them. For we read:
No wonder his own people would not leave any stone unturned in their homeland which would remind anyone of their wayward king."I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them that are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
1) A notable exception from a later period may be the `Jehoash Inscription'.
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