Scholarly debate on which biblical figures actually existed and which ones were just figments of literature continue up to this day. A most recent example is Jesus, who had been widely accepted to have actually walked the lands of Nazareth during the Roman expansion into Jerusalem, until recent revelations placed previous beliefs into question.
Now, the reverse is happening for much older biblical characters. Once believed to have simply been figures of Christian lore, the first concrete evidence for the actual existence of King David and King Solomon may have just surfaced, according to a group of U.S. archaeologists who recently ventured into the ancient Bible town of Khirbet Summeily, a lonely settlement bordering Judah and Philistia.
Jeff Blakely and his team of scientists have recently discovered clay seals, or bullae, that possibly prove that kings David and Solomon — both alleged to be ancestors of Jesus — actually existed during the time the bible spoke about their reign. The bullae were evidence that a form of official government was in existence around the time David and Solomon purportedly led the Israelite kingdom around 900 B.C.E.
James Hardin, a professor at Mississippi State University, and a co-author of the study, says the discovered bullae were likely utilized for official ancient documents.
“These bullae were used to seal official correspondence in much the same way wax seals were used on official documents in later periods,” Hardin said.
According to Sci-News, Khirbet Summeily was originally seen as a small Iron Age settlement by archaeologists. Now that evidence of official rule was discovered, scientists are re-thinking the actual history of the town and the lands around it. The discovery of bullae indicates that a political organization may have existed during the time David and Solomon were portrayed in the scriptures as being the rulers of ancient Israel.
On the actual time the clay seals were actually used, Blakely and his team considered different factors to arrive at a precise date.
“The style of the bullae, the types of ancient pottery found in the same contexts as the bullae, the types of Egyptian scarabs found, the style of an Egyptian amulet, and the overall stratigraphy or layering of the site each suggested a 10th century date,” Blakely said.
The recent discovery might change how archaeologists perceive 10th century Middle East, as Blakely’s discovery hints at a possible form of reign previously thought not to exist during the time. Professor Hardin said, “[W]e are very positive that these bullae are associated with the Iron Age IIA, which we date to the 10th century BC, and which lends general support to the historical veracity of David and Solomon as recorded in the Hebrew Biblical texts. These appear to be the only known examples of bullae from the 10th century, making this discovery unique.”
“Some text scholars and archaeologists have dismissed the historic reliability of the Biblical text surrounding kings David and Solomon, such as recorded in the Bible in the books of Kings and Second Samuel, which scholars often date to the Iron Age IIA or 10th century BC,” Hardin added.
Results of the discovery will be published on the Journal Near Eastern Archaeology.
[Images from Isaac Asknaziy/Wikimedia and N.E. Green/University of Wisconsin-Madison]