LETTER TO THE EDITOR: King David remains a mystery

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Thank you for publishing “King David’s palace found: Israeli team” (Web, July 21), about the remarkable discovery by Israeli archaeologists of the ruins of a building in Khirbet Qeiyafa that appear to date from the time of the biblical King David and may have been his palace.

The article also mentions the 2005 discovery by Israeli archaeologist Eilat Mazar of another possible palace of King David. The “large stone structure” in Jerusalem’s City of David archaeological region, immediately south of the Temple Mount, also has been dated to the 10th century B.C., when King David is thought to have ruled Israel. Mr. Mazar’s building is supported by a “stepped stone structure” thought to be the mysterious biblical “millo.” Mr. Mazar’s excavation also uncovered the royal seals of two officials mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah as having served a sixth-century B.C. Judahite king, Zedekiah, who was a distant descendant of King David.

Intriguing as these finds are, the association of either building with King David remains speculative. To date, the only archaeological evidence supporting King David’s historical existence is a broken stele found at Tel Dan by the now-deceased Israeli archaeologist Avraham Biran in 1993-1994. The stele commemorated the victory of an Aramean king over a ninth-century B.C. Israelite king, probably Jehoram, and a Judahite king from the “House of David,” most likely Ahaziah.

Several other Israelite and Judahite kings who lived within a century of King David are attested to in the contemporary historical records of ancient Israel’s neighbors. King Jehu, for instance, is depicted on an Assyrian obelisk erected around 825 B.C., and King Hezekiah, a descendant of David, is mentioned in the Assyrian account of its siege of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. Yet the historical King David remains, perhaps appropriately, elusive.

STEPHEN A. SILVER

San Francisco

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