New study at Gezer site proves Biblical accounts of David and Solomon

This was the purpose of the forced labor which Shlomo imposed: It was to build the House of Hashem, his own palace, the Millo, and the wall of Yerushalayim, and [to fortify] Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer. I Kings 9:15

A new radiocarbon study of an important archaeological site seems to have made a significant step towards ending a scientific debate and establishing that the Biblical accounts of King David and King Solomon were historically accurate.

In 1958, Prof Yigal Yadin proposed that one layer of the site identified as stratum 8 dated to the 10th century BCE which he associated with Biblical King Solomon. This was based on a monumental six-chambered city gate. Such gates were also discovered at Megiddo, Hazor and Jerusalem. The construction of these gates at these sites is described in 1 Kings 9:15. The site also showed  a 27-meter-long casemate wall fortification, stone glacis, a large courtyard-type administration building, and a monumental stairway. Previous strata did not have such substantial gates. 

Yadin’s findings and conclusions were corroborated by later researchers. But a school of thought arose in archaeology called the low chronology. Archaeologists from this school of thought led by Prof. Israel Finkelstein dated stratum 8 to the ninth century BCE, attributing the massive construction to the northern Kingdom’s Omride dynasty

Finkelstein proposed that the Biblical accounts of David and Solomon were greatly exaggerated and that Solomon was in reality nothing more than a glorified “hillbilly”—“little more than a hill country chieftain … rul[ing] over a marginal, isolated, rural region, with no signs of great wealth or centralized administration.” His rule “extended over no empire, no palatial cities, no spectacular capital” (The Bible Unearthed, pages 190, 238, 143). “The supposed archaeological evidence of the united monarchy was no more than wishful thinking,” he wrote of the early “Solomonic” discoveries at these respective sites (page 235).

Depiction of the Biblical story of two women coming to King Solomon, both claiming to be the mother of the baby

The dispute between the two schools of thought is still raging. Few radiocarbon measurements were available at Gezer for any stratum or period so no conclusive dating was forthcoming. 

A new radiocarbon chronology study of the city of Gezer focusing on stratum 8 was published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. The report, titled “The Chronology of Gezer From the End of the Late Bronze Age to Iron Age II: A Meeting Point for Radiocarbon, Archaeology, Egyptology and the Bible” was composed by Lyndelle Webster, Samuel Wolff, Steven Ortiz, Marcella Barbosa, Cameron Coyle, Gary Arbino, Michael Dee, Quan Hua and Geraldine Jacobsen and was the product of ten years of excavations carried out by the Tandy Institute of Archaeology. 

The new study presents “the first substantial radiocarbon dataset and Bayesian chronological analysis for Gezer spanning the last part of the Late Bronze Age through Iron Age ii.”

The radiocarbon samples revealed (emphasis added throughout):

“The transformation of Gezer in Stratum 8 … likely began in the early part of the 10th century BCE  (998–957 BCE, 68.3 percent HPD). … Stratum 8 was used during the first part of the 10th century BCE, until its destruction near the middle of the century …. [T]he chronological position of this horizon is hard to dispute thanks to constraint provided by the overlying Stratum 7.

“Stratum 7 … was used primarily during the later part of the 10th century BCE It was not particularly long-lived, as the site once again fell prey to a destructive event near the close of the 10th century BCE or early decades of the ninth century BCE (927–885, 68.3 percent HPD).

“The construction of Stratum 8 … likely occurred in the first part of the 10th century BCE (Start 8: 998–957 BCE, 68.3 percent HPD [showing the tightest probability]; 1023–942 BCE., 95.4 percent HPD  [including potential outlier samples]). The data and model—with constraints provided by overlying Stratum 7—rule out a ninth-century BCE date for Stratum 8. … Stratum 8 came to an end already in the mid-10th century BCE.”

The study did not make any conclusions about the Biblical correlations.

Solomonic Gate, Iron Age city gate at Tel Gezer with panoramic view of the foothills of the Judean Mountains. Israel (Source: Shutterstock)

“There is understandably some reservation among scholars about making connections between archaeological remains and events, processes or individuals in textual sources, particularly given the tendency of past scholarship to accept these correlations rather hastily and uncritically. Nonetheless, we must cautiously compare the different lines of evidence available to us, bearing in mind their limitations.”

The researchers did rule out the possibility that Gezer was built up by the Northern Israel Omride dynasty. 

Nonetheless, dating stratum 8 to the 10th century BCE is a large step towards establishing the historicity of the Biblical Davidic dynasty as a powerful force in ancient Israel. Hillbillies do not build massive cities.  The researchers seemed convinced that given the corroborating evidence from other archaeological finds, the historicity of the Biblical account is now a scientifically verified fact.

“The 10th-century BCE, 14C-based date for early expansion in the Shephelah notably rules out an association with the northern Israelite Omride dynasty; however, it is chronologically compatible with Saul, David and/or Solomon, whose text-based dating (albeit approximate) falls in the 10th century BCE (perhaps also the late 11th century BCE). While scholars can debate the degree to which the accounts of these early highland rulers reflect historical memories, extra-biblical evidence indicates they were real historical figures.”

Of course,. Professor Finkelstein summarized this new study in Haaretz as “meaningless” and of “very little value,” claiming that the excavators did not show proof for their findings coming from clean Stratum 8 contexts.  

The researchers rejected this claim, saying, “We took samples from good contexts,” objected Dr. Samuel Wolff.

The Biblical city of Gezer is strategically located on the western slopes of the Judean Hills, midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It sits atop a hill overlooking the fertile Ayalon Valley at the intersection of the road from Egypt and the road leading to Jerusalem, Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia. Gezer became a major fortified Canaanite city-state in the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE but was later destroyed by fire and rebuilt. 

Figure of King David from the Synagogue at Gaza.
(Source: Shutterstock)

According to the Bible, Joshua and the Israelites defeated the King of Gezer (Joshua 10:33), but the Book of Judges (Judges 1:29) relates that the Tribe of Ephraim did not drive the Canaanite inhabitants from Gezer and that they remained in the city among the Israelites.

At the beginning of the 10th century BCE, Gezer was conquered and burned by an Egyptian pharaoh (probably Siamun), who gave it to King Solomon as the dowry of his daughter. Pharaoh King of Egypt had come up and captured Gezer; he destroyed it by fire, killed the Canaanites who dwelt in the town, and gave it as dowry to his daughter, Solomon’s wife. (I Kings 9:16).King Solomon (10th century BCE) rebuilt Gezer as a royal Israelite center on the border with Philistia. Gezer appears to have been destroyed soon after the death of Solomon and the division of the United Kingdom, during the campaign waged by the Shishak King of Egypt against King Jeroboam in 924 BCE. (I Kings 14:25).

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