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David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition Paperback – April 3, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Lacking clear archeological evidence or extrabiblical testimony, biblical scholars are often challenged in persuading a skeptical world that the Bible's characters really existed and that their stories are actual historical records. The task of separating myth from history can be a daunting one. Finkelstein and Silberman, both renowned archaeologists (Finkelstein chairs the archaeology department [at Tel Aviv University; Silberman is a contributing editor to Archaeology magazine), take a different approach: integrating ancient heroic and warrior archetypes into the lives of the kings of Israel, thus synthesizing history and myth in support of the religious endeavor. The authors are careful to note that the absence of contemporary confirmation outside the Bible is no reason to believe that the characters did not actually exist. Rather, the biblical stories form the basis for a legend tradition in which the Davidic legacy gradually transforms "from a down-to-earth political program into the symbols of a transcendent religious faith that would spread throughout the world." Finkelstein and Silberman, who also had a winner with The Bible Unearthed, tell their story in a clear and easily understood manner, never boring but always challenging. Discovery Club main selection, BOMC, QPB and History book clubs alternate selection. (Feb. 8)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

As Finkelstein and Silberman cite, the figure of David (shepherd, warrior, and divinely protected king) and of his son, Solomon (a great builder, wise judge, and serene ruler of a vast empire) have become timeless models of righteous leadership and God's sanction. They contend that the archaeological discoveries of recent decades have shown "how far from the glamorous scriptural portraits the actual world of David and Solomon was." They also posit that many of the famous episodes in the biblical story are highly exaggerated. Although it seems possible that David and Solomon were actual historical characters, they were very different from their scriptural portraits. Finkelstein and Silberman offer evidence that it is unlikely that David ever conquered land more than two days' march from the heartland of Judah and that Solomon's Jerusalem was "neither extensive nor impressive." Their point is to show how the legends of David and Solomon developed and how they came to guide Western thinking and shape Western religious and political traditions in important ways. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (April 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743243633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743243636
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #972,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In a thought provoking application of archaeological findings to the Biblical texts, Finkelstein & Silberman arrive at striking conclusions, some better-reasoned than others. The bottom line of "David & Solomon" is that the two were rather insignificant tribal chieftans ruling from a backwater hilltop village called Jerusalem, and that Saul was a somewhat more significant chieftan in the north country who became a big enough nuisance to Egypt that, with the help of Philistine mercenaries, they devastated his kingdom. David either helped in this devastation, or stood idly by while Saul was destroyed, but he definitely profited by Saul's misfortune.

Finklestein & Silberman credit the broad outline of David's and Saul's careers, but not the detail. They demonstrate that the political, economic, and social conditions of David's times correspond perfectly with the conditions described in the story of David's outlaw youth, and that Northern Israel was devastated about the time Saul and Jonathan would have been killed on Mount Gilboa. If the background of the Saul and David stories therefore correspond quite closely to archaeological findings, why should the detail be rejected out of hand? Given allowance for the "good old days" effect and the political need to cast David in the best light possible while casting Saul in the worst light possible, why can't the stories be considered at least as accurate as Herodotus, the "Father of History"? The scholarship of the 1960's posited that the story of David in Samuel consisted of an "early source" which was quite accurate overwritten by a "late source" which was concerned with polemic and apologetic. Current scholarship posits a multi-layered text similar to that described by Finkelstein & Silberman.
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Format: Hardcover
Authors Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman first caught my attention with their book 'The Bible Unearthed'. That book presented new discoveries and ways of looking at previous discoveries in the area of archaeological research and the origins of the Bible. This is one of the latest contributions of major scholars to the continuing quest for clarity and understanding of the development and meaning of the biblical texts. 'We believe that a reassessment of finds from earlier excavations and the continuing discoveries by new digs have made it clear that scholars must now approach the problems of biblical origins and ancient Israelite society from a completely new perspective.

This book follows some of their speculations and continues their methods of treading between the more fundamentalist 'the Bible is history and the only history' camp and the minimalist 'the Bible has nothing to do with history' camp. There is historical content and influence on the text of the Bible, according to Finkelstein and Silberman, but the Bible is not nor was ever intended to be a historical textbook of the sort we have today. This is particularly important when dealing with the greatest of Biblical kings, David and Solomon.

'Our challenge will be to provide a new perspective on the David and Solomon story by presenting the flood of new archaeological information about the rise and development of the ancient society in which the biblical tale was formed. We will attempt to separate history from myth; old memories from later elaboration; facts from royal propaganda to trace the evolution of the David and Solomon narrative from its ancient origins to the final compilation of the biblical accounts.
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Format: Hardcover
Finkelstein & Silberman's "David and Solomon" is a very, very interesting survey of archaeological findings that support or refute various biblical traditions, biblical scholarship, and provocative commentary. However, as was true in "The Bible Unearthed," I occasionally found myself spending a little time trying to tell whether the text is what Finkelstein & Silberman believe or whether it is a summary of the biblical account.

My principal disappointment was that although Finkelstein & Silberman mentioned the copper mines at Timna, 15 miles north of the northernmost tip of the Gulf of Aqaba, they did not mention the religious significance of the mines. The mines were operated by Midianites under the supervision of Egyptian troops until the troops were withdrawn by Pharaoh Rameses VI in 1141 BCE. After the Egyptians left, the Midianites destroyed the temple where they had been forced to worship the Egyptian goddess, Hathor and replaced it with a red and yellow cloth tent where they began the first recorded worship of Yahweh. It was from Timna that Yahweh-worship migrated to Canaan and played a major role in Saul's establishment of the monarchy, the monarchy which was seized by David after a long string of most serendipitous murders .

That the biblical accounts of David and Solomon contain details that could only have been written long after David and Solomon were said to have reigned does not indicate that they were not eleventh- and tenth-century "kings" (more like heads of tribal federations than what we, today, would think of as kings). That details were added to the stories of David and Solomon hundreds of years later to make those stories serve the needs of the theocracies that replaced the monarchy does not change the centuries in which David and Solomon lived.
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