JERUSALEM, Israel -- Did characters like David and Solomon really exists? Many historians today are divided over this question. But CBN News met with two archaeologists who are digging up parts of David's life, and what they've found supports the biblical accounts down to the smallest details.
David is the most famous king in Israel's history, but some say he wasn't the great ruler described in the Bible. One Israeli archaelogists said, "David and Solomon did not rule over a big territory. It was a small chiefdom, very poor."
"This is a great chief. If you want to call King David a chief or King Solomon a chief, and this is a huge tribe," archeologist Eilat Mazar said.
Others say David never existed at all. Even a professor of biblical studies insisted that he is not the only scholar "who suspects that the figure of Kind David is about as historical as King Arthur."
What Does the Bible Say?
But archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel believes otherwise and has set out to prove the validity of the biblical accounts and its most famous historical figures.
"These guys said, 'We didn't have any archaeological memories, so David and Solomon are mythological figures," Garfinkel said. Yet one by one, those "archaeological memories" are being uncovered and all over Israel excavators are confirming the biblical story of Israel's greatest king.
The Bible records David's story in great detail from his days as a shepherd boy to his death in the royal palace in Jerusalem. Today, you can walk in the same places where David walked and they still have the same names as they did 3,000 years ago.
There's Bethlehem, the place where he was born and where he was anointed the king of Israel at just 15 years old. Then there is Ein Gedi, the desert oasis where David hid from King Saul in caves. And Hebron is where he spent seven years as the King of Judah.
For centuries the Bible was the only written evidence that David even existed. There was no archaeological record of his reign until about 150 years ago.
New Evidence Unearthed
In 1868, a stone tablet was discovered in Jordan. It was written by a Moabite king named Mesha, an enemy of Israel.
The stone dates to around 840 BC, less than 200 years after David and it provides the first known reference to the "House of David" outside the Bible.
"And 'House of David,' it means 'dynasty of David.' So we know that there was a guy called David, and he had a dynasty," Garfinkel said. "Okay, so now this is absolutely clear that David is not a mythological figure. So the mythological paradigm collapsed in one moment."
More than a hundred years later the same phrase, "House of David," turned up on another stone, this time in northern Israel.
It was written about 200 years after David's rule -- again, by one of Israel's enemies, Hazel, the king of Damascus. "He said, I killed 70 kings. I killed a king from Israel and a king from the House of David," Garfinkel explained.
One of David's greatest victories took place in the valley of Elah. This is where the young shepherd boy killed the giant Goliath, and it's one of the few places where you can still catch a glimpse of the Israel that David knew.
Nearby are the ruins of the Philistine city of Gath, the hometown of Goliath and the remains of the brook where David found the stone that killed him.
And high above the valley is a fortress that's thousands of years old to the local Bedouin. This place is still known as "Khirbet Daoud" or "David's Ruin." It's the only iron age city in Israel that's perfectly preserved and almost frozen in time.
"For us as archaeologists, this is one of the richest sites in Israel. This is like a biblical Pompeii," Garfinkel said.
The Hebrew name is "Khirbet Qeiyafa" or "Fortress of Elah." Garfinkel first uncovered the city in 2007. He recovered some burnt olive pits from the site and sent them to Oxford University for carbon-dating. The results surprised even Garfinkel himself. "It turns out that this beautiful city and all the finds is from about 1020 to 980 BC, and this is exactly the time of King David," he said.
In David's day, the Valley of Elah served as a neutral zone between the Israelites and the Philistines. In Qeiyafa, which was right on the frontlines, excavators discovered a large cache of weapons.
"We are shedding some light on the story of David and Goliath. We are in the same location, in the same time the city is heavily fortified. We have all these weapons, so I'm telling you that this indeed was an area of conflict between two political units," Garfinkel said.
In the Bible, this fortress is mentioned with a diferent name, Sha'Araym, "The city of two gates." In 1 Samuel 17, Sha'Araym is the place where the Philistines fled after David killed Goliath.
"Sha'Arayim means in Hebrew "two gates." In KQ, we have two gates. So if you take the biblical tradition, the location, the chronology, the meaning of the name -- all these aspects fit Qeiyafa perfectly," Garfinkel said.
A Philistine or Jewish City?
Just 10 days after Qeiyafa was discovered, critics argued it was a Philistine city, not a Jewish one, so Garfinkel went to work proving them wrong.
"What is the ethnic component of the city? I think that the city is Judean based on four arguments," Garfinkel said.
His first argument is the city's design.
"It has a big casement city wall and houses abutting the city wall," he said. "This is known from four other sites, so now we have five sites. All these five cities are in Judah. None of them is in Philistia. This is really typical Judean urban planning."
His second argument is the animal bones found in the city, all of them strictly kosher.
"We have sheep, goat, cattle, but we have no pigs and no dogs. On the Philistine side, they consume pigs and also dogs. Up to 20 percent of the animal bones at Philistine sites are pigs. But here nothing," Garfinkel said.
And he argues that the pottery shard, also known as a ostracon, is the earliest example of Hebrew writing ever unearthed. On it are written commandments to worship the Lord and to help widows, orphans, and slaves.
"It started with the word al-ta'as, which means "Don't do." And "ta'as," to do, is only in Hebrew. It's not Canaanite and not Philistine," Garfinkel explained.
Garfinkel also argues that the absence of idols, which would have been in abundance, points to a Jewish city. "If you go to Canaanite temples of the Late Bronze, you will find a lot of human and animal figures, but not in KQ. So the people here really obeyed the biblical taboo on graven images," he said.
The esteemed archeaologist points out that in the absence of idols there were religious shrines. And the models predate Solomon's temple by about 40 years. Yet they match the Bible's description of the temple down to the triple framed doors. They're the first phyisical evidence of Jewish worship in the time of King David.
Garfinkel humbly admits that "it was not [his] mission to prove the historical authenticity of the biblical tradition." He claims he "had no idea" of what he would find. It is proof beyond his imagination that the Bible is more accurate than many critics would like to admit.
Yet, as he pointed to his collection of evidence he told CBN News, "These are the animal bones, these are the radiocarbon dating, this is the inscription, these are the fortifications, and then you have the biblical tradition. And what do you know -- they just happen to fit nicely with each other."