[b-hebrew] question re: Tel Dan stela

George Athas gathas at hotkey.net.au
Thu May 27 06:50:15 EDT 2004

Hi Bill!

> It's this really just arriving approximately at the ``dominant theory'' by
> a rather circuitous route? If, for a moment, we accept your guess
> about it being a place name, and further accept your speculation on your
> guess that it is Jerusalem, ...

I'd say it's more than just a guess. I do give contextual evidence in the book for identifying "Bayt-Dawid" as Jerusalem. It's not a pure stab in the dark.

> ... don't we still end up at a reference to
> David, the Bible King?

More or less, yes. That's the case I'm arguing. We can't say we have found 'proof' for David, but this is certainly good 'evidence' that builds what I think is a fairly solid case for an historical David. And if anything, I think it's even stronger evidence than the old 'dominant' theory because it's arguing that a town (not just a dynasty) was named after David, that suggests Jerusalem was a political centre even though archaeologically we know it was very small. It may cause us to rethink some of the theories of state formation. Indeed, in the book I argue that we haven't even read the biblical narratives properly.

> This type of argument doesn't hold water. The Bush family is not a dynasty
> (sorry for stating the obvious) whereas the Bible shows the Kings
> descended from David ruled Judah for over 400 years in an unbroken line.
> Assuming, for a moment, that is true, calling the King ``King of the House
> of David'' would appear a perfectly reasonable thing to do, even to 21st
> century people accustomed to electing their leaders.

I know what you mean, Bill. The problem is, however, that such terminology has no analogy in the Ancient Near East, either in inscriptions, archives, or even in the Bible. Nowhere is someone called the king of a dynasty -- they are always named as the king of a state. It's a slight difference, but a key difference. To argue that the Tel Dan Inscription identifies a 'king of the House of David' is to go against seemingly unanimous evidence. However, to identify someone as the king of a particular geographical entity has a lot of backing from the Ancient Near East. This means that if you opt for understanding the phrase as 'king of the House [dynasty] of David', you must be doing so on some other grounds. The only real grounds for doing this is to find the Davidic dynasty in the phrase. This is not the best methodology, and it's also unnecessary.

I hope that made sense.

Best regards,

Lecturer in Biblical Languages
Southern Cross College
Sydney, Australia

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