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David and Solomon : In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition
Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman

0743243625 Retail Price: $26.00
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Format: Hardcover, 352pp.
ISBN: 0743243625
Publisher: Free Press
Pub. Date: January 31, 2006

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From The Publisher:

The exploding number of discoveries of biblical archaeology—artifacts and texts found at hundreds of sites populated in the ancient Near East—have shed powerful beams of light on the characters and peoples in the Bible. Most of the resulting public controversies have focused on whether or not the history in the Bible is true. Yet ultimately, there are two larger questions that matter more: exactly how did the Bible evolve into its final form, over the centuries-long process of its compilation, and what does that history tell us about the traditions we have inherited and that still stamp our memories?

In David and Solomon, Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, leading archaeologists and authors who have done a great deal to uncover and understand the breathtaking findings of their field, focus on the first two great kings of the Bible as a lens through which we can see the evolution of the entire biblical era. The Bible's chapters and verses on David and his son were written in stages, over many hundreds of years, by authors living in very different circumstances. Thanks to a combination of textual analysis and archaeology, we now know a great deal about which parts of the story were written in which era, and why those particular societies might have added to the legend precisely as they did. In short, David and Solomon offers a guide to a thousand years of ancient civilization and the evolution of a tradition of kingly leadership that held sway throughout the West for much of our history.

The earliest folklore and verses about David depict a bandit leader, hiding in the mountains, leading a small gang of traveling raiders (which fits what we know of the ninth century B.C.E.). That bandit may well be the "true" David. In later periods, authors added images of David as a poet, as the founder of a great dynasty, as a political in-fighter, and (perhaps most famously) as a sinner. All of these images made sense for the authors who created them, and a similar evolution of Solomon from the builder of the Temple, to expander of his empire, to wise sage, to rich trader similarly reflects the successive stages of history up to the time of Jesus. Ultimately, David and Solomon came to embody a tradition of divinely inspired kings and even messiahs, the forerunners of Jesus and of the great kings of Europe throughout the Middle Ages.

David and Solomon shows how the stories built around two men reflect the very roots of the western tradition and explains a great deal of why the Bible appears as it does.


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.
—Publishers Weekly, Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


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About the Authors

Israel Finkelstein is director of the Sonia and Marco NAdler Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University. Neil Asher Silberman is director of historical interpretation for the Ename Center for Public Archaeology and Heritage Presentation in Belgium and is a contributing editor to Archaeology magazine.

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