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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long live the Kings, 3 April 2006
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
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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 There is historical content and influence on the text of the Bible, according to Finkelstein and Silberman, but the Bible is not nor was ever intended to be a historical textbook of the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.'
In this vein, the authors trace the biblical narrative of David and Solomon, and then combine it with what is known from archaeological and extra-biblical textual evidence. They look at issues of psychology and politics, institutional and cultural development, and later influences and growths from the earlier narrative strands.
I found the appendices to be particularly valuable in this volume. Finkelstein and Silberman discuss the recent Tel Dan discovery, a controversial rendering of an inscription that is the earliest mention of David outside of the Bible (the inscription refers to a king of the House of David who dies with the king of Israel, most likely the kings Jeroram and Ahaziah) - the authors state that this discovery deals a serious blow to the minimalist idea. Other appendices look at Jerusalem more specifically, other cities that would have been part of Solomon's kingdom, and more.
This is a text written in a popular, accessible style - thus, footnotes/endnotes are scarce. However, there is a good index, and an excellent bibliography/selected readings section that is categorised by chapter and topic.
Finkelstein has a position at Tel Aviv University, as director of the Sonia and Marco Nadler Archaeological Institute, and is currently working on excavations at Tel Meggido (better known to modern readers as Armageddon). Silberman is director of historical interpretation for the Ename Center for Public Archaeology and Heritage Presentation in Belgium. Both are frequent contributors to major scholarly and popular archaeology magazines and journals, and each has published a number of noted books in the field of Syro-Palestinian archaeology.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing re-examination of David and Solomon under the archaeological spotlight, 27 Feb 2011
By 
Jeremy Bevan (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
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David and Solomon, kings of ancient Israel, have acquired a status that is legendary, almost mythic, in Western culture. Whether it is David's exploits against Goliath, his struggles with his predecessor Saul and his own unruly sons, or Solomon's legendary wisdom, their place in Western cultural tradition seems assured. But in this fascinating book, archaeologists Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman paint and intriguing and daring scenario: historically, it wasn't anything like how we think it was. Drawing extensively on finds from excavations across what was ancient Israel, and beyond, the authors argue for a gradual and multi-layered development of the text. So the southern kingdom of Judah was originally little more than a loose confederation of villages ruled as chiefdoms in David's time; while the glories of his court represent an elaboration after the fact, borrowing extensively from the very real splendour that its more illustrious northern neighbour Israel enjoyed earlier, as a kingdom much more closely integrated into the prevailing geopolitical framework of the 10th/9th centuries BCE.

Later, the twin stories of the fates of Israel and Judah served as a unifying theme in Hezekiah's time when first committed to writing, with the chronicles of Solomon deliberately penned at this time in a `high' Assyrian style to reflect the realities and tensions of Judah's vassal status vis-à-vis the great power of the day. Later still, changed political realities led to a re-evaluation of the material, and Israel's success was reinterpreted as failure in the eyes of the historians(s) known as the Deuteronomist. A further consequence of this is another step in the evolution of the biblical accounts, with Judah's studiedly more isolationist position cast, with the benefit of considerable hindsight, as the `right' one, and Israel's as the wrong move, one of disobedience to God.

Not only do Finkelstein and Silberman pen an interesting, well-researched thesis, they also write with exemplary clarity. The text is studded with clear maps of the areas and sites under discussion, and there are several more detailed, technical (but always readable) appendices on specific topics. Parts of their argument are inevitably more speculative than others: in particular, the idea that Egypt (rather than the Philistines) was Saul's real enemy in the 10th century rests on a re-dating of the Egyptian Pharaoh Shishaq, while the idea of a later transference of the biblical text's apparent animus towards him onto the Philistines instead awaits confirmation from the archaeological record. But as a bold attempt to fit the biblical data more closely with recent archaeological discoveries, it's well worth exploring for the intriguing and surprising new light it throws - for example, on Ahaz as a statesmanlike internationalist. Recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars David and Solomon: facts, legend and myth., 1 April 2013
A well written, easy to follow account of David and Solomon and what according to Finkelstein we know of them. By which he means little, but not nothing (he is no minimalist). What we know is very different from the account in Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. All being of a later date and including much that archaeologically relates to over a 100 years later (advocated by the dating that comes from the argument for low chronology) and therefore reflects life not when David and Solomon were around but from the time of the Omrides. How persuasive it all is is a matter of debate, but the book is written with gusto, enthusiasm and enough notes for you to be able to appreciate the wider spectrum of opinion on the issues raised. A good read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading, 26 Jun 2012
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This review is from: David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition: In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of Western Civilization (Paperback)
The Subject of what part of the Bible that can be proven and can be considered historical interests me. This Book covers a minor part of this but a very interesting one. The Authors are well qualified to write this story and they have produced a book that is interesting and convincing.

The Authors want to use archeology to prove or disprove the story of David and Solomon and also a number of other linked subjects. They have chosen to put a lot of the archaeological findings in appendixes at the end of the book instead of covering it in the main text. There are a lot of archaeological findings in the main text also but from my point of view it would have been better to have it all in the main text since parts of the main text have a tendency of becoming a little to theoretical. To follow this it helps a lot if you are very familiar with the Old Testament of the Bible and I have to admit that in a few places I was struggling with this.

But it is a good book well worth reading. There are a lot of interesting facts that are stuck in your memory for a hopefully long time. To find out that we are not even sure that David and Solomon ever existed, that Jerusalem was a tiny village instead of this fantastic city the Bible claims and that Goliath, if he existed, could have been a Greek Hoplite warrior was well worth the read.

I will now try to get my hands on their other book "The Bible Unearthed" in order to find out more about the period before 10 BC.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Historicity of The Bible, 13 Feb 2014
By 
K. D. Cooper "ecola" (Adelaide, South Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition: In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of Western Civilization (Paperback)
The authors of this book, Israeli archaeologists, look here at perhaps the two central characters of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. I had read firstly their other/earlier book 'The Bible Unearthed' which looked at that Bible/Testament as a whole.

Having been been brought up in a vaguely Christian environment - going to church on Sundays, being educated in an Anglican College, I generally accepted that The Bible, both Testaments, was history. But not completely so, of course. I didn't accept that Adam and Eve were our ultimate ancestors, or that Solomon had all those wives and concubines. I didn't take my disbelief further than those and other, individual episodes.

'David and Solomon' is solid reading; but for those readers who want to learn, and, more particularly, understand what the Bible actually is, this book, and the other one, is essential reading.

The authors have shown, in both of these books, that many of the stories in the OT, (The Exodus, for example), were written several centuries after the alleged events. After all, they were written by humans.

The important thing is, although these two books question the historicity of the Old Testament, they should not shatter ones faith. That goes beyond written words.

One of the reviewers recommending the book on its back cover is John Shelby Spong. He has written a number of books also on the historicity of the Bible, and in some of them, looks at the New Testament, 'Born of a Woman', looking at the Virgin Birth', for example. I would recommend, for those people who want to take their studies further, to scroll down the Amazon page listing his books.

David Cooper
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hallelujah-a book that makes sense of the old testament !, 16 Oct 2010
By 
A. (Broxburn, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Finkelstein and Silberman hold a plumb line to the Bible account of history and find that it is warped. However they also conclude that there are many kernels of reality which the stories have grown out of. To me the argument they present about how the Old Testament version of history developed is very credible.For instance at 800BCE the people viewed numbers in a more symbolic, magical sense;( events would either be given 3,7,12 or 40). They suggest that Egypt and Assyria had much geater control over and influence of the chiefdoms that lay between them than might be understood from the Bible account.The Bible stories are put in a straight and easily understood way. I read "The Bible unearthed" first; it covers a wider time frame and goes more in depth into the Patriarchs, Exodus, Conquest of Canaan. It too was excellent, maybe David and Solomon is more easily read and understood? Which book to buy? Probably if you read one you won't be able to resist reading the other too! I wish I had read these books as a child. Dig down to check before building your life on the shifting sand of history.
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