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Customer Review

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long live the Kings, 3 April 2006
This review is from: David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of Western Civilization (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 There is historical content and influence on the text of the Bible, according to Finkelstein and Silberman, but the Bible is not nor was ever intended to be a historical textbook of the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.'
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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Kurt Messick
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Location: London, SW1

Top Reviewer Ranking: 9,030