While Daniel Miller's review of my book was quite favourable, I don't think
he's quite captured the nuance of my argument regarding Jerusalem. Let me
Firstly, the main reason I argue BYTDWD is a toponym for Jerusalem is not
the absence of a word divider (though that is supporting evidence). Rather,
it is the use of the phrase Bit-PN in other inscriptions of similar genre.
While the construction "Bit-<dynastic name>" is quite common, nowhere is
anyone called the "king of Bit-<dynastic name>" (this would be a bit like
saying "Queen of the House of Windsor" rather than "Queen of England"). This
is what makes me think that BYTDWD should be taken as basically a single
lexeme referring to a place, and the absence of a word divider accords with
Secondly, my argument was not that archaeology proves that the biblical
claim of a bustling metropolis in the days of David and Solomon are
inaccurate. Rather, archaeology suggests that Jerusalem was not such a
metropolis when David conquered it, and neither does the biblical text --
both seem to be in accord. Careful analysis of the biblical text itself
shows that David conquered a fortress, not a metropolis, and gave this
fortress the name "City of David". The text then describes some building
activity in a way which implies there was not much there to begin with. This
building program may not have amounted to much (the real extent of it can
only be detrermined at the archaeologist's spade), but it seems to have made
an impression on the inhabitants who probably had little experience of large
urban conglomerations. We, as modern readers influenced by medieval and
renaissance thought and art, have imposed the idea of a massive metropolis
onto ancient Jerusalem. But it's not really there in the text, and it
remains to be seen whether it ever really became one before Hezekiah's day.
More telling, however, is the idea that the united monarchy was really a
'flash in the pan', since it quickly disintegrated. After all, how could
such a small state entity hold onto such territories for a long time? The
'flash in the pan' was probably attributable more to the personality of
David than state machinery. Yet, it was this 'flash in the pan' which set
the tone of Davidic ideology, and why the name of David creates such a
resounding echo (cf. Cyrus the Great, whose gains would have all been lost
in the numerous revolts of 522-520, had it not been for Darius' quick
victories; cf. also Alexander the Great). For a brief period, the United
Monarchy seems to have encapsulated an ideal state of affairs (one king of
Israel and Judah in a centralised location with the approval of almost all
involved), and this formed the backbone of later attempts to emulate it (cf.
Hezekiah? Josiah; post-exilic Jerusalem). I have little doubt that the
Davidic kings claimed extensive sovereignty based on this 'flash in the pan'
which served as the canon of Davidic thinking. However, after the quick loss
of this ideal state, the sovereignty of the Davidides was probably
significantly less in actual terms before the time of Hezekiah.
In this regard, we could think of Jerusalem as an ancient analogy to the
current Vatican -- once with extensive land holdings (though only for a
brief time in the case of Jerusalem), then reduced to a petty state, but one
to which most accorded at least token respect. There are a number of points
where this analogy might fail, but such is the nature of analogies (if they
were perfect, they would no longer be analogies).
In terms of the wall recently found, if it dates to the era of the United
Monarchy (the dating of which has its own hazards), then that's great. But
all it would prove is that Jerusalem was a fortified hill. We would also
need to consider the length of its course in order to clarify how big the
fortification was, how it compares with the strata below and above it, as
well as what other installations were around it.
To summarise: David appears to have conquered little more than a fortress in
Jerusalem. There was some building activity after this, the extent of which
remains to be seen. But between David and Hezekiah, the rulers of Jerusalem
claimed sovereignty over more than they seem to have had actual influence
over, precisely because their ideology stemmed from a brief ideal situation
which was quickly lost.
I hope this clarifies some things.
Moore Theological College (Sydney)
1 King St, Newtown, NSW 2042, Australia
Ph: (+61 2) 9577 9774
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