An archaeologist has recently uncovered a fortified wall in the ancient city of Lachish, a discovery he said shores up the biblical account of the site and suggests that a centralized kingdom ruled by King David and his descendants was founded and expanded earlier than previously believed.
Prof. Yosef Garfinkel, head of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology, announced the find at a conference two weeks ago, according to the Haaretz newspaper on Tuesday.
The discovery, he argued, bolsters the biblical account in the book of Chronicles of the city under 10th century BCE King Rehoboam’s reign, which says: “And Rehoboam dwelt in Jerusalem, and built cities for defense in Judah: He built even Bethlehem, and Etam, and Tekoa, and Beth-zur, and Soco, and Adullam, and Gath, and Mareshah, and Ziph, and Adoraim, and Lachish, and Azekah, and Zorah, and Aijalon, and Hebron, which are in Judah and in Benjamin, fortified cities.”
“During the Late Bronze Age, Lachish was a very large, grand Canaanite city. Then in the 12th century B.C.E., it was destroyed, and stood waste for 200 or 250 years,” said Garfinkel. “The big question for research in the city is what happened in Layer 5 [of the early period] of the Iron Age: Is that a fortified city, or a village? If it was a city, when was it built? Some say, in the time of David and Solomon, in the early 10th century. Others think it was only built in the late 9th century.”
Using carbon dating, the site was pegged to the 10th century.
“We looked in three places, and ultimately, in the northern section, we found a wall between Layer 6 and Layer 4. Later the excavators reached a floor that stretches to the wall, which could be dated using olive pits found beneath the floors. Samples of the pits were sent to the particle accelerator at Oxford, which ruled that the wall had been built around 920 B.C.E., which was exactly the rule of Rehoboam, son of Solomon and grandson of David.”
The discovery of a fortified city two days’ walk from King David and Solomon’s Jerusalem suggests the broader kingdom of Judah was established about a century earlier than historians currently believe.
But critics have rejected the discovery as proof of the biblical timeline, according to the paper.
Tel Aviv University’s Prof. Nadav Na’aman told Haaretz the thicker wall could have been built by Philistines or other rulers.
“In the 10th century B.C.E., Judah was still very peripheral, and very weak. It only began to gain strength in the 9th century B.C.E.,” he said.
Archaeologists are split over whether King David was a historical figure, a point of dispute that reflects a broader debate over whether the Bible is an accurate record of events
Garfinkel has previously argued in favor of the historical veracity of the Bible, including in his excavations of a site known as Hirbet Qeiyafa, located in the Judean hills not far from the modern-day city of Beit Shemesh.
He has told The Times of Israel that excavations of the fortified city of Khirbet Qeiyafa “indicates urban society in Judah at the time of King David.” A portable shrine found at Khirbet Qeiyafa “indicates royal architecture in Judah at the time of David and Solomon.” According to Garfinkel, “the biblical text described [similar] architecture that was used at that era.”