A Historic/Linguistic Lithostratigraphic Exploration of How David Conquered Jerusalem

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I. David
     A. marched from Hebron to Jerusalem with a small army of men.
          1. A distance of approximately sixteen miles.
          2. Scholars estimate this was between 1010-1000 BCE.
               a. This, of course, assumes that David is a historical figure.
               b. Many scholars doubt David’s existence as a historical Israelite king
                   as there is little in the archaeological record to prove his existence.
                    i. The Tel Dan Stele,
                         I) An Aramean inscription (carved into basalt) from Tel Dan, Israel, which
                              A) contains the Hebrew word ביתדוד and
                                   1. translates to “House of David” in English.
                              B) dates to 850-833 BCE.
                                   1) This is relatively few generations for a mythic figure to be created
                                       out of nothing
                                        a) especially considering the Ancient Near East’s oral
                                            storytelling traditions, which
                                             i) passed history down to younger generations.
                                             ii) provided a sense of being grounded in ancestry.
                                                  a) This is of utmost importance even today in modern Israel
                                                       where land is still directly tied to a sense of history and those
                                                       who came before.
                              C) is on display at the Israel Museum.
                    ii. Six bullae (clay seals used to stamp documents) from Khirbet Summeily, Gaza,
                        which
                         I. evidence the existence of some formal governing state in Israel.
                         II. date between 1000-900 BCE.
                              A) This is even fewer years for creation of Davidic mythos.
                                   1) Ten, or one hundred to be exact.
                         III) are not yet on display as they were found in 2014.
                    iii. The Mesha Stele,
                         I) an inscription (carved into basalt) from Tel Dibon, Jordan
                              A) is
                                   1) written in the Phoenician alphabet.
                                   2) in pieces, now reassembled.
                                        a) European powers moved so swiftly to acquire it that the Jordanian
                                            villagers who owned it
                                             i) feared its presence.
                                             ii) repeatedly lit it on fire and dipped it in cold water until it
                                                 shattered.
                                                  a.) But then who owned the pieces?
                                   3) the longest stele discovered in the region.
                                   4) the primary example of Moabite language.
                                   5) on display in the Louvre.
                              B) describes
                                   1) the anger of the Moabite god, Chemosh.
                                   2) how said anger caused Moab to be subjected to Israel’s King Omri.
                                   3) how Chemosh empowered King Mesha to overthrow Israel.
                                   4) King Mesha’s various building projects.
                              C) dates to 850-800 BCE.
                              D) uses the Moabite linguistic construct BT WD
                                   1) In English, this translates to “House of _vid.”
                                        a) There is a missing letter at the beginning of the name, WD.
                                        b) Aside from “[Da]vid,” there are no other viable translation options.
                                             i) Unless there are letters missing in the middle and on the end.
                                                  a) BT_WD_
                                                  b) If this were the case, then the phrase could be translated
                                                      “House of Daodoh,” the name of a regional ruler which fits the
                                                      time period.
                                                  c) Scholars are split on which translation is more likely.
                                        c) In context, it makes sense that “House of David” would refer to the
                                            rule of the royal Israelite family thrown off by King Mesha.
               c. With the dates of these few findings, personally, I think it likely that David did indeed
                   exist.
                    i. Still, some scholars argue the opposite.
                    ii. Ultimately, without definitive evidence either way, it comes down to what people
                        want to believe is true.
          3. Hebron is said to have been a military stronghold controlled by David.
               a. It is thought that David wanted to further unify the northern and southern tribes of
                   Israel as one distinct nation.
                    i. Jerusalem was located precisely between the northern and southern tribal
                        borders.
                         I) Hebron was located in the heart of David’s tribe of Judah.
                              A) If he retained Hebron as his capital, he would have shown favor to his
                                  own people.
                    ii. As it had never been owned by any Israelite tribe, if David made Jerusalem his
                        capital, he would not show favoritism to any one tribe.
                         I) That said, it was owned by Jebusites, not Israelites.
                              A) See [I.B.1.a.] for a description of this people.
                              B) It seems David had little regard for the interests of the Jebusites.
     B. got taunted by Jebusites from behind the walls of Metsudat Tsion (“Fortress of Zion”).
          1. 2 Samuel 5:6a reads, “The Jebusites said to David, ‘You will not come in here, but the
              blind and the lame will ward you off.’”
               a. The Jebusites are:
                    i. a people undocumented anywhere but in the Bible.
                         I) Thus, scholars say:
                              A) they were a small tribe of Amorites,
                                   1) a seminomadic Mesopotamian people.
                                        a) The scholarly majority hold to this view.
                              B) they were a small tribe of Hurrians,
                                   1) a North-Mesopotamian people.
                              C) they were made up by the Biblical authors/editors.
                                   1) It seems these scholars cannot think of any reason why Biblical
                                       editors/authors would have fabricated this people.
                    ii. There are thirty-nine Old Testament Biblical uses of the term.
                         I) One use each in:
                              A) Genesis
                              B) Numbers
                              C) 1 Kings
                              D) Ezra
                              E) Nehemiah
                              F) Zechariah
                         II) Two uses each in:
                              A) Deuteronomy
                              B) 2 Chronicles
                         III) Three uses in:
                              A) Judges
                         IV) Four uses in:
                              A) 2 Samuel
                         V) Six uses each in:
                              A) Exodus
                              B) 1 Chronicles
                         VI) Ten uses in:
                              A) Joshua
               b. Returning to the Jebusite taunt, there’s some confusion as to why the Jebusites
                   would say this.
                    i. The most accepted reading seems to indicate Jebusite confidence in their
                        fortress walls.
                         I) If read this way, they claimed their walls were so strong that even the disabled
                             could defend the city against David.
                              A) The ancient Jebusites did not adhere to modern political correctness.
                    ii. Less accepted readings are that “the Blind and the lame”:
                         I) referred to a banishment of priests and worshippers with physical defects
                             from Solomon’s Temple (two generations in the future).
                              A) Thus, a later editor’s justification for worship exclusion.
                                   1) This makes little logical sense.
                                        a) Why would a justification for temple exclusivity be inserted into
                                            Jerusalem’s origin story?
                                        b) This isn’t even a justification.
                                             i) Rather, a nonsensical complication within an unconnected story.
                         II) was some sort of magic spell to scare David off.
                              A) If so, the spell was exceptionally ineffective.
                    iii. Post-taunt, 2 Samuel 5:6b reads, “They thought, ‘David cannot get in here.’”
                         I) They were mistaken.
     C. said to his men:
          1. “Whoever would strike the Jebusites, let him get up the tsinnor to attack ‘the lame and
              the blind,’ who are hated by David’s soul.” –2 Samuel 5:8.
               a. Here, the Hebrew word tsinnor creates one of the most difficult exegetical passages
                   in the Hebrew Old Testament.
                    i. Translation options include (in order of likelihood):
                         I) Water shaft
                         II) Tunnel
                         III) Water channel
                         IV) Dagger
                         V) Hook
                         VI) Throat
                         VII) Penis
                              A) If one of the first three options is correct (those preferred by exegetical
                                  scholars), David encouraged his men to enter the city through a water
                                  system of some sort.
                                   1) This seems likely as an early 2nd century Greek named Aquila
                                       translated tsinnor as “water shaft.”
                                        a) Ancient water shafts weren’t discovered in Jerusalem by
                                            archaeologists until the 1860s.
                                        b) This eliminates the possibility that modern translators have been
                                            influenced by archaeological findings.
                              B) If any of the latter four options are the correct translation, who-the-heck
                                  knows what happened.
               b. It seems from this passage, that if he did exist, David had a penchant for referring
                   to himself in third person.
               c. In the most accepted reading of the taunt, David adopted their taunt about the
                   disabled, and bent it to motivate his troops, referring it back upon the Jebusite
                   inhabitants.
                    i. In the other less-accepted readings, scholars are forced to argue that David
                        actually hated the blind and the lame.
                         I) Surprising, as David later allowed the lame son of his predecessor to dine
                             with him every day.
          2. “Whoever strikes the Jebusites firstshall be chief and commander.”
               a. Not only did David hope to gain a stronghold from which he could rule, he also:
                    i. found a way to motivate his men.
                    ii. offered a reward for bravery.
                    iii. found a way to establish his chain of command.
                    iv. maintained the integrity of the stronghold walls for his own use.
     D. sat back and allowed others to take the city.
          1. According to 1 Chronicles 11:6b, Joab the son of Zeruiah “went up first.”
               a. A military leader hanging back was typical warfare strategy when attacking a city as
                   the first attackers had much less chance of survival.
                    i. However, the commander usually led troops into battle in plains warfare.
               b. “Went up” seems to imply that one of the three water system translation options is
                   fitting because Joab seems to have climbed up something.
                    i. If so, this could refer to existent archaeological options present in the City of
                        David (in order of likelihood):
                         I) Warren’s Shaft
                              A) A thirty-eight foot underground vertical shaft (from a stepped tunnel to a
                                  deeper channel) which allowed access to water from a spring outside the
                                  city.
                                   1) This structure provided water to the inhabitants, even when besieged
                                       (much like a well) via bucket and rope.
                              B) Discovered by archaeologist, Charles Warren, in 1867.
                         II) Another tunnel.
                              A) It is nameless.
                              B) A horizontal, underground natural pathway (which connects to Warren’s
                                  Shaft) leading from outside ancient Jerusalem’s walls, into the heart of the
                                  hill.
                                   1) This option is less likely, as the Jebusites surely would have guarded
                                       an open entrance to the city, or blocked it (as is now the case).
     E. made Joab chief commander of his forces.
          1. No matter how Joab “went up,” he earned the promotion.
               a. Joab either:
                    i. scaled Warren’s Shaft
                         I) Something even modern-day archaeologists have struggled to navigate with
                             modern climbing equipment.
                              A) That said, one group of archaeologists claim to have scaled it using
                                  rudimentary wooden terracing that they dissembled and rebuilt again and
                                  again, working their way higher and higher up the shaft.
                                   1) This sounds dangerous.
                                   2) This would confirm Joab’s bravery.
                    ii. fought his way through soldiers guarding the city’s tunnel entrance, allowing
                        David’s men to follow and take the city.
     F. lived in the stronghold, and built further fortifications.
          1. It soon became known as the City of David, a name that’s stuck until present.


Robbie Maakestad is a creative nonfiction MFA candidate at George Mason University and the Editor-in-Chief of Phoebe. He has been published or has forthcoming work in Free State Review, Bethesda Magazine, Mojave River Review, The Broken Plate, Windhover Journal, and The Wayfarer. Follow him @RobbieMaakestad. More from this author →