Monumental Architecture In Ancient Israel In The Period Of The United Monarchy -- By: William G. Dever

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 07:3 (Summer 1994)
Article: Monumental Architecture In Ancient Israel In The Period Of The United Monarchy
Author: William G. Dever

Monumental Architecture In Ancient Israel In The Period Of The United Monarchy

William G. Devera


The “United Monarchy” in ancient Israel spans barely a century, covering the reigns of the first three kings of Israel: Saul (ca. 1020–1000 BC); David (ca. 1000–960 BC); and Solomon (ca. 960–918 BC). The basic historical and chronological framework for the period is derived principally from the Hebrew Bible itself, especially the books of 1-2 Samuel and 1 Kings, together with the more or less parallel account in Chonicles.

There are, nevertheless, several shortcomings of this outline. First is the obvious fact that the literary source materials, together with their interpretations, originated and were perpetuated in courtly and priestly circles, and were thus “establishment-oriented.” The focus is almost exclusively on public happenings, particularly large-scale political events, or on the deeds of prominent figures such as kings and prophets. Completely missing is the private history of other individuals; that is, we have nothing of such literary genres as biography, belles lettres, and other primary historical documents.

The second problem is one that concerns us here. Is it possible to correlate the literary with the non-literary remains increasingly available, i.e., archaeological discoveries, and thus to correct and supplement the bare historical outline previously available? This general goal has been foremost in the topographical and archaeological investigation of the Holy Land for more than a century. Indeed, the quest to reconstruct from external sources a historical background for written Biblical history has been partially successful for several epochs—notably the period of the Judges and the later Divided Monarchy, where archaeology has supplied numerous, surprisingly detailed data not recorded in the Bible, and moreover has provided corroboration for specific

events which are mentioned. But it must be admitted that until very recently Palestinian and Biblical archaeology have been surprisingly silent regarding the United Monarchy, a period which not only was truly formative for ancient Israel but also witnessed the first flourishing of the material culture and the development of monumental art and architecture, which should have left the clearest imprint on the archaeological record.

The period in question, from roughly 1000 to 900 BC, corresponds in archaeological terms almost exactly to the “Iron IC” of Albright and most American authorities, or to the “Iron IIA” of Israeli archaeologists. The difference in terminology is more...

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