Shiur #6b: Tanakh and Archaeology
B. From Achav onwards
The latest period in which controversy arises regarding the relationship between the Biblical text and the archaeological record is from the reign of King Achav, in the first half of the 9th century B.C.E., onwards. Archaeological discoveries dating from this time – which many researchers believe to be the period during which the Books of the Torah and of the Prophets were written – do generally accord with the textual account, and therefore scholars acknowledge the basic reliability of the Tanakh’s historical descriptions from this period onwards. These discoveries are very exciting in their own right, lending a powerful sense of connection to the world of the Tanakh through a direct, unmediated encounter with the remains of the concrete reality described in the text. Indeed, the discovery of the first relevant findings, in the 19th century, refuted some prevalent critical approaches which had maintained that all the biblical narratives were later creations, severed from any historical context. We shall discuss some of the most famous findings relating to narratives about the Israelite kingdom from the period of Achav onwards.
1. In Sefer Melakhim we read:
"And Mesha, king of Moav, was a sheepmaster, and he delivered to the king of
In 1868, a stele (inscribed stone) dating to the 9th century B.C.E. was discovered in what is now
2. Achav also appears in the Kurkh Monolith (Kurkh is located in south-eastern
3. Sefer Melakhim describes the water system devised by King Chizkiyahu:
"… and how he made the pool and the aqueduct, and brought water into the city..." (Melakhim II 20:20)
The system is described in greater detail in Divrei Ha-yamim:
"And when Yechizkiyahu saw that Sancheriv had come, and that he intended to fight against
"And this same Yechizkiyahu stopped up the upper watercourse of the Gichon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of
More explicit still is the description in Sefer Ben Sira (48:22-23):
"Yechizkiyahu fortified his city by bringing water into its midst. He dug into the hard rock with iron, and make wells for water."
In 1880 an inscription was found in Chizkiyahu's (Hezekiah's) Tunnel, dating to the 8th century B.C.E., describing the final stages of the digging of the tunnel designed to lead water from the Gichon spring, outside of the city, to a pool inside of the city.
Since, as we have seen, there is a relative abundance of archaeological material from the period of Achav onwards, the main arguments surrounding archaeology and the Biblical text concern earlier periods – from the time of the forefathers until the unified
There have been scholars of both the nihilist and minimalist schools who questioned even the historical existence of the House of David, but in 1993-1994 fragments of an Aramaic inscription were found by a delegation of researchers headed by
We shall now proceed by examining five periods prior to that of Achav in which apparent conflict arises between archaeological findings and the biblical account: the period of the forefathers; the Children of Israel in Egypt; the conquest of the land; the period of settlement of the land; and the period of the unified kingdom, in the days of David and Shlomo.
(To be continued)
 See Melakhim I, ch.16 onwards
 Concerning the inscription and its interpretation, see S. Achituv, Ha-Ketav ve-ha-Mikhtav,
 Kemosh is well known in the Tanakh as the god of Moav. For example, "Woe to you, Moav! You are done for, O people of Kemosh!" (Bamidbar 21:29); "Then Shlomo built a high place for Kemosh, the abomination of Moav" (Melakhim I 11:7).
 The inscription includes many other aspects and details of Moav's war against
 For more on the inscription see, inter alia, S. Yaron, Olam ha-Tanakh: Melakhim I, Tel Aviv 1994, pp. 205-206.
 Chizkiyahu, king of Yehuda, lived c. 739 B.C.E. to c. 687 B.C.E.
 Concerning the inscription, and for a bibliography in its regard, see Achituv (above, n. 1), pp. 15-20. Some scholars of the minimalist school sought to suggest that the inscription was from the Hasmonean period, but this possibility was rejected outright by paleographic experts; see Talshir, p. 20, and no. 18 ad loc.
 See the previous shiur.
 For more on this inscription see A. Biran and Y. Naveh, "Ketovet Aramit mi-Tekufat Bayit Rishon mi-Tel Dan," Kadmoniot 26, 3-4 (5754), pp. 74-81; A. Biran, "Ha-Ketovet mi-Dan, ha-Matzevot ve-ha-Chutzot," Kadmoniot 28, 1 (5755 – 1995), pp. 39-45.
 The inscription is not intact, but scholars have concluded that, with the missing letters, it should read: "[And I killed Yeho]ram son of [Achav] the king of
 On the Mesha Stele, the king mentions (line 12) his capture of אראל דודה"". Many scholars have interpreted this expression, too, as being related to King David, perhaps meaning "Ariel of David" as a reference to one of David's warriors: cf. "And Benayahu, son of Yehoyada, the son of a valiant man of Kavtze'el, who had performed many acts, killed two lion-hearted men (shenei ariel) of Moav" (Shmuel II 23:20). Further on (line 31), the inscription records that " "וחורנן ישב בה בת [ ] וד. Following the discovery of the Tel Dan Stele, many scholars have suggested that the full sentence is meant to read, " וחורנן ישב בה ב[ית ד]וד" – "the House of David dwelled in Chouranen," i.e., the city (known to us as Choronayim – see Yishayahu 15:5; Yirmiyahu 48:3) was under the rule of the House of David (Achituv, pp. 371-372).
 See, for example, Y. Finkelstein and N.A. Silberman, Reshit Yisrael – Archeologia, Mikra ve-Zikaron Histori, Tel Aviv 2003, pp. 135-136. Concerning the attempts by the "nihilists" to minimize the significance of the finding, see A. Lipschitz, "Pulmus 'Beit David' – be-Ikvot ha-Ketovet mi-Tel Dan," in: Y. Zakovitch et al. (eds.), David Melekh Yisrael Chai ve-Kayam,
"The appearance of the House of David as a consolidated political concept represented a real problem for deniers of Ancient Israel. They went to great lengths to try to rid themselves of this most inconvenient evidence.