Lecture 4 – (2.1) Canaanite & (3.1) Davidic Jerusalem

Today we shifted focus with our examination of Jerusalem. Now, with our general overview of Jerusalem’s topography and an understanding of the meaning of sacred space and time, we were ready to begin our survey of Jerusalem’s history.

Also, it is important to note that our examination will now incorporate hard evidence – archeological findings and other scientific clues – in addition to references to biblical and other spiritual texts, in order to aid in our pursuit of the most accurate vision of Jerusalem’s history. Taking from different sources of varying credibility will give us all the information necessary to make up our own minds about what really happened.

This lecture is broken up into two parts, reflecting two different phases of Jerusalem’s history.

(2.1) Canaanite Jerusalem

We started from the beginning, as far back as we know in Jerusalem’s history. This is the Jerusalem before David (and the Isrealites), this is the Canaanite Jerusalem. This Bronze Age (Pre-Iron Age) period was prior to 1000 BCE. Jerusalem has been continuously settled from the Chalcolithic Period (~4000 BCE) until today. Thats 6000 years! We reviewed again the main settlement factors, including (1) the water flowing in the Gihon Spring, (2) agriculture (e.g. at the small village of Emek Refa’im) involving cultivation of olives, grapes, grains and lentils, and (3) communication and trade. While Jerusalem does not sit on any main trading routes, it did have parts of the Watershed Highway – a chain of hills with water at their tops – which ran through the Judean city. Lots of our knowledge of Bronze Age Jerusalem comes from the field of archeology. For example, Bronze Age Pottery (c. 3200 BCE) was found in the Ophen Burial Tombs (south of the Temple Mount) near Gihon Spring. This provided scientific evidence for people there before the Judaic people. [As stated before, archeological evidence will be crucial in examining Jerusalem’s history. However, biblical claims are often either backed or contradicted by scientific evidence. It is your decision whether to go by faith or “fact” as provided by science. Personally, I find facts like these more convincing, but I am still cautious to accept them.] Proof of Jerusalem’s existence outside the bible was also found in Execration Texts found in Egypt (from ~1900 BCE). These were ritual curse texts where the names of Egypt’s enemies were written on clay figurines and smashed as a way of calling upon the Gods to curse them. A name found on some of these Egyptian figures was “Rusalimum” (Jerusalem), which lends further support for Jerusalem having a people during this period, but also further suggests it was a city which had already risen high enough to be considered worthy as an enemy. Archeological findings also uncovered evidence of a tower and wall of a gate near Gihon on the eastern slope of the city of David, which may be the “Tower of Siloam” Luke mentions (Luke 13:1-5). The books of Luke include many references to many architectural and natural landmarks, which some think is a way of making his statements more credible (by being “grounded” in something undeniably real). Another Early Non-Biblical Text providing evidence of a young Jerusalem were the Armana Letters (~1350 BCE), which consist of over 300 Cuneiform Tablets written from rulers in Canaan and Syria to the Egyptian Pharaoh (Akhenaten). These letters, including six from Jerusalem’s ruler Abdi-Kheba, were written to ask for help. They were like early forms of requests for “financial aid” or “foreign aid”, which would ensure Jerusalem continued to function. We also covered biblical evidence for an early Jerusalem, which included references to “Salem” and mentions of kings prior to David. Lastly, we finished this lecture on Canaanite Jerusalem with a textual problem with the “conquest” of Jerusalem, which gives us insight into how the Israelites actually got there (this problem addressed in next paragraph).

For this first part of the lecture, one interesting part for me was the bringing in of archeological evidence, which for me feels like a necessary source of information in proving things as having existed (necessary step beyond just biblical evidence). In addition, I found the voodoo-esque Execration texts to be quite interesting, both in form and in their strong implication for young Jerusalem as an already growing power. Lastly, the textual problem with the conquest was a focus and strong-point of the lecture in my opinion. It shows not only further possible evidence for multiple-writers of the books of the bible, but also a conflict that forces us to use other investigative means to come to a conclusion. The textual conflict has arisen due to a depiction of an all-out conquest (or genocide if you will) of the previous inhabitants of Jerusalem in Joshua 10, 21, and 24.  However, in Joshua 15 (same book!) it says Judah could not drive out the Jebusites, and that they live with the people of Judah in Jerusalem to this day. Furthermore, in Judges 1, it seems there are contradictions within this passage itself, as at one point it says Jerusalem was taken (Judges 1:8), and a few verses down says that that the Jebusites were not driven out (Judges 1:21). This contradiction should be faced by everyone, even those who worship the bible as the words of God. While some may argue it is due to the bible not being written chronologically, I think it is good to still examine and question apparent contradictions for further and potentially greater meaning. In this case, doing so might lead one to ask: was there another way to Israelites got there? This is a good question and there are three competing theories. One is the one that is contradictorily depicted in the bible, but still possible, which is the conquest/non-conquest theory that states the Israelites were suddenly there. The second theory is one of immigration, where Israelites were still held to be a new people, but may haveslowly immigrated to Jerusalem over the ages and meanwhile spread different myths about how they got there. The last theory is arguably the most convincing of all, which is the theory that the Israelities were always there. In other words, the Canaanite City was of mixed ethnic origins and the Israelities simply were a product of this mixing and eventually branched off. This theory has it’s basis in the fact that there were always different kinds of people in Jerusalem, shifting between the hills and valleys, and the early ancestors of the Israelities could have easily been one of them (other evidence comes from the biblical phrases implicating the Israelities had their origin in the early sects of Jerusalem).  I found this question to be very intriguing, and I may decide to come back to it.  I think examining the archeological evidence and comparing it would serve as interesting research. The origin of a people is always an interesting topic of discussion.

(3.1) Davidic Jerusalem

The transition to Davidic Jerusalem was made by passages from the Bible (2 Samuel 5: 6-9 & 2 Chronicles 11:4-8) describing David’s overthrow of “The Jebusite City”. It describes David’s taking of the “stronghold of Zion” and calling it “The City of David”. Joab, the man to first attack the Jebusites, was named the general of David’s army. But who is this David exactly? For those who don’t know the story, here it is: When David was younger he served as the person in charge of bringing food to the soldiers of the Israelite army, including his older brothers, under the command of King Saul. In one particular encounter with the Philistines in the Valley of Elah, he hears the Philistine giant Goliath challenging the Israelities to send their own champion to decide the outcome in a “duel”. David commits to battle, as he feels it necessary to fight Goliath, who has insulted his God. David is victorious in this battle, striking Goliath in the forehead with a stone from his sling, and the Philistines flee in terror. David cuts off Goliath’s head with his sword. This myth is the story that shows the immense “power of God” that seems to have become instilled in David, a “man after God’s own heart”. There are various other exciting stories of David throughout the Bible that depict him in both positive and negative lights, as benevolent, but ruthless. Despite his interesting image, there had not been any evidence outside of biblical references of David’s actual existence, which led many to doubt he ever actually lived. However, recent excavations of the “Tel Dan Inscription” provided the first bit of evidence outside the bible of David’s existence. In these incriptions, there were sentences describing the “House of David”, which tells us there was enough support around him that he had a people following him and most importantly, at least shows someone believed David existed. We then looked at some historic reconstructions and present-day aerial shots of the City of David, which is located just south of the Temple Mount. There have been many archeological digs and findings in and around the City of David over the last several hundred years the indicate the immense expansion that took place during David’s rule. One in particular was the 55-stepped stone structure known as the “Millo”, which is more than 5 stories high (largest Iron Age structure in Israel), and is thought to have served as a huge retaining wall that supported some other installation at its top. Some hypothesize it may have supported the upper structure of David’s palace. Another archeological finding of importance was the House of Ahiel, which characterized a structure that was used as supporting evidence for a “unique” Israelite people. In other words, because it is implicated to be the style of home used by Israelities, there is debate as to whether it is archeological proof of an Israelitite presence in areas where these types of homes are found. However, one reason this theory of “unique abodes” is in doubt is because many feel other peoples may have adopted the same style of housing.

We also looked at an aspect of Jerusalem that uncovered a theme we will see often, which is “the use of Biblical texts to perpetuate modern stereotypes”.  The aspect we examined in this lecture was the “Hill of Offense”, or the hill East of Jerusalem growing up from the Valley of Kidron. It was given this name due to its nature as a place to attack or to launch an “offense” against Jerusalem. Maybe due to this nature of this hill being a place where outside “evil” invaders attacked, there are references in the bible to “abominations” on this eastern hill. Today, this hill is inhabited by Palestinians, and this type of biblical reference is used naively and disgustingly by some to point out that the Palestinians are “offending God” by living there. This is a theme we will see often, but will want to continuously shoot down. There is no reason to take the words of God in the bible and interpret them as looking down upon certain people. That is not the intent. It was also pointed out, hysterically, that the UN headquarters in Jerusalem is located on the “Hill of evil counsel”, which is actually not that funny when you think about how much the UN has been trusted to solve issues of social justice around the world and how little they have done. I’m not anti-UN or anti-peace by any means, as I understand the UN does do some great things, but what I am against is an organization that sucks in all of the world’s resources for peace and does so little with them.

We ended with a discussion about the importance of archeologists finding things “in context”, due to the unfortunate tendency for some archeologists of the past to “forge history themselves”. This terrible practice was emphasized around a case study of a house that contained imprints of the name of a supposed secretary of the scribe of Jerusalem on a relic. This appears to be good evidence for the existence of such as person that is referred to in the bible, but is it just a coincidence or was this forged? These are all questions Dr. Cargill encourages us to ask.

I thought this was a great introduction to Davidic Jerusalem. My favorite part was definitely the references to David himself, as I think his stories in the Bible and his general depiction make him an exciting figure to examine. His story with Goliath has, and will mostly likelt always have, huge relevance in our lives. It is the story of a man who had faith in his God to allow him to surmount even what seemed to be an impossible obstacle. It teaches us the lesson of faith and courage in not only God, but ourselves, to stand up to obstacles and fight our hardest against the seemingly impossible, as there is always hope of victory. However, this David vs. Goliath story has been in some cases over-exploited today as the “Ultimate Sports Metaphor”, where whenever a crazy underdog defeats a typically dominant team it is deemed a David over Goliath “moment”. It has been overused to say the least. In addition, the statue of David is something that I think is very cool. Outside of it being an awesome statue carved by the great Michaelangelo showing his mastery of crafting the human form, I also feel fortunate to have been able to see this statue while in Florence. Granted, it was many years ago when I was young and naive to the true meaning of this statue, but I still remember it. I remember it as something truly beautiful, a human form so perfectly carved into marble. It was one of the memories that almost drove me into becoming an artist by profession. Instead, I have chosen to examine the mind and its underlying functions by studying philosophy and neuroscience at UCLA. In my opinon, this is its own form of art, it is just at a different level of  “form”. Whether this was the best path to follow, I’m still not sure, I think I would have been a good artist.  I’m enjoying what I am studying though and some of the knowledge I have attained in these fields adds an interesting new dimension to the David and Goliath story (see my next post).


~ by Andru on January 16, 2011.

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