Lecture 6 – (3.3) Davidic & (4.1) Solomonic Jerusalem

(3.3) Davidic Jerusalem

Our previous talk about David and The Ark of the Covenant showed us that David desired a permanent resting place for it. However, we see here that God deferred the building of the temple by David due to his long history of causing blood shed, something which deems him unfit to “build a house to [His] name” (1 Chronicales 21:28-33:10). As we shall see, this command by God for David not to build the temple also supports the theory that it was in fact Solomon, David’ Son, who built the temple. Also important was our discussion of 2 Samuel 7, in which God is said to have granted “The Promise to David”. In this promise, God says: “the LORD will make you a house…Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.” This claim of God protecting David and his descendent kingdom is shattered by the historical evidence of Babylonian’s raiding and taking over Jerusalem and killing David’s people in 586 BCE. A discussion of what various people do the cope with this apparent “break” in God’s promise are described below, the central coping mechanism being the concept of Jesus, or “the Son of David”, as having come down to continue David’s line. Finally, we readdressed the idea that these stories of David and various other biblical stories contribute to the building of the tradition of Jerusalem as sacred. Building up its image of sanctity is vital in order that when it does become a full-blown state and monarchy later-on, there is a basic framework already set up for why Jerusalem is such a great city.

The passage concerning the “The Promise to David” (2 Samuel 7)is arguably one of the most important in the Hebrew Bible, specifically to messianism – the belief in a messiah: a savior or redeemed. It was the passage that inspired Dr. William Schniedewind to found this course offering (Jerusalem: Holy City) at UCLA. This concept of a messiah is manifested in many religions, including the Jewish Messiah, the Christian Christ, the Shia Muslim Mahdi, the Buddhist Maitrya, the Hundu Kalki, and the Zoroastrian Saoshyant. This passage is important to the two faiths who ground themselves in the bible, the Christian and Judaic traditions, as it lays the groundwork for the necessity of a messiah. In this passage God essentially tells David (via his prophet Nathan) that he will protect David and his descendants (his kingdom) forever. So what’s wrong with this and why does it suggest we must have a messiah? Well, there is nothing inherently wrong with the promise itself, it is more in the fact that historical evidence seems to prove it was broken, as in 586 BCE a Babylonian invasion lead to a complete take over of Jerusalem. While the high priest line was left in tact, the Davidic line is thought to have been wept out. So what do you do as a religious person when God promises a continued Davidic line and a temple but you get neither. I see three options: (1) Abandon your faith (contribute to atheist line), (2) The high priest or some other line of descendants must have actually kept the Davidic line, or (3) a messiah comes down to restore the kingdom of David. (3) is the most widely accepted by Judaism and Christianity, with Jews believing this messiah has not yet come and thus this forms the basis of their faith, while Christians believe this messiah was manifested in the presence of Jesus, the “Son of David”, a “real” historical figure, who forms the basis of their spiritual mindset. I found it interesting that the conception of a messiah like Jesus, who forms the basis of most of Christian faith, was made as a means to tying off a loose end left by a simple broken promise from God. I find it amazing that people have such a faith in everything God says that they would make up their own conceptions of reality to make His word more true. I am not sure what to think of this. I’m not sure whether to view this as a strength in the people to find further meaning behind God’s Words or a weakness/inability to reconcile with a possible break in God’s promise. Something possibly that God allowed to be broken or couldn’t control from being broken by some other God. Is it too much to ask that people recognize their God is not the only God people believe in? I think the realization that we all have our own thoughts on almighty conceptions would held to quell current conflicts over religion.  The concept of a descendent beyond David who would carry his bloodline forward is also reflected in Psalm 110 (believed to have been written by David), where David sings of a “priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek”, which many attribute to be Jesus himself. Also, and maybe this will reflect some of my own beliefs, but I find it somewhat sad that many people consider the state of the world to be so hopelessly flawed that is is beyond normal human powers of correction — to the point that divine intervention through a specially selected human is seen as necessary. I have nothing wrong with the conception itself, but I have sometimes felt that in some highly relgious people it has the consequence of leaving them feeling powerless in terms of their own role. I am a firm believer in the idea that we all can have effect on the lives of others, and sometimes putting the responsibility all in the hands of God creates an apathy for ones own betterment and the lives of others that I do not think is helpful to anyone.

(4.1) Solomonic Jerusalem

In the last part of the lecture, we took the ideas of God deferring the building of the temple (due to David’s immense sins of bloodshed) as well as more direct references within 2 Samuel 7 itself that imply David’s offspring will “build a house” to mean that David’s son (by blood), Solomon, is the man who actually built Jerusalem’s 1st Temple. In this movement of our discussion into Solomon’s Jerusalem, we saw further literary evidence in the bible that shows Solomon as the builder of the  temple (“Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication”; 1 Kings 8:12-21). Pulling back from the actual presence of a temple of Solomon, we also discussed the various theories concerning a “Solominic” Jerusalem in the first place, as there is actually no absolute proof of his existence, the majority is simply passed down by literary tradition. In other words, there is still debate behind whether Solomon was fact or fiction. We analyzed what there is in terms of the archaeological evidence (or lack thereof) for and against a historical Solomon in the 10th century BCE, and used the comparative evidence of Temples at ‘Ain Dara and Tel Ta’yinat to further our analysis. In the end, our claim is that this comparative archeological evidence (two Near Eastern temples) along with the textual evidence (1 Kings 6-8) lends support to the claim that “Solomon’s Temple”  might of actually been the real first temple in Jerusalem, and that this reality was patterned after other Near Eastern temples in Syria and Turkey at the time.

I found one of the stories that led to Solomon being considered a “wise king” interesting. In the story, there is debate between two woman as to whose child a baby that is brought to Solomon is. He proposed to split the baby in half, and then based on the mothers’ reactions chose the true mother to be the one who would not allow it (showing she truly cared about the child). I also thought Solomon’s Prayer of dedication was convincing literary evidence for his building of a temple, but it was then time to see what could archaeologically be provided. Dr. Cargill then told us that there is unfortunately currently NO direct evidence for Solomon’s 1st temple or palace. So why believe it and how might this be? He explained how Harod’s technique of reconstruction may be the basis for no archeological evidence, which provides next to nothing behind compared to the technique of burying it and building atop (which archaeologists love!). I like how this discussion then brought up the idea that, if there is nothing substantive from excavation of the Temple mount, does this mean there was nothing ever there? In other words, “Is Absence of Evidence, Evidence of Absence?”. As Dr. Cargill argued, I felt this not to be true, as most true statement is that absence of evidence is evidence of nothing at all, it is still up in the air, with proof needed for any reasonable claim to either side (nothing or something there). I also like how he brought up the debate between two archeologists over “dating the Megiddo”, a hill upon which the two differ in opinion in which each stratum (layer suggestive of different time periods) suggests. One believes a certain part represent that rule of Ahab, the other believes this is the period of Solomon. Dr. Cargill’s main point here was the idea that these are two people with different views on the same thing, and they are keeping it professional. This is the way it should be. They have adult conversations about it and use this dialogue as a means to getting closer the the truth. I think this was a brilliant point, which was brought further by his statement that “Half my job is to get you guys out there to stop shooting each other!” It’s so true, he has hit the nail on the head here. There are many people out there harming each other based on what another person believes (usually on a similar subject, such as the Almighty), rather than actually confronting the person verbally and talking it out. I think many people would be surprised (1) with how much they have in common despite a difference in certain views and (2) the amount of progress forward they could make with their own goals/philosophies by encouraging differences of opinion as a means to consult with different forms of truth. In my opinion (haha), other people’s opinions are the best way to refine your own.

I think in the end this lecture made a convincing argument for a way to analyze the truth behind Solomon’s Temple. Taking the ample literary evidence remaining (1 Kings 2, 7:1-12 & 1 Kings 5-6, 7:13-9:12) of such a temple and comparing these depictions with both fragments of archeological evidence around Jerusalem to other structures and most importantly, to parallel structures (temples) found around the Ancient Near East during the period is was supposed to have existed, was a brilliant idea. The similarities between descriptions of Solomon’s Temple and the actual archeological evidence provided by temples thought to have been constructed around the same time (Tel Arad, Tel Ta’yinat, and ‘Ain Dara), were convincing, yet non-absolute evidence of a temple in Jerusalem. The pursuit of finding more convincing evidence and bringing truth closer continues.

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~ by Andru on January 22, 2011.

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