Archaeological Evidence for the Kingdom of David and Solomon

In recent decades, many scholars of biblical history and archaeology have questioned the existence of the “united monarchy”: that is, a single kingdom of Israel ruled successively by Saul, David, and Solomon around the 10th century BCE. In light of new evidence from a ruin known as Khirbet Qeiyafa, Lawrence Schiffman argues that such skepticism is no longer justified:

In many academic circles, previous to the excavation of Khirbet Qeiyafa and its publication, scholars denied the entire notion of a centralized Jewish polity in the late 11th-early 9th centuries BCE. Khirbet Qeiyafa as well as some of the discoveries in ancient Jerusalem have shown that this view should be rejected. . . .

Because of the [Bible’s] presentation of [the history of this period] in quasi-mythic terms, it cannot be taken literally by historians. Yet properly evaluated it can and should contribute in broad outlines to the construction of a historical picture of our period. . . .

The early kings of Israel rose to political power beginning with a limited territorial base later supplemented by military conquest. Saul’s territory was that of the tribe of Benjamin. His son, Ishbaal (this name appears on an inscription from Khirbet Qeiyafa), who ruled for a very brief period . . . , also claimed to rule over Ephraim, Gilead, the Jezreel [Valley], and Asher. David first ruled in the territory of Judah. His capital was in Hebron in the Judean Hills for seven years until he moved it to Jerusalem. The Bible attests to his beginning as a chieftain and traces the evolution and machinations that led to his kingship. . . . As David gained power and expanded from his Judean base, he ruled parts of what would later be considered Israel. . . .

Read more at Lawrence H. Schiffman

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Davidic monarchy, Hebrew Bible, Hebron, King David, King Saul


The ICJ’s Vice-President Explains What’s Wrong with Its Recent Ruling against Israel

It should be obvious to anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of the Gaza war that Israel is not committing genocide there, or anything even remotely akin to it. In response to such spurious accusations, it’s often best to focus on the mockery they make of international law itself, or on how Israel can most effectively combat them. Still, it is also worth stopping to consider the legal case on its own terms. No one has done this quite so effectively, to my knowledge, as the Ugandan jurist Julia Sebutinde, who is the vice-president of the ICJ and the only one of its judges to rule unequivocally in Israel’s favor both in this case and in the previous one where it found accusations of genocide “plausible.”

Sebutinde begins by questioning the appropriateness of the court ruling on this issue at all:

Once again, South Africa has invited the Court to micromanage the conduct of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Such hostilities are exclusively governed by the laws of war (international humanitarian law) and international human-rights law, areas where the Court lacks jurisdiction in this case.

The Court should also avoid trying to enforce its own orders. . . . Is the Court going to reaffirm its earlier provisional measures every time a party runs to it with allegations of a breach of its provisional measures? I should think not.

Sebutinde also emphasizes the absurdity of hearing this case after Israel has taken “multiple concrete actions” to alleviate the suffering of Gazan civilians since the ICJ’s last ruling. In fact, she points out, “the evidence actually shows a gradual improvement in the humanitarian situation in Gaza since the Court’s order.” She brings much evidence in support of these points.

She concludes her dissent by highlighting the procedural irregularities of the case, including a complete failure to respect the basic rights of the accused:

I find it necessary to note my serious concerns regarding the manner in which South Africa’s request and incidental oral hearings were managed by the Court, resulting in Israel not having sufficient time to file its written observations on the request. In my view, the Court should have consented to Israel’s request to postpone the oral hearings to the following week to allow for Israel to have sufficient time to fully respond to South Africa’s request and engage counsel. Regrettably, as a result of the exceptionally abbreviated timeframe for the hearings, Israel could not be represented by its chosen counsel, who were unavailable on the dates scheduled by the Court.

It is also regrettable that Israel was required to respond to a question posed by a member of the Court over the Jewish Sabbath. The Court’s decisions in this respect bear upon the procedural equality between the parties and the good administration of justice by the Court.

Read more at International Court of Justice

More about: Gaza War 2023, ICC, International Law