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. . . .