Book review: David and Solomon

by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman


Finkelstein book will be controversial; let’s establish that up front. And because there exists very little archaeological evidence outside the Bible story of Judah’s first kings, speculation will be a natural result of any such study. We know absolutely nothing from history about Saul and precious little about David and Solomon; in fact, the evidence is so sparse that a few scholars still doubt the existence of all three.

Finkelstein and Silberman don’t doubt, but neither are they able to provide 342 pages of historical analysis. Instead, they trace the legends of these early kings through a thousand years of Hebrew writings, both in and out of the Bible. The earliest folklore and Bible verses about David show him as a bandit leader of a small gang of traveling raiders. Later authors portrayed David as a poet and a founder of a great dynasty, as well as a sinner. Solomon’s reputation, as well, grew over time into a shrewd trader and wise sage.

How many of these writings are based on fact, and how many on legend? The authors’ scholarly research and field experience will make you reconsider.