David, Solomon and Egypt
Scholar claims evidence suggests limited relationship between the kingdoms of David and Solomon and Egypt. (continued from page one)
(Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999)
Chapter 2 details the archaeological evidence (as of 1999) for contacts between Egypt and Palestine during roughly the time of David and Solomon (10th century BCE). First discussed are the problems concerning the correlating of material remains to the time of David and Solomon. Recently, there has been much debate regarding this issue. Israel Finkelstein and David Ussishkin have argued that the dating has been wrong and that remains usually dated to the time of David and Solomon really belong to the century after them. Others, Amnon Ben-Tor, Ahimai Mazar, William Dever, to name a few, argue for the traditional dating. This study opts to follow the latter and accepts the traditional dating.
The study then details the list of Egyptian and Egyptian-related materials found in excavations. Upon analysis, one immediately notes the paucity of remains, particularly when one contrasts them to other periods. The large majority of items are simple heirloom items such as scarabs and amulets. Most of these are impossible to date specifically to the time of David and Solomon. Similarly, it is almost always impossible to determine exactly when these items arrived in Palestine. The archaeological stratum in which they are found only indicates their final resting point not the time in which they entered Palestine via trade or immigration.
On the other hand, the types of items or structures that unequivocally attest to trade or Egyptian presence are entirely lacking. These things are Egyptian residences, temples, structures, Egyptian mortuary assemblages and locally made Egyptian pottery. All of these are well attested during times of strong Egyptian presence in Palestine, but entirely absent from Palestine of the 10th century BCE.
Two other conclusions arise from the archaeological evidence. First, the majority of Egyptian and Egyptian-related items come from the lowland citiesŚcities that had well-known Egyptian contacts during the earlier Late Bronze period. In contrast, highland sites, the sites usually associated with the Israelites, have so far yielded virtually no Egyptian objects. This is true of Jerusalem as well. The scarcity of Egyptian artifacts in highland sites seems to indicate that Israelites had little or no contact with Egypt or Egyptians at the time of David and Solomon.
Second, the geographical dispersion of the Egyptian objects found in Palestine for this time suggests that these items entered Palestine via trade with the Phoenicians not through direct contact. Northern sites, close to Phoenicia, have yielded considerably more Egyptian artifacts than southern sites. Moreover, Egyptian goods are consistently found in association with Cypro-Phoenician and Phoenician goods, indicating that the Egyptian items were arriving in Palestine from the North. Contacts with Phoenicia to the north were far more regular than contacts with Egypt.
This evidence strongly supports the conclusions from Chapter 1; namely, that during the time of David and Solomon there was little contact between Egypt and Palestine. During periods of strong contacts, Egyptian remains in Palestine are abundant, but such does not appear to be the case. Again, the archaeological picture of contacts between Egypt and Palestine shows strong contact during the Late Bronze period, a steady decline through and past the time of David and Solomon, and a resuscitation during the 9th century. The time of David and Solomon clearly is a low point not a high point in Egyptian/Palestinian relations.