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Have We Found David’s Palace?

October 18, 2019

Eilat Mazar was struck by 2 Samuel 5:11 - Then King Hiram of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar timber and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built David a palace. In 1997 she proposed searching for the site of King David’s palace in the northern part of the ancient City of David in Jerusalem. She had read that Kathleen Kenyon had discovered the remnant of a massive public structure consisting of parallel walls subdivided by perpendicular walls in an area Kathleen Kenyon called Area H in the City of David. 

 

Eilat noticed in the text of 2 Samuel 5:17 that David was described as “going down” from his residence to the citadel or fortress. The only place he could have gone down (yered – “descend”) was in the northern area of the ancient City of David. (close to Kenyon’s Area H). Kenyon had looked inside the ancient Jebusite fortress. She never considered looking outside the ancient fortress. The city had been settled for around 2,000 years and it was already cramped. Kenyon figured David must have cleared some of city to build his palace. She never considered he might have built outside the fortified walls. Eilat Mazar however considered it would have been prudent for David who expanded the city to the north, to have sited his palace north of the fortified walls of the Jebusite fortress. 

 

When Eilat told her grandfather, Professor Benjamin Mazar, about her idea of looking outside the walls in Kenyon’s Area H, he was enthusiastic. He asked her, “Where exactly did  Kathleen Kenyon find the ashlars (nicely hewn rectangular stones)  and the proto-Aeolic capitals (head pieces to the pillars)? Wasn’t it right next to the area you are considering?" Eilat checked Kenyon’s report and found the items were found at the foot of the escarpment on the southeastern edge of the structure found in Area H. The same kind of impressive structures that had been found at Megiddo. Eilat had been taught by her grandfather to examine the biblical text carefully because it contained little historical facts if we were sharp enough to recognize their significance.     

 

Eilat Mazar concluded that after conquering the fortress David built his palace north of the ancient fortress, outside the fortifications.  But she did not get a favourable response from the archaeological community when she was considered to start a dig there. They said, “There was no point looking there. Aside from a few walls and stones there’s not much to find there. The bedrock is close to the surface and it’s not worth spending time and money there.”  It was not until 2005, eight years after she published a paper on her first idea, that she was finally offered the funding to explore her idea. Work began in February 2005 and “almost from the start, ancient remains were unearthed”. Although Eilat was silent about her theory that David’s palace was there and was content to let what they found speak for itself.     

 

The House of Eusebius had been exposed by Macalister and Duncan at the Byzantine level of the dig on the Kenyon site. A small tile had been found with the name “Eusebius”  imprinted on it.

 

 

The house was of a typical Byzantine style and similar to houses excavated by Eilat’s grandfather at the foot of the Temple Mount. The House of Eusebius had been built on top of the remains of the massive public structure Kenyon had found in Area H. It includes a large miqveh (an indoor ritual bath). In the vicinity of the miqveh were found pottery remnants dating from 70 AD – when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem.  The massive public structure discovered by Kathleen Kenyon (dating from the Second Temple period) sat on an earlier structure marked by some large impressive stones which had been incorporated into the later Byzantine house (the House of Eusebius). Macalister and Duncan considered the stones from Kenyon’s massive public structure to be the remains of the Jebusite wall destroyed by David. They didn't explore any further figuring it was only the remains of the wall. 

 

But Eilat was keen to explore and test her theory. We will investigate what she found in the following Nuggets. 

 

 

Source: Did I Find King David’s Palace? By Eilat Mazar

              Biblical Archaeological Review - January / February 2006

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